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Name: Dave
Gender: Male
Hometown: Oregon
Home country: US
Member since: Wed Mar 28, 2012, 06:14 PM
Number of posts: 2,252

Journal Archives

Do you love your Mom? Do they love their Moms? Vote...

...Yes, Vote for Oregon Zoo 'Mom of the Year:

PORTLAND -- The Oregon Zoo will honor one of its animals with a Mother of the Year award next week, and the three finalists were announced Thursday.

"This year’s finalists are a De Brazza’s monkey named Brooke, a North American river otter named Tilly, and an Asian elephant named Rose-Tu," said spokesman Hova Najarian.

He offered a quick argument in each animal's case:

Brooke has been keeping her 2-month-old so close that the zoo’s animal-care staff only recently determined the baby’s gender.
Tilly is a first-time mom, but keepers say she’s been doing all the right things for her 3-month-old pup, Mo.
Rose-Tu required full-time help with early binding after her first calf, Samudra, was born. But with new calf Lilly, keepers say her maternal nature took over right away.

"These moms all represent species whose natural habitats are threatened, and they’ve each done a lot to inspire zoo visitors," said zoo director Kim Smith.

The three caretakers/zookeepers naturally express some favoritism for 'their' Mom...but mostly they express their great love for all animals that bring joy, amazement, and understanding to our lives.

Click here to vote

Yeah, yeah. Another fluffy interview with an important scientist...

...and the result is that quantum mechanics needs a fig leaf.

Did anybody here go look for/at the data?

Here's an article from the MIT Technology Review that has at least a slightly less emotional title: Poll Reveals Quantum Physicists’ Disagreement About the Nature of Reality : http://www.technologyreview.com/view/509691/poll-reveals-quantum-physicists-disagreement-about-the-nature-of-reality

First paragraph is OK:

Quantum mechanics lies at the heart of many modern technologies–lasers, superconductors, many forms of computing, cryptography and so on. That’s partly because the theory is so good and well tested to mind boggling accuracy.

Right, we wouldn't be using the devices we use to look at these articles if quantum mechanics didn't work.

Second paragraph brings in the drama and appeals to our fears:

And yet, there is trouble at the heart of quantum mechanics and the way we should use it to understand the nature of reality. Perhaps nothing reflects this better than a survey published today by Anton Zeilinger at the University of Vienna and a couple of buddies. These guys have surveyed a group of physicists, philosophers and mathematicians about their views on the foundations of quantum mechanics.

Oh my, trouble at the heart of QM.

Here's the actual paper on which the articles are based: A Snapshot of Foundational Attitudes Toward Quantum Mechanics: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1301.1069v1.pdf

1 Why this poll?
In August 1997, Max Tegmark polled 48 participants of the conference \Fundamental Problems
in Quantum Theory," held at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, about their favorite
interpretation of quantum mechanics [1]. By Tegmark's own admission, the survey was \highly
informal and unscientific," as \several people voted more than once, many abstained, etc." While
the Copenhagen interpretation gathered the most votes, the many-worlds interpretation turned out
to come in second, prompting Tegmark to declare a \rather striking shift in opinion compared to
the old days when the Copenhagen interpretation reigned supreme."
Today, debates about the foundations of quantum mechanics show no sign of abating. Indeed,
they have only become more lively in the years since Tegmark's poll. Thus, we felt the time had
come to take a new snapshot. A perfect photo opportunity had just presented itself: the conference
\Quantum Physics and the Nature of Reality," held in July 2011 at the International Academy
Traunkirchen, Austria, and organized by one of us (A.Z.). A mix of physicists, philosophers, and
mathematicians had gathered at a former monastery at the shore of Lake Traunsee in Austria
(see Appendix B for a list of participants). We handed the conference participants a prepared
questionnaire with 16 multiple-choice questions covering the main issues and open problems in the
foundations of quantum mechanics. We permitted multiple answers per question to be checked,
because in many cases the di fferent answers were not, and could not be, mutually exclusive.
Just as Tegmark's poll, our poll cannot claim to be representative of the communities at large.
But, as a snapshot, it contains interesting|and in parts even surprising|information. A total
of 33 people turned in their completed questionnaires; of those, 27 stated their main academic
affiliation as physics, 5 as philosophy, and 3 as mathematics (here, too, multiple answers were
allowed). While this is not a huge sample size, it is to our knowledge the most comprehensive poll
of quantum-foundational views ever conducted.1 Also, we were certainly aware of the fact that the
multiple-choice format can sometimes obliterate the all-important nuances: two people may check
the answer \local realism is untenable," and yet mean completely di fferent concepts by each word
in this sentence. This, however, is a small price to pay for the ability to directly tally up the votes
and to analyze correlations between answers.

Now we know the depth and breadth of the study. Cool. The paper presents all the questions, the choices for answers, and the distribution of responses. My personal reaction: Wow, 72% of the respondents think we'll have a working quantum computer within 10 to 50 years. Incredible! I only wish I would be around to witness it!!!

However, the conclusions of the study are rather disappointing:

5 Conclusions
Quantum theory is based on a clear mathematical apparatus, has enormous significance for the natural
sciences, enjoys phenomenal predictive success, and plays a critical role in modern technological
developments. Yet, nearly 90 years after the theory's development, there is still no consensus in the
scientifi c community regarding the interpretation of the theory's foundational building blocks. Our
poll is an urgent reminder of this peculiar situation.

Shit. We're only ninety years into the investigation of aspects of reality that totally boggle our acutely limited, fragile, and incorrect perceptions. Do we need an urgent reminder to solve this 'peculiar situation'?? No, we need to revel in our confusion, excitement, and disagreement, just hoping that a hundred...or a thousand years from now our descendants will fully agree on the aspects of the universe that trouble us now, but will still stand on the precipice of knowledge undiscovered. That's why the trip is so much fun!

(on edit: my link to the MIT article didn't work; fixed)

Voting at home is a wonderful experience.

It's done:

A rainy Sunday morning on farm. My wife and I took the dogs for the obligatory walk around the fields, then back to the house for our required Sunday breakfast of blueberry pancakes and strong coffee. Our dining table conversation this morning was not about activities for the day or plans for the week. We had our our ballots, out voter's guides, some campaign flyers, and a copy of the Eugene Weekly with election endorsements beside us.

Some contests were easy. On others we checked out the language of the measures, talk about consequences, and search for additional information. The whole process took about an hour, two mugs of coffee. We slipped the ballots into our respective security envelopes, signed them, and put that in the mailing envelope. When that was completed, Lynn smiled at me and said "Voting at home is a wonderful experience.".

Later this afternoon we have some grocery shopping to do. We'll drive the extra mile or so down to the public library and put the envelopes in the special ballot collection box there.

Atheists ask these hard questions every day ...

...but we now have some pretty good answers.

Despite the blogger's rant against atheism, I thought his paraphrases of St. Augustine's questions were interesting - they made Augustine seem like a pretty clever guy for his time. Admittedly, I don't carry a lot of Catholic or biblical baggage. I was raised by a devout Episcopalian Mother and the most significant point of Episcopalian theology that I remember from her is "Wherever 3 or 4 are gathered together, you will probably find a fifth". More seriously though, my Mother was religious in a way I deeply respect, was the first woman on the vestry of her church, and cared deeply about people.

Anyway, back to St Augustine's (paraphrased) questions and current answers...I think St Augie would be pleased to know:

• When did this creation happen in time? Did it happen in time? What is the origin point of creation?

The origin of the Universe and the space it occupies is the Big Bang, which happened 13.7 +/- .2 billion years ago (based on current understanding). As well as we understand ‘time’, it is reasonable to say the Big Bang happened in time although quantum mechanics tells us we can’t know, or at least measure, anything less than Planck time 10−43 seconds. Currently our best actual measurements are on the order of 3.7 × 10+26 Planck times, so Planck time is really, really brief.

• How was light made? Could light be made before heaven and earth?

By ‘light’ I expect Augustine meant ‘visible light’ which represents a small fraction of the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. Electromagnetic radiation is energy quantized in particles we call photons, which are mass-less and have both wave and particle behaviors. Photons are part of model of the Big Bang that describes the universe after about 10−35 seconds. Clearly light was present before the Earth, Sun, or any other heavenly bodies were created. Do we know how photons appeared out of the quantum froth between Planck time 10−43 seconds and 10−35 seconds? No, but there are some speculations and hypotheses.

• Was it a light that can be perceived with the eyes, or was it a different kind of light? Was the light spiritual, corporal, or both? How can there be light without sun?

Early in the Big Bang the photons were at very high energy. I don’t know (and could not quickly find) at what point the universe would have cooled to the point where photons at the energy of ‘visible light’ were significant. The first stars were formed about 200 to 400 million years after the Big Bang.

• How long did it take? As long as it takes to utter the words of creation? Do we have to assume that God spoke really slowly in order to take a full 24-hour day to say “Let there be light?”

To me this question could have a couple of answers:
> The creation of the universe took zero time. All the energy was present at the beginning in an infinitesimally small space, which grew.
> Planck time (again 10−43 seconds) since quantum mechanics suggests smaller times are fundamentally undefined.
> The creation is still going on, 13.7 billion years later, as space expands, as stars die, as stars are formed, as galaxies merge, as black holes evaporate, and as the universe expands forever or contracts to an infinitesimally small space.

• What does it mean that “there was darkness over the abyss”? Is it merely an absence of light, or is it a spiritual absence?

For the first 380,000 years after the Big Bang the universe was opaque. The atoms produced by primordial nucleosynthesis still formed hot plasma. The unbounded electrons and to a lesser extent unbound protons scattered photons. This condition could be romantically characterized as “darkness over the abyss”. No comment on the spiritual abyss.

• How did God say “Let there be light”? He has no material form, and therefore cannot produce sounds. In any case, there was no language yet, for there were no humans in need of language, so what kind of words did he use?

A little flight of fancy here, but the cosmic background radiation is isotropic as measured throughout the universe and will be as the universe cools. Is this a whisper of “Let there be light” ?

• When the water was collected, where was it collected if it already covered the entire earth? Where did it go so that dry land could emerge?

Some geologist can undoubtedly discuss models of the early formation of seas and landforms on the nascent earth.

• How did God work and grow tired enough to need rest if He has no flesh?

Hey, everybody deserves a beer and a lawn chair after work. That’s where I’m going. Maybe I’ll take Bob Dylan and John Wesley Harding with me:

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine
Alive with fiery breath
And I dreamed I was amongst the ones
That put him out to death
Oh, I awoke in anger
So alone and terrified
I put my fingers against the glass
And bowed my head and cried
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