## New comment policy

If you reject an overwhelming consensus on some issue in the hard sciences — whether it’s evolution, general relativity, climate change, or anything else — this blog is an excellent place to share your concerns with the world. Indeed, you’re even welcome to derail discussion of completely unrelated topics by posting lengthy rants against the academic orthodoxy — the longer and angrier the better! However, if you wish to do this, I respectfully ask that you obey the following procedure:

1. Publish a paper in a peer-reviewed journal setting out the reasons for your radical departure from accepted science.
2. Reference the paper in your rant.

If you attempt to skip to the “rant” part without going through this procedure, your comments may be deleted without warning. Repeat offenders will be permanently banned from the blog. Life is short. I make no apologies.

Scott Aaronson
Rebel for the Scientific Consensus

Update (4/11): I am, of course, under no illusions whatsoever that my requirement of having published a relevant peer-reviewed paper will eliminate all tinfoil-hat rants from the comments section. My hope, rather, is that it will make those rants that I do receive more interesting and original.

### 120 Responses to “New comment policy”

1. Sean Carroll Says:

Stalinist!

2. Scott Says:

Lysenkoism will not be tolerated either.

3. Gus Says:

Thank you!

I’d hate to be accused of silencing dissent, but come on:

“Take away this ‘randomness’ – and the ideological message of darwinism will collapse.”

Dude, we’re all going to hell in a hand basket. Given the circumstances, how can anyone possibly avoid becoming a radical (either on behalf of doofosity or in rage against it)?

Should I just start storing up canned food, get myself a rifle, and barricade my house right now to avoid the rush? Sheesh!

4. Michael Brazier Says:

The theories of the IPCC have not, in point of fact, passed through anything like the scrutiny given to the work of Charles Darwin or Albert Einstein. It’s only in the popular press that an “overwhelming consensus” exists for anthropogenic climate change; among scientists the question is still open.

May I suggest that you not throw people out unless they ignorantly question theories that have been settled for, say, fifty years? Excepting CS, in which you are yourself an expert, and need not appeal to another’s authority.

5. Dave Bacon Says:

Woot! Now I get to talk about time travel! D. Bacon, Quantum Computational Complexity in the Presence of Closed Timelike Curves. Physical Review A, 70 032309 (2004) Now about those closed timelike curves…

6. Blake Stacey Says:

Yay! I get to talk about. . . um. . . neutrinos.

Yep. There sure is a big, er, neutrino conspiracy. Curse that academic orthodoxy for refusing to believe that the cosmic neutrino background can be tapped to yield free energy. Fools — I’ll show them all!

7. silly Says:

Do slashdot or kuro8hin count as peer reviewed journals?

8. Science After Sunclipse Says:

Where Was I When They Were Passing Out the Wit?…

Scott Aaronson has a new comment policy:
If you reject an overwhelming consensus on some issue in the hard sciences — whether it’s evolution, or general relativity, or climate change, or anything else — this blog is an excellent place to share yo…

9. Scott Says:

silly: No, slashdot doesn’t count, or even counts negatively. I don’t know what kuro8hin is.

10. Scott Says:

Dave, even if you weren’t one of the few people on earth with PRA on the topic, closed timelike curves are kosher. So is string theory, criticism of string theory, the anthropic principle, criticism of the anthropic principle, MOND, panspermia, ekpyrotic cosmology, variable-speed-of-light cosmology, Bohmian mechanics, Singulatarianism, even arguments for why P=NP. Accept that existing theories explain what they explain, and you can build on them in arbitrarily loony ways.

Oh, and successful humor earns an automatic exemption.

11. Scott Says:

Michael, I’d love for you and other commenters to debate the detailed IPCC projections, the likely economic effects of warming, the relative merits of different mitigation and coping strategies, and many other issues where there really are huge unknowns. But whether the earth is in fact getting warmer, and whether humans are a major cause, is a debate that I personally am as interested in having right now as whether 9/11 or the moon landings were faked.

12. Jay Says:

Doofosity? I’m pretty sure it’s “doofusity” or even “dufusity”. I plan to publish a paper on this in the near future. Please do not let this keep you from your rage.

13. Kea Says:

Hmm. So banning people from the arxiv server isn’t enough for you?

14. anonymous Says:

15. Scott Says:

Jay: I certainly agree with you that “doofus” is the root word, but I played with “doofusity” and it didn’t scan. In my defense, English loves to change both stresses and vowel sounds when adding an “-ity” suffix. Try pronouncing:

acid –> acidity
helix –> helicity
electric –> electricity
audacious –> audacity
atrocious –> atrocity
doofus –> doofosity

16. Scott Says:

Panpsychism is fine, as is pretty much any other view on consciousness. Philosophize away!

17. Scott Says:

Kea, I’ve never had anything to do with banning anyone from the arXiv. The arXiv administrators set their policies, and I set mine.

18. wolfgang Says:

> the moon landings

It is really too bad that you do not allow a discussion about the moon landings, because I think there really are a lot of good questions still open.

19. Scott Says:

Thanks, Wolfgang — that’s one of his best bits! As I said before, there is a humor exemption.

20. Shmuel Says:

“A cash reward of \$100,000 has been offered to anyone who can send us, by e-mail, conclusive physical evidence of the existence of the moon. This reward remains unclaimed.”

21. Walt Says:

Osama bin Laden faked the moon landings. You heard it here first.

22. vn Says:

‘Quantum of temperature’ is an oxymoron (but quantum of irony’ still has a little sense — a bit ironical).

This preprint deals with plain’ R^2-gravity and gives somewhat alternative to MOND.
Does it match the challenge?

23. Joseph Hertzlinger Says:

When I argue with Creationists I sometimes point out that a scientific theory has been around for more than a few decades will only be replaced by a theory that contains the old theory as an approximation.

Adopting a consensus too soon plays into the hands of the Opposition.

I will not, however, pretend I have any specific evidence against a possibly-premature theory. I can even think of at least three theories I had been vocally skeptical about that I will now admit have sufficient evidence. On the other hand, that was years ago.

24. Jonathan Vos Post Says:

Citation to refereed paper before science-fictional rant:

http://necsi.org/events/iccs/openconf/author/papers/211.doc

IMAGINARY MASS, FORCE, ACCELERATION, AND MOMENTUM:
PHYSICAL OR NONPHYSICAL?

Draft 6.0-Short [for ICCS 2004] of 27 April 2004 [8-page version + 3 pp. Bibliography]

by

(1) Jonathan Vos Post
Mathematics Department
Woodbury University
Burbank, California
[at the time the paper was accepted];

(2) Andrew Carmichael Post
California State University
Los Angeles, California

(3) Christine M. Carmichael
Physics Department
Woodbury University
Burbank, California

ABSTRACT:

This paper analyzes a possible emergent behavior of subatomic and astrophysical systems, which involves Complexity at four levels: (1) dynamic implications of assigning a Complex value to variables which, by tradition, were assumed real; (2) analysis of the related literature in Newtonian, Quantum Mechanical, Relativistic, and String Theory contexts, which have a social and conceptual complexity from their mutually different assumption; (3) the possibility of pattern formation shortly after the Big Bang, in high-energy events today, and in hypothetical dimensions beyond 4-D space-time; and (4) practical complexity in performing experimental tests of these hypotheses. This paper constitutes a preliminary discussion of a foundational question. Are imaginary mass, imaginary acceleration, imaginary force, and imaginary momentum under any conditions ever “Physical” (i.e. in principal observable by direct or indirect means) or “nonphysical” (i.e. theoretically amenable to calculation, but inherently unobservable in the real world)? The discussion begins by hypothesizing a particle or object of positive imaginary mass in a co-moving frame of reference, and considers some logical consequences. One unusual interpretation is that imaginary mass allows for objects to “disappear” from our ordinary space-time and “leave the brane” to go somewhere perpendicular to ordinary reality. The predictions in this paper are “far out” – even Science Fictional, yet they do not obviously violate Quantum Mechanics, Special Relativity, or General Relativity. They are in the broad context of the scientific literature. They may have both microphysical and macrophysical observability in the laboratory or cosmologically. We review the related literature on mass, in Quantum Mechanics and Special Relativity; return to a pseudo-Newtonian analysis; and then approach the complexity of modern theory and speculation.

Rant follows (extracted from last part of the paper before the extensive bibliography):

SPECIFIC PREDICTIONS: THE IMAGINON COSMOS

This paper makes two bold predictions, one of which is experimentally testable by contemporary and near-future equipment, the other of which is more speculative, but may have observable cosmological implications. The detailed derivations of these predictions will presented in subsequent paper, and must be omitted here due to page count constraints.

The first prediction is that an event of at least 100 GeV might cause the creation of an imaginary mass particle, or “imaginon.” Further, that particle, by gravitational interaction with other particles, will experience imaginary force, and accelerate in a direction orthogonal to normal 4-space, thus disappearing from our observable cosmos (or from our brane). This process would take at least one Planck Time 5.4 × 10^(-44) seconds. How long depends on the speed of the imaginon (real magnitude of imaginary

velocity vector) and the “brane thickness” of normal 4-space along the 5th (or higher) dimensions. That thickness may well be one Planck Length 1.6 × 10^(-35) meters. Travel of one Planck Length in one Planck Time would mean that the imaginon’s speed is that of light, which is infeasible by Special Relativity for a non-zero imaginary mass. The imaginon thus either travels sub-luminally, the “thickness” of normal 4-space is more than one Planck Length, or the “disappearance” takes longer than one Planck Time. We shall return to the questions of observability of this process.

The second, hazier prediction, is that an entirely imaginary mass universe exists, with at least 3 spacial dimensions of its own, adjacent and/or orthogonal to normal 4-space. This is what Isaac Asimov has predicted (in the fictional context of Nemesis). However, Professor Asimov neglected to think through the properties of that Imaginary Cosmos.

In such a cosmos, all particles are of imaginary mass. Hence all pairs of particles have, as previously discussed, antigravitational repulsion from each other. Thus, at first blush, no large cosmological structures would be produced, i.e. no stars, no galaxies, no supergalaxies. However, oppositely charged imaginons can orbit each other in pairs, so long as the electromagnetic attraction exceeds the antigravitational repulsion. Various interactions between imaginon pairs are possible, including Bose-Einstein condensation. Hence imaginary mass universe cosmological structures may be possible after all. The equivalents of fission may be possible (if the Weak Force operates similarly), and fusion (if the Strong Force operates similarly). The imaginary universe would be, in some sense, dual to our 4-space, but neither identical nor opposite in behavior.

The creation of imaginons may only happen in pairs, for events of at least 200 GeV (or double whatever the minimum energy needed to create a single imaginon). If so, the pairs would be expected to be of equal and opposite charge, thus conserving charge. CPT symmetry would be expected to apply, with similar violations. Such pairs might always be bound, and isolated imaginons not possible, just as isolated quarks are unlikely. Compex-conjugate mass imaginon pairs have a far-field gravitational effect on real mass particles that is asymptotic to zero.

Specific numerical prediction regarding imaginary mass: as seen from our 4-space, a particle of imaginary mass leaving the brane appears as a violation of conservation of energy and conservation of momentum. That IS allowed by QM, for very small distances and times. By Heisenberg [derivation omitted] we find that the energy needed to kick the imaginon out of the brane is roughly 10-to-the(-8) Joules = a tenth of an erg =

100 GeV This is, not coincidently, the same order of magnitude as the predicted minimum energy of a Higgs boson; was exceeded by the LEP, and will be exceeded by CERN next year [or when, given LHC catastrophe of early 2007?]). [Bagger, 2003] Note that NO experiment to date has shown any violation of conservation of momentum. When Pauli proposed the neutrino to explain an apparent violation, Born offered that for subatomic scales, maybe sometimes there could be a violation. As to my suggestion for a super-sensitive Eotvos experiment, see: [Will 1993], [Will, 1998]

Returning to the issue of observability of an imaginon-creating event, there are several concerns.

(1) String Theory (going all the way back to Kaluza-Klein) suggests that electrical charge might be momentum around a loop of a compactified 5th dimension, and other quantum numbers might be similarly described. If so, imaginon creation might appear not as violation of conservation of momentum, but as violation of conservation of charge, or strangeness, or baryon number, or the like. Violation of charge conservation should be detectible.

(2) It would be difficult to distinguish between an imaginon forming, leaving the brane, and carrying away momentum, on the one hand, and the creation of a massive neutral particle (Higgs or otherwise). The fact that I have not discussed imaginon angular momentum adds uncertainty.

(3) Imaginon creation is thus hypothetically observable, but hard to distinguish from other phenomena. Thus, this theory clouds the interpretation of some “new physics” effects that might be produced by current and near-future accelerator/colliders.

I predict a genuine violation of conservation of momentum IF a 100+ GeV collision creates an imaginon. I’m not yet sure how to distinguish that from a neutral particle of the same mass, or a Higgs boson. But that’s for experimentalists, who are already on payroll for those Higgs hunting efforts. Similarly they may be created in supernovae, hypernovae, black hole collisions; or ultra-high energy cosmic rays may also create imaginons or imaginon-pairs when they collide with interstellar gas, intergalactic gas, dust, our atmosphere, planets and stars, or photons. Thus a search for imaginon events may be conducted even if our accelerator energies are insufficient.

As a final note, the universe shortly after the Big Bang would have such high temperature (probably 1.4 × 10^32 kelvin, the Planck temperature), that imaginon creation would be frequent. This is true in particular before symmetry-breaking freezes out gravity, and to an extent still true but less frequent after gravity is distinguished from the other forces.

Thus, our early universe would be expected to bleed away energy and momentum off the brane. This could have measurable effect on inflation, the timing of symmetry-breaking, the rate of cooling as the cosmos expands, and on the distribution of density in the early universe that leads to today’s cosmological structure.

The predictions in this paper are “far out” – even Science Fictional, yet they do not obviously violate Quantum Mechanics, Special Relativity, or General Relativity. They are in the broad context of the scientific literature. They may have both microphysical and macrophysical observability in the laboratory or cosmologically.

25. Lev R Says:

Scott – your post may have an unintended effect similar to that of the war powers act. 30 years ago, Congress passed a law that the President must go to Congress for war authorization within 60 days of deploying troops. Presidents, of course, saw this as carte blanche to not seek permission for the first 60 days of wars….

26. Scott Says:

Lev: You’re saying people will write and publish peer-reviewed papers just so they can rant about them on this blog? What an honor!

27. Lev R Says:

Maybe you underestimate your blog. We don’t need any (more?) peer reviewed articles saying global warming isn’t happening. It will be on your conscience.

(I of course was/am joking)

28. silly Says:

Scott,

My earlier point was that your policy is quite arbitary and easily circumvented because you don’t define what a peer reviewed journal is exactly.

29. Scott Says:

OK, allow me to clarify: something is a peer-reviewed journal if I say it is.

30. Ran Halprin Says:

Nice idea, can’t really be well defined and thus enforced – many stupidities can be found in peer reviewed journals, and many (both smart and stupid) opinions are well accepted as truths without scientific proof – even by science oriented individuals such as ourselves.

I would rather much prefer to see relevant comments that are non-scientific and/or silly be crushed by the mighty sword of truth rather then be censored. I believe it much strengthens our cause.

My last blog post seems to invite a lot of these, we’ll just have to see if it works…

31. Scott Says:

Ran, if you peruse the archives, you’ll see that I’ve been crushing absurdities with the mighty sword of truth nonstop for almost two years. And now my mighty arm needs some rest.

32. Scott Says:

In other words: sane friends, if you want me to relax my comment policy, then you’ll have to start wielding the mighty sword of truth more vigorously so I don’t have to.

33. paraphrene Says:

Scott, if you wish to organize discussions, would it be better if you acted as a referee? Throw out a topic, let the posters all bite and scratch eachother in the pursuit of Truth, and at the end of each discussion, declare a winner and give them a gold star. Maybe make a scoreboard.

34. Scott Says:

Thanks — I’ll try that sometime! (The hard part will be resisting the temptation to throw off my referee uniform and enter the fight myself…)

35. paraphrene Says:

The idea is you get to smack people with your sceptre whenever they go off topic.

36. Jonathan Vos Post Says:

Published in the Peer Reviewed Blog “Uncertain Principles”:

New York Times, April 1, 2008:

Roast Beef Sandwich Computer: DNA-based Quantum Computer In 2nd Round Venture Capital

After dazzling NASA with a demonstration that solved the Dark Energy-Dark Matter-Dark Entropy equations to 22 decimal points accuracy, the start-up Earlofsandwich.com demonstrated their prototype Roast Beef Sandwich Computer capabilities further.

It successfully applied hybrid DNA-Quantum computing technology to dazzling speeds in a set of benchmark tests:

(1) The 5-dimensional Sudoku Puzzle;
(2) computing human brain tomography based on horseradish peroxidase-stained neuron photographs;
(3) automated theorem proving of Geometry’s Ham Sandwich Theorem;
(4) Retrodiction of the “Pick a Number Win a Book” conundrum;
(5) Using Twistor Theory to determine the plotline of Bon Dylan’s “Tangled up in Blue”;
(6) Predicting the NCAA College Baketball rankings based on Gatorade extrapolation metrics;
(7) Using the Reagan Institute Trickle-down Econometric model to prove that there is a way out of Iraq, but it is not Godel-decidable;
(8) Spoofing the Google page-index algorithm to boost Scienceblogs to the #1 ranking in the world.

“This one doesn’t look like hype,” said Scott Aaronson, a theoretical computer scientist at the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo in Canada. “Previous Quantum Computer demos were suspect, based on the Penrose-Conway-Turing Loop Quantum Gravity surreal-number matrices.”

“Let’s see them top this in Bangalore” said a grizzled Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist.

37. Walt Says:

Your policy is all well and good, Scott, but what about when peer reviewed journals all start requiring radical departures from existing science to first appear in the comments section of Shtetl-Optimized? You’ve brought us one step closer to the wheels of science grinding completely to a halt.

38. Wez Says:

Joseph Hertzlinger said:

When I argue with Creationists I sometimes point out that a scientific theory has been around for more than a few decades will only be replaced by a theory that contains the old theory as an approximation.

Then you leave yourself wide open to the counterexample of Aristotelian physics, which was around for more than two millenia in spite of being completely wrong. Galileian physics (is that an accepted term?) does not contain Aristotelian physics as a subcase, it directly contradicts it on almost all salient points.

39. Joseph Hertzlinger Says:

Completely wrong? In an atmosphere, an object in motion will come to a stop. At low Reynolds numbers, an object’s velocity is proportional to the force propelling it and inversely proportional to the viscosity of the medium.

40. Wez Says:

Are you seriously arguing with the premise that Aristotelian physics is significantly contradicted by Galileian? I don’t think you’re going to impress many Creationists that way.

People believed for hundreds of years that heavier objects fall to the ground faster than lighter ones. Maybe the story of Galileio dropping a couple of things from the tower of Pisa and concluding that Aristotle had it all wrong is apochryphal, but it could very well have happened. On points like this, Aristotle was just plain wrong. There’s nothing about such teachings that can be said to be approximations of the succeeding paradigm.

Indeed, I would even say that stating that Aristotelian physics is an approximation of Galileian might be a violating of the new comment policy we’re really supposed to be discussing, no matter how deliciously ironic that would be.

41. Scott Says:

In debates about whether such-and-such has ever happened in the history of science, I personally think we should start the timer around 1600. Before that there were certainly scientists (Archimedes, Eratosthenes, etc.), but I wouldn’t say there was science.

42. cody Says:

maybe the concept of “will contain the old theory as an approximation” would be better worded as “will explain at least all the phenomena the older theory explained to at least as great an accuracy”. i agree, Wez, that it sounds silly to claim Aristotelian physics are somehow contained within Galileian physics, but the greater idea of science iteratively improving the breadth and depth with which it explains nature is a pretty important one. and although Aristotelian physics is pretty absurd, it does (attempts to) explain very roughly, a very limited aspect of nature.

43. anonymous Says:

Wez, I’d like to play mad libs with your comment for a moment. Tell me what you think…..

“Are you seriously arguing with the premise that NINETEENTH CENTURY PHYSICS is significantly contradicted by QUANTUM THEORY? I don’t think you’re going to impress many Creationists that way.

People believed for hundreds of years that THE CLASSICAL DESCRIPTION OF ENERGY WAS CORRECT. Maybe the story of PLANCK STUDYING BLACKBODY RADIATION and concluding that RAYLEIGH-JEANS had it all wrong is apochryphal, but it could very well have happened. On points like this, NINETEENTH CENTURY PHYSICS was just plain wrong. There’s nothing about such teachings that can be said to be approximations of the succeeding paradigm.

Indeed, I would even say that stating that NINETEENTH CENTURY PHYSICS is an approximation of QUANTUM THEORY might be a violating of the new comment policy we’re really supposed to be discussing, no matter how deliciously ironic that would be. ”

Do you still think your argument is valid?

44. Johan Richter Says:

Didn’t you once claim that mathematics was a science Scott? Are tpu now denying that mathematics existed before 1600 or have you changed your mind?

45. John Sidles Says:

Scott says: “In debates about whether such-and-such has ever happened in the history of science, I personally think we should start the timer around 1600.”

Hmmmm … that makes it slightly tougher … let’s make it really tough, and ask, are there any 20th-Century examples of a large body of peer-reviewed research, published over at least a decade, that turned out to be flat wrong?

We will exclude dubious technology projects like the nuclear-powered airplane of 1945-55 — tons of peer-reviewed articles were written in service of this highly dubious technology, which literally never “took off.”

There are plenty of striking examples of peer-reviewed but just-plain-wrong articles in medicine. E.g., theories that autism is caused by bad mothering. Innumerable wrong theories of the cause of cancer were proposed in the first half of the century. Even today, the medical efficacy of devices like cardiac stents is continually reassessed, and long-held beliefs are not uncommonly overturned in clinical trials.

And sometimes, fundamental physics theories just plain don’t work out as well as their proponents hope. Analytic S-Matrix theory, anyone?

Overall, however, peer-review works amazingly well in mathematics and the physical sciences. Less well in medicine and the social sciences. Arguably least well in philosophy!

46. Andris Says:

Does this new policy apply to non-peer reviewed claims that NP-complete problems are efficiently solvable by adiabatic quantum computers?

47. Chris W. Says:

Let’s see if I can get Steve Hsu censored.

On the “insufficiency of initial conditions” in a universe governed by gravity, see Information, information processing and black holes.

48. Douglas Knight Says:

Before that there were certainly scientists (Archimedes, Eratosthenes, etc.), but I wouldn’t say there was science.

I’d call them natural philosophers and not scientists.
What distinction did you want to make between scientists and science?

49. Blake Stacey Says:

Time to break out the Alan Sokal:

The word science, as commonly used, has at least four distinct meanings: it denotes an intellectual endeavor aimed at a rational understanding of the natural and social world; it denotes a corpus of currently accepted substantive knowledge; it denotes the community of scientists, with its mores and its social and economic structure; and, finally, it denotes applied science and technology.

By my reckoning, all of the four except for number three existed strongly enough before 1600 that one could justifiably say that “science” in that sense is older than four hundred years.

Besides, if we start the “science clock” at 1600, I’m gonna have to make new book covers for Asimov’s Chronology of Science and Discovery, not to mention George Sarton’s Ancient Science Through the Golden Age of Greece.

50. Kea Says:

…are there any 20th-Century examples of a large body of peer-reviewed research, published over at least a decade, that turned out to be flat wrong?

Current example: Dark Energy.

51. jrl Says:

Historian writes a new book about Eistein, goes on the daily show. Jon asks, “So what is this theory or relativity?” Idiot botches the explanation for all of America. Wouldn’t you plan for this before going on an interview???

clip here

52. cody Says:

im confused about this debating over science and the year 1600… are there a lot of pre-1600s topics that we are interested in discussing?

53. Scott Says:

Andris:

Does this new policy apply to non-peer reviewed claims that NP-complete problems are efficiently solvable by adiabatic quantum computers?

No, I wouldn’t yet describe that as a case where an “overwhelming scientific consensus” exists, since Ed Farhi still hasn’t thrown in the towel. Give him a couple more years.

54. Scott Says:

jrl, I just watched the Einstein clip, and it wasn’t quite as bad as I’d feared from your description. The guy has absolutely nothing original to say, but his train explanation was almost correct, if interpreted generously.

55. Scott Says:

Alright Kea, why has dark energy turned out to be flat wrong? What are the new observations that you know about and the rest of the physics community doesn’t?

(Time between announcing my new policy and flagrantly violating it: ~36 hours.)

56. Scott Says:

Johan: Interesting question! Now that I think about it, I’d also say that before ~1600 there were mathematicians (indeed great ones) but not mathematics.

Now, there are some senses in which my claim is clearly false. Obviously, then, those aren’t the senses that I mean. What I mean is that there was no organized system for weeding out really terrible ideas, such as there would start to be afterward. If you think that negative numbers, limits, i, and Rn are “not real” and therefore can’t be studied, you’ll very quickly hit a ceiling on how much math you can do; the same for science if you think “empirical support” means finding the relevant passage from Aristotle.

57. jrl Says:

No, of course the guy wasn’t dead wrong… it’s just that how can you be a writer and manage to make special relativity seem boring and pedestrian? Go one step further and tell us a couple of consequences that will blow our minds and make Einstein actually seem revolutionary. It will even help you sell books.

58. Wez Says:

Anonymous: I don’t accept your analogy. Nineteenth century physics could correctly predict the results of most macrolevel experiments. In that sense it really is an approximation of the true theory, because it works for this particular domain. Aristotelian physics, to the contrary, just didn’t work. It predicted outcomes of experiments, but those experiments were never actually properly carried out (like dropping objects from the Pisa tower). For this reason, all it took was for someone to perform them to notice that the outcome was different from the one predicted.

In any case, it seems to be that you’re actually arguing that nineteenth century physics isn’t an approximation of quantum physics, not that Aristotelian is an approximation of Galileian physics. And I guess I would agree with this. The word “approximation” here is really the source of the problem. Cody (above) rephrased the issue in a way that I think most people, including me, could be comfortable with.

59. Jonathan Vos Post Says:

“I’d call them natural philosophers and not scientists.”

As pointed out in “On Stranger Tides”, by Tim Powers, the 1988 fantasy novel, reprinted in 2006 by Babbage Press, that means that before Mad Scientists, there were Mad Natural Philosophers.

Isaac Newton topped the list, in that he was a moster :
The Errors & Animadversions of Honest Isaac Newton by Sheldon Lee Glashow …
http://www.iecat.net/butlleti/pdf/90_butlleti_sheldon.pdf

60. nigel Says:

Alright Kea, why has dark energy turned out to be flat wrong? What are the new observations that you know about and the rest of the physics community doesn’t? – Scott

Exchange radiation, going between receding masses in an expanding universe, will be redshifted. The frequency shift reduces the exchanged energy, E=hf. Hence the gravity strength falls over large distances in any quantum gravity, simply because the exchange radiation gets redshifted because of the recession of the masses.

Even Nobel Laureate Phil Anderson points out that the simplest resolution of the cc is that it is zero:
“the flat universe is just not decelerating, it isn’t really accelerating” – http://cosmicvariance.com/2006/01/03/danger-phil-anderson/#comment-10901
Supporting a cc is zero, so exchange radiation redshift effects weaken the gravitational coupling constant and cause the lack of gravitational deceleration, there is Lunsford’s unification of electromagnetism and general relativity http://cdsweb.cern.ch/search?f=author&p=Lunsford%2C+D+R which was censored off arxiv without explanation despite being published in a peer-reviewed journal, Int. J. Theor. Phys.: 43 (2004) no. 1, pp.161-177. This shows that unification implies that the cc is exactly zero.

I’ve had a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal (not a gravity-related journal!), Electronics World, Oct. 1996*, that predicted ahead of time the 1998 observational discovery that there is no cosmological slowing down on the expansion, because any quantum gravitational mechanism should suffer from gauge boson redshift (energy degradation) when exchange occurs between rapidly receding masses, over large distances in this universe. It also post-dicts the gravitational coupling constant acurately.

*Further there are also ignored. Stringy peer-reviewers at Classical and Quantum Gravity and Physical Review Letters stated that alternative theories weren’t required. As one mainstream crank says:

‘String theory has the remarkable property of predicting gravity.’ – Dr Edward Witten, M-theory originator, Physics Today, April 1996.

Haven’t seen Witten receive the Nobel for this remarkable feat yet? They did award prizes for the electroweak unification ahead of the W and Z gauge bosons being observed in 1983, so the Nobel committee could give the guy the prize, if he was telling the truth, the whole truth, etc. (Sorry if this sounds rude, but I get this sort of abuse about ‘correct’ publications and ‘correct’ {stringy} peer-reviewers after publishing facts, so might as well throw some of it back in the direction of the people who dish it out so readily. ‘There’s no alternative!’ Yes, here it is. ‘No, that’s obviously crackpot because it makes checkable predictions which were confirmed by observations!’ But that’s what science is about. ‘No, science is consensus…’)

61. silly Says:

“ are there any 20th-Century examples of a large body of peer-reviewed research, published over at least a decade, that turned out to be flat wrong? ”

Lysenkoism, Shrenology,the Nazi’s “Aryan Physics”
or Marxism come to mind.

(hopefully i didn’t auto-godwinize the discussion now)

62. Ran Halprin Says:

It’s not the time that a scientific theory exists nor the fact that it is commonly known that matters. What matters is the fact that it is actually a standing scientific theory. Something that is not scientific cannot be regarded as true by a thinking human being. Since creationism is not a scientific theory, its just not part of the discussion. A comment in the blog which relies on creationism is equivalent to a comment that relies on the fact that we live in the matrix or one that believes little invisible elves operate computers.

63. Wez Says:

Something that is not scientific cannot be regarded as true by a thinking human being.

Wow, slow down there. While I personally might agree with this statement, I think it’s a little disingenuous to pretend that it’s something which should be accepted without argument.

A comment in the blog which relies on creationism is equivalent to a comment that relies on the fact that we live in the matrix or one that believes little invisible elves operate computers.

Thinking human beings can, and do, believe that we live “in the matrix”. Here is one. The premise of movies like “The Matrix” are interesting precisely because they could very well be true. At the very least, it’s nowhere near Creationism on the idiotic beliefs scale.

64. Niel Says:

Scott: Now that I think about it, I’d also say that before ~1600 there were mathematicians (indeed great ones) but not mathematics. […] What I mean is that there was no organized system for weeding out really terrible ideas, such as there would start to be afterward. If you think that negative numbers, limits, i, and Rn are “not real” and therefore can’t be studied, you’ll very quickly hit a ceiling on how much math you can do […]

Funny thing is that I’m not sure of that. The difference between math and physics is that physics has so little material to work from. If we never the trio of Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, we quite possibly would have been stuck with looking up the answers in the back of Aristotle’s book for several more centuries, because people can be quite unimaginative about the real world. But even without widespread acceptance of the negative numbers, we already had number theory and analytic geometry, and there would have been nothing stopping anyone from devising graph theory, or even theoretical computer science. They may have been less rich, but (aside from analytic geometry) none of them would necessarily have been hampered by the lack of acceptance even of the negative numbers.

65. Douglas Knight Says:

If you think that negative numbers, limits, i, and Rn are “not real” and therefore can’t be studied, you’ll very quickly hit a ceiling on how much math you can do

That seems like a pretty arbitrary list.
If you demand that people believe in Rn, I think you’re drawing the line much later than 1600.

It’s far from obvious what this ceiling is. I think Cardano et al solved the cubic without believing in negative numbers and Archimedes gave a epsilon-delta proof of the area under a parabola without using negatives.

66. anonymous Says:

Wez: thanks for responding to my comment. I do think that nineteenth century physics is a good approximation of quantum theory in the usual “correspondence principle” sense. It took a special case (blackbody radiation) to make people realize that there were situations in which the old theory broke down. The analogy with Aristotelian physics is apt, because Aristotelian physics did in fact make working predictions that seemed to match up with everyday observation (e.g. an archer’s arrow eventually falls to the ground when it “runs out of force”… this description works if you’re a pre-newtonian who doesn’t know about drag forces etc.) It took a special case (the Pisan experiments) to show up the weaknesses of this view of things, just as it took Planck’s work to show the shortcomings of nineteenth century physics.

67. Ran Halprin Says:

Something that is not scientific cannot be regarded as true by a thinking human being.

Wow, slow down there. While I personally might agree with this statement, I think it’s a little disingenuous to pretend that it’s something which should be accepted without argument.

A comment in the blog which relies on creationism is equivalent to a comment that relies on the fact that we live in the matrix or one that believes little invisible elves operate computers.

Thinking human beings can, and do, believe that we live “in the matrix”. Here is one. The premise of movies like “The Matrix” are interesting precisely because they could very well be true. At the very least, it’s nowhere near Creationism on the idiotic beliefs scale.

Note that I never said that its impossible that we live in the matrix nor that creationism is wrong. But the “true or false” status of these ideas is both impossible to verify (there is no method of proving or disproving them) as well as meaningless – they provide no information. Assuming a perfectly valid proof suddenly falls out of the sky that we have been created by some external force (be it a flying spaghetti monster or an omnipotent wind), or that we live in a matrix controlled by evil machines – nothing in our perceived world actually changed. Gravity still works, rockets fly, the Simpsons get another season and computers still can’t compute PSpace-complete problems in Polytime.

Re thinking men – Wasting thought cycles on things that cannot provide you with new information can be fun, I actually do that much more then science (which I should be working on right now). Alas, I don’t fill any truth-oriented blog with comments on Family Guy or the evil nature of the number 4, and I expect individuals who advocate creationism or matrixism and such to disclose their ideas where relevant, i.e. in specific places where idle discussion occurs (at most it could be classified as “philosophy”, but creationism and such often include inherent logic flaws so often cannot even reach this level).

68. cody Says:

to steer things back into the realm of computer science, can anyone provide any thoughts on whether the game Go should be taken as evidence that the human brain performs algorithms much more advanced than we have thought of (to play the game on a computer). or, alternately, if it would be reasonable to assume that the human brain is so massively parallel, (or some other ‘hardware’ complexity advantage), that given our current best algorithms and equivalent hardware, then computers could compete with humans?

more succinctly, is it reasonable to believe the human superiority over computer Go it is purely a hardware advantage?

sorry that i cannot seem to pose these questions in a very elegant manner. really, the whole problem interests me, and any thoughts/discussion would be pleasing.

69. Carl Says:

Something that is not scientific cannot be regarded as true by a thinking human being.

Unless you have a weird definition of “scientific” that statement is not scientific itself. Therefore, it’s self-refuting.

70. Kea Says:

Thanks, Nigel, for partly answering my question. Scott, by your rule neither of us is qualified to talk about Dark Energy (since as far as I know you have not published papers on the subject). However, anybody who has published papers on Dark Energy recently is unlikely to appreciate that the concept is Plain Wrong. This fact is perfectly clear now to many physicists. The cc was Einstein’s Biggest Blunder. It is merely a fudge factor in GR. Now we have a reasonable alternative explanation, which agrees with the data (physics proof), and so the time for tolerating the literature on a false idea is now over.

71. anonymous Says:

“This fact is perfectly clear now to many physicists.”

Kea, you still haven’t explained yourself. If you haven’t written a paper about this, fine — but could you at least provide some justification for your claim? Your most recent post basically amounts to you saying “my views on dark energy are correct because I’m right and the people who do not share my point of view are wrong.” This is not a very persuasive argument. If I were prone to understatement, I’d say it lacks substance.

72. Jonathan Vos Post Says:

Follow-up on Roast-beef-sandwich Quantum Computer.

Mean Molecular Weight of the 20 Standard Human Amino
Acids = 136.90019

1/fine structure constant ~ 137.03599976

ratio 136.90019/137.0359997 = 0.999008949.

Coincidence? You be the judge!

http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/physics/FineStructureConstant.html

Below molecular weights from HMDB
(Human Metabolome Database)

89.09318 + 174.20100 + 132.11792 + 133.10268 + 121.15800 + 147.12926 + 146.14500 + 75.06660 + 155.15456 + 131.17291 + 131.17291 + 146.18756 +
149.21100 + 165.18913 + 115.13046 + 105.09258 + 119.11916 + 204.22501 + 181.18854 + 117.14634 =
2738.0038

The 20 Standard Human Amino Acids

HMDB Name (alphabetically) Formula Molecular
Weight
HMDB00161 L-Alanine C3H7NO2 89.09318
HMDB00517 L-Arginine C6H14N4O2 174.20100
HMDB00168 L-Asparagine C4H8N2O3 132.11792
HMDB00191 L-Aspartic acid C4H7NO4 133.10268
HMDB00574 L-Cysteine C3H7NO2S 121.15800
HMDB00148 L-Glutamic acid C5H9NO4 147.12926
HMDB00641 L-Glutamine C5H10N2O3 146.14500
HMDB00123 Glycine C2H5NO2 75.06660
HMDB00177 L-Histidine C6H9N3O2 155.15456
HMDB00172 L-Isoleucine C6H13NO2 131.17291
HMDB00687 Leucine C6H13NO2 131.17291
HMDB00182 L-Lysine C6H14N2O2 146.18756
HMDB00696 L-Methionine C5H11NO2S 149.21100
HMDB00159 L-Phenylalanine C9H11NO2 165.18913
HMDB00162 L-Proline C5H9NO2 115.13046
HMDB00187 L-Serine C3H7NO3 105.09258
HMDB00167 L-Threonine C4H9NO3 119.11916
HMDB00929 L-Tryptophan C11H12N2O2 204.22501
HMDB00158 L-Tyrosine C9H11NO3 181.18854
HMDB00883 L-Valine C5H11NO2 117.14634

Total 2738.0038
Mean 136.90019 = 2738.0038/20

73. anonymous Says:

“Coincidence? You be the judge!”

I’m the judge? OK, then the answer is “yes”

74. Kea Says:

anonymous

I do not believe there is a convincing 2 line answer for our case. But you are quite welcome to click your little left mouse button over my blog and follow any of the many links discussing M theory and links to other blogs, such as Louise Riofrio’s, which discuss evidence.

75. anonymous Says:

Thanks Kea. Hey, now that you mention it, my left mouse button _is_ little! How did you know?

I’m sure the papers you link to provide lots of information, but if the idea of dark energy really is “flat wrong” as you claim, why are the people publishing papers about it unlikely to appreciate this fact, as you stated earlier?

If it is in fact “flat wrong” past the point of reasonable debate, then there should be a way to succinctly explain what’s wrong with it. Come on, at least give us the gist of it! Otherwise, we have no way of knowing that you’re not just Vasily Shirin’s pen name!

76. Wez Says:

Ran Halprin:

But the “true or false” status of these ideas is both impossible to verify (there is no method of proving or disproving them) as well as meaningless – they provide no information.

You didn’t actually read the papers on the linked page, did you? The author thinks he has proof that we’re living in a simulation. I’m not saying I agree with his line of reasoning, but to a priori denounce the possibility of such a proof seems needlessly arrogant. In general I think one should be wary of labelling ideas unprovable, unless one has a better argument than “I can’t think of a way to prove them.”

Assuming a perfectly valid proof suddenly falls out of the sky that we have been created by some external force (be it a flying spaghetti monster or an omnipotent wind), or that we live in a matrix controlled by evil machines – nothing in our perceived world actually changed. Gravity still works, rockets fly, the Simpsons get another season and computers still can’t compute PSpace-complete problems in Polytime.

Well, that’s another case of “I can’t think of anything, so that settles it.” For example, if the world is being simulated by some other beings who observe us, maybe we ought to do interesting things so they don’t shut us down and go watch TV? Isn’t that new information? (If you think I’m just being flippant now, this has been suggested in at least one paper by a respected academic.) I can think of a lot of ways the world would “change,” but since this discussion is already on the very border of accepted far-out-ness, I’ll keep them to myself.

77. Wez Says:

Anonymous:

The analogy with Aristotelian physics is apt, because Aristotelian physics did in fact make working predictions that seemed to match up with everyday observation (e.g. an archer’s arrow eventually falls to the ground when it “runs out of force”… this description works if you’re a pre-newtonian who doesn’t know about drag forces etc.)

I think you chose an ironic example. The arrow was a very problematic case for Aristotle, as, in Aristotelian physics, an object can move only when force is applied to it. When the arrow is released from the bow there is no such force (according to Aristotle). Thus he had to settle for strange ad hoc solutions, such as proposing the formation of “a vacuum” behind the arrow which caused it to move forward.
So the case with the arrow is in fact something to which Newtonian physics is ideally suited, and Aristotelian physics fails spectacularly.

But that was just a bad example, of course. I understand your point. As they say, let’s agree to disagree.

78. Wez Says:

Scott, have you made any changes to your blogging software recently? I tried to submit a comment, and it just disappeared. I then wrote another comment, which showed up the way it’s supposed to. I then tried to submit the first comment again, and it was eaten for the second time. It’s not overly long, full of offensive words or unusual ascii-characters, or anything like that, so I have no idea what’s going on.

Ran Halprin, that’s why you don’t get a reply, btw — I just can’t seem to post it.

(It’ll be interesting to see if this comment shows up…)

79. anonymous Says:

Thanks Wez, that’s interesting. As you can see, Aristotelian physics is not my forté! Thanks for seeing my point in spite of my sloppy example. I agree to agree to disagree!

Scott: I also had a comment blocked just now. I don’t think there was anything objectionable in it (the comment was addressed to Kea in case you’re wondering which one I’m referring to).

80. anonymous Says:

whoops.. never mind… my comment for Kea is up now. Maybe it was there all along and I was mistaken about it being blocked.

81. anonymous Says:

Actually, no… my comment is awaiting moderation for some reason, even though my other comments have appeared without a delay.

82. Peter Sheldrick Says:

Do comments get blocked automatically? I had a comment taken down that i thought was unproblematic. Is the software just buggy?

83. Scott Says:

Sorry! Some comments could have been blocked by the filter if they contained likely spam words. Others were simply held up in the moderation queue, and are there now. The trouble is that I didn’t have time to check the moderation queue, since I was interviewing all day! Fortunately, now I’m finally at a computer and can get back to my real job…

84. Martin Horsch Says:

Hi Scott,

there is an actual article on that topic, that article literally contains:
“I personally am much more disturbed by another phenomenon, pointed out by I. M. Gel’fand […] which is the stunning contrast between the relevance of mathematics to physics, and its amazing lack of relevance to biology!” Did not the other guy say something very similar to this?

The article is G. J. Chaitin, Bulletin EATCS 91: 231-237.

I did not read the whole article, because I am not at all interested in relating biological evolution to the halting probability of random Turing machines (the author actually does this).

I don’t know if BEATCS qualifies as a peer reviewed journal. If I had a blog, I would adopt the “I delete anything I don’t like” censorship policy, which is much more flexible.

85. wolfgang Says:

Kea,

> links to other blogs, such as Louise Riofrio’s, which discuss evidence

I am not sure that Scott accepts her blog as a peer-reviewed publication, but the discovery that black holes provide the energy for volcanoes is certainly a breakthrough. However, the idea that even gasoline is a byproduct of black holes probably requires some more research.

86. anonymous Says:

in the news today:

“…it enables the system to simultaneously sample all the potential energy pathways and choose the most efficient one.”

87. Eric Baum Says:

Hi Scott,
I posted at my website an 8 point summary of the major changes in evidence and theory regarding AGW since 2001. I believe it to be fair and complete. If you know of anything wrong or missing, or even presented in a misleading light, I’d love to hear it. It seems that 7 of the 8 strongly disfavor AGW, and the eighth could be seen either way, its a cup half full or half empty. I would love to have a hint why confidence in AGW has increased dramatically since 2001.

Eric

88. Eric Baum Says:

Scott,
Keep in mind that the IPCC summary is NOT a peer-reviewed document. Most importantly, no individual scientists puts her name on it and is accountable if it is wrong. Its my experience that scientists will tell journalists all kinds of baloney, but they are a lot more circumspect about what they will actually publish over their names in scientific journals.

To judge by media reports, I’d say there is a consensus that quantum computers solve NP-complete problems.

Eric

89. Another Scott Says:

Eric,
I’m not sure how your post fits into the above discussion, but I can’t help but respond.
The comments you pointed to on your website seem to be solely based on a document by the Fraser Institute, which, as a quick google search will tell you, is an unabashed right-wing think tank. As much baloney as you think journalists write, I’d say that their writings make them look like Einsteins next to the gibberish put out by shills like the Fraser Institute.
As the son of a geologist/paleoclimate researcher, I can say with confidence that the level of consensus that’s reported in the media isn’t anywhere close to the consensus that actually exists in the scientific community; mostly because the media, in the name of “fairness”, feels the need to include the nonsensical, thoroughly debunked flailings of crazies such as the Fraser Institute in their stories on global warming.
Scott (not that one)

90. Eric Baum Says:

The comments on my website are sourced in various places, sometimes multiply sourced. Any that are in the Fraser document, are sourced there to original publications and/or the draft IPCC report. I don’t claim to have checked all the original sources, but I have little doubt the points are accurate. Your response is purely ad hominem. As I said, if there is any comment that you think is mistaken or even misleading, I would like to know what it is; or if you think there was other important evidence or theoretical developments in the last 5 years that I have somehow overlooked.

Eric
ad hominem, and it isn’t even accurate.

91. John Sidles Says:

Eric Baum says: I posted at my website an 8 point summary of the major changes in evidence and theory regarding AGW since 2001. I believe it to be fair and complete.

Eric, you might want to review and reflect upon the Serge Lang’s crusade against a causal role for the HIV virus in AIDS. Serge Lang was outstandingly talented, extraordinarily intelligent, and rigorously logical. His common sense was, however, no stronger than that of an ordinary person.

92. Eric Baum Says:

Its not just Serge Lang, more prominently Dusenberg, and also Kary Mullis railed against a causal role for the HIV virus in AIDS. And I’ll freely admit to you, when I read their papers in the mid 1990’s, they made a certain amount of sense. I wasn’t convinced, but I kept an open mind. I haven’t looked into it closely, but I’m under the impression its turned out they were wrong. That’s the way science goes, it is supposed to admit opposing opinions, not say “there’s a consensus so shut up.”

I’m not an idiot. In fact, I have a PhD in physics and I’ve done a certain amount of research in that field and in CS. I’ve looked into global warming at a certain amount of detail. As far as I can see, there is a reasonable amount of evidence for global warming, but the evidence for anthropogenic global warming is extraodinarily weak, and its unambiguous that that evidence has gotten worse over the last 5 years, not stronger. And I have trouble imagining that anybody familiar with computer modelling of complex systems would think that the models’ predictions pertaining to 2100 are worth spit.

If there is indeed a real case for AGW, I would love to know what it is. All I ask is: don’t tell me AGW is true because you read there is a consensus of scientists, or because your Dad is a scientist and he told you so, show me the evidence. Why should I believe it? In particular, if something is wrong on my web page, what is it? Because, I don’t think there is any case at all here.

93. Another Scott Says:

Eric,
I’m sorry you felt like you had to sling fancy-worded insults towards me in response to my query. I would expect better.
My point was that you cite no scholarly sources on your website besides a far-right think-tank, so I find it hard to believe that your opinion is educated by anything that’s not either a blatant misrepresentation of scientific findings or has already been thoroughly debunked (both staples of the right-wing noise machine). If this is not the case, I’d very much like to see your website updated to inclue your sources. I’d also advise that you read the articles themselves rather than trust any summary of them; Global warming opponents have a bad habit of cherry-picking results from articles that, on the face of it, sound like they are evidence against global warming, whereas the article in question goes on to show how said results actually fit the model of global warming when viewed on a global scale– quite crafty and misleading!
I’m sorry that I can’t personally address your questions; I’m merely a computer scientist. However, as I said in my previous comment, someone very close to me is intimately familiar with the current research in this area and has no doubt about the consensus. You disagree, but I’d suggest beefing up your pedigree in the area before you’re too adamant about it.
Best,
Scott

94. Spheard Says:

Eric Baum says: And I’ll freely admit to you, when I read their papers in the mid 1990’s, they made a certain amount of sense…I’m not an idiot. In fact, I have a PhD in physics and I’ve done a certain amount of research in that field and in CS. I’ve looked into global warming at a certain amount of detail.

From The Simpsons, when Lisa’s class is on a tour of the local newspaper’s printing facility:

Newspaper Tour Guide: And each paper contains a certain percentage of recycled paper.
Lisa: What percentage is that?
Newspaper Tour Guide: Zero. Zero is a percent, isn’t it?

95. Daniel Says:

Not exactly a rant, but…

You shouldn’t group general relativity with “humans are causing global warming”. The former yields some relatively simple predictions that can (and have been) experimentally verified many times. The latter is (at this point in time) an educated guess. Believe it or not, it is still possible to be (1) an expert in climatology, (2) skeptical of the “humans are the major cause of global warming” hypothesis, and (3) not laughed at by your (expert academic) peers. At least, that’s what my friend in the climatology department at U. Washington tells me. I don’t think the same could be said for a physicist who rejects general relativity or a biologist who rejects evolution. The global climate is just too complicated a beast to haughtily assume that we can predict what various industrial outputs will do. It’s doubtful we even know all the major players in the carbon cycle; I recently read an article talking about the need to add some recently discovered oceanic bacterial population to the climate simulations. Also, some climatologists are actually trying the invent the statistics they need to estimate various parameters. Anyway, whatever the greenpeace people or the oil company people say, the SCIENCE is still relatively immature. I’ve never heard any physicists say they are only 90% sure (or 99% sure) that if you look at some stars they will obey general relativity…

96. Michael Brazier Says:

“Exchange radiation, going between receding masses in an expanding universe, will be redshifted. The frequency shift reduces the exchanged energy, E=hf. Hence the gravity strength falls over large distances in any quantum gravity, simply because the exchange radiation gets redshifted because of the recession of the masses.”

Wasn’t MOND — a theory that gravity’s strength falls at very low accelerations, and therefore also at large distances — invented to explain the observed behavior of spiral galaxies? If a theory of quantum gravity predicts that MOND holds, the observational evidence is in its favor …

97. Steve Demuth Says:

Eric Baum says: if there is any comment that you think is mistaken or even misleading, I would like to know what it is

Notwithstand whether there is anything mistaken, there is something missing that is so critically important, its absence makes the summary misleading.

When science tries to understand the perturbative effect of an input change an a complex system, the roll of an initial hypothesis is critical. That is, we use our best judgment to predict what the effect of the change will be, based on basic physics, chemistry, biology, climatology, or whatever combination of disciplines is appropriate, and then we look for evidence that this is indeed happening. If we find the predicted effects, then that it increases our confidence in the initial hypothesis.

For a system as complex as climate, this quite an undertaking: we can be quite confident in advance that if we just look broadly at all possible phenomena in the climate system, over the time periods we have at our disposal, we will find some evidence that favors the hypothesis that increasing carbon dioxide will increase global mean temperatures, and some that favors no effect. Only cumulative weight of evidence can hope to be dispositive.

But, in the period during which we continue to weigh the evidence for and against, the initial hypothesis plays a critical role. Prima facia there is reason to believe that increasing the abundance of IR trapping gases will increase heat retention in the atmospheric system. Prima facia it would be a surprise if this did not happen. That means that even a modest preponderance of evidence in favor of the positive hypothesis (that climate change will occur) over the null hypothesis (that it will not) should disproportionately increase our confidence in the positive hypothesis. That is in essence, the foundation of the IPCC 4th report.

Thus, while I don’t dismiss the Fraser report, or your 8 point summary as incorrect per se, until it acknowledges that it is arguing a null hypothesis in the teeth of a sound theoretical argument for a positive result, it is indeed misleading.

98. Eric Baum Says:

Hey Steve,
Thanks for attempting a serious reply, but I don’t understand what evidence is missing that indicates, what new evidence between 2001 and 2007 I omitted, that indicates warming. The earths temp measure peaked in 1998, so you could say this was a cooling period. The data series show 2001-2007 as not warming in a statistically significant fashion. I suppose you could argue the fact that the 2001-2007 trend is calculated as positive (although within measurement error) as opposed to negative is something, but its not much. Also, the satellite recalibration helps a bit in believing the earth is warming. But I didn’t omit any of this from my page, so I’m not sure what you are referring to.

Then the next step is “global” warming. The data between 2001 and 2007, as well as the satelite recalibration, exacerbates and continues the regional disparities, with the tropical troposphere and antarctica not warming, etc, that are not predicted by (and even tend to falsify) GHG theories.

Then you come to AGW. Both theory and data were very unkind to that since 2001 and 2007. In 2001, you had the hockey stick graph, which made it seem very likely that the warming was GHG. But that went away. That was a huge hit to confidence in AGW. In 2001, you also had not much in the way of alternative explanations for warming. But theory and data since 2001 have made huge strides in giving other competing theories. Also, in 2001, nobody was thinking much about aerosols, so the theory pretty much guaranteed at least that total human contributions were warming rather than cooling. But now, that’s not even a given.
Finally, you’ve got data since 2001 such as the fact that Triton, Mars, Pluto and Jupiter are warming, which suggests alternative causes.

I don’t see how any reasonable, informed person can look at the events and data since 2001, and conclude this increased confidence in AGW. But if you agree that it evidently worsened confidence in AGW, it follows that the IPCC summary process is simply broken.

99. Jonathan Vos Post Says:

I’m not sure if this is the right thread, but, from my front-row seat in 74 Jorgenson, the ground (basement) floor of the Computer Science department building at Caltech, Scott Aaronson gave a wonderful presentation, slightly over an hour long, commencing at 4:00 p.m., local time.

The audience applauded and laughed at the right places, but were strangely subdued, perhaps dazzled or intimidated, for questions at the end.

People from other departments were there, as august at Kip Thorne from Physics.

Because Scott mentioned one of the few areas in which QC can be expontially better than classical computers, I asked the following question.

“Let me ask this in the context of three Caltech professors.
(1) Richard Feynman was the greatgrandfather of Quantum Computing. We don’t do it the way he suggested, but you seem to agree with him that one good use for QC is to do QM calculations [for Physics, Chemistry].
(2) Since you mention Wolfram, to jest at his belief that we live in a video game or the Matrix, let me remind you that he was, first, a Caltech professor of Computational Physics.
(3) When you see William Goddard tomorrow, be sure to let him know that you know that Richard Feynman was also the greatgrandfather of Nanotechnology.
In that context, can you discuss the Anthropic principle?”

Scott gave an optimum answer: “No.” Then added: “Am I seeing William Goddard?” I knew that this was indeed on the itinerary.

Afterwards, we chatted briefly about non-unitary transformations, in theory and experiment; the Penrose take on nonlinear Schrödinger effects in consciousness, and Penrose’s student’s paper:

Sparling, George A. J. “Germ of a synthesis: space-time is spinorial, extra dimensions are time-like.” Proc. R. Soc. A. doi:10.1098/rspa.2007.1839

We agreed we’d see each other next on this blog.

We didn’t have time to discuss the Physical Review Letters article titled, “Experimental Realization of Deutsch’s Algorithm in a One-Way Quantum Computer.” by Mark Tame and the Queen’s group in Belfast, including Mauro Paternostro and Myungshik Kim joined a group from the University of Vienna, including Robert Prevedel, Pascal Böhi, and Anton Zeilinger.

I really really hope that Caltech makes a faculty offer to Scott, whose talk was very exciting.

100. Jonathan Vos Post Says:

Footnote to the Roast Beef Sandwich Computer Conjecture:

At this same excellent Scott Aaronson talk, actually a minute or two before it started, while people were still grabbing coffee, brownies, and fruit, I mentioned to Kip Thorne the above-blogulated observation:

“Mean Molecular Weight of the 20 Standard Human Amino
Acids = 136.90019

1/fine structure constant ~ 137.03599976

ratio 136.90019/137.0359997 = 0.999008949.”

He cut to the chase, asking “How do you know it’s a coincidence?”

“Mere coincidence is suggested by at least 8 factors:
(a) different organisms have slightly different amino acids;
(b) humans have amino acids altered
(methylation) after incorporation in peptides;
(c) humans have hydroxyproline as a 21st amino acid, but only in collagen;
(d) the mean molecular weight of
human amino acids has changed substantially over time by evolution of the genetic code (we calculate this
change explicitly);
(e) there is no causal connection
between amino acids and fine structure constant;
(f) there is no consensus mechanism connecting the fine structure constant with the mass of the hydrogen atom;
(g) isotope differences are significant as second-order (especially Carbon and Oxygen);
(h) the fine structure constant may be changing over time.”

The content of my theory is still off-the-meter goofy. But now I can submit it someplace peer-reviewed with a footnote quoting Kip Thorne as “personal communication.”

This is not the right thread for me to mention last night’s pre-screening and reception at the Writers Guild Theatre for the long-awaited Harlan Ellison documentary “Dreams with Teeth” and it’s critical commentary by Neil Gaiman, Robin Williams, and Werner Hertzog, is it?

I eagerly await a Scott Aaronson-Harlan Ellison collaboration.

101. Andy Shiekh Says:

* Publish a paper in a peer-reviewed journal setting out the reasons for your radical departure from accepted science.
* Reference the paper in your rant.

I am not so sure that NP complete cannot be done by a quantum computer

The Role of Quantum Interference in Quantum Computing
Int. Jour. of Theo. Phys., 2006.
(arXiv:cs.CC/0507003)

102. Ghaith Says:

Hi Andy,

I’m trying to see if I understand you correctly. So you’re trying to probabilistically perform the state marking process??

If so, I can see you doing this conditionally on some qubit in the |+> state, but then the probability of collapsing your states back to the solution, is as good as Grover’s.

I can also imagine performing such operation without conditioning on any new states, however in this case you’re really projecting to the solution subspace. So if your marking transformation is U, you seem to be performing

1/sqrt(2)*(I+U) |psi>

Where |psi> is your initial superposition. (I+U) is really a projection, since U simply has negatives on the diagonal.

Please let me know if I misunderstood what you were saying in the paper.

Thanks,
Ghaith

103. Scott Says:

Andy, as I told you a long time ago when you emailed me, your paper is trivially wrong. You tacitly assume the ability to set up an interference pattern that depends on the identity of the marked items — or in other words, that the algorithm knows the marked items in advance! This reveals a total incomprehension of the problem at hand.

104. Andy Shiekh Says:

I have located no such assumption in my paper

Things may be better explained in the follow up arXiv:0704.2033

105. Ghaith Says:

Andy, I just looked at your follow up which doesn’t really add much more. What you are proposing seems to deal with each arm of the interferometer as if it had a separate particle. The operations you’re carrying out are not unitary.. Think of this, what happens if I mark both states in the right arm, do I completely destroy the particle!?!?

I’m pretty sure you will not be able to write a concrete mathematical derivation of what you propose. If you think what you’re saying makes sense you should be able to write down the derivation trivially… but you won’t be able to.

106. Simon Says:

This paper certainly has been published in a peer-reviewed journal (International Journal of Theoretical Physics 45(9):1646-1648, 2006) and it seems to be identical to arXiv:cs.CC/0507003. Scott says it is trivially wrong. The first part of the idea seems to be that by using a beam-splitter, one can produce two different states, one for each branch of the split beam: for example (in a 1-qubit case) |0> + |1> and |0> – |1>. The second part of the idea seems to be that by letting the beams interfere, these two states are added together, giving (for this example) |0>.

Now, thinking about this from the perspective of quantum computing, it seems clear that adding two state vectors together is not one of the normal operations. But from the perspective of physics, there is some kind of experimental set-up here (which is elaborated slightly more in arXiv:0704.2033) so presumably it should be possible to analyse what is actually going on in terms of QM.

So, can one of the physicists among the readership provide an analysis of what it really means to “let the two beams interfere”?

107. Bill Kaminsky Says:

Hey, I’m a physicist! And though I work on adiabatic quantum computing (self-promotional note: news on that front can be found below) and haven’t played with a beamsplitter in a long, long time, I think I may be able to make clear what the problem is in Andy’s proposal.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but what you seem to want to do Andy is:

1) Start with N particles, all initialized in |0> in the computational basis.

2) Apply the equivalent of a Hadamard gate to each qubit, thus making an equally weighted and symmetric superposition over all 2^N computational basis states.

3) Send the N particles through some sort of beam splitter such that there’s a 50% chance all N particles go down one leg of the split and a 50% chance all N particles go down the other.

4) Now, on just the first leg of the split, apply conditional phase gates such that those components *not* marking answers to the problem get pi-phase shifts, so these components have coefficients of -2^{-N/2} in front of them instead of +2^{-N/2}.

5) Next, bring the legs together so the N particles interfere with one another. Since the components you don’t want have minus signs in one leg but plus signs in the other, they should all cancel out, yielding only components you want.

I’m leery of both steps (3) and (5).

First of all, step (5) doesn’t seem unitary to me and hence seems illegal. Unitary operators preserve norms. But say there’s just one answer to the problem. The action in step (5) would leave a state weighted as just +2*2^{-N/2}, a massive reduction in the norm of the state.

Second, step (3) makes me worry, though this is more an error worry than an intrinsic worry. I bet a lot of beamsplitters you’d try to physically implement would have an exponentially small chance of getting all N particles into either one or the other leg.

It seems to me that there’s avid interest on this blog on the issue of what can go wrong in adiabatic quantum computation. Well, last week I gave a talk at D-Wave based on my thesis research on this very topic. Here’s the precis::

Domain Nucleation Creates Exponentially Small Gaps In Adiabatic Quantum Computers: Is This Fatal, or Is This Irrelevant?

This presentation makes 5 key points:

1) The bottlenecks of adiabatic algorithms—that is, the points where their minimum spectral gaps occur—are the points of quantum phase transitions. These phase transitions generically are continuous, and this gives many tools for their analysis.

2) Random matrix theory shows that exponentially small gaps generically are a worry only in the immediate vicinity of quantum phase transition points.

3) If an adiabatic computer undergoes its phase transition piecemeal—that is, if domains nucleate during its algorithm—then gaps that are exponentially small in the domain size will occur. This effect appears especially pronounced in quantum Ising models as opposed to systems with continuous degrees of freedom such as quantum rotor models. I demonstrate this first by treating the exactly solvable case of a nearest-neighbor coupled Ising chain in a transverse field that has a string of couplings that are twice as strong as the rest. Then, I present a scaling argument for the general case that uses the Suzuki-Trotter Mapping to establish the gap scaling of quantum domains in terms of the correlation length scaling of exactly solvable classical chains.

4) In light of (3), it becomes vital to determine whether domains larger than O[log(# of spins)] will in fact nucleate. The nucleation of such large domains does indeed appear endemic in quantum Ising models whose coupling constants are randomly distributed. I review the relevant literature. Then, I describe my own new numerical work that uses the Strong Disorder Renormalization Group of Daniel Fisher, et al. to study domain nucleation in random quantum Ising ferromagnets on random graphs.

5) Quantum rotors seem less amenable to domain nucleation than Ising spins, though if one desires an exact answer it only takes one domain to ruin it, and this probably still does generically occur in frustrated rotor systems. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that superconducting qubits naturally implement rotors as well as Ising spins. Other ideas to mitigate domain nucleation such as having every degree of freedom coupled to essentially every other one remain under investigation.

Bottom Line: Domain nucleation is quite possibly fatal on the problems we’d most care about as it does generically make inefficient adiabatic quantum computation of the exact ground states of quantum Ising systems with randomly distributed couplings and fields. But we ain’t dead yet. The typical-case complexity of problems where domain nucleation arises wholly due to frustration and not random inhomogeneity is basically open, though I’d venture that domain nucleation is the key failure mode to worry about.

Though, I suppose given the new comment policy, I should publish all this first… unless of course y’all are arguing that saying adiabatic quantum computation *won’t* yield exponential speedups isn’t controversial and doesn’t need peer review before appearing on this blog.

108. Scott Says:

Thanks, Bill! I was trying to find some way to debug what was in Andy’s head that would keep his operation unitary, since he explicitly claims unitarity in the paper. But your interpretation — that he’s applying a non-unitarity operation and doesn’t understand why it’s not unitary — is indeed the more convincing one.

Basically, given a Boolean function f:{0,1}n→{0,1}, Andy wants to map the state

x|0〉|x〉 + Σx|1〉(f(x)-2)|x〉

to

Σx|0〉f(x)|x〉

(omitting normalization). But that’s simply a no-no in QM. A Hadamard (for example) will map the state to

Σx|0〉f(x)|x〉 + Σx|1〉(4-f(x))|x〉,

but that contains an additional branch (the “4-f(x)” one) that Andy ignores, and that completely dominates the state if (as with a typical SAT instance) f(x) is 0 for all but an exponentially small fraction of x’s.

Of course, as you pointed out, the simplest way to see that his operation isn’t unitary is that the final state isn’t even normalized!

109. Ran Halprin Says:

@Wez – I’ve read about the matrix idea, and it builds on two key assumptions: that it is possible to create a matrix for a human indistinguishable from reality, and that intelligent beings with this technology would actually be interested in creating such matrices and put people inside them. Both of these assumptions are VERY problematic. Even if it is possible to simulate a perfect environment for a human inside their heads (something which requires enormous computing powers, much beyond a combination of all computing powers that exist today on earth), what is the interest in doing so?
Who has enough resources to pull it off?
Isn’t it highly immoral to let them live in it unaware that it isn’t real?
The thought experiment is nice, and the results can be taken as scientific (as much as philosophy can be taken as scientific) – but it does not imply we live in the matrix – only that under very certain assumptions, it is highly probable.

if the world is being simulated by some other beings who observe us, maybe we ought to do interesting things so they don’t shut us down and go watch TV?

Since we don’t know what these beings are, we can’t predict what is “interesting” to them. Also, perhaps if we are not interesting they will let us out of the matrix, which is a good thing for us. It’s impossible to predict the results, and its impossible to verify that we are indeed within a matrix (because assuming we are in the matrix, the results of any experiment we do is controlled by the matrix itself, and it can protect against its discovery).

110. Dani Fong Says:

Scott,

I’ve wondered about this. The idea seems based on the old double-slit interference experiments. To do those carefully is a fairly complex challenge. The understand them carefully, well, frankly I’m not even sure it’s been done — the questions that have been ask concretely have been too easy.

Forgetting QM for a second, suppose I’m just sending out a coherent electromagnetic sine wave. And it shoots a beam splitter, okay? Beam one goes through, well, a straight line, while beam two takes a path (n+1/2) * l as long (where n is an integer and l is the wavelength). Each beam has the same intensity, but now B2 has an extra phase of Pi. Then the beams get ‘added together’. How? Well, lets make beam 1 do this with some mirrors. We’ll need beam splitters, and paying attention to losses, we’ll say that only c_1 of the beam gets through/reflects each time, 1 – 2 c_1 are losses.

B1 —> \
| \
| \ Another half mirror
B2 ——> \————-> c1 B1 + c1 B2
| / \
| / \
| / \
| c1 B2 ————> c1 B1
While B2 takes the slightly longer route and intersects and goes along with B1 at the final turn.

Okay? Now, the power incident at any detector at any beam is proportional to the fields *squared*, that is, with twice the amount of beam, we have four times the power. (this turns out not to matter very much for what I am trying to show, but is good to remember).

Our total energy is then proportional to 2 * c1^2 + (2c1)^2 (1 + -1) = 2 * c1^2

Okay, fine. We’ve lost some energy. It must have gone into the half mirrors or something. Now imagine the length of the second beam varying between n * l and (n + 1/2) * l longer than the first. Wait a minute! Extra energy reappears in the combined beam! Strange, hmm, either there’s a weird dependence on how much the beam splitter decides to soak up based on the relative phase (and this is possible), or the energy of the combined beam depends on the relative phases.

Now send single electrons. Now it’s quantum mechanical. Naively, it should be the same. After all, everything was coherent before, it’s coherent now. Measuring the energy of a given beam is the same as measuring ‘which path the photon went down’. But now, if the energy is the same as the path probabilities (energy of one photon at a fixed wavelength is constant) our *total* path probabilities depend, in an obvious way, on the length of the second beam. They are non-unitary!

Okay, so the standard story might be that the ‘weird effects’ of the half mirror are important. And then they’d close the book.

But nobody’s done the physics of that in sufficient detail. Exact Quantum Optics of a half mirror? Gimme a break! And further, the energies we’d measure in the EM macroscopic case, these energies *are actually what people would measure*, as far as I am aware. Even further, this experiment, with single photons, I’m pretty sure it hasn’t actually been done. So what the heck happens? If for a laser we get one thing, and for a single photon we get another, what about for only two photons? What about for three? Etc. Etc.

Before we rule out a physical process for being non-linear, non-unitary, etc. I would like to call attention to the extreme paucity, public opinion to the contrary, of results we have. The great successes of the quantum theory, these unfortunately have relatively to say about situations like these. We know, very exactly, energy levels. We think we understand coherent omission of light, we know enough at least to build lasers. We’ve done some hand-waving to explain the ultraviolet catastrophe, people are moderately good at getting cross-sections (but still fall off the mark by ~10-30% occasionally!), and we’ve done a pretty good, though not stellar, job of understanding condensed matter phenomena, enough to actually produce Bose-Einstein condensates, and the like. Well, what of these says something substantial regarding the unitary and linearity of the quantum mechanics of all physical processes. Even the orthodox quantum mechanical measurement isn’t unitary, darn it! What’s actually going on?

111. Dani Fong Says:

Sorry, the formatting for the diagram failed.

B1 —> \
|********\
|*********\ Another half mirror
B2 ——> *\————-> c1 B1 + c1 B2
|*********/*\
|********/***\
|*******/*****\
|***** c1 B2 ***————> c1 B1

112. Jonathan Vos Post Says:

There are actually many interested things to say about the hypothesis that we are actually living inside a simulation.

Years before a Philosphy professor named Nick Bostrom claimed to have invented the idea, I’d published a full-blown description of why we are most likely simulated over a googol years from what we imagine to be the present, by a dilute electron-positron ambiplasma civilization assembled from Hawking radiation after all large masses have tunneled into black holes.

“Human Destiny and the End of Time” [Quantum, No.39, Winter 1991/1992,
Thrust Publications, 8217 Langport Terrace, Gaithersburg, MD 20877;
ISSN 0198-6686

Prof. Greg Benford quoted heavily from this in his Galactic Core novels.

Charles Stross is very pleased to announce the release on the web — in honor of International pixel-stained technopeasant day — of MISSILE GAP, which is shortlisted for the Locus readers’ award for best novella this year. It deals with the Simulation issue in a very clever and well-plotted way:

http://subterraneanpress.com/index.php/magazine/spring2007/fiction-missile-gap-by-charles-stross/

113. Scott Aaronson Says:

Dani: While it’s conceivable that the linearity and unitarity of QM might someday be overthrown, to prove that Andy is wrong one doesn’t have to enter such deep waters. The reason is that he’s not challenging QM — he explicitly claims he’s working within it. He says he’s playing chess, and then he moves his pawn five spaces. Can you see why that pisses me off?

114. Jonathan Vos Post Says:

MMMmmmm… Quantum Chess!

Played on a Black & White 2-D Ising Lattice. White has a forced win, but that’s NP-hard.

“Coincidently” today’s slashdot footer is:

What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.
— Woody Allen, “Without Feathers”

115. Dani Fong Says:

Scott:

Yes, insofar as he is claiming that one is working within the orthodox quantum theory, or one is claiming that a transformation is unitary but it isn’t, it’s basically hogwash, mathematically, at any rate.

Nonetheless, the demonstration would have merit, if, it turns out, the physics of the real world doesn’t actually tow the line that people like us have been fed since the more prominent physicists stopped arguing about it, some few years after Einstein’s death. Essentially, my moral is, ‘don’t let the mistakes of the flakes turn your head from the stakes.’

116. Jonathan Vos Post Says:

“Tow the line” –> “toe the line.”

The question is, can such states be prepared, so that such an experiment can be done?

My intuition has been wrong about such things before. When I was doing my PhD rsearch 1973-1977 at U.Mass./Amherat, I had a friend on Physics there who did an actual experiment. He had a beam of hydrogen atoms in a vacuum. The beam was chopped up into equal-timed segments interspaced by gaps. He tested whether the gaps would interfere, when the beam was split and recombined. I thought they would. I was wrong.

Quantum Chess? How about Quantum Soccer?

http://gregegan.customer.netspace.net.au/BORDER/Soccer/Soccer.html

117. Dani Fong Says:

Jonathan,

What’s this about interference? Why/how would they interfere? What’s the actual experiment?

118. Scott Says:

‘don’t let the mistakes of the flakes turn your head from the stakes.’

119. nextquant Says:

Finally:
IJCR is a professional peer-reviewed journal of interdisciplinary scientific research that presents evidence for recent creation within a biblical framework.

120. cody Says:

nextquant:
AHHHH!!!
i’m pretty sure thats the nth sign of the apocalypse.