Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Is Physics Cognitively Biased?

Recently we discussed the question “What is natural?” Today, I want to expand on the key point I was making. What humans find interesting, natural, elegant, or beautiful originates in brains that developed through evolution and were shaped by sensory input received and processed. This genetic history also affects the sort of question we are likely to ask, the kind of theory we search for, and how we search. I am wondering then may it be that we are biased to miss clues necessary for progress in physics?

It would be surprising if we were scientifically entirely unbiased. Cognitive biases caused by evolutionary traits inappropriate for the modern world have recently received a lot of attention. Many psychological effects in consumer behavior, opinion and decision making are well known by now (and frequently used and abused). Also the neurological origins of religious thought and superstition have been examined. One study particularly interesting in this context is Peter Brugger et al’s on the role of dopamine in identifying signals over noise.

If you bear with me for a paragraph, there’s something else interesting about Brugger’s study. I came across this study mentioned in Bild der Wissenschaft (a German popular science magazine, high quality, very recommendable), but no reference. So I checked Google scholar but didn’t find the paper. I checked the author’s website but nothing there either. Several Google web searches on related keywords however brought up first of all a note in NewScientist from July 2002. No journal reference. Then there’s literally dozens of articles mentioning the study after this. Some do refer to, some don’t refer to the NewScientist article, but they all sound like they copied from each other. The article was mentioned in Psychology Today, was quoted in Newspapers, etc. But no journal reference anywhere. Frustrated, I finally wrote to Peter Brugger asking for a reference. He replied almost immediately. Turns out the study was not published at all! Though it is meanwhile, after more than 7 years, written up and apparently in the publication process, I find it astonishing how much attention a study could get without having been peer reviewed.

Anyway, Brugger was kind enough to send me a copy of the paper in print, so I know now what they actually did. To briefly summarize it: they recruited two groups of people, 20 each. One were self-declared believers in the paranormal, the other one self-declared skeptics. This self-description was later quantified with commonly used questionnaires like the Australian Sheep-Goat Scale (with a point scale rather than binary though). These people performed two tasks. In one task they were briefly shown (short) words that sometimes were sensible words, sometimes just random letters. In the other task they were briefly shown faces or just random combination of facial features. (These both tasks apparently use different parts of the brain, but that’s not so relevant for our purposes. Also, they were shown both to the right and left visual field separately for the same reason, but that’s not so important for us either.)

The participants had to identify a “signal” (word/face) from the “noise” (random combination) in a short amount of time, too short to use the part of the brain necessary for rational thought. The researchers counted the hits and misses. They focused on two parameters from this measurement series. The one is the trend of the bias: whether it’s randomly wrong, has a bias for false positives or a bias for false negatives (Type I error or Type II error). The second parameter is how well the signal was identified in total. The experiment was repeated after a randomly selected half of the participants received a high dose of levodopa (a Parkinson medication that increases the dopamine level in the brain), the other half a placebo.

The result was the following. First, without the medication the skeptics had a bias for Type II errors (they more often discarded as noise what really was a signal), whereas the believers had a bias for Type I errors (they more often saw a signal where it was really just noise). The bias was equally strong for both, but in opposite directions. It is interesting though not too surprising that the expressed worldview correlates with unconscious cognitive characteristics. Overall, the skeptics were better at identifying the signal. Then, with the medication, the bias of both skeptics and believers tended towards the mean (random yes/no misses), but the skeptics overall became as bad at identifying signals as the believers who stayed equally bad as without extra dopamine.

The researcher’s conclusion is that the (previously made) claim that dopamine generally increases the signal to noise ratio is wrong, and that certain psychological traits (roughly the willingness to believe in the paranormal) correlates with a tendency to false positives. Moreover, other research results seem to have shown a correlation between high dopamine levels and various psychological disorders. One can roughly say if you fiddle with the dose you’ll start seeing “signals” everywhere and eventually go bonkers (psychotic, paranoid, schizoid, you name it). Not my field, so I can’t really comment on the status of this research. Sounds plausible enough (I’m seeing a signal here).

In any case, these research studies show that our brain chemistry contributes to us finding patters and signals, and, in extreme, also to assign meaning to the meaningless (there really is no hidden message in the word-verification). Evolutionary, type I errors in signal detection are vastly preferable: It’s fine if a breeze moving leaves gives you an adrenaline rush but you only mistake a tiger for a breeze once. Thus, today the world is full of believers (Al Gore is the antichrist) and paranoids who see a tiger in every bush/a feminist in every woman. Such overactive signal identification has also been argued to contribute to the wide spread of religions (a topic that currently seems to be fashionable). Seeing signals in noise is however also a source of creativity and inspiration. Genius and insanity, as they say, go hand in hand.

It seems however odd to me to blame religion on a cognitive bias for Type I errors. Searching for hidden relations on the risk that there are none per se doesn’t only characterize believers in The Almighty Something, but also scientists. The difference is in the procedure thereafter. The religious will see patterns and interpret them as signs of God. The scientist will see patterns and look for an explanation. (God can be aptly characterized as the ultimate non-explanation.) This means that Brugger’s (self-)classification of people by paranormal beliefs is somewhat besides the point (it likely depends on the education). You don’t have to believe in ESP to see patterns where there are none. If you read physics blogs you know there’s an abundance of people who have “theories” for everything from the planetary orbits, over the mass of the neutron, to the value of the gravitational constant. One of my favorites is the guy who noticed that in SI units G times c is to good precision 2/100. (Before you build a theory on that noise, recall that I told you last time the values of dimensionful parameters are meaningless.)

The question then arises, how frequently do scientists see patterns where there are none? And what impact does this cognitive bias have on the research projects we pursue? Did you know that the Higgs VEV is the geometric mean of the Planck mass and the 4th root of the Cosmological Constant? Ever heard of Koide’s formula? Anomalous alignments in the CMB? The 1.5 sigma “detection?” It can’t be coincidence our universe is “just right” for life. Or can it?

This then brings us back to my earlier post. (I warned you I would “expand” on the topic!) The question “What is natural” is a particularly simple and timely example where physicists search for an explanation. It seems though I left those readers confused who didn’t follow my advice: If you didn’t get what I said, just keep asking why. In the end the explanation is one of intuition, not of scientific derivation. It is possible that the Standard Model is finetuned. It’s just not satisfactory.

For example Lubos Motl, a blogger in Pilsen, Czech Republic, believes that naturalness is not an assumption but “tautologically true.” As “proof” he offers us that a number is natural when it is likely. What is likely however depends on the probability distribution used. This argument is thus tautological indeed: it merely shifts the question what is a natural from the numbers to what is a natural probability distribution. Unsurprisingly then, Motl has to assume the probability distribution is not based on an equation with “very awkward patterns,” and the argument collapses to “you won't get too far from 1 unless special, awkward, unlikely, unusual things appear.” Or in other words, things are natural unless they’re unnatural. (Calling it Bayesian inference doesn’t improve the argument. We’re not talking about the probability of a hypothesis, the hypothesis is the probability.) I am mentioning this sad case because it is exactly the kind of faulty argument that my post was warning of. (Motl also seems to find the cosine function more natural than the exponential function. As far as I am concerned the exponential function is very natural. Think otherwise? Well, zis why I’m saying it’s not a scientific argument.)

The other point that some readers misunderstood is my opinion on whether or not asking questions of naturalness is useful. I do think naturalness is a useful guide. The effectiveness of the human brain to describe Nature might be unreasonable (or at least unexplained), but it’s definitely well documented. Dimensionless numbers that are much larger or smaller than one have undeniably an itch-factor. I’m not claiming one should ignore this itch. But be aware that this want for explanation is an intuition, call it a brain child. I am not saying thou shell disregard your intuition. I say thou shell be clear what is intuition and what derivation. Don’t misconstrue for a signal what is none. And don’t scratch too much.

But more importantly it is worthwhile to as ask what formed our intuitions. On the one hand they are useful. On the other hand we might have evolutionary blind spots when it comes to scientific theories. We might ask the wrong questions. We might be on the wrong path because we believe to have seen a face in random noise, and miss other paths that could lead us forward. When a field has been stuck for decades one should consider the possibility something is done systematically wrong.

To some extend that possibility has been considered recently. Extreme examples for skeptics in science are proponents of the multiverse, Max Tegmark with his Mathematical Universe ahead of all. The multiverse is possibly the mother of all Type II errors, a complete denial that there is any signal.

In Tegmark’s universe it’s all just math. Tegmark unfortunately fails to notice it’s impossible for us to know that a theory is free of cognitive bias which he calls “human baggage.” (Where is the control group?) Just because we cannot today think of anything better than math to describe Nature doesn't mean there is nothing. Genius and insanity...

For what the multiversists are concerned, the “principle of mediocrity” has dawned upon them, and now they ask for a probability distribution in the multiverse according to which our own universe is “common.” (Otherwise they had nothing left to explain. Not the kind of research area you want to work in.) That however is but a modified probabilistic version of the original conundrum: trying to explain why our theories have the features they have. The question why our universe is special is replaced by why is our universe especially unspecial. Same emperor, different clothes. The logical consequence of the multiversial way is a theory like Lee Smolin’s Cosmological Natural Selection (see also). It might take string theorists some more decades to notice though. (And then what? It’s going to be highly entertaining. Unless of course the main proponents are dead by then.)

Now I’m wondering what would happen if you gave Max Tegmark a dose of levodopa?

It would be interesting if a version of Brugger’s test was available online and we could test for a correlation between Type I/II errors and sympathy for the multiverse (rather than a believe in ESP). I would like to know how I score. While I am a clear non-believer when it comes to NewScientist articles, I do see patterns in the CMB ;-)

[Click here if you don't see what I see]

The title of this post is of course totally biased. I could have replaced physics with science but tend to think physics first.

Conclusion: I was asking may it be that we are biased to miss clues necessary for progress in physics? I am concluding it is more likely we're jumping on clues that are none.

Purpose: This post is supposed to make you think about what you think about.

Reminder: You're not supposed to comment without first having completely read this post.


  1. Ooh, isn't that weird?! Your initials are carved into the CMB!

    I saw the blue face of the devil first. That's definitely there as well.

    Isn't science great! :)

  2. If modern particle physics is cognitively biased, the biases are subtle. I'd say subtler than the assumptions about geometry (Euclidean) and time (Newtonian) that prevailed before Einstein.

  3. Now if we could only look at the CMBs of all of Tegmark's other universes, what would be the great message be that the Romans placed there ?-)

    Of course, thought and perception are necessarily biased by the sense receptors and the brains and physiology each of us is equipped with – and by the history of our experiences, personal and collective.

    What we try to do, especially with science, is to use experience to gradually separate signal from noise. And we can do that no better than is allowed by the set of tools we're born with and which we add to, as a result of added experience and understanding.

    Because our 'equipment' varies slightly for genetic and other accidental reasons, so will our biases. But the strategies for enhancing S/N, should tend to reduce the net effect of bias on THOSE DIFFERENCES. We may never be able to be overcome other 'biases', that relate to our finite shared biology and experiences.

  4. Although it matters to the essence of the question, let's put aside the intuitive sense that we "really exist" in a way distinguishing us from modal-realist possible worlds. (IMHO, it's not a mere coincidence between the sense of vivid realness in consciousness and the issue of "this is a real world, dammit!) Consider the technical propriety of claiming the world is "all math." That to me, implies that a reasonable mathematical model of "what happens" can be made. As far as I am concerned, the collapse problem in QM makes that impossible. We don't really know how to take a spread out, superposed wave function and make it pop into some little space or specific outcome. Furthermore, "real randomness" cannot come from math, which is deterministic! (I mean the outcomes themselves, not cheating by talking about the probabilities as a higher abstraction etc.) Same issue for "flowing time" and maybe more.

    Some people think they can resolve the perplexity through a very flawed, circular argument that I'm glad looks suspect to Roger Penrose too. Just griping isn't enough, see my post on decoherence at my link. But in any case this is not elegant, smooth mathematics. Many say, that renormalization is kind of a scam too. Maybe it's some people's cognitive bias to imagine that the universe must be mathematical, or their cognitive dissonance to fail to accept that the universe really doesn't play along - but the universe really isn't a good "mathematical model." I think that's more important than e.g. how many universes there are.

  5. Bee,

    Just wanted to point out that the study said nothing about pattern recognition. In fact, from what you stated about the duration of time ("too short to use the part of the brain necessary for rational thought") to make the decision, no pattern recognition was involved or affected by the test: patterns take thought to see.

    So, while I agree that pattern recognition is an evolutionary boon, is involved in creativity, and is present in both scientists and "believers", that says nothing about the quality of the patterns being observed. Bad signal-vs.-noise separation would, obviously, lead to bad patterns (GIGO, anyone?), but even good signal-vs.-noise separation could lead to bad patterns.

    The study results seem to say that what was affected wasn't the interpreted quality of the signal (which wasn't tested), just whether it *was* a signal or was just noise. The correlation between "believers" and false signal detection might be more related to the GIGO issue rather than an assumed increase in pattern detection ability.

  6. "...too short to use the part of the brain necessary for rational thought."

    I wonder what that phrase means.

  7. From AWT perspective, modern physics is dual to philosophy. While philosophers cannot see quantitative relations even at the case,their derivation is quite trivial and straightforward, formally thinking physicists often cannot see qualitative relations between phenomena - even at the case, such intuitive understanding would be quite trivial.

    Because we are seeing objects as a pinpoint particles from sufficient distance in space-time, Aether theory considers most distant (i.e. "fundamental") reality composed of inertial points, i.e. similar to dense gas, which is forming foamy density fluctuations. Philosophers tend to see chaotic portion of reality, where energy spreads via longitudinal waves, whereas physicists are looking for "laws", i.e. density fluctuations itself, where energy spreads in atemporal way of transversal waves. It means, physicists tend to see gradient and patterns even at the case, when these patterns are of limited scope in space-time and it tends to extrapolate these patterns outside of their applicability scope - as Bee detected correctly.

    Lubos Motl is particularly good case to demonstrate such bias, because he is loud and strictly formally thinking person. Bee is woman and thinking of women is more holistic & plural, which is the reason, why women aren't good in math in general. Nevertheless she's still biased by her profession, too. I don't think, any real physicist can detect bias of his proffession exactly, just because (s)he is immanent part of it.

  8. For what it's worth, I saw nothing that I could identify in the CMB.

    The study you cite is cute, but as with most psychological studies, it doesn't pay to try to milk the data for more than is actually there. Thinking you detect a signal and being willing to act on a signal are not the same thing, although in this simplistic, no-risk situation, they are made to appear to be. And science isn't just about how many times you say 'ooh!' in response to what you think is a signal. Science is very much about having that 'signal' validated by others using independent means.

    I'm really not sure who or what you are trying to jab with this post, other than the poke at ESP.

    And I'm seconding Austin with respect to pattern recognition. :)

  9. /*..Extreme examples for skeptics in science are proponents of the multiverse..*/

    From local perspective of CMB Universe appears like fractal foam of density fluctuations, where positive curvature is nearly balanced by this negative one. The energy/information is spreading through this foam in circles or loops simmilar to Mobius strip due the dispersion and subtle portion of every transversal wave is returning back to the observer in form of subtle gravitational, i.e. longitudinal waves. We should realize, there is absolutely no methaphysics into such perspective, as it's all just a consequence of emergent geometry.

    But this dispersion results into various supersymmetry phenomena, where strictly formally thinking people are often adhering to vague concepts and vice-versa. For example, many philosophers are obsessed by searching for universal hidden law of Nature or simply God, which drives everything. Whereas many formally thinking people are proposing multiverse concept often. We can find many examples of supersymmetry in behavior of dogmatic people, as they're often taking an opinions, which are in direct contradiction to their behavior. We are often talking about inconsistency in thinking in this connection, but it's just a manifestation of dual nature of information spreading inside of random systems.

  10. Supersymmetry in thinking could be perceived as a sort of mental correction of biased perceiving of reality, although in unconscious, i.e. intuitive way. But there is a dual result of dispersion, which leads into mental singularities, i.e. black holes in causal space-time. The strictly formally thinking people often tend to follow not just vague and inconsistent opinions, but they're often of "too consistent" opinions often, which leads them into dogmatic, self-confirmatory thinking. The picture of energy spreading through metamaterial foam illustrates this duality in thinking well: portion of energy gets always dispersed into neighborhood, another portion of energy is always ending in singularity.

    Unbiaselly thinking people never get both into schematic, fundamentalistic thinking, both into apparently logically inconsistent opinions, which contradicts their behavior. Their way of thinking is atemporal, which means it follows "photon sphere" of causal space-time.

    From this perspective, the people dedicated deeply to their ideas, like Hitler or Lenin weren't evils by their nature, they were just "too consequential" in their thinking about "socially righteous" society. The most dangerous people aren't opportunists, but blindly thinking fanatists. The purpose of such rationalization isn't to excuse their behavior - but to understand its emergence and to avoid it better in future. Their neural wave packets spreads in transversal waves preferably, which makes them often ingenial in logical, consequential way of thinking. But at the moment, when energy density of society goes down during economical or social crisis, society is behaving like boson condensate or vacuum, where longitudinal waves are weak - and such schematically thinking fanatics can become quite influential.

  11. /*..what is a natural from the numbers to what is a natural probability distribution..*/
    This is a good point, but in AWT the most natural is probability distribution in ideal dense Boltzmann gas. I don't know, how such probability appears and if it could be replaced by Boltzmann distribution - but it could be simulated by particle collisions (i.e. causual events in space-time) inside of very dense gas, which makes it predictable and testable.

  12. /*.. the effectiveness of the human brain to describe Nature might be unreasonable (or at least unexplained..*/
    It's because it's a product of long-term adaptation: the universe is a fractal foam, so that human brain maintains a fractal foam of solitons to predict it's behavior as well, as possible. Therefore both character, both the wavelength of brain waves correspond the CMB wavelength (or diameter of black hole model of observable Universe).

    From perspective of AWT or Boltzmann brain Universe appears like random clouds or Perlin noise. A very subtle portion of this fluctuations would interact with the rest of noise in atemporal way, i.e. via transversal waves preferably. This makes anthropic principle a tautology: deep sea sharks are so perfectly adopted to bottom of oceans from exsintric perspective, they could perceive their environment as perfectly adopted to sharks from insintric persective of these sharks.

    These two perspectives are virtually indistinguishable each other from sufficiently general perspective. In CMB noise we can see the Universe both from inside via microwave photons, both from outside via gravitational waves or gravitons. We can talk about black hole geometry in this connection The effectiveness of the human brain to describe Nature might be unreasonable (or at least unexplained - but basically it's just a consequence of energy spreading in chaotic particle environment, which has its analogies even at the water surface.

  13. The reason, why contemporary physics cannot get such trivial connections its adherence to strictly causal, i.e. insintric perspective. Its blind refusal of Aether concept is rather a consequence, then the reason of this biased stance.

    We know, mainstream physics has developed into duality of general relativity and quantum mechanics, but its general way of thinking still remains strictly causal, i.e. relativistic by its very nature. Their adherence to formal models just deepens such bias (many things, which cannot be derived can still be simulated by particle models, for example).

    From this reason, physicists cannot imagine the things from their (slightly) more general exsintric perspective due their adherence to (misunderstood) Popper's methodology, because exsintric perspective it's unavailable for experimental validation by its very definition - so it's virtually unfalsifiable from this perspective. We cannot travel outside of our Universe to make sure, how it appears - which makes impossible for physicists to think about it from more general perspective.

  14. Low Math, Meekly Interacting10:52 PM, January 06, 2010

    Of course we're prone to bias.

    That's why science works better than faith or philosophy: Nature doesn't care what we want.

    I don't think bias is bad per se, though. It's difficult to make progress without a preconceived notion of what the goal might be. Even if that notion is completely wrong, at least picking an angle of attack and following it will eventually lead one to recognize their error and readjust, hopefully. Without some bias, we flail around at random.

    It's when we can't temper our biases with observation and experiment that science really runs into trouble.

    Dopamine is implicated in motivation, drive, the reward mechanism we inherited from our hunter-gatherer ancestors. It's good to love the chase; it keeps us fed when we're hungry, even if we can't see the food yet. Mice deprived of dopamine in certain brain regions literally starve to death for want of any desire to get up and eat. And no genius accomplishes anything without drive. So let there be bias. But let there be evidence, too, and a hunger to find it.

  15. Hi Bee,

    “This post is supposed to make you think about what you think about.”

    Well gauging from the responses thus far, all it’s managed is to have many to remind others as to how they are suppose to think rather than give reason as to why. To me that simply serves to demonstrate that there are more people who are convinced the world should be as they think it should be, as opposed to those concerned as how to best learn to discover the way it presents itself as being.

    So these wonderings as how one is best able to judge signal from noise, is just the modern way of asking how one is able to find what is truth as opposed to what are merely the shadows. That would have the sceptics on dopamine to be like the freed prisoner when first returned to the darkness of Plato's cave to be asked again to measure the shadows, while the believers on dopamine would be how that same prisoner found himself when first freed to the upper world.

    So what then would Plato have said is the best way to judge signal from noise. To do this one has to introspect themselves in relation to the world, before one can excogitate about it, rather than consider only what one can imagine is how the world necessarily must be, for it then is only a projection of self and thus merely a shadow. So all the talk of the effect of observation on reality or our world is the way it is as to accommodate our existence, seems to be just what those prisoners in Plato’s cave must have thought and for the same reason. So I apologise if this seems nothing more than philosophy, yet is that not what’s asked we considered here, as what constitutes being good natural philosophy.

    ” Whereas our argument shows that the power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already; and that just as the eye was unable to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul be turned from the world of becoming into that of being, and learn by degrees to endure the sight of being and of the brightest and best of being, or in other words, of the good.”

    -Plato- Allegory of the Cave



  16. It's very hard to guess what "bias" is supposed to mean in these contexts. Our brains like to keep things simple, to find economical descriptions of reality. With the help of math, though, those descriptions become florid indeed. Whatever the biases of the human brain, we know that (some) humans are damn good at sniffing out the laws of nature, because they have found so many of them.

    Did our prejucices about space and time retard relativity, or our prejudices about causality retard quantum mechanics? Maybe a little but not for long. Neither could plausibly have been discovered 70 years earlier than they were.

    Engineers are very familiar with the problem of detecting a signal in noise. The trick is to steer an optimal route between missed signals and false alarms. Your experiment suggests that dopamine moves the needle in favor of higher tolerance for false alarms than missed signals.

  17. Testable predictions and experimental testing are the only known way to verify which patterns/ideas are useful and which are "robust" and "compelling" but not useful in understanding nature.

    One in a million can reliably use intuition as a guide in science.


  18. CIP: It means 140 msec. The paper didn't indeed say why 140 msec, but I guess the reason is roughly what I wrote. If you have time to actually "read" rather than "recognize" the word, you'd just test for illiteracy. Best,


  19. This is why I read this blog. Happy New Year, Bee!

  20. Austin, Anonymous: With "pattern recognition" I was simply referring to finding the face/word in random noise. You seem to refer to pattern recognition as pattern in a time series instead, sorry, I should have been clearer on that. However, you might find the introduction of this paper interesting which more generally is about the issue of mistakenly assigning meaning to the meaningless rspt causal connections where there are none. It's very readable. This paper (it seems to be an introduction to a special issue) also mentions the following

    "The meaningfulness of a coincidence is in the brain of the beholder, and while ‘‘meaningless coincidences’’ do not invite explanatory elaborations, those considered meaningful have often lured intelligent people into a search for underlying rules and laws (Kammerer, 1919, for a case study)."

    Seems like there hasn't been much research on that though. Best,


  21. Dear Arun:
    I wasn't so much thinking about particle physics (except possibly for the 1.5 sigma detections) but more about the attempt to go beyond that. Best,


  22. Hi Len,

    I agree with what you say. However, it has been shown in other context that knowing about a bias can serve as a corrective instance. Ie just telling people to be rational has the effect of them indeed being more rational. Best,


  23. Neil: There's a whole field of mathematics, called stochastic, dedicated to randomness. It deals with variables that have no certain value that's the whole point. I thus don't know in which way you think "math is deterministic" (deterministic is a statement about a time evolution). In any case, I believe Tegmark favors the many worlds interpretation, so no collapse. Best,


  24. /* which way you think "math is deterministic"..*/
    Math is atemporal, which basically means, what you get is always what you put in - and the result of derivation doesn't change with time. Which is good for theorists - but it makes math a nonrealistic represenation of dynamical reality.

  25. Zephir: That a derivation is atemporal does not prevent maths from describing something as a function of a parameter rspt as a function of coordinates on a manifold. Best,


  26. I know, but this function is still fixed in time. Instead of this, our reality is more close to dynamic particle simulation.

    Forrest Gump: My momma always said, "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

    We should listen great men of fictional history and their moms.

  27. Zephir: That a function (rather than it's values) is "fixed in time" is an illdefined statement. The function is a map from one space to another space. To speak of something like constancy (being "fixed") with a parameter you first need to explain what you mean with that. Best,


  28. The only way you can deal with bias is to find a good reason for every assertion you make and to provide a consistent, well defined theoretical explanation based on the evidence and on the accumulated knowledge in your area. That's the best think you can do I guess and your assertion will be debated. The diversity and pluralism of educated opinions is the best chance we have to filter any bias. The fact that you've raised the question of bias with your post is a living prove of that.

  29. Hi Bee,

    Just as a straight forward question from a layperson to a professional researcher in respect to what underlies this post, that is to ask if you consider physics turning ever closer to becoming the study of natural phenomena by those influenced primarily by their beliefs, rather than by their reason as grounded in doubt? As a follow up question, if you then consider this to be true, what measures would you find that need to be taken to correct this as to have physics better serve its intended purpose as it relates to discovering how the world works as it does?



  30. Giotis: Yes, that's why I've raised the question. One should however distinguish between cognitive and social bias. Diversity and pluralism of opinions might work well to counteract social bias, but to understand and address cognitive bias one also needs to know better what that bias might look like. Plurality might not do. Best,


  31. Hi Phil,

    Here as in most aspects of life it's a matter of balance. Neither doubt nor belief alone will do. I don't know if there's a trend towards more belief today than at other times in the history of science and I wouldn't know how to quantify that anyway. What I do see however is a certain sloppiness in argumentation possibly based on the last century's successes, and a widespread self-confidence that one "knows" (rather than successfully explains) which I find very unhealthy. I personally keep it with Socrates "The only real wisdom is knowing you know nothing." This is why more often than not my writing comes in the sort of a question rather than an answer. Not sure that answers your question, but for what I think should be done is to keep asking. Best,


  32. Hi Phil,

    Regarding your earlier comment, yes, one could say some introspection every now and then could not harm. Maybe I'm just nostalgic, but science has had a long tradition of careful thought, discussion and argumentation that I feel today is very insufficiently communicated and lived. Best,


  33. This comment has been removed by the author.

  34. Hi Bee,

    Well how could I argue with you pointing to Socrates for inspiration as his is the seed of this aspect of doubt as it relates to science? The only thing I would add is that Plato only expanded as to remind we are all prisoners and are better to be constantly reminded that we are; which of course is what you propose as the only remedy for bias. So would you not agree that the best sages of science usually are the ones that hold fast to this vision and that how they came to their conclusions are perhaps the better lessons , rather than what they actually have us come to know.

    “But hitherto I have not been able to discover the cause of those properties of gravity from phænomena, and I frame no hypotheses; for whatever is not deduced from the phænomena is to be called an hypothesis; and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, whether of occult qualities or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy. In this philosophy particular propositions are inferred from the phænomena, and afterwards rendered general by induction. Thus it was that the impenetrability, the mobility, and the impulsive force of bodies, and the laws of motion and of gravitation, were discovered. And to us it is enough that gravity does really exist, and act according to the laws which we have explained, and abundantly serves to account for all the motions of the celestial bodies, and of our sea.”

    -Isaac Newton- Principia Mathematica

    Oh yes this has me remember how I was surprised that Stefan a few days past did not with a post remind us of the birthday of this important sage of science :-)



  35. Hi Phil,

    Well, reporting on dead scientists' birthday gets somewhat dull after a while. For what I am concerned what makes a good scientist and what doesn't is whether his or her work is successful. This might to some extend be a matter of luck or being at the right time at the right moment. But there are certainly things one can do to enhance the likeliness of success, a good education ahead of all. What other traits are useful to success depends on the research you're conducting, so your question is far too general for an all-encompassing reply. We previously discussed the four stages of science that Shneider suggested, and while I have some reservations on the details of his paper I think he's making a good point there. The trait you mention and what I was also concerned with I'd think is instrumental for what Shneider calls 1st stage science. Best,


  36. Aye, yai, yai. Once again Bee, you have been singled out for criticism at The Reference Frame, in particular this blarticle. Click here for the review in question by Lubos.

    If it's not too much trouble, a review by you of Lubos' review would be appreciated. Based on our previous discussion it will not be published there, or more to point you will not attempt to do so based on previous experience with TRF, therefore we humbly beseech thee to respond here under the reply section of this very blarticle that inspired Lubos to generate so many, many, very, very many words. (And for an added bonus, he trashes Sean Carroll's new book as well)

    Thanks in advance.

  37. “Mathematicians have tried in vain to this day to discover some order in the sequence of prime numbers, and we have reason to believe that it is a mystery into which the mind will never penetrate” (cited by Ivars Peterson in Science News, 5/4/2002).

    Okay, what about the Ulam's Spiral Or, what about Pascal's triangle?

    Have you noticed any patterns?

    This goes to the question then of what is invented versus what is discovered?

    As to Wmap, don't you see this?:)

    The color represents the strength of the polarized signal seen by WMAP - red strong/blue weak. The signal seen in these maps comes mostly from our Galaxy. It is strongest at 23 GHz, weakest at 61 and 94 GHz.

    This multi-frequency data is used to subtract the Galactic signal and produce the CMB map shown (top of this page). These images show a temperature range of 50 microKelvin.


  38. Yes but the fact that you've raised the question of possible bias proves that humans (due to the pluralism of opinions) have the capability to take the factor of cognitive bias under consideration and maybe even attempt to take alternative roads due to that.

    You are part of the human race aren't you? So this proves my point:-)

  39. Steven: Lubos "criticism" is as usual a big joke. It consists of claiming I said things I didn't say and then making fun of them. It's terribly dumb and in its repetition also unoriginal. Just some examples:

    - I meanwhile explicitly stated two times that I do not think arguments or naturalness "have no room in physics" as Lubos claims. He is either indeed unable to grasp the simplest sentences I write or he pretends to be. In the above post I wrote "I do think naturalness is a useful guide." How can one possibly misunderstand this sentence if one isn't illiterate or braindead?

    - Lubos summary of my summary of Brugger's paper is extremely vague and misleading. Eg he writes "Skeptics converged closer to believers when they were "treated" by levodopa" but one doesn't really know what converged towards what. As I said as far as the bias is concerned they both converge towards the mean. This also means they converged to each other but isn't the same.

    - Lubos says that "The biases are the reasons why the people are overly believing or why they excessively deny what can be seen. Sabine Hossenfelder doesn't like this obvious explanation - that the author of the paper has offered, too." First in fact, the authors were very accurate in their statements. What their research has shown is a correlation, not a causation. Second, I certainly haven't "denied" this possible explanation. That this is not only a correlation but also a causation is exactly why I have asked whether physics is cognitively biased, so what's his point?

    And so on and so forth. It is really too tiring and entirely fruitless to comment on all his mistakes. Note also that he had nothing to say to my criticism of his earlier article. There was a time when I was thinking I should tell him when he makes a mistake, but I had to notice that he is not even remotely interested in having a constructive exchange. He simply doesn't like me and the essence of his writing is to invent reasons why I'm dumb and hope others are stupid enough to believe him. It's a behavior not appropriate for a decent scientist. Best,


  40. Hi Giotis,

    Yes, sure, I agree that we should be able to address and understand cognitive bias in science and that this starts with awareness that is easier to be found in a body that is pluralistic. What I was saying is that relying on plurality might bring up the question but not be the solution. (Much like brainstorming might bring up ideas but not their realization).

    Btw: The package is on the way. Please send us a short note when it arrives just so we know it didn't get lost.



  41. Typo: Should have been "arguments of naturalness" not "arguments or naturalness"

  42. Bee, what I mean by "deterministic" math is that the math process can't actually *produce* the random results. Just saying "this variable has no specific value" etc. is "cheating" (in the sense philosophers use it), because you have to "put in the values by hand." Such math either produces "results" which are the probability distributions - not actual sequences of results - or in actual application, the user "cheats" by using some outside source of randomness or pseudo-randomness like digits of roots. (Such sequences are themselves of course, wholly determined by the process - they just have the right mix that is not predictable to anyone not knowing what they came from. In that sense, they merely appear "random.") I think most philosophers of the foundations of mathematics would agree with me. As for MWI, I still ask: why doesn't the intitial beam splitter of a MZI split the wave into two worlds, thus preventing the interference at all?

  43. Hi Bee,

    I actually read a book by Julian Baggini called: 'A very short Introduction to Atheism.' Baggini writes about evidence vs. supernatural and about naturalism. Where do we find evidence ? We all know: only in an experiment. But as you said it must be a good experiment. That means, as you too said, it must be based on a 'good' initialization.

    For example, for dark matter and dark energy must be found a detector. The correct detector is needed to be found. What is the correct detector in case of dark matter or dark energy ?

    Best Kay

  44. Neil: I don't know what you mean with "math process producing a result." Stochastic processes produce results. The results just are probabilistic, which is the whole point. There is no "result" beyond that. I'm not "putting in values by hand," the only information there is is the distribution of the values. You are stuck on the the quite common idea that the result actually "has" a value, and then you don't see how math give you this value. Best,


  45. Sure Bee, I'll do that. Thanks.

  46. The CMB is a remarkably coincident map of the Earth: Europe, Asia, and Africa to the right; the Americas to the left. Is physical theory bent by pareidolia?

    Physics is obsessed with symmetries: S((U2)xU(3)) or U(1)xSU(2)xSU(3) for the Standard model, then SUSY and SUGRA. String theory is born of fundamental symmetries, then whacked to lower symmetries toward observables (never quite arriving).

    Umpolung! Remove symmetries and test (not talk) physics for flaws. Chemistry (pharma!) is explicit: Does the vacuum differentially interact with massed chirality?
    pdf pp. 25-27, calculation of the chiral case

    1) Two solid single crystal spheres of quartz in enantiomorphic space groups P3(1)21 and P3(2)21 are plated wtih superconductor, cooled, and Meissner effect levitated in hard vacuum beind the usual shieldings. If they spontaneously reproducibly spin in opposite directions, there's your vacuum background.

    2) Teleparallel gravitation in Weitzenböck space specifically allows Equivalence Principle violation by opposite parity mass distributions, falsifying metric gravitation in pseudo-Riemannian space. A parity Eotvos experiment is trivial to perform,

    again using single crystals of space groups P3(1)21 and P3(2)21 quartz. Glycine gamma-polymorph in enantiomorphic space groups P3(1) and P3(2) is a lower symmetry case and is charge-polarized, with 1.6 times the atom packing density of quartz.

    Theoretic grandstanding has produced nothing tangible after 25 years of celebrated pontification. Gravitation theories are geometries arising from postulated "beautiful" symmetries. They are vulnerable to geometric falsification (e.g., Euclid vs. elliptic and hyperbolic triangles). Somebody should look.

  47. Bee, what I mean is, the mathematical machinery can't produce the actual random results directly. That means, a sequence like 4,1,3,3,0,6, ... or something else instead. It just treats the randomness as an abstraction. If you can find a way for the *operation* to produce an actual sequence of random numbers or etc., please explain and show the results. REM the same operation must produce different sequences other times it is "run" or it isn't really random. (I don't think you can, since any known "operation" will produce the same result each time - again, if you don't "cheat" by pulling results from outside. Hence, taking sqrt 2 provides a specific sequence, and it will every time you do it. Even if you said, it can be either negative or positive if you consider x^2 = 2, *you* are still going to decide which to show each time. Otherwise, it is just the set of solutions. In a random variable, it represents a class of outputs - that is not the same, as having a mechanism to produce varying results each time. Don't you think, if a math process could do that, chip mfrs would use that instead of either seeded pseudo-random generators, or an actual physical process?

    If you are thinking in terms of practical use, all I can say is: I mean, the logical definition that a worker in FOM would use, and I think they agree with me with few exceptions. Please think it through carefully, tx.

  48. Neil: I understand what you're saying but you don't understand what I'm saying. You are implicitly assuming reality "is" something more than a process that is (to some extend) "really" probabilisitc. You're thinking it instead "really is" the sequence and the sequence is not the random variable. That is your point but it is a circular argument: you think reality can't be probabilistic because a probabilistic distribution is not real. Define "not real," see the problem? Best,


  49. Bee, Giotis:

    Giotis wrote: The only way you can deal with bias is to find a good reason for every assertion you make and to provide a consistent, well defined theoretical explanation based on the evidence and on the accumulated knowledge in your area.

    Specifically with regard to QFT - how well-defined does one have to be? Are we well-defined enough?

  50. One can never be well-defined enough. The pitfalls in physics as in economics and biology are the hidden assumptions people forget about because they are either "obvious" (cognitive bias) or "everybody makes them" (social bias). Best,


  51. Bee, I mean very carefully what I said about the specific point I made: that *math* can't produce such "really random" results, but only describe them in the abstract. But if we were talking at cross purposes, then we could both be right about our separate points. As for yours: I am assuming nothing about the universe or what it has to be like. But if we appreciate the first point above, and then look at the universe: we find "random" results supposedly coming out. The universe does produce actual sequences and events, not (unless you dodge via MWI) a mere abstraction of a space of probable outcomes.

    If actual outcomes, sample sequences which are the true 'data' from experiments, are genuinely "random" in the manner I described, then:
    (1) The universe produces "random" sequences upon demand.
    (2) They can't - as particulars - be produced by a mathematical process.
    (3): The universe is therefore not "just math", and MUH is invalid.

    That is not a circular argument. It is a valid course of deduction from a starting assumption (about math, supported by the consensus of the FOM community AFAIK), which is compared to the apparent behavior of the universe, with a disjoint deduced thereby. As for what "real" means, who knows for sure? But we do know how math works, we know how nature works, and it cannot IMHO be entirely the same.

  52. Neil: But I said in the very beginning it's a many world's picture. The MUH doesn't only mean all that you think is "real" is mathematics but all that is math is real. Best,


  53. Neil: You're right, I didn't say that, I just thought I said it. Sorry for the misunderstanding. Best,


  54. Well it depends. The simplest example is the divergence of the vacuum energy. You just subtract it in QFT saying that only energy differences matter if gravity is not considered and QFT is not a complete theory anyway. Are you satisfied with the explanation? Some people are not very happy with all these divergences and their handling with the renormalization procedure. Also perturbative QFT misses a number of phenomena. So somebody could say that is not well defined or is well defined in a certain regime under certain preconditions.

    The main issue though is that you'll always find people who challenge the existing knowledge, ask questions and doubt the truth of the given explanations if they are not well defined (as Bee does in her post). That's why I talked about pluralism, diversity of opinions, open dialogue and open/free access to knowledge, as a remedy even for the cognitive bias. And I'm not talking about physics or science only but generally.

  55. Neil: Maybe what I said becomes clearer this way. Your problem is that stochastic doesn't offer a "process to produce" a sequence. Since the sequence is what you believe is real, reality can't be all described by math. What I'm asking is how do you know that only the sequence is "real" and not all the possible sequences the random variable can produce? I'm saying it's circular because you're explaining the maths isn't "real" because "reality" isn't the math, and I'm asking how do you know the latter. (Besides, just to be clear on this, I am neither a fan of MUH nor MWI.) Best,


  56. Neil, have you read some of Gregory Chaitin's work who believes randomness lies at the heart of mathematics? Good article here: "My Omega number possesses infinite complexity and therefore cannot be explained by any finite mathematical theory. This shows that in a sense there is randomness in pure mathematics."

    I think as a clear example, the distribution of prime numbers appears to be fundamentally random - cannot be predicted from any algorithm. But the positions are clearly defined in mathematics. So that's fundamental randomness right at the heart of maths.

  57. While I think it is very important to examine the question of bias, I also think it is a very sticky wicket. Observing signals among noise is an extremely individualistic thing. It is a fact that some gifted individuals can pick signals out of the noise but can't explain how they do it. Or they explain it and it isn't rational to the rest of us.

    For instance the brains of many idiot savants, (and also some normally functioning individuals, which is much more rare), can calculate numbers in their head using shapes and colors that they visualize. Others can memorize entire phonebooks using similar methods. Visualization cues are often key to these abilities.

    To most of us it would seem like very good intuition because most brains don't work like that, but I think that is a mistake. I certainly think there are rare individuals who can do similar things in other fields of study. But scientists are often too biased in their reductionist philosophy to accept it. They assume that because a particular individuals brain doesn't work the way their's do any explanation for how the "calculation" was done is that is was just good intuition. That conclusion itself is an overly reductionist conclusion.

  58. Whew, what a metaphysical morass. Well, about what MUH people think is true: it is rather clear, they say that all mathematical descriptions are equally "real" in the way our world is, but furthermore there is no other way to be "real" (ie, modal realism.) So there isn't any valid: "hey, we are in a materially real world, but that conceptual alteration where things are a little different 'does not really exist' except as an unactualized abstraction." MT et al would say, there is no distinction between unactualized, and actualized (as a "material" world) abstractions. Poor Madonna, was she wrong? But I don't agree anyway. BTW, MUH doesn't really prove MWI unless you can connect all the histories to get retrodiction of the quantum probabilities.

    Bee, Andrew: Now, about math: the stochastic variable represents the set of outcomes. Why do I know only the particular outcome is real? Well, in an actual experiment that's what you get. How can I make that more clear? Of course the math is "real", but so is the outcome in a real universe. There is a mismatch. Please don't go around the issue of which is real. Both are real in their own ways, they just can't be equivalent. You can't construct a mathematical engine to produce such output.

    I don't think Chaitin's number can produce *different* results each time one uses the process. Like I said, I want to see such output produced. It is not consensus to disbelieve in the deterministic nature of math. As for primes, that is a common misunderstanding regarding pseudo-random sequences. The sequence of primes is *fixed*, that is what matters regardless of what it looks like. If you calculate the primes, you get the *same* sequence each time, OK?! But a quantum process produces one sequence one time, another sequence another (in "our world" at least, and let them prove any more.) Folks, I shouldn't have to slog through all this. Check some texts on the foundations of math, I doubt many disagree with me.

    Bee - I can't get email notify any more.

  59. Neil: "The sequence of primes is *fixed*, that is what matters regardless of what it looks like. If you calculate the primes, you get the *same* sequence each time, OK?!"

    Hi Neil, yes, but that's not the definition of "random" - that it "produces a different number each time". If I produce an algorithm that produces "1", "2", "3" etc. then it is producing "a different number each time" but that is clearly not random.

    No, the definition of a random sequence is one which cannot be algorithmically compressed to something simpler (e.g., the sequence 1,2,3 can clearly be compressed down to a much simpler algorithm).

    I can assure you, the distribution of the primes (or the decimals of pi, for example) is truly random in that it cannot be further compressed.

    Random quantum behaviour would be described by such a truly random sequence in that the behvaiour cannot be compressed to a simpler algorithm (i.e., a simpler deterministic algorithm).

    Neil: "Folks, I shouldn't have to slog through all this. Check some texts on the foundations of math, I doubt many disagree with me." I actually think most would disagree, Neil. See more on algorithmically random sequence

  60. Bee:

    Of course we are not unbiased. The brain does Bayesian inference (whether consciously or not) and Bayesian inference depends in part on a prior estimate of the probability distribution over the possible observed data. This prior distribution unavoidably introduces bias into cognition. Since this prior distribution is encoded in one’s current brain state at the moment one begins to process a newly observed datum, no two people will bring the exact same bias to any given inference. This is as true of low-level perceptual inference of the kind studied by Brugger as it is of high-level abstract inductive inference of the kind that gives rise to scientific theories.

    Equally unavoidably, we are predisposed by the structures of our brains to describe the world in terms of certain archetypical symbols, which you may think of as eigenvectors of the brain state. The structure of each brain is determined by a complex interplay between genetic factors and the entire history of that brain from the moment of conception. Thus, there are bound to be species-wide biases as well as cultural and individual predispositions in the way we describe what we see, the questions can we ask about it, and the answers we are able to accept.

    The only remedy for such biases is the scientific method, practiced with complete intellectual honesty and total disregard for accepted doctrine and dogma -- to the extent that this is humanly possible. Unfortunately, in recent times, this process is becoming increasingly hobbled by a number of destructive trends.

    Firstly, we have allowed indoctrination to become the primary goal of our education system. Where once it was considered self-evident that the purpose of education is “to change an empty mind into an open one,” educators now claim explicitly that the most important role of education is “to inculcate the right attitude towards society.”

    Secondly, the unavoidable imperfections of the peer review process have been co-opted by political special-interest groups as well as the personal fiefdoms and in-groups of influential scientists, so the very process that is supposed to guard against bias is now perpetuating it. This can be seen in every modern science; specific recent examples include psychology, sociology, anthropology, archeology, climatology, physics and mathematics.

    Thirdly, widespread misunderstanding of the content of quantum theory has lead many to doubt that “objective reality” even exists. This, in turn, is used by so-called “philosophers” of the post-modern persuasion to call the very idea of “rational thought” into question. Well, if objective reality and rational thought are disallowed, then only blind superstition and ideological conformity are left.

    Is it any wonder, then, that progress in science (as distinct from technology) is grinding to a halt?

  61. Bee, you ask exactly the right question. If I may paraphrase it thus: "What cognitive or social biases have ( become embedded in and )impeded Science from developing a truly compelling and comprehensive Quantum Gravity unification cosmology & philosophy? " ( say provisionally, cQGc).

    In a soon to be released monograph, 3 such impediments and biases with far ranging theoretical consequences are identified. In appreciation of this and many of your previous blog postings and since you ask, I feel compelled to answer your question in some detail with this sneak preview of some of the introduction from that monograph, edited only slightly to accomodate the context of this post.

    "... however our senses, which can fall victim to optical illusions and other cognitive biases, only generate the rawest form of data for Science which applies to these measurement, rigor and axiomatic philosophical principles to weed out such biases to generate the positivistic consensus reality Science seeks to fully describe and explain. Despite this ideal, a great many scientists themselves ( and their theories) still fall victim to the incorrect cognitive bias that our consensus reality is continuous rather than being discrete and positivistic and there is widespread subscription to the mistaken idea that Science is uncovering reality as it 'really is'. This is to mistake the map for the territory it depicts. In a May 2009 essay for Physics Today David Mermin reminds us of the importance of not falling victim to this mistaken thinking.

    This failure in many to respect the positivistic rudder in Science has been with us since the days of the Copenhagen School and the Bohr/Einstein debates and is the first of 3 major impediments to discovering a cQGc. The deep divide and raging debate ( indeed crisis) which philosophically divides the theoretical physics community regarding the invalidity of mistaken notions of ManyWorlds, MultiVerses and Anthropic rationalizations is not just about the absence of some sort Popperian critical tests of such models but rather, their invalidity that so many fail to accept is based on the blatant violation of intrinsic QM positivism these ideas embody.
    .../ cont. in Pt.2

  62. ... Part.2

    The 2.nd impediment has been whimsical or careless nomenclature and/or careless use of language which has resulted in sloppy philosophizing and the embedding into our inquiries, certain misapprehensions regarding precisely what it is we seek to explain. So for example, none of the observational evidence in support of the big bang in any way supports the assertion that this was the birth of the Universe but rather, all we can infer is that the big bang was the 'birth' or phase change of SpaceTime, a subset of Universe, from a state of near SpaceTime_lessness to what we observe today. Philosophically, how can the Universe in its totality, go from a timeless state of (presumably) perfect stasis ( or non-existence)to a timeful state as we observe today. Note how this simple clarification immediate resolves 2 deep questions. Creation ex nihilo and "Why is there something rather than nothing ? " The latter is a positivistic non-sequitur as there is no evidence whatsoever that the Universe was ever in a state of non-existence and Science, being positivistic, need not explain those things which never occur, only those which have or are allowed occur.

    The 3.rd impediment has been mis-use or runaway abuse of Newton's Hypothetico-Deductive (HD) method where, for example, we begin with say, an Inflation Conjecture to HD resolve certain issues but before very long, we have Eternal Inflation and then we have baby universes popping off everywhere, in abject violation of positivism not to mention SpaceTime Invariance. Similarly, the HD proposal of a string as the fundamental entity of our consensus reality to better interpret a dataset formarly known as the scattering matrix which then becomes String Theory which then becomes Superstring Theory which then becomes matrix theory which then becomes M-Theory perfectly forgets that searching for a fundamental object of our consensus reality is like looking for the most fundamental word in the dictionary. Our consensus reality is intrinsically relational and this fact is the lesson we should take from Goedel's Incompleteness Theorem (GI). So, the mistake here is to take or overly rely on Conjectures as established results and build further HD conjectures on top as also established. In passing, i would further observe that a string can only support a vibratory state (or wave mechanics) by remembering that such a string must have tension, a property which seems to me is conceptually lost when one connects the ends of the string to inadmissably conjure up the first loop to force fit the consequences of one's initial, flawed, HD conjecture. The invocation of convenient quantum fluctuations to force fit Inflation in the face CMB anisotropies is another yet example of such erroneous reasoning.

    Science is the formal system which can never succeed, in principle, in bootstrapping itself to a generally covariant absolute statement of Truth like "This is the Universe as it really is". (The URL under my name for this comment will take you to a talk which strongly suggests that even Stephen Hawking subscribes to the concept of a reality as it 'really is' ).
    ... / cont Pt.3

  63. ... part.3

    So, even a derivation of a cQGc from first principles which would be a proof in any other context, remains undecidably True while at the same time we will know it to be provisionally true( lower case t) because of its comprehensiveness and the absence of a counter-example. GI is actually the only legitimate anthropic principle we may recognize in Science and arises from the fact that all our formal systems (languages, Science, etc) are all arbitrary convential human inventions which can only self-consistently describe the consensus reality we positivistically observe and are able to measure or infer, consistent with our nature as an inextricable subsystem of that consensus reality. My personal mnemonic for GI is "More truth than Proof"

    So Bee, I hope this goes some way to answering your question and while I feel sure none of it comes as any surprise to you( though other aspects of the monograph might when you someday read it). I hope this respopnse helps and accurately clarifies some things for your readership in answer to your question.

    Thanks again,


  64. Bee, Neil, and Andrew:

    Regarding your ongoing exchange, I would like to emphasise that there is no point in trying to distinguish between “truly random” and “pseudo-random.” Any process which takes place in finite time can only depend on a finite amount of information, and it takes infinite information to distinguish between “truly random” and “pseudo-random.” Chaitin’s criterion regarding where to stop and declare that we are “close enough to truly random for practical purposes” is as good as any other -- perhaps better than most.

    In addition, probability distributions merely enumerate possibilities. Therefore, the distributions that follow from our mathematical models apply only to the models, and not to the real world. We may, for example, make an idealized model of coin tossing, which is governed by a binomial distribution. But that distribution only enumerates the possibilities inherent in the idealized model. In the real world, the odds are not 50/50; the dynamics depends very sensitively on initial conditions, and there is no limit to the number of factors we may choose to take into account or neglect as extraneous. Thus our choice of a probability distribution describes our state of knowledge about coin tossing.

    In respect of phenomena in the real world, we may choose to treat them analytically as though they are governed by some particular probability distribution. But in so doing, it would be a mistake to ascribe objective reality to that distribution. The “true distribution” is as unknowable as the “true value” of a measurement. The best we can do is to approximate these things with varying degrees of accuracy. Hopefully, our accuracy improves as we learn more about the real world.

    Of course, it is also a mistake to claim that these values and distributions don’t exist, just because they are unknowable. The very fact that these things can be repeatably approximated shows that they are indeed, objectively real. Of that we can be certain, despite being equally certain that we can never know them with perfect precision.

  65. Canadian_Phil:

    I would remind you that reality needs no help from you or your putative “consensus” to be what it is. If our consensus is not converging on an ever-more-accurate approximation of an objective reality that exists independent of any of us, then we are wasting our time with solipsistic nonsense.

  66. Well, things are made more difficult by various senses of "random" that are used in various contexts. Yes, there is such a thing as a 'random' sequence per se. BTW it should have been clear, I meant about a process that produces a different sequence of numbers each time it is run. In other words, it's *action* is random. A mathematical process cannot do that. So even if there are other ways to be "random", my essential point is correct: the universe cannot be "made from math" because math is deterministic. That is the key point, "deterministic", more than the precise definition of "randomness" which also gets hung on on pseudo-randomness etc. The digits of pi may be "random" in the sense of appearances but their order is determined by the definition, and it will be the same time after time. That makes those digits "predictable." That is equivalent to the physical point: determinism v. (claimed) inherent predictability. I also still maintain that the most cogent thinkers in foundations of mathematics agree with me in the context I make.

  67. (REM also that in the sense used to claim that certain phenomena are "truly random", that is meant to imply that there is nothing we can know that would show us reliably what would happen next. Sure, if I just look at a sequence of digits it may "appear" random and to various tests, as the definitions admit. But once I found out that they were generated by eg the deterministic mathematics behind deriving a root, then I would know what was coming next etc.

    Andrew - since you are interested in QM issues, pls. take a look at my own blog post on decoherence. A bit clunky now, but explains how we could experimentally recover information that conventional assumptions would say, was lost.)

  68. /*...Al Gore is the antichrist...*/
    LOL, how did you come into it?

  69. Regarding arguments about infinite complexity, I'd like to make a small correction. The information content of pi can be contained in a finite algorithm so it contains only a finite amount of information. I think there are similar algorithms for generating prime numbers as well?

  70. I see now that 'anonymous' already made this point much better than I did!

  71. If someone were to make an unfortunate comment like:

    "What I was aiming at is that unlike all other systems the universe is perfectly isolated."

    Someone else might respond:

    "What “universe” is she talking about? The local observable universe? The entire Universe [rather poorly sampled!]?

    We have so little hard evidence in cosmology that it is ill-advised for us to make such sweeping and absolute statements about something we know very little about.

    Then again, cosmologists and theoretical physicists are: “often
    wrong, but never in doubt”.

    Blind leading the blindly credulous into benightedness?


  72. Ulrich: I was using the word "universe" in the old fashioned sense to mean "all there is." I have expressed several times (most recently in a comment at CV) that already the word "multiverse" is meaningless since the universe is already everything. But words that become common use are not always good choices. Besides this, I would recommend that instead of posting as "Anonymous" you check the box Name/URL below the comment window and enter a name. You don't have to enter a URL. That's because our comment sections get easily confusing if there's several aonymouses. Best,


  73. Zephir: Read it on a blog. You find plenty of numerology regarding Al Gore'e evilness if you Google "Al Gore Anticrist 666."

  74. Neil:

    "Why do I know only the particular outcome is real? Well, in an actual experiment that's what you get. How can I make that more clear?"

    You cannot. That's why it's circular. It doesn't matter whether you call it "real" or "actual," you have some idea of what it is that you cannot define. (This is not your fault, it's not possible.) Let me repeat what I said earlier. In which sense are the other outcomes "not real?" How do you know that?

    It occurred to me yesterday that this is way too complicated to see why MUH is not "invalid" for the reasons you mention. (What I wrote in my post is not that MUH cannot be but that Tegmark's claim it can be derived rather than assumed is false. It's such sloppiness in argumentation that I was complaining to Phil about.)

    Forget about your "sequence" with which you have a problem, and take your own reality at a time t_0. Let's call this Neil(t_0). I leave it to you whether you want Neil just to be your brain or include your body, clothes, girlfriend, doesn't matter. Point is, MUH says you're a mathematical structure and all mathematical structures are equally real somewhere in the level 4 multiverse (or whatever he calls it). Now note that by assuming this you have assumed away any problem of the sort you're mentioning. You do not need to produce your past or future and some sensible sequence, all you really need is Neil(t_0) who BELIEVES he has a past. And that you have already by assumption. (Come to think of it, somehow this smells Barbourian to me.) This of course doesn't explain anything, which is exactly why I find it pointless. Best,


  75. Anonymous (6:54 PM, January 07, 2010),

    First the same recommendation to you as to Ulrich: Please chose Name/URL below the comment window and enter a name (or at least a number) because the comment sections get easily confusing with various anonymouses. (If I could I would disable anonymous comments, but I can only do so when I also disable the pseudonymous ones, thus I unfortunately keep repeating this over and over again.)

    I agree with you on the first and second point. I don't know what to make of the third and given that I've never heard of it despite having spent more than a decade in fundamental research I doubt that there are many of my colleagues who believe "rational thought is disallowed," and thus there cannot be much to the problem you think it is. Best,


  76. Hi Canadian Phil,

    “There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature.”

    -Neils Bohr

    After reading through your long treatise it appears to boil down to have the above statement of Bohr to be just generalized to all of physics. I would say that you’re thinking and that of Mermin’s echoes the same sentiment, which I would contend more indicative as to what the problem is in modern physics, rather then what should be considered as a remedy. So if I were to pick someone who stood for the counter of your position it would be J.S. Bell, as he so often reminded that much of what we consider as truth is not forced upon us by what the experiments tell us, yet rather directly from deliberate theoretical choice. The type of theoretical choices he was referencing being the ones resultantly formed of the sort of scientific ambiguity and sloppiness which are exactly the type you support.

    “Even now the de Broglie - Bohm picture is gene rally ignored, and not taught to students. I think this is a great loss. For that picture exercises the mind in a very salutary way. “

    -J.S, Bell-Introductory remarks at Naples-Amalfi meeting,May 7, 1984.

    “Why is the pilot wave picture ignored in textbooks? Should it not be taught, not as the only way, but as an antidote to the prevailing complacency? To show that vagueness, subjectivity, and indeterminism are not forced on us by experimental facts, but by deliberate theoretical choice?”

    -J.S. Bell-“On the impossible pilot wave”, Foundations of Physics, 12 (1982) pp 989-99.



    P.S. I must apologize for my two previous erasers, yet this to was simply to rid my own thoughts of the ills Bell complained about :-)

  77. Phil & Phil: We discussed Mermin's pamphlet here, please stick to the topic. Best,


    PS: Canadian Phil, I'm afraid the other Phil is also Canadian.

  78. Janne: "Regarding arguments about infinite complexity, I'd like to make a small correction. The information content of pi can be contained in a finite algorithm so it contains only a finite amount of information." Yes, you're quite right. I realised after I wrote it but I hoped no one would notice! The decimals of pi are certainly not random as they can be produced by a very simple algorithm.

    The distribution of the primes is a different thing altogether, which I believe is genuinely random (i.e., cannot be produced by a simpler algorithm. At least, they are random if someone can prove the Riemann Hypothesis - there's a great article : The Music of the Primes.

    Neil, I think your criticism of the MUH is not so much based on randomness at all, but more the idea that ANY mathematical structure is unvarying with respect to time and so cannot represent the universe. However, this isn't a valid criticism of Tegmark's idea as he proposed a block universe mathematical structure in his original paper which would, of course, be unvarying with time but would appear to change with time for any observer inside the universe. Here is an extract from Tegmark's paper: "We need to distinguish between two different ways of viewing the external physical reality: the outside view or bird perspective of a mathematician studying the mathematical structure and the inside view or frog perspective of an observer living in it. A first subtlety in relating the two perspectives involves time. Recall that a mathematical structure is an abstract, immutable entity existing outside of space and time. If history were a movie, the structure would therefore correspond not to a single frame of it but to the entire videotape." So the entire mathematical structure might be fixed and immutable, but to the frog everything still appears to be moving in time. I don't think it's possible to simply criticise Tegmark's work on that basis - he did his job very well. It's a superb paper, really all-encompassing, well worth putting aside a day to read it. But I don't think his conclusion is right (hardly anyone does, it appears).

    (Good luck with your work on decoherence, Neil. I was interested a while back but I've had my fill of it).

  79. Hi Bee,

    As I would say that what Bell was referring to has directly to do with what is asked here , as to whether physics is cognitively biased, I would wonder as to how that has my remarks as being off topic? Perhaps you feel that my contention was meant as support for a particular theory, which if that be the case I can assure you it certainly is not as I don’t have a particular theory I favour. Actually all I was asking to be considered is the contention of Bell that vagueness, ambiguity and sloppiness are primary what stands as being the noise which currently prevents it from being able to discover what nature is, rather then only what we might be able to say about it.



  80. Phil: I was just saying for prevention if you want to discuss Mermin's essay, please don't do it here since Canadian Phil doesn't seem to know we previously discussed it. Best,


  81. Hi Bee,

    I see your point. as perhaps this post is more meant to ponder the cause(s) of bias, rather then what any particular one might be. Still though as in medicine it is hard to discover the mechanism of disease without first examining its symptoms. That would be as science would have us look to experiment to consider what begs explanation. Then of course with the aid of this examination to find if of any the explanations offered to be correct, only if it can further have us understand the mechanism as to able to predict further what this would demand. In the case of medicine this is confirmed when such understanding has rendered a cure that exceeds those found sometimes as only resultant of a belief one has, rather than able to demonstrate one has an understanding as to how that suggests reason as to why.

    So I see this whole thing that’s called science as a continuing process to delve ever deeper to discover the underlying mechanisms of the world, rather then have it become something that prevents us from finding them. I’m thus reminded of Newton’s statement that he could offer no explanation of gravity yet only able to predict it’s actions and that should be enough and yet Einstein was not intimated into accepting such a limitation and resultantly able to come up with a mechanism which has proven us able to understand more than Newton thought as being relevant or to have utility. So simply put as I see a person of science is not one who at any point is able to accept the answer for how or why as simply because, as if they do that forms to be the gratest bias which prevents its success.



  82. Bee, with all due respect you are making the wrong choice about who has the burden of proof about our world and the various unique "outcomes" we observe, v. the idea that there are more of them. Let's say we do an actual quantum experiment (like MZ interferometer with a phase difference) and get sequence 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 ... That is an "actual result" that is not AFAWK computable from some particular algorithm. It is not like the digits of pi: they are logically necessary (and hence, deterministically reproducible) consequences of a particular mathematical operation. It is not my job to "prove" or even have the burden of argument, that all other possible sequences of hits from the MZI "exist" somewhere as other than raw abstractions, like "all possible chess games." The burden of proof is on you and anyone who believes in physobabble concepts like MWI. Until that is demonstrated or at least solidly supported, I have the right to claim the upper hand (not "certainty"; but so what) about there being a distinction between "natural" QM process outcomes, and the logically necessary and fixed results of mathematical operations.

  83. (I mean not my job to prove they aren't there.)

  84. Dyson, one of the most highly-regarded scientists of his time, poignantly informed the young man that his findings into the distribution of prime numbers corresponded with the spacing and distribution of energy levels of a higher-ordered quantum state. Mathematics Problem That Remains Elusive —And Beautiful By Raymond Petersen

    Robert Sacks devised the Sacks spiral a variant of the Ulam spiral, in 1994. It differs from Ulam's in three ways: it places points on an Archimedean spiral rather than the square spiral used by Ulam, it places zero in the center of the spiral, and it makes a full rotation for each perfect square while the Ulam spiral places two squares per rotation. Certain curves originating from the origin appear to be unusually dense in prime numbers; one such curve, for instance, contains the numbers of the form n2 + n + 41, a famous prime-rich polynomial discovered by Leonhard Euler in 1774. The extent to which the number spiral's curves are predictive of large primes and composites remains unknown.

    A closely related spiral, described by Hahn (2008), places each integer at a distance from the origin equal to its square root, at a unit distance from the previous integer. It also approximates an Archimedean spiral, but it makes less than one rotation for every three squares.

    It looks as though primes tend to concentrate in certain curves that swoop away to the northwest and southwest, like the curve marked by the blue arrow. (The numbers on that curve are of the form x(x+1) + 41, the famous prime-generating formula discovered by Euler in 1774.). See more info on Mersenne Prime.

    It seems such randomness has some order to it?:)


  85. Ok, but where do you get the justification for the received wisdom that "the universe is perfectly isolated" in any meaningful physical sense?

    Why are not scientists more careful and humble in their intuitive beliefs?


  86. Bee:

    Thanks for explaining how to post under a pseudonym. I am the Anonymous from 6:54 PM, 8:05 PM, and 8:09 PM on January 07.

    The “widespread misunderstanding of the content of quantum theory” I was referring to includes, inter alia, the notion that a quantum system has no properties until they are brought into existence by the observer through an act of measurement. This sort of nonsense not only retards the progress of physics, but gives rise to all manner of pernicious superstition and mystical hocus-pocus, wrapped in a false mantle of scientific objectivity.

    In my view, enormous damage has been done, not only to physics, but to all of science – and indeed to the very concept of objective rationality – by those who mistakenly read an ontological content into the famous statement of Neils Bohr, quoted by Phil Warnell above. Let me repeat it here for convenience:

    “There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature.”

    This is an explicit warning not to ascribe the “weirdness” of the quantum formalism to the real physical world, but since the day the words were uttered, there has been an apparently irresistible urge to do the exact opposite.

    Bohr was not alone in suffering such misinterpretation. Schrödinger originally introduced us to his cat as a caution against ascribing physical reality to the superposition of states, yet Schrödinger’s cat was made famous by others who deviously used it to support precisely what Schrödinger argued against. And Bell’s theorem is ubiquitously used in support of spooky claims about quantum measurement, effectively drowning out Bell’s own opinion of hidden-variable theories, as made clear by another quote from page 997 of the article quoted by Phil Warnell:

    “What is proved by impossibility proofs is lack of imagination.”

    Of course, those who indulge in mystical interpretations of quantum mechanics do not believe they are disallowing rational thought; they think they are being deep. But their stance is nonetheless profoundly anti-rational; it leaks out of physics into metaphysics and philosophy, and from there, into the rest of post-modern thought.

    It lends credence to such notions as “the quantum law of attraction” (otherwise known by Oprah fans as “the secret”), not to mention the idea that reality is a matter of consensus. The first is a thinly veiled return to sympathetic magic, and the second is a kind of quantum solipsism that results from treating the “intersubjective rationality” of Jürgen Habermas as legitimate epistemology, instead of recognizing it as a degenerative disease of the rational faculty.

  87. Ulrich: "Everything there is" is perfectly isolated from everything else, since it's damned hard to interact with nothing. Best,


  88. Neil: I already said above I don't believe in MWI. Unfortunately, since you are the one claiming you have a "proof" that MUH can't describe reality it's on you to formulate your proof in well-defined terms, which you fail to do. Your three step procedure makes use of the notion of a "production" which is undefined and your other arguments continue to assume a notion of what is "not real" that makes your argument circular.

    Look, read my last comment addressed to you and you'll notice that you can stand on your feet and wiggle your toes but there is no way to proof what you want to proof without having to assume some particular notion of reality already. Andrew got it exactly right: your problem is that you believe there has to be some actual time-sequence, some "production" (what is a production if not a time-sequence?). I'm telling you you don't need a time-sequence. You don't need, in fact, any sort of sequence or even ordering. All you need to capture your reality in maths is one timeless instant of Neil(now). That's not how you might think about reality, but there's no way to prove that's not your reality. Best,


  89. It lends credence to such notions as “the quantum law of attraction” (otherwise known by Oprah fans as “the secret”), not to mention the idea that reality is a matter of consensus. The first is a thinly veiled return to sympathetic magic, and the second is a kind of quantum solipsism that results from treating the “intersubjective rationality” of Jürgen Habermas as legitimate epistemology, instead of recognizing it as a degenerative disease of the rational faculty.

    I wonder how one could have ever been lead through to the "entanglement processes" without ever first going through Bell? I mean sure, at first it was about Einstein and spooky, and now it's not such a subject to think it has through time become entwined with something metaphysical and irrelevant (thought experiments about elephants)because one would like to twist the reality according too? I mean what was Perose and Susskind thinking?:)

    Poetically, it has cast a segment of the population toward connotations of "blind men."

    Make's one think their house is some how "more appealing" as a totally subjective remark.

    So indeed one has to be careful how we can cast dispersions upon the "rest of society" while we think we are safe in our "own interactions" to think we are totally within the white garment of science.

    I hear you.:)


  90. Plato:

    Yes, that’s a perfect example of the sort of drivel that results when you think a probability is a property of a particle.

    It makes smart guys say dumb things...

  91. Ain Soph,

    Your choice of a handle reminded me of a term that just came to me as if I had heard it before but the spelling was different.

    Is there any correlation?


  92. Hi Ain Soph,

    I must say I was intrigued by what you said last as to where our prejudices and preconceptions can lead us to, even though they may appear as sound science. I would for the most part agree with what you said in such regard, except for the role of Bohr and what his intentions where as driven by his own philosophical and metaphysical center.

    To serve as evidence of my contention goes back to the very beginnings of the Copenhagen interpretation’s creation and the sheer force of will Bohr had to serve in having it become as ambiguous and sloppy as many find it now. That would be when Heisenberg first arrived at the necessity for uncertainty with his principle and with his microscope example attempted to lend physical meaning to it all. Bohr of course staunchly opposed such an attempt and argued Heisenberg even when taken to bed in sickness until he finally relented and altered his view to match that of Bohr’s.

    So my way of reading this coupled with the content of his rebuttal of EPR has given me reason to find that while Bohr may not as Einstein being guilty at times of telling nature how it should be,was guilty of having the audacity of insisting what nature would allow us to ultimately know. I’ve then have long asked, which is the greater transgression as to enabling physics to progress; that being convinced nature having certain limits in regards to what’s reasonable or rather the only limiting quality it has is in it restricting having anyone able to find the reason in them.

    So in light of this I don’t know what your answer would be, yet I consider the second as being the most unscientific and thus harmful of the two biases; as the first can be falsified by experiment, while the latter prevents one from even bothering making an attempt. Fortunately for science there always have been and I hope always will be those like Einstein, Bohm and Bell, who refuse to be so intimidated as to feel restricted to look.



  93. Bee:

    Precisely. How interesting that you should recognize the reference...

  94. Plato:

    My last post should have been addressed to you, not Bee.

  95. Phil:

    I get the impression that you’ve spent quite a bit more time studying the history of the subject than I, so I will defer to your greater knowledge of it. It seems, then, that I have always given Bohr the benefit of more doubt than there actually is.

    The quotation we have both commented on actually doesn’t appear in print anywhere under the by-line of Neils Bohr. It was attributed to him by Aage Petersen in an article that appeared in Bull. Atom. Sci. 19:7 in 1963, a year after Bohr’s death. I had always thought that Petersen rather overstated the case – especially in the third sentence – and that Bohr’s own stance must have been more sane. But perhaps not.

    Another, who gleefully conflated mysticism and quantum mechanics, was J. R. Oppenheimer. For example, his 1953 Reith Lectures left his listeners to ponder such ersatz profundities as the following:

    “If we ask whether the electron is at rest, we must say no; if we ask whether it is in motion, we must say no. The Buddha has given such answers when interrogated as to the conditions of a man’s self after his death; but they are not familiar answers for the tradition of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century science.”

    Disturbingly, this strikes me not so much as cognitive bias as deliberate obfuscation. True things are said in a way that invites the listener to jump to false conclusions.

  96. "Ulrich: "Everything there is" is perfectly isolated from everything else, since it's damned hard to interact with nothing. Best, B."

    If you give it a little more thought, you may be forced to concede that the "perfectly isolated" assumption lacks any rigorous scientific meaning. Certainly no empirical proof in sight.

    By the way, you and your colleagues:

    (1) Do not know what the dark matter is [and that's = or > than 90% of your "everthing"].

    (2) Do know what physical process give rise to "dark energy" phenomena.

    (3) Do not have an empirical clue about the size of the Universe.

    (4) Do not have more than description and arm-waving when it comes to explaining the existence and unique properties of galaxies.

    Wake up! Stop swaggering around like arrogant twits, pretending to a comprehensive knowledge that you most certainly do not possess.

    Einstein spoke the truth when he said: "All our science when measured against reality [read nature] is primitive and childish, and yet it is the most precious thing we have."

    THAT is the right attitude, and it is a two-part attitude, and both parts are mandatory for all scientists.

    Real change is on its way,

  97. Ulrich: It's not an assumption. The universe is a thermodynamically perfectly isolated system according to all definitions that I can think of. If you claim it is not, please explain in which way it is not isolated.

    As for the rest of your comment, yes, these are presently open questions in physics. I have never "pretended" I know the answer, so what's your point.

    Besides this, your comments are not only insulting, they are also off-topic. Please re-read our comment rules. Thanks,


  98. Ulrich:

    Real change is on its way?

    What – you’re going to learn some manners?

  99. The very name "Ain Soph" suggests a lack of manners.

  100. Hi Arun,

    I find Ain Soph to be quite a respectful name as to serve as a reminder that when it comes to science since its central premise denies ever considering there be made allowable such a privilege position to have it then able to deny their be reason as to look away from finding explanation, for as Newton reminded in respect to any such propositions:

    "....for whatever is not deduced from the phænomena is to be called an hypothesis; and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, whether of occult qualities or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy."



  101. Hi Ain Soph,

    Well I don’t know which of us are more studied when it comes to the history of the foundations, as it appears you’ve looked at it pretty closely. My only objection being it seems as of late there appears to be a little rewriting of it as to give Bohr a pass on what his role in all this was and what camp he represented, as to have him thought as misunderstood rather than its primary advocate. Of course we don’t have any of them with us here today as to ask directly, yet still I think things are made pretty clear between what they left of their thoughts and their legacy made evident with the general attitudes of the scientists of the following generation.

    My thoughts are this obfuscation as you call it, has simply reincarnated itself in things like many universes, many worlds, all is math and so many of the other approaches in which the central premise of each is to have made unapproachable exactly what needs to be approached. I must say your moniker is an excellent symbol as to what all these amount to as being when it comes to natural philosophy. So as such I would agree that anytime things in science are devised which prevents one from being able to ask a question meant to enable one to find the solution to something that begs explanation, that’s the time to no longer have it considered as science since it’s lost its reason to be. That’s to say there is no harm in having biases as long as the method assures these can be exposed for what they are with allowing them to be proven to be wrong as they apply to nature.



  102. Hi Bee,

    I think this whole question of biases come down to considering one thing, that being the responsibility of physics is to have recognized and give explanation to nature’s biases, rather than being able to justify our own. So yes it does all depend on biases with having reality itself having the only ones that are relevant.



  103. Phil,

    Its fine. I have not been able to decipher what you and Ain Soph are saying anyway.


  104. Hi Ain soph

    Precisely. How interesting that you should recognize the reference...

    It is not by relation that I can say I am Jewish...but that I understood that different parts of society have their relation to religion, and you piqued my interest by "the spelling" and how it sounded to me. It bothered me as to where I had seen it.

    As in science, I do not like to see such divisions, based on a perceived notion that has been limited by our own choosing "to identify with" what ever part of science that seems to bother people about other parts of science as if religion then should come between us.

    You determined your position long before you choose the name. The name only added to it as if by some exclamation point.

    Not only do I hear you but I see you too.:)


  105. Plato:

    Yes, the spelling is the irony.

    You’ve seen it before? Perhaps you found it scrawled in goat’s blood on the walls of an abysmal abbey, written in the crabbed hand of one who purported to teach the whole of the law...

    But Copenhagen is not Cefalu. Or is it?

  106. Oops, my bad!

    Let me just reiterate:

    Einstein spoke the truth when he said: "All our science when measured against reality [read nature] is primitive and childish, and yet it is the most precious thing we have."

    THAT is the right attitude, and it is a two-part attitude, and both parts are mandatory for all scientists.

    and leave it at that. Almost.

    Science, unlike cast-in-stone religions, is self-correcting.

    It may be a slow process, but I should trust the process.

    Come on you grumbler [not to mention sock puppet], have a little faith!


  107. Phil:

    “...of late there appears to be a little rewriting of it as to give Bohr a pass on what his role in all this was and what camp he represented, as to have him thought as misunderstood rather than its primary advocate.”

    Oh, great. Whenever the revisionists go to work on a discipline, expect trouble! If the Copenhagen Orthodox Congregation, the Bohmians, the Consistent Historians, the Einselectionists, the Spontaneous Collapsicans, and the Everettistas can’t communicate now, just wait until revisionism has cut every last bit of common ground out from under them!

  108. Ulrich:

    Grumbler? Sock Puppet?

    What is it with you?

    You can’t maintain a civil tone from one end of a 100-word post to the other?

    Clean up your act, Ulrich, or I will just ignore you.

  109. Hi Arun,

    ”Its fine. I have not been able to decipher what you and Ain Soph are saying anyway.”

    Now I feel that I’ve contributed to the confusion, rather than having things made a little clearer, which is probably my fault. To have it simply put as to what for instance Bell’s main contention and complaint was is that things like superposition that lead to contentions such as taking too seriously things such as the collapse of the wave function and the measurement problem more generally, are the result of particular theoretical choices, rather then what’s mandated by experiment. So Bell’s fear, if you would have it called that, is the impediment such concepts have as physics attempts to move forward to develop even a deeper understanding. That’s why he used concepts such as ‘beables’ in place of things like ‘observables’ for instance in an attempt to avoid such prejudices and preconceptions.



  110. Hi Ain Soph,

    I actually don’t have much concern the historical revisionists will be able to increase the confusion any greater than it already is. My only concern is when deeper theories are being considered is that the researchers are clear as to what begs explanation and what really doesn’t. That’s to have them able to distinguish what concepts the use are result of only particular theoretical choice and which ones are required solely by what experiment have as necessary. That’s to simply to have recognized what serves to increase understanding, while what only serves as impediments in such regard.



  111. Phil:

    It’s true that it would be hard to increase the confusion beyond its current level. But historical revisionism could make things worse by erasing the “trail of crumbs” that marks how we got here. Personally, when I’m confused, I often find the only remedy is to backtrack to a place where I wasn’t confused and start over from there.

    Quantum mechanics is, these days, presented to students as a formal axiomatic system. As such, it is internally consistent, and consistent also with a wide variety of experimental results. But it is inadequate as a physical theory. So some of the axioms need to be adjusted, but which ones? And in what way?

    The axiomatic system itself gives us no help in that regard, and simply trying random alternatives is an exercise in futility. The more familiar we are with the existing system, the harder it is to think of sensible alternatives, and the very success of the current theory guarantees that any alternative we try will almost certainly be worse. Indeed, the literature of the past century is littered with such attempts, including some truly astounding combinations of formal virtuosity and physical vacuity.

    So, to have any hope of progress, I think we must trace back over the history of the formulation of the present theory, and reconsider why this particular set of axioms was chosen, what alternatives were considered, why they were rejected, and by whom. We need to reconsider which choices were made for good reason after sober debate, which ones were tacitly absorbed without due consideration because they were part of “what everybody knew” at the time, and which ones were adopted as a result of deferring to the vigorous urgings of charismatic individuals.

    We are, as you say, badly lost. But let that trail of crumbs be erased, and we may well find ourselves hopelessly lost.

    And that is why historical revisionism is so dangerous.

  112. Phil:

    “... he used concepts such as ‘beables’ in place of things like ‘observables’ for instance in an attempt to avoid such prejudices and preconceptions.”

    I must confess that I cringe every time I read a paper about beables. Yes, the term avoids prejudices and preconceptions, but it is also completely devoid of valid physical insight. Thus it throws the baby out with the bathwater.

    For me, it makes thinking about the underlying physics even harder and actually strengthens the stranglehold of the formal axiomatic system we are trying to escape.

  113. Ain Soph: But Copenhagen is not Cefalu. Or is it?

    Oh please the understanding about what amounts to today's methods has been the journey "through the historical past" and the lineage of teacher and students has not changed in it's methodology.

    Some of the younger class of scientist would like to detach themselves from the old boys and traditin. Spread their wings. Woman too, cast to a system that they too want to break free of.

    So now, such a glorious image to have painted a crippled old one to extreme who is picking at brick and mortar. How nice.

    Historical revisionist?

    They needed no help from me.

    It's true that many people around you now may think you are weird or even a danger to society, but you don't care. Once you've tasted the truth, you won't ever want to go back to being ignorant!The Allegory of the Cave

    The real philosopher is the prisoner who has escaped from the cave into the light of truth, he is the one who possesses real knowledge. This immediate connection with truth or, we may in the Christian sense say, with God is the new reality that has begun to become stronger than the reality of the world as perceived by our senses. The immediate connection with God happens within the human soul, not in the world, and this was the problem that occupied human thought more than anything else in the two thousand years following Plato. In this period the eyes of the philosophers were directed toward the human soul and its relation to God, to the problems of ethics, and to the interpretation of the revelation but not to the outer world. It was only in the time of the Italian Renaissance that again a gradual change of the human mind could be seen, which resulted finally in a revival of the interest in nature.Werner Heisenberg (1958)

    "I’m a Platonist — a follower of Plato — who believes that one didn’t invent these sorts of things, that one discovers them. In a sense, all these mathematical facts are right there waiting to be discovered."Harold Scott Macdonald (H. S. M.) Coxeter

    These things are in minds that I have no control over, so, how shall I look to them but as revisionists of the way the world works now. Even, Hooft himself:)


  114. Ain Soph: I'm not really sure what point you're trying to make. If anything then the common present-day interpretation of quantum mechanics is an overcompensation for a suspected possible bias: we're naturally tending towards a realist interpretation, thus students are taught to abandon their intuitions. If this isn't accompanied by sufficient reflection I'm afraid though it just backlashes.

    Btw, thanks for Bell's impossibility quote! I should have used that for fqxi essay! Best,


  115. Hi Ain Soph,

    As to the revisionists it’s true that they might cause some reason for concern. However there is the other side of the coin where those like Guido Bacciagaluppi & Antony Valentini who are telling the story from the opposite perspective of the prevailing paradigm and so I suspect the crumbs will always remain as to be followed.

    I am surprised you’re not a ‘beables’ appreciator for it was Bell’s way of emphasizing that QM had to be stripped bare first of such motions before it had any chance of being reconstructed in such a way it would serve to be a consistant theory that can take one to the experimental results without interjecting provisos that don’t stem from the formalism.

    This has me mindful of a pdf I have of a hand written note Bell handed to a colleague during a conference he attended year ago that listed thw words he thought should be forbidden to be used in any serious conversation regarding the subject which were “ system, apparatus, microscopic, macroscopic, reversible, irreversible, observable, measurement, for all practical purposes ”. So I don’t know as to exactly how you feel about it, yet to me this appears as a good place to start.



  116. Plato:

    For the past few hundred years, Western civilization has enjoyed an increasingly secular and rational world view – a view which practiced science as natural philosophy and revered knowledge as an end in itself. The result was an unprecedented proliferation of freedom and prosperity throughout the Western world.

    But that period peaked around the turn of the last century, and has been in decline for almost a hundred years. Now we value science primarily for the technology we can derive from it. And the love of knowledge is being pushed aside by a resurgence of mysticism and virulent anti-rationalism.

    This is not just young Turks making their mark. This is barbarian hordes at the gates.

    And yes, we are now witnessing a return to a preoccupation with gods and goddesses and magic, just like the last time a world-dominating civilization went into decline. The result was a thousand years of ignorance and serfdom.

    This time, the result may be less pleasant.

  117. Bee:

    “If this isn't accompanied by sufficient reflection I'm afraid though it just backlashes.”

    Yes. Exactly my point.

    Students today are not encouraged to reflect and develop insight. They are encouraged to memorize formal axioms and practice with them until they can produce detailed calculations of already known phenomena. They are thereby trained to use quantum mechanics in the development of new technologies, but they are not educated in a way that would allow them to move beyond the accepted axiomatic system in any principled way.

    Bourbakism and the Delphi method ensure that the questions and beliefs of the vast majority remain well within the approved limits.

  118. Phil (and Bee - this further amplifies my reply to you):

    While I agree with the intent of banishing misconceptions and preconceptions, I disagree with the method of inventing semantically sterile new terminology.

    For example, in moving from Euclidean to hyperbolic geometry, one can simply amend the parallel postulate, claim that geometric insight is therefore of no further use, and deduce the theorems of hyperbolic geometry by the sterile, rote application of axioms.

    Or one can draw a picture of a hyperbolic surface, and enlist one’s geometric insight to understand how geometry changes when the parallel postulate is amended. One ends up proving the same theorems, but one gets to them much faster, and much more surely. And one understands them much better.

    In short, I think teaching students to abandon their intuitions does more harm than good.

    Having abandoned them, what choice remains to them but to mimic the cognitive biases of their instructor?

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  120. Hi Ain Soph,

    You talk about amending axioms instead of eliminating them from being ones; this is exactly how the type of ambiguity and sloppiness that Bell complained about arose in the first place. What an axiom or postulate represents in math or theory is a self evident truth, which either is to be considered so or not. What would it mean to amend an axiom, could that mean for instance that the fifth postulate holds every day except Tuesdays? No I’m sorry that’s the type of muddled headed thinking that has had QM become what it is, with all the ad hoc rules and decisions as to how and when they are to apply. The fact is in deductive (or inductive) reasoning a postulate is or it isn’t, with no exceptions allowed, otherwise it has lost all its ability to be considered as logic.

    This then is exactly what a ‘beable’ is, as being something that you consider as a postulate (prerequisite) or not, it either is or it isn’t. What then falls out is then consistent with nature as it presents or it doesn’t. So that’s why for instance Bell liked the pilot wave explanation, since when asked is it particle or wave , such a restriction of premise didn’t satisfy what nature demonstrated as being both particle and wave.

    Therefore the concept of ‘beables’ is not to have what is possible ignored, yet quite the opposite. So where for instance the pilot wave picture is referred to as being a hidden variables theory, Bell would counter that standard QM is a denied variables theory. This is to find that it makes no sense to have axioms amended, they either are or they’re not, otherwise it just isn’t a method of reason. So what’s asked for is not that intuitions be ignored, rather that when such intuitions are incorporated into theory there be a way to assess its validity where nature is the arbitrator of what is truth and not the theorist.



  121. Phil:

    Sorry, I should have been more clear. Essentially, the parallel postulate holds that the sum of the internal angles of any triangle is equal to 180 degrees. If we amend that to read “greater than” then we get hyperbolic geometry. (And “less than” gives us elliptic geometry.)

  122. Hi Ain Soph,

    What you are talking about is not amending a postulate, yet rather to define or set parameters where there isn’t one. What the fifth postulate is doesn’t allow for what you propose in either case, so therefore it must be eliminated to even have it considered.

    That’s like people believing Einstein set the speed of light as a limit, rather than him realizing this speed was a limit resultant of being a logical consequence of his actual premises; which are there is no preferred frame of reference, such that whenever anyone is arbitrarily chosen the laws of nature will present as the same. The speed of light then being a limit falls out of these axioms and not needed in addition as to have it to be. That is it’s not an axiom yet rather a direct consequence of them. So then if you want things to always be hyperbolic or elliptic geometrically would require an axiom and not a parameter to mandate it be so. Whether it is less or greater than 180 degrees holds no significant where such parameters are just special cases as the one it being compared , with itself also just a special case where no such axiom to have it be so exists.

    So for me a true explanation is found when things are no longer simply parameters, yet rather consequences of premise (or axioms). Of course one could insist all such things are indeed arbitrarily chosen, which on the surface sounds reasonable, yet it still begs the question be answered how is it these parameters hold at all to present a reality that has them as fixed. So my way of thinking, being consistent with Bell’s, is to be a scientist is to find the world as a construct mandated by logic and to think otherwise just isn’t science. This I would call the first axiom of science, where that of Descartes’ being the second, which is to give us and not reality reason to think we might discover what, how and why it is as it is.



  123. Ain Sof:Now we value science primarily for the technology we can derive from it.

    No, as I see it, you are the harbinger of that misfortune.

    What can possible be derived from developing measure that extend our views of the universe? "Only" human satisfaction?

    Shall we leave these things unquestionable then and satisfactory, as to the progression you have seen civilization make up to this point?

    You intertwine the responsibility of, and confuse your own self as to what is taking place in society, cannot possibly be taking place within your own mind?:)yet, you have "become it" and diagnosed the projection incorrectly from my point of view:)

    You could not possibly be wrong?:)


  124. Phil,

    Ain Sof:Sorry, I should have been more clear. Essentially, the parallel postulate holds that the sum of the internal angles of any triangle is equal to 180 degrees. If we amend that to read “greater than” then we get hyperbolic geometry. (And “less than” gives us elliptic geometry.)

    He is right in relation to this geometric sense and recognizes this to be part of the assessment of what exists naturally.

    Gauss was able to provide such examples with a mountain view as a move to geometrically fourth dimensional thinking.

    As to lineage, without Gauss and Riemann, Einstein would have not geometrically made sense. This is what Grossman did for Einstein by introduction. Wheeler, a Kip Thorne.


  125. In context, Phil:

    Ain Soph: For the past few hundred years, Western civilization has enjoyed an increasingly secular and rational world view – a view which practiced science as natural philosophy and revered knowledge as an end in itself. The result was an unprecedented proliferation of freedom and prosperity throughout the Western world.
    But that period peaked around the turn of the last century, and has been in decline for almost a hundred years. Now we value science primarily for the technology we can derive from it. And the love of knowledge is being pushed aside by a resurgence of mysticism and virulent anti-rationalism.

    Emphasis mine.

    Businessmen value Science for the technology it can produce. Governments, sometimes. There is of course this little thing called "National Defense" such that even if a country is not on a war-footing, they at least seek the technology that puts them on an even-footing with other governments that may put the war-foot on them. USSR vs USA in the 20th century, Iran vs Israel and the West today, and there are many other examples throughout history.

    But we knew that. I'm just reminding. I believe Ain Soph was railing against the Politico-Economic "human" system that places Engineering above Science, and I hope I've explained why. I don't see where Ain Soph was being the harbinger of that reality; rather, he was pointing it out.

    Governments also support Theory, and that's key. Questions regarding how many Theorists are actually needed non-withstanding, we do need them. Businesses know this, and cull theorists only when they are on the edge of a breakthrough. They haven't the time to waste on things that will pay off 10-20 years down the road. They want applications, now. Yesterday would be better.

    Two examples: Bell Labs up through the mid-1990's, and Intel. Intel used Quantum Physics as was known, specifically Surface Physics. Bell Labs on the other hand had no reason to work on "Pure Research," yet they did. But Bell Labs was part of the communications monopoly AT&T, which had more money than God, AND the US Government poured lots of money into Bell Labs as well to the point you couldn't tell where AT&T ended and the government began, so the Labs were an example of yes, Government funding, at least partially.

    Enter our new age, where rich folks like Branson and Lazaridis etc. are picking up the slack. There has been a shift in funding sources, especially with governments hard pressed to meet budgets, and when that happens, Theory always takes a hit.

  126. It's late and also I don't think Bee really gets my point (did anyone else?) about randomness in nature v. the deterministic nature of math. But for the record some clarification is needed. First, it's not really a matter of my having or claiming to have a disproof of MWI. But it is accepted logical practice that the one postulating something more than we know or "have", has the burden of proof. Also, I am saying that *if* the world is not MWI then it cannot be represented by deterministic math - which is different from saying, "it is not" MWI and thus cannot be represented by math. (Bee, either you need to sharpen up your logical analysis of semantics, or I wasn't clear enough.)

    Furthermore, I don't "believe" that there has to be some actual sequence, I am saying that such specific sequences are what we actually find. But now I see the source of much confusion of you and Andrew T: you thought, I was conflating the idea that "real flowing time" couldn't be mathematically modeled with the other idea that a mathematical process can produce other than the specific sequence it logically "has to", such as digits of roots.

    But that isn't what I meant. It doesn't matter whether time actually flows or not, or if we live in a block universe. The issue is, the sequence produced in say a run of quantum-random processes is thought to be literally random and undetermined. That means it was not logically mandated in advance by some specific choice such as "to take the digits of the cube root of 23." Sure, some controlling authority could pick a different seed each time for every quantum experiment, but "who would do that"? But if there isn't such a game-changer, then every experiment on a given particle would yield the same results each time. That is the point, and it is supported by the best thinking in foundations. Above all, try to get someone's point.

  127. (OK, I still may have confused the issue about "time" by saying "in advance." The point is: even in a block universe with no "real time", then various sequences of e.g. hits in a quantum experiment would have to be generated by separate, different math processes. That sequence means the ordered set of numbers, whether inside "real time" or just a list referring to ordering in a block of space-time. So one run would need to take e.g. the sqrt of 5, another the cube root of 70, another 11 + pi, etc. Something would have to pick out various generators to get the varying results. If that isn't finally clear to anyone still dodging and weaving on this, you can't be helped.

  128. There were a few other, unique touches I had some fun with. Legend has it that glowering over the entrance to Plato's Academy was the phrase, "Let none ignorant of geometry enter here." Tipping our metaphorical hat to rigour of the Ancient Greeks while simultaneously invoking our outreach mandate, I contacted a classicist so that I could eventually inscribe a Greek translation of"Let no one uninterested in Geometry enter here" over both the the north and south doors of the building. It's possible that some wilful geometrical ignoramuses could penetrate the facility through another entrance, of course, but they'd have to go to a fair amount of trouble to do so.First Principles by Howard Burton, page 244, para 2 and page 245 See:Let no one destitute of geometry enter my doors. Even Howard was seeking to define this attribute in relation to the development of the institute.

    Not a lot understand the implication of this over the doorway in this "new institution called Perimeter Institute" but yes, if one were hell bent toward research money for militarization then indeed such technologies could or might seem as to the status of our civilization.

    Part of this Institution called PI I believe is what Ain Sof is clarifying to Phil, is an important correlation along side of all the physics, and does not constitute the idea of militarization, but research about the current state of the industry.

    That is a "cold war residue" without the issue being prevalent has now been transferred to men in caves. Fear driven.

    The larger part of society does not think this way? So in essence you can now see Ain sof's bias.:)


  129. Neil: I apologize in case I mistakenly mangled your statement about MWI, that was not my intention. About the burden of proof: you're the one criticizing somebody else's work, it's on you to clarify your criticism. I think you have meanwhile noticed what the problem is with your most recent statement. I think I said everything I had to say and have nothing to add. You are still using undefined expressions like "process" and "picking" and "generation of sequences." Let me just repeat that there is no need to "generate" a sequence, "pick" specific numbers or anything of that sort. It seems however this exchange is not moving forward. Best,


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  131. (Note: all of the following is relevant to the subject of cognitive bias in physics, being concerned with the validity of our models and the use of math per cognitive model of the world.) Bee: thanks for admitting some confusion, and it may be a dead end but I feel a need to defend some of my framings of the issue. I don't know why you have so much trouble with my terms. We have actual experiments which produce sequences which appear "random", and which are not known to be determined by the initial state. That is already a given. I was just saying as analysis that a set of sequences that are not all the same as each other, cannot be generated by a uniform mathematical process (like, the exact same "program" inside each muon or polarizing filter.) If there was the same math operation or algorithm there each time, it would have to produce the same result each "time" or instance. Find someone credible who doesn't agree in the terms as framed, and I'll take it seriously.

    Steven C: Your post is gone (well, in my email box - and I handle use of author-deleted comments with great carefulness), but I want you to see this anyway: As for this particular squabble, it isn't any more my stubbornness than anyone else who disagrees and keeps on posting. I had to, since I was often misunderstood and am expressing (believe or like it or not) the consensus position in foundations of mathematics and physics. Read up on foundations and find re determinism and logical necessity v. true randomness.

    Your agreeing with Orzel in that infamous thread at Uncertain Principles doesn't mean his defense of the decoherence interpretation was valid. Most of my general complaints are the same as those made by Roger Penrose (as in Shadows of the Mind.) He made, like I did, the point that DI uses a circular argument: if you put the sort of statistics caused by collapse into the density matrix to begin with, then scrambling phases produces the same "statistics" as one would get for a classical mixture. Uh yeah, but only because "statistics" are fed into the DM in the first place. Otherwise, the DM would just be a description of the spread of amplitudes per se. You have to imagine a collapse process to turn those amplitudes - certain or varied as the case may be- into statistical isolation. The DI is a circular argument, which is a logical fallacy not excused or validated by "knowing more physics." Would you be dismissive of Penrose?

    As for MWI: if possible measurements produce "splits" but there is nothing special about the process of measurement or measuring devices per se, then wouldn't the first BS in a MZ interferometer instigate a "split" into two worlds? That is, one world in which the photon went the lower path, another world where it went the other path? But if that happened, then we wouldn't see the required interference pattern in any world (or as ensemble) because future evolution would not recombine the separated paths at BS2. Reflect on that awhile, heh.

  132. [part two of long comment]

    At Uncertain Principles I critiqued Orzel's specific example - his choice - which used "split photons" in a MZI subject to random environmental phase changes. He made the outrageous argument that, if the phase varies from instance to instance, the fact that the collective (ensemble) interference pattern is spoiled (like it would be *if* photons went out as if particles, from one side of the BS2 or the other) somehow explains why we don't continue to see them as superpositions. But that is absurd. If you believe in the model, the fact that the phase varies in subsequent or prior instances can't have any effect on what happens during a given run. (One critique of many - suppose the variation in phase gets worse over time - then, there is no logical cut-off point to include a set of instances to construct a DM from an average spread, see?)

    At the end he said of the superposed states "they just don't interfere" - which is meaningless, since in a single instance the amplitudes should just add regardless of what the phase is. Sure, we can't "show" interference in a pretty, consistent way if the phase changes, but Orzel's argument that the two cases are literally (?) equivalent (despite the *model* being the problem anyway, not FAPP concerns) is a sort of post-modern philosophical mumbo jumbo. My reply was "philosophy" too, but at least it was valid philosophical reasoning and not circular and not making sloppy, semantically cute use of the ensemble concept. (How can I appreciate his or similar arguments if it isn't even clear what is being stated or refuted?)

    Funny that you would complain about philosophy v. experiment, when the DM is essentially an "interpretation" of QM not a way to find different results. Saying decoherence happens in X tiny moment and look, no superposition! - doesn't prove that the interpretation is correct. We already knew, the state is "collapsed" whenever we look. Finally, I did actually just propose a literal experiment to retrieve amplitude data that should be lost according to common understanding of creating effective (only that!) mixtures due to phase changes. It's the same sort of setup Orzel used, only with unequal amplitude split at BS1. You should be interested in that (go look, or again but carefully), it can actually be done. It's importance goes beyond the DI as interpretation, since such information is considered lost, period, in traditional theory not even counting interpretative issues.

    I do like your final advice:
    TRY, brutha, to expand your horizons. Is all I'm saying.
    Yes, indeed! I do try - now, will you?

    BTW Bee and I get along fine, despite tenaciously arguing over mere issues, and are good Facebook Friends. We send each other hearts and aquarium stuff etc. - I hope that's OK with Stefan! (Stefan, I will send a Friend request to you too, so you feel better about it.) I also have her back when she's picked on by LuMo or peppered by Zephir.

  133. (correction, and then I leave it alone for awhile)-
    I meant to say, in paragraph #1 of second comment:

    But that is absurd. If you believe in the model, the fact that the phase varies in subsequent or prior instances can't have any effect on what happens during a given instance.

    [Not, "during a given run." - heh, ironic but I can see it's a mistake to conflate the two.]

  134. Phil:

    I don’t know what to make of your last two posts. Surely you’re not unfamiliar with non-Euclidean geometry?

    In flat Euclidean space, the geodesics are straight lines and the sum of the internal angles of any triangle is equal to 180 degrees.

    In a negatively curved space, the geodesics are hyperbolae and the sum of the internal angles of any triangle is less than 180 degrees.

    In a positively curved space, the geodesics are ellipses and the sum of the internal angles of any triangle is greater than 180 degrees.

    These are facts.

    And in each case, they are also logical necessities that follow from the geometric structure of the space. (note: I sloppily reversed greater and less in my last post)

    We believe that space is negatively curved on a cosmological scale, and we know that live on the surface of a spheroid, which is positively curved. So this parameter which you claim I make up and set arbitrarily is actually very real and determined by measurable properties of real things.

    Now, to return to my point:

    It would be foolish to study non-Euclidean geometry by abandoning our geometric insight, just because that insight was developed in a Euclidean context.

    Rather, we should use our geometric insight to see precisely what must be generalized in moving from Euclidean to non-Euclidean geometry, and to understand how and why the generalizations are possible and when they are necessary.

    The same remark applies to the study of special relativity, where the finite speed of light leads to an indefinite metric which induces a hyperbolic geometry, and Lorentz boosts are nothing other than 4-dimensional hyperbolic rotations.

    And the same remark applies to quantum mechanics, where the non-vanishing of Planck’s constant induces a hyperbolic projective mapping from the Bloch sphere to the complex Hilbert space and causes probabilities to appear noncommutative and complex.

    It is precisely by retaining our geometric insight that the apparent paradoxes of these subjects are most easily resolved and understood to be nothing more than logical necessities that follow from the underlying geometric structure.

  135. Plato:

    Certainly, there are many things I could be wrong about. But, be that as it may...

    I see that the philosophical trends of the last century are an outright attack on rationality, replacing reason with rhetoric whose primary aim is to deconstruct Western culture.

    I see that research is funded by agencies uninterested in the pursuit of knowledge except as a source of economic advantage and weapons production.

    I see that universities have been transformed from academies of learning into vocational schools and centers of indoctrination.

    These are simple observations, easily seen by anyone who looks with open eyes.

    Thus they cannot possibly be projections of anything taking place within my own mind.

  136. ain soph,

    "I see" then, you have no biases and I am not blind.:)

    Good clarity on the subject of geometrical propensities. Good stuff.


  137. Neil B:

    “Find someone credible who doesn't agree in the terms as framed, and I'll take it seriously.”

    “Would you be dismissive of Penrose?”

    For someone who likes to decry logical fallacies, you’re awfully fond of the argument from authority...

    By the way, quantum states don’t collapse. State functions collapse. Just as my observation of the outcome of a coin toss collapses my statistical description of the coin, but does not change the coin at all.

    Given sufficient sensitivity to initial conditions, arbitrarily small amounts of background noise are all it takes to make nominally identical experiments come out different every time, in ways that are completely unpredictable, yet conform to certain statistical regularities.

    Now, if you can clearly define the difference between “completely unpredictable” and “truly random” in any operationally meaningful, non-circular way, then you may have a point. Otherwise I have no more difficulty dismissing your argument than some of the ill-considered arguments made by Penrose.

  138. Plato:

    Yup. That’s our story, and we’re stickin’ to it...

  139. Ain SopH: No, I'm not all that fond of the argument from authority, if you mean that if so-and-so believes it, it must be true. Your understanding of that fallacy seems a little tinny and simpleminded, because the point is that such a person's belief doesn't mean the opinion has to be true. However, neither should a major figure's opinion be taken lightly, which is why I actually said to SC: "Would you be dismissive of Penrose?" instead of, "Penrose said DI was crap, so it must be." But you do have a point, so remember: if the majority of physicists now like the DI and/or MWI, that isn't really evidence of it being valid.

    This statement by you is incredibly misinformed:
    By the way, quantum states don’t collapse. State functions collapse. Just as my observation of the outcome of a coin toss collapses my statistical description of the coin, but does not change the coin at all. Uh, you didn't realize that the wave function can't be just a description of classical style ignorance, because parts can interfere with each other? That if I shot BBs at double slits, the pattern would be just two patches? Referring to abstractions like "statistical description" doesn't tell me what you think is "really there" in flight. Well, do you believe in pilot wave theory, what? What is going from emitter, through both (?) slits and then a screen, etc? Pardon my further indulgence in the widely misunderstood "fallacy of argument from authority", but all those many quantum physicists, great and common, were just wasting their wonder, worrying why we couldn't realistically model this behavior? That only a recent application of tricky doubletalk and unverifiable, bong-style notions like "splitting into infinite other worlds" somehow makes it all OK?

  140. [two of three, and then I rest awhile]
    Before I go into this, please don't confuse the discussion about whether math can model true randomness (it can't, whether Bee gets it or not), with the specific discussion of decoherence and randomness there. They are related but not exactly the same. Now: you are right that the background noise can make certain experiments turn out differently each time (roughly, since they might be the same result!) but with a certain statistics. But what does that show? Does it show that there weren't really e.g two different wave states involved, or that we don't have to worry what happened to the one we don't find in a given instance? No. First, the question it begs is, why are the results statistical in the first place instead of a continued superposition of amplitudes, and why are they those statistics and not some other. If you apply a collapse mechanism R to a well-ordered ensemble of cases of a WF, then you can get the nice statistics that show it must involve interference. If R acts on a disordered WF ensemble, then statistics can be generated that are like mixtures.

    Does that prove jack squat about how we can avoid introducing R to get those results? No. If something (like, on paper, a clueless decoherence advocate who applies the squared amplitude rule to get the statistics, and who doesn't even realize he has just fallaciously introduced through the back door the very process he thinks he is trying to "explain") hadn't applied R to the WFs, there wouldn't be *a statistics* of any kind, orderly or disorderly. (On paper, that something could be a clueless decoherence advocate who applies the squared amplitude rule to get the statistics, and who doesn't even realize he has just circularly and fallaciously introduced through the back door the very process he thinks he will "explain.") There would be just shifting amplitudes. It is the process R that produces mixture-like statistics from disordered sets of WFs, not the MLSs that explain/produce/whatever "the appearance" of R through a cutesy, backwards, semantic slight of hand. Your point about whether such kinds of sequences could be distinguished (as if two processes that were different in principle could not produce identical results anyway, which is a FAPP conceit that does not treat the model problems) is moot, it isn't even the key issue anyway. The key issue is: why any statistics or sequences at all, from superpositions of deterministically evolving wave functions.

    So we don't know what R is or how it can whisk away the unobserved part of a superposition, etc. This is what a great mind like Roger Penrose "gets", and a philosophically careless, working-physics Villager like Orzel does not. I'm not sure what you get about this line of reasoning since you didn't actually deal with my specific complaints or examples. Note my critique of MWI, per that the first BS in a MZ setup should split the worlds before the wave trains can even be brought back together again.

  141. Here's another point: the logical and physical status of the density matrix, creating mixtures, and the effects of decoherence shouldn't depend on whether someone knows the secret of how it is composed. But if I produce a "mixture" of |x> and |y> sequential photons by switching a polarizer around, I know what the sequence is. Whether someone else can later confidently find that particular polarization sequence depends on whether I tell them - it isn't a consistent physical trait. Someone not in on the plan would have to consider the same sequence to be "random", and just as if a sequence of diagonal pol, CP, etc. as shown by a density matrix. But it *can't be the same* since the informed confederate can retrieve the information that the rubes can't.

    So the DM can't really describe nature, it isn't a trait as though e.g. a given photon might really "be" a DM or mixture instead of a pure state or superposition. Hence, in the MZ with decoherence that supposedly shows how the state approaches a true mixture, everything changes if someone knows what the phase changes are. That person can correct for the known phase changes, and recover perfect interference. How can the shifting patterns be real mixtures if you can do that? Oh, BTW - a "random" pattern that is known in advance (like I tell you, it's sqrt 23) "looks just like" a really random pattern that you don't or can't know, but it can make all the difference in the world, see?

    Finally, I said I worked up a proposal to experimentally recover some information that we'd expect to be lost by decoherence, and it seems you or the other deconauts never checked it out. It may be a rough draft, but it's there.

  142. Arun:

    That’s an interesting paper, although it suffers greatly under the influence of “critical theory” and goes out of its way to rewrite history in terms of economic class struggle. After reading its unflattering description German universities of the nineteenth century, one can only wonder how such reprehensible places could have given us Planck, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Minkowski, Stückelberg, Graßmann, Helmholtz, Kirchhoff, Boltzmann, Riemann, Gauss, Einstein...

    Clearly, those places were doing something right. Something we’re not doing, otherwise we would be getting comparable results. But the paper refuses to acknowledge that, and studiously avoids giving the reader any reason to search for what that something might be. Some of the paper’s criticisms are not without substance, but that’s all the paper does: it criticises. And thus it makes an excellent example of the corrosive influence of historical revisionism, and how critical theory is used to undermine Western culture.

  143. Neil: You continue to make the same mistake, you still start with postulating something that is "actual" and what we "know" and is "given" what I'm telling you we actually don't know without already making further assumptions. I really don't know what else to say. Look, take a random variable X. It exists qua definition somewhere in the MUH. It has a space of values, call them {x_i}. It doesn't matter if they're discrete or continuous. If you want a sequence, each value corresponds to a path, call it a history. All of these paths exists qua definition somewhere in the MUH because they belong to the "mathematical structure". Your "existence" is one of the x_i(t), and has a particular history. But you don't need to "generate" one particular sequence, you just have to face that what you think is "real" is but a tiny part of what MUH assumes is "real."

    Besides, this is very off-topic, could we please come back to the topic of this post? Best,


  144. Hi Ain Soph,

    Of course I’m familiar with non-Euclidian geometry, as it simply refers to geometries that exclude the fifth postulate. I’m also quite aware that GR is totally dependent upon it . The point I was attempting to make is what the difference is between the axioms of a theory and any free parameters it contains. It could be said for instance what forces non-Euclidian geometry upon GR is its postulate of covariance which has the architecture of space time mandated by the matter/energy contained. However particularly what that (non-Euclidian) geometry is in terms of the whole universe is not determined by this postulate, yet rather the free parameter known as the cosmological constant; that is whether it be closed, flat or open. So my contention is that to fix this variable one needs to replace the parameter with an axiom that will as a consequence mandate what this should be, whether that be within the confines of GR or a theory which is to supersede it. Anyway somehow or other I don’t believe either you or Plato understand the point I’ ve attempted to make and thus rather then just repeat what I said I’ll just leave it there.



  145. Bee: could we please come back to the topic of this post?

    I second the motion.

    Conclusion: I was asking may it be that we are biased to miss clues necessary for progress in physics? I am concluding it is more likely we're jumping on clues that are none.

    I'm sure we're jumping on wrong clues on all sorts of things*, and thanks for the Brugger psychology-testing stuff. Awesome. I do know something about Dopamine since a close family member was turned into a paranoid schizophrenic thanks to a single does of LSD her so-called "friend" put in her mashed potatoes at lunchtime one day. The results were horrific, the girl went "nuts" to use the vernacular. Too much Dopamine=Very Bad. Well, I've long felt everyone suffers to some degree some amount of mental illness. The Brugger test confirms that in my mind.

    *So our brains aren't perfect, yet I believe the ideal is community, in Physics that means peer review, to sort out the weaknesses of one individual by contrasting their ideas with multiples of those better informed, not all of whom will agree of course, and not all of whom will be right. So consensus is important, before testing proves or disproves, or is even devised.

    Regarding assumptions (whether true or false), I think that is the job of a (Real not Pop) Philosopher, going all the way back to good ol' Aristotle and his "Logic" stuff. George Musser sums it up better than I, as so:

    Historically, the greatest difficulty in scientific revolutions is usually not the missing piece but the extraneous one - the assumption that we've all taken for granted but is actually unnecessary. Philosophers are trained to smoke out these mental interlopers. Many of the problems that scientists now face are simply the latest guise of deep questions that have troubled thinkers for thousands of years. Philosophers bring this depth of experience with them. Many have backgrounds in physics as well.

    I leave you with pure cheek:

    Andrew Thomas: Ooh, isn't that weird?! Your initials are carved into the CMB!

    I didn't see that in the oval Bee featured. I DID see "S'H", which I interpret as God confirming my SHT, or SH Theory, aka "Shit Happens" Theory. What a merry prankster that God dude is, what a joker man, putting it out there right on the CMB for all to see! Well, he DID invent the Platypus, so that's your first clue. ;-)

  146. After reading its unflattering description German universities of the nineteenth century, one can only wonder how such reprehensible places could have given us Planck, Heisenberg, Schrödinger, Minkowski, Stückelberg, Graßmann, Helmholtz, Kirchhoff, Boltzmann, Riemann, Gauss, Einstein...

    Clearly, those places were doing something right....

    Well, experiments did not cost an arm and a leg and did not ever require hundreds of scientists or a satellite launch in those days. As one biographer pointed out, even upto Einstein's middle age, it was possible for a person to read all the relevant literature; the exponential growth since has made it impossible.

    Lastly, in the areas where the constraints mentioned above don't hold we're doing fine - e.g, genetics and molecular biology, computing, etc. It is just that you - we - do not recognize the pioneers in those fields to have such genius; that is a definite cognitive bias on our part.

  147. From Columbus to Shackleton - the West had a great tradition of explorers, but now nobody is discovering new places on the Earth - must be an attack by the forces of unreason on the foundations of Western civilization. I mean, what else could it be?

  148. Hi Phil,

    You mustn't become discouraged as to not understanding your point or not, all the better taken in stride.

    However, by throwing out Euclid's fifth postulate we get theories that have meaning in wider contexts, hyperbolic geometry for example. We must simply be prepared to use labels like “line” and “parallel” with greater flexibility. The development of hyperbolic geometry taught mathematicians that postulates should be regarded as purely formal statements, and not as facts based on experience. SeeAxiom

    There is to me a succession( who was Unruh's teacher?) and advancement of thought about the subjects according to the environment one is predisposed too. Your angle, your bias, is the time you spent with, greatly, before appearing on the scene here. Your comments are then taken within "this context" as I see it.

    Part of our communication problem has been what Ain Sof is showing. This has been my bias. Ain Sof doesn't have any.:)

    Why I hold to the understanding of what Howard Burton was looking for in the development of the PI institution was a "personal preference of his own" in relation to the entrance too, is what constitutes all the science there plus this quest of his.

    So as best I can understand "axiom" I wanted to move geometrical propensity toward what iS "self evident."

    Feynman's path integral models.

    Feynman based his ideas on Dirac's axiom "as matrices." I am definitively open to corrections my our better educated peers.

    Here was born the idea of time in relation to the (i) when it was inserted in the matrices? How was anti-matter ascertained?

    Feynman's toy models then serve to illustrate?

    Let the wrath be sent down here to the layman's understandings.


  149. Arun:

    You’re not suggesting we’ve mapped out physics with anywhere near the completeness with which we’ve mapped out the Earth, are you?

  150. Plato:

    “This has been my bias. Ain Sof doesn't have any.”

    Now, now...

    What I said was that certain trends are so obvious that I’m certain I’m seeing something that is really there, and not projecting my own stuff onto the world.

    Of course, being certain of it is no guarantee that its true...

  151. Phil:

    Once again, I agree wholeheartedly with what Bell is trying to accomplish by adopting the word, “beable,” but I loose more by abandoning the correct parts of my understanding of words, like “observation” and “property,” than I gain from the tabula rasa that comes with the word, “beable.”

    Bell himself recognised that the introduction of the word was a two-edged sword. In his 1975 paper, “The Theory of Local Beables,” he writes

    The name is deliberately modeled on “the algebra of local observables.” The terminology, be-able as against observ-able is not designed to frighten with metaphysic those dedicated to realphysic. It is chosen rather to help in making explicit some notions already implicit in, and basic to, ordinary quantum theory. For, in the words of Bohr, “it is decisive to recognize that, however far the phenomena transcend the scope of classical physical explanation, the account of all evidence must be expressed in classical terms.” It is the ambition of the theory of local beables to bring these “classical terms” into the mathematics, and not relegate them entirely to the surrounding talk. [emphasis in the original]

    Two or three paragraphs later, he adds

    One of the apparent non-localities of quantum mechanics is the instantaneous, over all space, “collapse of the wave function” on “measurement.” But this does not bother us if we do not grant beable status to the wave function. We can regard it simply as a convenient but inessential mathematical device for formulating correlations between experimental procedures and experimental results, i.e., between one set of beables and another.

    Now, for someone who is thoroughly steeped in the orthodox view that probabilities are objectively real properties of physical systems, I suppose it can be useful to adopt the word, “beable,” to remind themselves that a probability isn’t one. But the real danger of introducing this term is that it tempts one to treat the concept as being relevant only in the quantum context. Thus it opens the door to a new misconception while throwing the old one out the window.

    So I think the preferable way to combat this kind of cognitive bias is to realize that its root lies in the widespread misapprehension of the concept of probability. And this is where I draw a parallel to my remarks about geometric insight, because we must use our insight to see precisely what must be generalized in moving from classical to quantum mechanics, and to understand how and why the generalizations are possible and when they are necessary.

    The key realisation is that probable inference is the generalization of deductive inference from the two-element field {0,1} to the real interval (0,1). That alone should be enough to counteract any tendency to ascribe objective reality to probabilities (i.e., treat them as beables), even in a classical context. The we must generalize again to vector probabilities in statistical mechanics, and finally to spinor probabilities in quantum mechanics.

    As I remarked above: my observation of the outcome of a coin toss collapses my statistical description of the coin, but does not change the coin at all. Once we realize that this same idea still applies when probabilities are generalized from to scalars to spinors, and manifests in the latter case as the collapse of the wavefunction, the “weirdness” of quantum mechanics evaporates, and along with it, the need for terms like “beable.”

  152. Ain Sof,

    Of course, being certain of it is no guarantee that its true...

    Ah!....there is hope for you then.:)

    Dennis William Siahou Sciama FRS (November 18, 1926–December 18, 1999)

    Sciama also strongly influenced Roger Penrose, who dedicated his The Road to Reality to Sciama's memory. The 1960s group he led in Cambridge (which included Ellis, Hawking, Rees, and Carter), has proved of lasting influence.

    Alma mater
    University of Cambridge

    Doctoral advisor
    Paul Dirac

    Doctoral students

    John D. Barrow
    George Ellis
    Gary Gibbons
    Stephen Hawking
    Martin Rees
    David Deutsch
    Brandon Carter

  153. Hi Ain Soph,

    So you are basically saying that as long as the statistical description is relegated to being an instrument for calculating outcome, rather then what embodies as being the mechanics (machinery) of outcome, then we don’t need anything else to keep us from making false assumptions. This to me sounds like what someone like Feynman would say who contended that the path integral completely explained least action as what mandates what we find as outcome. I’m sorry yet for me that just doesn’t cut it, as it assigns the probabilities as being the machinery itself. The whole point of Bell’s ‘beable’ concept is to force us to look at exactly what hasn’t been explained physically, rather than having us able to ignore their existance.

    That’s to say, that yes the reality of the coin is not affected by it being flipped, yet one still has to ask what constitutes being the flipper, even before it is considered as landed by observation to be an outcome. What you are asking by analogy to be done is to accept that a lottery drum’s outcomes are explained without describing what forces the drum to spin. The fact is probability is reliant on action and all action requires an actuator. So if your model has particles as being the coins you still have to give a physical reality to not just the drum, yet what has it to be spun? If your model has the physicality of reality as strictly being waves, then you are in a worse situation, for although you have accounted for what represents as being the actuator of the spin, yet left with nothing to be spun as to be able to observe as an outcome.

    This is exactly the kind of thing that Bell was attempting to have laid bare with his inequality, as it indicated that the formalism (math) of QM mandated outcomes that required a correlated action demonstrated in outcomes separated by space and time exceeding that of ‘c’ and yet had no mechanism within its physical description that would account for such outcomes. So yes I would agree that the mathematics allows us to calculate outcome, yet it doesn’t then by itself able to embody the elements that have them to be and thus that’s why ‘beables’ should be trusted when evaluating the logical reality of models.

    Further, one could say that’s why we have explanations like many worlds as attempting to give probability a physical space for Feynman’s outcomes, or Cramer’s model to find the time instead as the solution. Then again we have all as being math contending that there is no physical embodiment of anything yet only the math which as far as I can see is what your contention would force us to consider as true. I don’t know about how you see all this, yet for me their seems to be room for other more direct physically attached explanations for what we call to be reality, which as you say would not force us to throw the baby, which in this case being reality, out with the bath water, with them only representing our false assumptions and prejudices. So yes I agree that one and one must lead to there being two, yet they both must still be allowed to exist to have such a result found as being significant tp begin with.



  154. While the reality of the coin is seemingly not affected by the collapse of the statistical distribution describing its position, the same cannot be said about the electron. There are no hidden variables maintaining the reality of the electron while its wave function evolves or collapses.

  155. It's a shame that Bee and I continue to disagree about the issue of determinism in math v. the apparent or actual "true randomness" of the universe. I don't even agree that it's off-topic, Bee, since it is very relevant the core issue of whether we do and/or should project our own cognitive biases on the universe. One of those modern biases apparently is the idea of mechanism, that outcomes should be determined by initial conditions. Well, that is how "math" works, but maybe not the universe. Perhaps Bee is thinking I'm trying to find purely internal contradictions in the MUH, but I'm not. It can be made OK by itself, in that every possibility does "exist" Platonically, and there is no other distinction to make (like, some are "real stuff" and others aren't.) That's the argument the modal realists make. In such a superspace, it is indeed true that the entire space of values of a random variable exist. It's like "all possible chess games" as an ideal. But it isn't like a device that can produce one sequence one time it is "run", another sequence in another instance etc. It is a "field." And no it doesn't matter what is continuous or discrete, that's beside the point of deterministically having to produce consistent outputs when actually *used.*

    But my point is, we don't know that MUH is rightly framed. What we have is one world we actually see, and unless I have "some of what MWI enthusiasts are smoking" I do not "see" or know of any other worlds. In our known world, measurably "identical particles" do not have identical behavior. That is absurd in logical, deterministic terms. We do have specific and varying outcomes of experiments, that is something we know and does not come from assumptions.

    I am sure you misunderstood, since you are aware of the implications of our being able to prepare a bunch of "identical" neutrons. One might decay after 5 minutes, another after 23 minutes. If there was an identical clockwork equivalent, the same "equation" or whatever inside each neutron, then each neutron would last the same duration. I think almost everyone agrees on that much, they just can't agree on "why" they have different lifetimes.

    In an MUH, we'd still have to account for different histories of different particles, given the deterministic nature of math. There are ways to do that. The world lines could be like sticks cut to different links. In such a case there is no real causality, just various 4-D structures in a block universe "with no real flowing time." Or, each particle could have its own separate equation or math process (like sqrt 3 for one neutron, cube of 1776 for another.)

    But the particles could not all be identical mathematical entities, and glibly saying "random variable" *inside each one* would not work. If each neutron started with the same inner algorithm or any actual math structure or process, it would last as long as any other. That is accepted in foundations of math, prove me wrong if you dare.

  156. It is possible for different math-only "worlds" to have different algorithms. But if the same one applied to all particles in that world, then every particle would have to act the same since math is deterministic. Hence, we'd have the 5-minute-neutron world, the 23-minute-neutron world, etc.

    Our universe is clearly not like that, as empirically given. Hence, each of those apparently identical particles must have some peculiar nature in it, that is not describable my mathematical differences. And Ain Soph is IMHO wrong to say we can't ascribe probability to a single particle. Would you deny, that if I throw down one die it has "1/6 chance of showing a three"? Would you, even if the landing destroyed the die after that? What other choice do we have?

    Yes, we find out via an ensemble. But then why does the ensemble produce that statistics unless each element has some "property" of maybe doing or not, per some concept of chance? I think we have no choice.

    And as for thinking the wave function is just a way of talking about chances, isn't beable, whatever: then what do you think is the character of particle and photons in flight?

    If you want to deny realness and say our phenomenal world is like The Matrix, fine, but at least you can't have it both ways. And however overlong or crabby some of the comments might be, it would be instructive to consider some of my critique of DI/DM/MWI.

    Sorry there is much confusion over determinism and causality here, but there just is, period! Again, this is relevant. But no more about it per se unless someone prompts with yet another critique per se! (;-) Yet note, the general point is part of the continuing sub-thread here over quantum reality, since it has to be.

  157. Last note for now: Thanks Phil for some very cogent comments, supporting my outlook in general but in your more dignified style ;-) As for the tossed coin: REM that in a classical world, for one coin to land on it's head and other, tails; was a pre-determined outcome of the prior state actually being a little different in each case! The coin destined to come up heads was already tipping that way, and at an earliet time its tipping that way was from a slightly different flip of my wrist, etc. It's not about whether the observation changes the coin, it's about the whole process being rigged in advance.

    One could think of the whole process as like a structure in space-time, with one outcome being one entire world-bundle, and the other outcome being another world-bundle. They are genuinely different (however slightly) all the way through!

    But in QM, we imagine two "identical states" from which outcomes are, incredible, different. (It is easy for forget, that really is logically incredible as Feynman noted, since we'd gotten used to it being the apparent case.) As I painstakingly explained, that is not derivable from coin-toss style reasoning. If you believe that the other outcomes really exist somewhere, it's your job to bring photos, samples, whatever or else just be a mystic.

  158. Jules Henri Poincare (1854-1912)

    The scientist does not study nature because it is useful. He studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful.


    Mathematics and Science:Last Essays

    8 Last Essays

    But it is exactly because all things tend toward death that life is an exception which it is necessary to explain.

    Let rolling pebbles be left subject to chance on the side of a mountain, and they will all end by falling into the valley. If we find one of them at the foot, it will be a commonplace effect which
    will teach us nothing about the previous history of the pebble;
    we will not be able to know its original position on the mountain.
    But if, by accident, we find a stone near the summit, we can assert that it has always been there, since, if it had been on the slope, it would have rolled to the very bottom. And we will make this assertion with the greater certainty, the more exceptional the event is and the greater the chances were that the situation would not have occurred.


    A Short History of Probability

    "A gambler's dispute in 1654 led to the creation of a mathematical theory of probability by two famous French mathematicians, Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat. Antoine Gombaud, Chevalier de Méré, a French nobleman with an interest in gaming and gambling questions, called Pascal's attention to an apparent contradiction concerning a popular dice game. The game consisted in throwing a pair of dice 24 times; the problem was to decide whether or not to bet even money on the occurrence of at least one "double six" during the 24 throws. A seemingly well-established gambling rule led de Méré to believe that betting on a double six in 24 throws would be profitable, but his own calculations indicated just the opposite.


    The Pascalian triangle(marble drop experiment perhaps) presented the opportunity for numbers systems to materialize out of such probabilities?

    The result is that the pinball follows a random path, deflecting off one pin in each of the four rows of pins, and ending up in one of the cups at the bottom. The various possible paths are shown by the gray lines and one particular path is shown by the red line. We will describe this path using the notation "LRLL" meaning "deflection to the left around the first pin, then deflection right around the pin in the second row, then deflection left around the third and fourth pins".Link now expired.

    If one assumes "all outcomes" one then believes that for every invention to exist, it only has to be discovered. These were Coxeters thoughts as well. Yet now we move beyond Boltzmann, to entropic valuations.

    The Topography of Energy Resting in the Valleys then becomes a move beyond the notions of true and false and becomes a culmination of all the geometrical moves ever considered?

    Sorry just had to get it out there for consideration.


  159. Just consider the "gravity of the situation:) and deterministic valuation of the photon in flight has distinctive meanings in that context?:)

  160. In our known world, measurably "identical particles" do not have identical behavior.

    But they have identical wave functions.

  161. Phil:

    “This to me sounds like what someone like Feynman would say who contended that the path integral completely explained least action as what mandates what we find as outcome. I’m sorry yet for me that just doesn’t cut it, as it assigns the probabilities as being the machinery itself.”


    You conclude from my argument exactly the opposite of what I intended to show. Nothing could more clearly demonstrate the confounding effects of cognitive bias.

    I’m NOT saying that your cognition is biased and mine isn’t.

    I’m saying that a mismatch between our preconceptions leads us to ascribe opposite meaning to the same sentences – with or without beables! This results in a paradoxical state of affairs: it seems we agree, even though our attempts to express that agreement make is seem like we disagree. Okay, so let me try again...

    In my view, the probabilities are anything but the machinery! They are nothing more than a succinct way of encoding my knowledge of the state and structure of the machinery.

    Neither my view nor Feynman’s nor Bell’s treats probabilities as beables.

    The wave fronts of the functions which satisfy the Schrödinger equation are nothing other than the iso-surfaces of the classical action, which satisfies the Hamilton-Jacobi equation. The apparently non-local stationary action principle is enforced by the completely local Euler-Lagrange equation. This is no more or less mysterious than the apparently non-local interference of wave-functions. In the last analysis, they stem from the same root.

    Thus amplitudes are not real things. They are merely bookkeeping devices that record our knowledge about the space-time structure of the problem, while abstracting away much of the detail by representing its net effect as quantum phase. This is what Schrödinger was trying to tell us with his thought experiment about the cat.

    By the same token, probabilities are not real things. They, too, are only bookkeeping devices, which quantify our ignorance of details. A correctly assigned probability distribution is as wide as possible, given everything we know. It is therefore not surprising that our estimated probability distribution becomes suddenly much sharper when we update it with the results of a measurement.

    It was 1935 when Hermann showed that von Neumann’s no-hidden-variables argument was circular.

    It was 1946 when Cox showed that the calculus of Kolmogorovian probabilities is the only consistent way to generalize Boole’s calculus of deductive reasoning to deal with uncertainty.

    It was 1952 when Bohm published a completely deterministic, statistical, hidden-variables theory of quantum phenomena.

    It was 1957 when Jaynes showed that probabilities in statistical mechanics have no objective existence outside the mind of the observer.

    From 1964 to the end of his life, Bell could not disabuse people of the false notion that his theorem proved spooky action at a distance.

    An now, in 2010, cognitive bias still prevents the majority of physicists from connecting the dots.

  162. Neil B:

    “prove me wrong if you dare”

    Ha! This is trivially easy. Each neutron in your example exists in its own unique milieu of external influences. Thus they are identical machines operating on different inputs, which therefore give different outputs. Their dependence on initial conditions is very sensitive, so there is no correlation between the moments at which different particles decay, even if they are very close together. Only the half life survives as a statistical regularity. QED.

    “Would you deny, that if I throw down one die it has 1/6 chance of showing a three? ... What other choice do we have?”

    I claim that the state of the die will evolve as determined by its initial conditions and various influences that affect it in transit and modify its trajectory. Since I have imperfect knowledge of the initial conditions, and cannot predict the transient influences, and since know that the final state depends very sensitively on these things, I have no rational choice but to treat the problem statistically. I will assign equal probabilities to the six faces only if I believe that the apparent symmetries of the die are real, and I will believe that only if I lack evidence to the contrary. However, if I see the die come up three, over and over again, I will have no rational choice but to adjust my assignment of probabilities, which amounts to revising my estimation about the symmetries.

    So you see, these is a statements of “having no rational choice but to assign certain probabilities” are statements about me, and about the evolution of my knowledge about the die. They are not statements about the die. With each observation I make, my estimate of the probabilities changes, but the die remains the same.

    And nowhere in any of that did I say anything about an ensemble. No ensemble is required. If you think you need an ensemble, then you have already accepted many-worlds, whether you think you have, or not.

    “It’s not about whether the observation changes the coin, it’s about the whole process being rigged in advance.”

    The belief that this is not true of quantum phenomena is one the cognitive biases that result from the incorrect understanding of the nature of probability.

    See also my remarks in reply to Phil.

  163. Ain Soph, I appreciate finally getting a considered response. However, your position about environmental influences on something so fundamental as particle life-expectancy is very unorthodox and very unsupported AFAIK by any experiments. So you are a deterministic, who thinks there is some particular reason one neutron decays after one span, and for another to last a different span? Then we should be more able to do two things:
    1. Make batches from different sources and environments, that have varying tendencies to decay even if we can control the environment. If there's a clockwork inside each neutron, we should be able to create batches with at least some varying time spectra, such as lumping towards a particular span etc. But no such batches can be made, can they? Nor can we
    (2.) Do things to the particles to stress them into later being short-lived, or long-lived, etc. That is unheard of.
    Most telling, is that if we let a bunch of particles decay for awhile and take, say, the remaining 1%, that i% decays from then on in the same probabilistic manner as the batch did as a whole up to that point.

    It is incredible, for a bunch of somethings with deterministic structure to have a subset which last longer, but then has no further distinction after that time is up. The remaining older and older neutrons can keep being separated out, and no residual signal of a deterministic structure can be found after they've "held off" for all that time. They'd have to be like the silly old homunculus theory of human sperm, like endless Russian dolls waiting for any future contingency (look it up.) It is absurd, sorry.

    It's looking at actual nuts and bolts and not semantics or understanding about "probability" that best shows the point. You're right about the probability just being bookkeeping or coding of ignorance in a classical world, but our world is probably (!) not like that. A fresh neutron should be like a die with the same facing up each time and just falling straight down. (BTW, an ensemble is the set of trials or particles in one world, it does not have to mean MWI. The other copy of a particle in our world is just as good a repletion as having the ostensible same thing happen elsewhere too.)

    The actual evidence supports the logically absurd idea that genuinely identical particles and states (empirical and theoretical basis up to the moment the similarity is shattered by a measurement or decay event, etc.) sometimes do one thing, sometimes another, for no imaginable reason as we understand and can model causality. Why? Because the universe is just weird.

    And it isn't about understanding "probability" per se, which of course does not really exist in math anyway - all the outcomes are precoded into earlier conditions etc., which means it's a matter of whether pseudo-random patterns that would seem to pass the smell test had been "put in by hand", in the Laplacian sense, by God or whatever started up the universe's clockwork. It is about understanding what our universe is like, when it is involved in what we loosely call "probability", without truly understanding what that means in the real world. It is wrong to project and impose our supposed philosophical needs or prejudices upon it.

    BTW, I was hoping you'd look at my experiment about recovering data after decoherence.

  164. Neil B:

    Of the two issues you raise, you are wrong about the first one and right about the second one. In both cases, the correct understanding of the issue supports my argument.

    Firstly, if all neutrons are identical, then we definitely should not be able to prepare batches of neutrons with differing parameters. Further, particle decay obeys Poisson statistics, which are shift invariant. Hence knowing how long a given particle has lived tells you nothing about how much longer you can expect it to survive.

    Secondly, there is indeed something you can do to “stress” a neutron to systematically affect its half-life: you can put it into different nuclei, or leave it free. In that way, you can vary the half-life of a neutron from about 886 seconds to infinity.

    A “fresh” neutron will be in some unpredictable state determined by the unknown details of the process that created it.

    An ensemble is not an actual set of particles or trials. People use ensemble arguments when they want to define probabilities as the limiting frequencies of occurrence in an infinite number or trials. But determining what would happen if we could perform an infinite number of trials is based on symmetry arguments of the kind I’ve already outlined. If you can do that correctly, you don’t need an ensemble. If you can’t, all the ensembles in the multiverse won’t help you.

    Many-worlds is an attempt to rescue limiting frequencies in cases where postulating more than one trial makes no sense. For example, what is the probability that the sun will go nova in the next five minutes? Many-worlders claim to find that probability by counting the fraction of parallel universes in which the sun actually does go nova in the next five minutes.

    Yeah. Right.

    Many-worlds is the last resort of frustrated frequentists, desperately searching for ensembles in all the wrong places.

    Oh, and... what experiment about recovering data after decoherence?

  165. Neil:

    Perhaps Bee is thinking I'm trying to find purely internal contradictions in the MUH, but I'm not. It can be made OK by itself, in that every possibility does "exist"

    What I was thinking you were saying is that MUH is in conflict with observation:

    "If actual outcomes, sample sequences which are the true 'data' from experiments, are genuinely "random" ... then... MUH is invalid.

    And I've tried to explain you several times why MUH is not in conflict with observation.

    Of course we don't know that MUH is correct. It's an assumption, as I've been telling you several times already. All I've been saying is that it is tautologically (by assumption) not in conflict with reality.

    About the neutrons: Their behavior is described by a random process. All values this process can take "exist" mathematically in the same sense. You just only see one particular value. Is the same I've been telling you several times now already. Nobody ever said you must be able to "see" all of the mathematical reality. This is one of the assumptions you have been implicitly making that I tried to point out.

    Incidentally you just called my replies to you inconsiderate. Which, given the time that I have spent, I don't find very considerate myself. Best,


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  168. HI Ain Soph ,

    Perhaps as you say each of our biases have had us to see that we disagree in places that we don’t. There’s not much more that could be said about this discussion about beables, since as you admit whether the concept is useful to avoid biases really depends on your own biases.:-) Just a couple of comments as to what you said, then I think we should put this to rest, at least in terms of this blog. The first being would be to say I disagree that Feynman didn’t consider probabilities as a beable, for he certainly did. I won’t defend this other than just to say that you would have to point me to something more specific that would convince me otherwise. Lastly what Hermann demonstrated as what was wrong with von Neumann’s proof was not that it was a circular argument, yet rather it assigned the logic of the averaged value of an assemble to situations where they were they just couldn’t be demanded logically to hold.

    As to all the back and forth comments in respect to probability, what these in the end represent comes down to whether one believes, rather then knows, if there is such an entity as the random set, that is outside of it being something that can only be defined mathematically by what it isn’t, rather then what it is. This reminds of a time some years back when I was playing craps late into the evening in Atlantic City, with noticing one fellow off to the side scribbling each roll of the dice on a note pad. When it came time for me to leave the table, I asked this fellow if he believed what he was keeping track of would help him to win, with his reply being of course because it was all a matter of the probabilities. Then to continue I asked had he never heard that Einstein said that God doesn’t play dice and he replied yes I have, so what does that have to do with it. I then said what he meant which is of importance here is that even god could not have random work to have something known to be real, so then what chance do you think you have in being able to succeed? :-)



  169. Hi Ain Soph,

    Just one thing I forgot to add is that from what I’m able to gather you are one of those that consider the working of reality as being that of a computer. Actually I have no difficulty with this as long as a computer is not limited to being digital. The way I look at it with respect to having both waves and particles as beables this would have this computer to be analogue which is restricted to digital output :-)



  170. Bee, I don't know why you think I implied or said your replies were inconsiderate. When I said it's a shame we continue to disagree, I meant in the usual sense of "it's unfortunate it's that way" rather than "shame" over something bad. Or you might be confusing my use of "considered" in a reply to Ain Soph not you, in which I said I appreciated finally getting such a reply? The word "considered" means put effective thought into the comment instead of just tossing off IMHO assumptions etc. It does not mean the same as "considerate", meaning caring about someone else, being polite etc. REM that I am cross-talking to you and A.S. about nearly the same point, since you both seem to accept determinism (or its viability) and don't seem to appreciate my point about neutrons and math structures, etc.

    Perhaps also you have some lingering soft spots in practical English, although your writing is in general excellent and shows correct parsing of our terms and grammar at a high level. Note that English is full of pitfalls of words and phrases that mean very differently per context.

    Note also that when two people keep debating and neither yields, then both are "stubborn" in principle. I suggest seeking third-party insight, which I predict will be a consensus in the field of foundations (not applied math) that identical math structures must produce identical results (as A.S. now seems to admit - saying it's a matter of environmental influence, about which more in due course), and that a field of possibilities is just an abstraction. Hence it is not possibly a way to get one identical particle to last one duration, and another one; another duration. It is not a "machinery" for producing differential results in application. That is so regardless of what kind of universe we are in or how many others there are etc. Either we pre-ordain the behavior in the Laplacian sense, or it is inexplicably random and varying despite the identical beginning states.

    This is not my own idiosyncratic notion, but supported by extensive reading of historical documents in science and phil-sci that included works of founders of QM etc. Sure, we can't figure out "how can this be?" - it's just the breaks.

    In any case I'm sorry you felt put-down, but you can be relieved that isn't what I meant.

  171. Further possible confusion: in practical (English?) discourse, if a comment is addressed to soandso then the statement:
    "Soandso, I appreciate finally getting a considered response..."
    is supposed to mean, "I appreciate finally getting _____"[from you] rather than, "I appreciate getting _____" from at least someone, at all, period. I'm not being a nit-picker about trivia, just don't want anyone to feel slighted.

    Ain Soph: I mean, the proposed experiment I describe at my name-linked blog, the latest post "Decoherence interpretation falsified?" (It's a draft.) Please, look it over, comment etc.

  172. Neil: Thank you for the English lesson and I apologize for any confusion in case "inconsiderate" is not the opposite of "considered," which is what I meant. Yes, I was referring to your earlier comment addressed at Ain Soph. Your statement, using your description, implies that you think I have not "put effective thought" into my comments, which I find inappropriately dismissive. In fact, if you read through our exchange, I have given you repeatedly arguments why your claim is faulty which you never addressed. I am not "tossing off" assumptions, I am telling you that your logical chain is broken, and why so. It is not that I do not "appreciate" your point, I am telling you why you cannot use it to argue MUH is in disagreement with observation. This is not a "debate," Neil, it is you attempting an argumentum ad nauseum.

    Finally, to put things into the right perspective, nowhere have I stated whether I "accept" determinism or not, and for the argument this is irrelevant anyway. Nevertheless, when it comes to matters of opinion, I have told you several times already that I don't beleive neither in MUH nor in MWI. I am just simply telling you that your argumentation is not waterproof. Best,


  173. Bee, I think you missed my followup to the explanation about "considered" - as I said there, I meant to Ain Soph that he/she had finally given me a "considered" [IMHO] reply, not that finally "someone" had - which would mean, no one else had either! So can we finally be straight about that, since you were not meant to be included?

    As for argumentum ad nauseum, I note that you keep mostly repeating yourself as well so wouldn't that apply to both of us if so? Also, I have provided some new ideas such as the example of neutrons, moving beyond more abstract complaints.

    So let's forget about MUH for awhile (and since it involves accepting "all possible math structures", which goes beyond merely saying that this world is fully describable by math.) Note also that even if a person's argument is not airtight, it can still be the most plausible one. Also, AFAIK I do have majority support (or used to?) in the sci-phil community.

  174. BTW, I just got a FBF acceptance from Stefan! Thanks. The blog is good "you guys" (another colloquialism that in English can now include any gender) overall. To other readers: Bee's FB page is cute and interesting, much more than the typical scientist's.

  175. Neil: Okay, let's forget about the considerable considerations, this is silly anyway. Of course I am repeating myself, because you are not addressing my arguments. Look, I am afraid that I read your "new ideas" simply as attempts to evade a reply to my arguments. But besides this, I addressed the neutrons already above. Best,


  176. Hi Bee,

    ”I am just simply telling you that your argumentation is not waterproof.”

    Interesting much of this conversation ends up focused around semantics and looking at what you said to Neil reminded me it at times can be non trivial. That is particularly in today’s scientific climate I’d rather have my theory be bullet proof, while less concerned if it be water proof, as there is a significant diference between being all wet and dead:-)



    c.c. Neil Bates

  177. I think we've come a long way from Spooky.:)

    In practice, entanglement is an extremely delicate condition. Background disturbances readily destroy the state—a bane for quantum computing in particular, because calculations are done only as long as the entanglement lasts. But for the first time, quantum physicist Seth Lloyd of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that memories of entanglement can survive its destruction. He compares the effect to Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights: “the spectral Catherine communicates with her quantum Heathcliff as a flash of light from beyond the grave.”

    The insight came when Lloyd investigated what happened if entangled photons were used for illumination. One might suppose they could help take better pictures. For instance, flash photography shines light out and creates images from photons that are reflected back from the object to be imaged, but stray photons from other objects could get mistaken for the returning signals, fuzzing up snapshots. If the flash emitted entangled photons instead, it would presumably be easier to filter out noise signals by matching up returning photons to linked counterparts kept as references.

    Still, given how fragile entanglement is, Lloyd did not expect quantum illumination to ever work. But “I was desperate,” he recalls, keen on winning funding from a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s sensor program for imaging in noisy environments. Surprisingly, when Lloyd calculated how well quantum illumination might perform, it apparently not only worked, but “to gain the full enhancement of quantum illumination, all entanglement must be destroyed,” he explains.
    Lloyd and his colleagues detailed a proposal for practical implementation of quantum illumination in a paper submitted in 2008 to Physical Review Letters building off theoretical work presented in the September 12 Science


    An Introduction to String Theory A Talk by Steuard Jensen, 11 Feb 2004

    So how does all this come together into a physical theory? It turns out that the proper procedure is to construct every possible diagram allowed by the theory (for a given state of input and output particles and how they're moving) and add up the corresponding complex numbers. The result is essentially the "wave function" for that specific input-output state combination, and by squaring that number you can determine the probability that the given input will result in the given output. Doing that is how theorists at particle accelerators earn their keep.

  178. Plato: I wonder if your piece on imaging with entangled photons is the same idea as this stunning report:
    Wired Magazine Danger Room

    Air Force Demonstrates ‘Ghost Imaging’

    * By Sharon Weinberger Email Author
    * June 3, 2008 |
    * 11:00 am |
    * Categories: Science!

    Air Force funded researchers say they’ve made a breakthrough in a process called "ghost imaging" that could someday enable satellites to take pictures through clouds.

  179. Phil:

    You have a point about Feynman. Although, on page 37 of his 1985 book, QED, we find

    ... the price of this great advancement of science is a retreat by physics to the position of being able to calculate only the probability that a photon will hit a detector, without offering a good model of how it actually happens.

    which draws a clear distinction between what we can calculate (probabilities) and what actually happens (beables), yet on page 82 he says

    ... the more you see how strangely Nature behaves, the harder it is to make a model that explains how even the simplest phenomena actually work. So theoretical physics has given up on that.

    by which I think he really means that he, himself, has given up on it -- which is sad, because his path integrals build such a clear bridge between quantum phase and classical action; they are bound to play a central role in the defeat of quantum mysticism.

    Also, I think your analogue computer, restricted to digital output, is an excellent metaphor! At least to first order. It reminds me of Anton Zeilinger’s remark that “a photon is just a click in a photon detector.”

  180. Ain Soph, I think what you call "quantum mysticism" is just what nature is like. Why must She make sense? She is not like the Queen of England, she is like Lady Gaga: "I'm a freak bitch, baby!" About neutrons: yes in an extreme case, inside a nucleus, neutrons are stable. But in the bound state they are exchanging with other nucleons, not a proper dodge regarding in-flight differences. You seem to admit that a real mechanism would mean we could make a batch of "five minute neutrons", but almost no one thinks we could. We can't even make a batch that has a bias, etc. That is absurd. The consistent, Poisson distribution is "mystical", it is absurd.

    The alternative would be a ridiculous Rube-Goldberg world where intricate arrangements were made to program each little apparently identical particle with a mechanism that could never be exposed, never tricked into revealing the contrivance by how we grouped the particles, how we made them, waiting them out, nothing. The universe can't do that. It's something to accept.

    Again, re the proposed information recovery experiment: I describe it in my blog.

  181. Neil B:

    Tyrranogenius??!!?! Ree-hee-hee-ly... Ahem. Anyway...

    I took a look at your post about recovering information after decoherence, and I pretty much agree with most of what you wrote. But let’s be clear about what this really implies about the nature of probability.

    This little thought experiment of yours clearly demonstrates my point, that there is nothing special or mysterious about quantum probabilities; they nothing other than classical probabilities applied to things that have a phase.

    There is a somewhat analogous experiment in statistical mechanics. One puts a drop of black ink in a viscous white fluid contained in the thin annular space between two transparent, rigid cylinders. Then one turns the outer cylinder relative to the inner one, and watches as the ink dot is smeared out around the circumference, becomes an increasingly diffuse grey region until it finally disappears completely. If the rotation is continued long enough, the distribution of ink can be made arbitrarily close to uniform, both circumferentially and longitudinally.

    Eventually, one concludes that entropy has increased to a maximum and the information about the original location of the ink drop has been irreversibly lost. However, if one then reverses the relative rotation of the cylinders, one can watch as the ink drop is reconstituted, returning to its original state exactly when the net relative rotation of the cylinders returns to zero.

    This works better with more viscous fluids, but only because that makes it easier to reverse the process. The ease of demonstrating the principle depends on the viscosity, but the principle itself does not. And the principle is this: information is never lost in a real process, but it can be transformed in ways that make it prohibitively difficult to recover. Of course, “prohibitively difficult” is in the eye of the beholder. It is not a statement about the system; it is a statement about the observer.

    If you come along after I’ve turned the cylinders, not knowing that they were turned, and I challenge you to find the ink droplet, you will measure the distribution of ink, find it so close to uniform that you declare the difference to be statistically insignificant, and conclude that my challenge is impossible, saying the information is irretrievably lost. That is, you will say that the mixture is thermalized.

    But then I say, no, this is not a mixed state at all; it is an entangled state. And to prove it, I turn the cylinders backwards until the ink drop reappears. Voila!

    So you see, the question is not, when is the information lost, but rather, at what point is recovering it more trouble than it’s worth? And the answer depends on what you know about the history of the situation.

    The moral of the story is, one man’s information is another man’s noise. There is no such thing as “true randomness.”

    And this is the real lesson to be learned from the whole messy subject of decoherence.

  182. Neil B:

    I say, “if all neutrons are identical, then we definitely should not be able to prepare batches of neutrons with differing parameters.”

    And you reply “you seem to admit that a real mechanism would mean we could make a batch of five minute neutrons.”

    No wonder you think other people’s posts are not carefully considered.

    You don’t pay attention to what they write.

  183. Ain Soph, thanks for looking at my blog and getting the point about recovering information, even if we don't agree about the significance (REM, I say we can recover the original biased of amplitude differences, not specific events.) As for the name, well it's supposed to be cute and creative.

    Neutrons: but the statements are flip sides of the same point:
    if all neutrons are identical, then we definitely should not be able to prepare batches of neutrons with differing parameters.
    Right, so if they weren't identical, and were deterministic (as you seem to think they must be, and "God only knows" what Bee really thinks IMHO but I'll leave her alone anymore), then we would be able to prepare a batch of "five minute neutrons." They would of course be, a whole bunch that were the same as, that portion, that lasts five minutes, of a normal motley crew of varying life times. Of course almost no one thinks we can do that, hence neutrons are likely identical, hence looking for mechanism to break the mystical potential of events is likely hopeless.
    You need to think less one-dimensionally?

  184. Hi Ain Soph,

    So I guess on the question of probabilities we find Feynman to have given them a physicality that just can’t be justified. He also held similar notions as to the meaning of information and what that implied in terms of physical reality, as what is to be considered as real physically and what isn’t. I think what separates the way we each look at all of this is rooted in what of our most basic of biases be and that what forms as constituting our ontological centres.

    So when I say analogue rendering only digital results, I mean just that, with having to attach a separate and distinct entity to both, while you seem able to have only one thing stand as being both. To me this is reminiscent of when as a child I would get these puzzles where one connects the dots , where after tracing between the dots something would appear as a figure, such a s boy or girl’s face, or some inanimate object. I find your way of looking at the world is to just to see the dots, while the lines between are spaces having no meaning or consequence. However for me it is to have the figure as the place that no matter where the dots are looked for and even when not found still exists, as do the dots.

    Now as much as I hate to admit it, this is one bias that I fear each of us will never be able to discard and as such as for both of us the how and the why of the world will be looked for from two distinctly different perspectives. That said I have no compliant as you being a Feynman fan, as then you having come by it honestly for this information (digital) perspective of reality can be attributed largely to him. To quote Mehra’s biography of Feynman ‘Beat of A Different Drum’ under the heading ‘24.2 Information as a Physical Reality’ (page 530)Feynman’s thoughts on this in summation reads:

    “This example has demonstrated that the information of the system contributes to its entropy and that information is a well-defined physical quantity, which enters into conservation laws”

    The thing is I have no problem with this statement, other to echo Bell’s compliant when this all is information view was proposed in asking “information about what”. With the Feynman perspective as with his diagrams this information represented only what the correlated assembly (the group of dots yield) without regard for what formed to be the cause of the correlations as in his diagrams having those wavy lines in between to be assigned no physically yet required all in the same. So once again for me it’s not how it happens that physics can demonstrate so well why there be no hidden variables, yet rather how can it even consider it a good beginning to deny made so evident to be deduced by reason of experiment. This is where I find the quantum mysticism to begin as the same reason given by Einstein to Heisenberg when he explained :

    "...every theory in fact contains unobservable quantities. The principle of employing only observable quantities simply cannot be consistently carried out."

    Anyway despite our biases I have to respect that you take your position seriously, as do I, yet I convinced that no matter what the outcome each would be more then grateful if an experiment could be devised which could have made clear which is simply wishful thinking and which is nature’s way of being.



  185. Phil, REM that experimental proposal of mine that you've read (and correctly understood, as did Ain Soph.) If we can recover such information about input amplitudes after the phases are scrambled - and the direct optical calcuation, which has never been wrong, says we can - that is a game changer. The output from BS2 in my setup "should" be a "mixture" in QM, ie equivalent to whole photons randomly going out one face or the other. But if not, then the fundamentals have to be reworked and we can't use traditional DM or mixture language.

    I'm serious as a heart attack, it's not braggadocio but a clear logical consequence. (BTW anyone, that blog name is supposed to be cute and camp, not to worry.)

  186. Remark to All:

    Many valid arguments have been presented over the years that should be, to use Neil’s phrase, “game changers.” But they’re not.

    Einstein, Schrödinger, Bohm and Bell, put together, were not able to counter the irrationality that was originated by the “Copenhagen Mafia” and continues to be aggressively promoted today.

    As we have strikingly demonstrated in this very thread, contemporary physics is hobbled by an inability to agree on the meaning of such basic terms as “reality,” “probability,” “random” and “quantum” -- just to name a few. Thus, endless semantic quibbling has been imported into physics and drowns out any vestige of substantive debate that could lead to real progress.

    Willis E. Lamb, awarded the 1955 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering the Lamb shift, states categorically in a 1995 article [Appl. Phys. B, 60(2-3):77] that

    “there is no such thing as a photon. Only a comedy of errors and historical accidents led to its popularity among physicists.”

    But there is quite some evidence to indicate that these errors are anything but accidental.

    In Disturbing the Memory, an unpublished manuscript written by Edwin T. Jaynes in 1984, he describes why he had to switch from doing a Ph.D. in quantum electrodynamics under J. R. Oppenheimer to doing one on group theoretic foundations of statistical mechanics under Eugene Wigner:

    “Mathematically, the Feynman electromagnetic propagator made no use of [QED’s] superfluous degrees of freedom; it was equally well a Green’s function for an unquantized EM field. So I wanted to reformulate electrodynamics from the ground up without using field quantization. ... If this meant standing in contradiction with the Copenhagen interpretation, so be it. ... But I sensed that Oppenheimer would never tolerate a grain of this; he would crush me like an eggshell if I dared to express a word of such subversive ideas.
    “Oppenheimer would never countenance any retreat from the Copenhagen position, of the kind advocated by Schrödinger and Einstein. He derived some great emotional satisfaction from just those elements of mysticism that Schrödinger and Einstein had deplored, and always wanted to make the world still more mystical, and less rational. ... Some have seen this as a fine humanist trait. I saw it increasingly as an anomaly -- a basically anti-scientific attitude in a person posing as a scientist.”

    Whether or not it started out that way, in the end the truth was of no importance in all of this, as exemplified by Oppenheimer’s remark (quoted by F. David Peat, on page 133 of Infinite Potential, his 1997 biography of David Bohm):

    “If we cannot disprove Bohm, then we must agree to ignore him.”

    There are other stories like this.

    Is this evidence of an innocent cognitive bias, or something more dangerous?

  187. Ain Soph,

    I must admit to still being confused by your position, for on one hand you seem to agree with Lamb that there is no such thing as a photon and then have empathy for Bohm. This itself turns out to be completely opposite views ontologically which I would have thought you would have to first settle to move forward if only for yourself. So I would ask which is it to be Lamb or Bohm?



  188. Phil:

    Actually, I think it would be a mistake to follow either too dogmatically. I’m not sure that the two of them are as incompatible as they seem at first sight, unless one insists on treating fields and particles identically. I can see the appeal in that, but it does cause a lot of problems.

    To be sure, the renormalization procedures of quantum electrodynamics can be made to yield impressive numerical accuracy, but this in itself does not validate the underlying physics: Ptolemaic epicycles can be made to reproduce planetary motions with arbitrary accuracy, even though the underlying model is essentially theological.

    For radiation, Jaynes notes that only emission and absorption can be shown unequivocally to be quantized, and that only two coefficients are required to completely specify each field mode. Lamb gave completely classical treatments of the laser and the Mössbauer effect, showing that neither photons nor phonons are strictly required.

    Jaynes also showed that the arguments claiming that the Lamb shift, stimulated emission and the Casimir effect prove the physical reality of the zero-point energy are circular; they assume that these things are quantum effects at the outset. For every effect that is commonly held to prove the physical reality of the zero-point energy, one can find an alternative classical derivation from electromagnetic back-reaction.

    So I have yet to see a valid argument that compels me to quantize the field.

    In regard to Bohm, I must say that I prefer the crisp clarity of his earlier work to his later dalliance with the mysticism of the implicate order. His demonstration, together with Aharonov, that the vector potential is a real physical entity, was masterful. And his pilot wave theory proves unequivocally that a hidden-variables theory is possible.

    But I am not ready to commit to any detailed interpretation of the pilot wave, primarily because of the treatment of the Dirac equation given by Hestenes, who takes the zitterbewegung to be physically real. From that starting point, one can not only construct models of the electron reminiscent of the non-radiating current distributions of Barut and Zanghi, but one can also recover the full U(1) x SU(2) x SU(3) symmetry of the standard model.

    In short, unless your interest in physics is motivated only by the desire to build gadgets, it would be a grave error to follow David Mermin’s curt injunction to “shut up and calculate.”

  189. Ain Soph, I think you are blaming the wrong agents here! It's not the fault of scientists and philosophers trying to get a handle on the odd situation of quantum mechanics. Sure, many of them sure aren't doing the best they can - I rap in particular, the wretched circular argument and semantic slight of hand of advocates for decoherence as excuse for collapse or not seeing macro supers. No, the "fault" is not in (most of ;-) us but is in the stars: it's the universe just, really, being weird. It really doesn't make sense. Why should it?

    But yeah, maybe pilot waves can do something but I consider it a cheesy kludge. And even if it handles "particles" trajectories (uh, I'm still trying to imagine what funny kind of nugget a "photon" would be ... polarized light in 2 DOFs? Differing coherence lengths based on formation time? Hard for even the real Ain Soph to straighten out), what about neutron and muon decay and all that?

    As for my proposed experiment: as I said, its significance transcends interpretation squabbles. Nor is it in vein to previous paradoxes. It means getting more information out than was thought possible before. I say that is indeed a game changer

  190. Neil:

    “... the universe just, really, being weird. It really doesn’t make sense.”

    That’s exactly what THEY want you to think!


    Seriously: that has got to be the most self-defeating bullsh!t I’ve ever heard.

    Reality cannot be inconsistent with itself.

    A is A. Of course it makes sense.

    We just haven’t figured it out yet.

    Quantum mechanics is no weirder than classical mechanics. The universe may very well be non-local, but simply cannot be acausal.

    If you learn nothing else from John Bell and David Bohm, learn that.

  191. Reality cannot be inconsistent with itself.
    It isn't, I suppose in the circularly necessary and thus worthless sense - it's just inconsistent with what is conceptually convenient or sensible to us (or to being put into MUH.)

    A is A. Of course it makes sense.
    Randian QM? Just as unrealistic as for the human world.

    Quantum mechanics is no weirder than classical mechanics.
    Yes, it is. Even with concepts like PWs, what are we going to do about electron orbitals and shells, their not radiating unless perturbed - and then the process of radiation itself, tunneling and all that (and still, neutrons and muons etc which almost no one accepts as being a matter of outside diddling. What about the particles that don't last long enough to be diddled?)

    The universe may very well be non-local, but simply cannot be acausal.
    So I guess you think everything is determined, so we have to worry why each muon decayed at all those specific times etc. What a clunky mess, why not let it go? My reply is: It can be whatever it wants to be. I think, horribly to the usual suspects around here, that it's here first for a "big" reason like our existence, and only second to be logically nice. That may be mysticism but so is the idea the second purpose is uppermost.

    If you learn nothing else from John Bell and David Bohm, learn that.
    They were bright folks but ideological imposers. I want to say Bell should know better because of entangled properties (that are not supposed to be like "Bertlmann's socks" which are preselected ordinary properties) but maybe he thought their was a clever way to set it all up. But even if you imagine a pre-related pair of photons, the experimenter has to be dragged into the conspiracy too. Bob has to be forced to set a polarizer at some convenient angle, so he and Alice can get the same result. It's not enough for the photons to be eg "really at 20 degrees linear polarized" because if A & B use 35 degrees, they still get the same result as each other.

    Yet it can't be an inevitable result of the 15 degree difference either, since there is a pattern of yes and no - the correlation is what matters. If pilot waves can arrange all that, they might as well just be the real entities anyway.

    BTW your anonymity is your business, but if you drop a blog name etc. it might be worthwhile.
    PS I've had a heck of trouble with Google tonight, are the Chinese really messing with them that much?

  192. Causality and determinism are two different ideas.

    The world can be causal and non-deterministic.

  193. This comment has been removed by the author.

  194. Hi Ain Soph,

    Well that was certainly as nice way of dancing around the question and perhaps as such you feel you suffer being less biased and maybe rightfully so. In this respect I guess I’m not as fortunate as you, for I see the world as something that’s always moving from becoming to being, as to be driven there by potential. So no matter which way you care to express it, for me there must be something that stands for the source of potential and another that stands for its observed result and both must be physical in nature for them to be considered as real.

    The fact is nature has demonstrated to be biased, through things like symmetry, conservation and probability, with then having these biases manifest themselves consequentially as invariance, covariance, action principle and so on. The job of science is then by way of observation (experiment) to discover how nature is biased and then through the use of reason to consider how such biases must be necessary to find things the way that they are; or in other words why. However, if all that a scientist feels their job as being is to figure out the recipe for having things to be real, without seeing it required to ask why, that is their failing and not a bias mandated by science itself. This is the bias expressed first by Newton himself, which Bohr merely served to echo later that those like Descartes, Einstein and Bohm never did agree with. So I find in relation to science this to be the only bias that holds any significance in terms of its ultimate success.

    “We have become Antipodean in our scientific expectations. You believe in the God that plays dice, and I in complete law and order in a world which objectively exists, and which I, in a wildly speculative way, am trying to capture. I firmly believe, but I hope that someone will discover, a more realistic way, or rather a more tangible basis than it has been my lot to find. Even the great initial success of quantum theory does not make me believe in the fundamental dice-game, although I am well aware that our younger colleagues interpret this as a consequence of senility. No doubt the day will come when we will see whose instinctive attitude was the correct one.”

    - Albert Einstein- September 1944[Born-Einstein Letters],



  195. Arun said: "Causality and determinism are two different ideas. The world can be causal and non-deterministic."

    Very true. If event A happens, then either event B or C might happen. In which case event B or C would be caused by event A, but it would still be non-deterministic.

    Ain Soph: "Quantum mechanics is no weirder than classical mechanics." Well, It seems pretty weird to me! Do you have access to some information the rest of us don't have?

  196. Andrew - good distinction about causality v. determinism. That's basically what I meant when disagreeing with Ain Soph, forgetting the difference. Hence, we can't IMHO explain the specifics of the outcomes. But in common use, "causality" is made to be about the timing itself, so people say "the decay was not caused to be at that specific time by some pre-existing process, or law (the "law" such as it is, applies only to the probability being X.)

    You would likely have an interest in my proposal to recover apparently lost amplitude information. It's couched in terms of disproving that decoherence solves macro collapse problems, but there is no need to agree with me about that particular angle. Getting the scrambled info back is significant in any case, and the expectation it couldn't be is orthodox and not a school debate. I've gotten some interest from e.g blogger quantummoxie, but indeed I need a diagram!

  197. Neil:

    Reality may look strange when you can’t take the speed of light to be infinite, or neglect the quantum of action, or treat your densities as delta functions, and even stranger in the face of all three. But that’s not the same as not making sense.

    A is A... these days, you hear it in the form, “it is what it is.” To deny it is to deny reason. But you just blow it off with a non sequitur. I guess that’s what you have to do if you want to believe that reality makes no sense.

    In your reply to Andrew, you are back to pretending there is a difference between “completely unpredictable” and “truly random.” Again, I guess you have to, otherwise you can’t cling to the idea that reality makes no sense.

    By the way, thanks for the expression of interest, but I don’t have a blog.


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