My comments at other blogs—part 1


I sometimes post comments at other people’s blogs. Since a thread at these other blogs often is only partially related to the points I am interested in or am making, I don’t always have enough space to explain my points at that blog. Yet, simply in order to note something, I do infrequently post a few comments, thinking that I will return here (at this blog) and expand on those points later on. Yet, most often, what happens is that I simply forget the points once they are thus jotted down elsewhere. All in all, I have been wanting to improve on my “notes-keeping” techniques—it’s been getting messier and still messier!

While it would be ideal to provide some further explanation on the comments I thus make elsewhere, doing so would usually take enough extra effort that whenever I think of doing so, I immediately slip into that nice and comfortable and very cozy zone of… what else? procrastination.

I have, therefore, thought of a compromise solution: To provide (at least just) the links to the comments I have written elsewhere. This way, I will at least not forget the points which I need to expand on, later on. After all, this is my blog; I do take its back-up; and so, anything that I note here will stay somewhere at least in the backups (if not also in the mind); it won’t go permanently out of my mind, and therefore all lost to me.

Thus, from this post onwards, I will occasionally be lumping together a few links to my own comments elsewhere, via a post specially dedicated to such links, here.

Further, I have also decided to highlight some other interesting blogs or posts from time to time. Thus, though this blog was heavy on my own writings thus far, in future, it would also have a bit of a mix of other people’s blogs.

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My Comments on a Blog Post about Animation of Quantum Manner:

Recently, I have made a few comments at a CalTech+PhDComics blog post on animation of quantum matter. The post in question is here: [^].

Among the many comments I made there, I think my more notable comments are: this [^], this [^] and this [^]. Let me tell you why I think so.

But before that, the right time to visit that blog-post and to go through all comments—mine as well as others’—is: right now.

From this point onwards, I assume that you are familiar with both the post and all the comments it received.


The first of my comments [^], though deliberately long, basically tries to take away that “quantum” kind of an aura which invariably engulfs any mainstream QM-based explanation of any QM phenomenon. Here, Prof. John Preskill and Dr. Painter had (probably though not at all very deliberately) introduced precisely this element of a mystery, by highlighting the asymmetry part of it, without providing any clue as to why the asymmetry might be arising. As soon as I saw the video and read their answers, I thought they were going overboard in emphasizing that asymmetry part.

In laying emphasis on the fact that this was not a simple, passive mechanical oscillator but one that was being actively (nay, aggressively) being kept cooled down to the near-absolute zero temperatures, I tried to remove that usual “quantum” sort of a fog surrounding the issue.

BTW, though it’s a minor point, in my comments, I also tried to indirectly emphasize the fact that starting from a non-absolute zero K temperature, you cannot ever hope to reach 0 K. This is not an issue pertaining to an ignorable kind of a small number; it’s not a matter of a relatively insignificant experimental error; it’s a matter of an important principle—of a law of thermodynamics. You don’t begin to violate laws of thermodynamics in your presentation just in order to make the matter look sexy to some clueless American high-school students or their equivalents there or elsewhere (regardless of their age, education,  alma mater, the obtainment of a tenure or a VC funding, fellowships obtained from professional societies, instances of their otherwise competent PhD students being unethically flunked during qualifiers, etc.). You don’t do that. You don’t have to, in order to either highlight the achievements of science or even to make it attractive.

The second and third of my above-mentioned comments (i.e. this [^]  and this [^]) introduce what in that context perhaps is a novel idea. Apparently, people haven’t pursued the single-quantum versions of the experiments which study the transfer of a quantum state from light to a mechanical oscillator (or vice-versa). Perhaps, before I introduced the idea, they hadn’t even thought of doing so—not in this context. (Such things are easily possible.) In any case, they should pursue such experiments. Why?

The reason is twofold.

Firstly, these days, there seems to be a new and special streak of QM skepticism gaining some traction, esp. in the American science circles.

For instance, no sooner does a private sector Canadian company D-Wave introduce some new version of their hardware than a small army of the NSF/American public R&D-funded skeptics launch scathing attacks on all its claims. For instance, see the nature of the comments at Prof. Scott Aaronson’s blog [^]. Being extra critical of extraordinary claims is perfectly OK, nay, it is even demanded by the rigours of science. But being skeptical never is: skepticism, even an informed skepticism, is not a route to knowledge. Skepticism only destroys knowledge.

Now, coming to Prof. Aaronson, inasmuch as he does maintain that extra rigour of criticism, he is to be encouraged and applauded. In fact, when he apparently isn’t too busy (or too passionately in the thick of the thrust and parry, i.e. “debate”), Prof. Aaronson himself seems to be pretty well-balanced about the issue. (He obviously has a tilt against D-Wave, but he also, equally obviously, has absolutely no axe to grind here—that much is clear. And, when it comes to summarizing, it’s good that he forgets the more shallow among many of all those con points (sometimes his own, too!), and thereby ends up presenting a pretty well-balanced viewpoint. Not necessarily the most comprehensive picture, but still, a pretty balanced one in terms of what all it does consider, anyway (and he does cover an impressive lot of the territory.))

Yet, if you go through all of those hundreds of comments (sometimes even 600+ comments) that each of Aaronson’s posts generates, you would certainly come out getting a definite feeling that something deeper is at work here than what meets the eye at the surface. Not just a feeling, not even just an evidence of sociology, but more: you will come out also with a lot of links pointing towards hard evidence too.

It’s almost as if someone or some influential group in that giant, American government-sponsored, R&D machine has decided to throw the monkey wrench into any QC works, esp. that elsewhere, by “showing,” sometimes even via dishonestly thin argumentation, that any new results favoring scalable QC is either unbelievably unreliable or that there is nothing QM-ness about it, that the result is what should be expected on the basis of classical mechanics alone. (BTW, “government-sponsored,” or, better still, “government-controlled” is what the phrase “public science” actually translates into.)

Of course, the “public science” in America is not the only party against any of these scalable QM kind of claims (or even experiments). Dr. Roger Schlafly [^], a more or less completely independent researcher, too, has flatly denied any possibility of ever building a scalable QC. He doesn’t have any specific evidence or a principle to cite in defence of his position. Apparently, he just feels that way. Oh, BTW, Prof. Scott Aaronson (himself) has (justifiably) criticised Schlafly.

(BTW, I otherwise have a significantly good opinion of also of Schlafly’s judgment, much of it formed in reference to his book on Einstein. I haven’t read this book completely, but from whatever portion of it that I read, it seems to be a very well written, and an even better researched a book. (BTBTW, the Google Books Preview (still) allows you to read this book in its entirety. It’s just that I haven’t found the time to complete my reading. (TBD!)))

Anyway, coming back to the issue at hand: With this background, I thought that Dr. Mankei’s comments at the above-mentioned (CalTech+PhDComics) blog post came perhaps a bit too early, and perhaps they were not sufficiently thought through. (He also immediately posted an independent paper to arXiv, for this purpose!)

Secondly, in any case, what I wanted to point out and emphasize was the possibility of a way that should convincingly show the quantum nature of the mechanical oscillator in this kind of an experimental arrangement. Overall, I am happy about suggesting the single-photon version of this QM experiment.

I sincerely believe that not only is the single-photon regime interesting in its own right but that in systematically reducing the flux by some 15 orders of magnitude, we could perhaps also be covering some interesting intermediate regimes as well.

Of course, the main point still concerns the single-photons regime. If you see the red-shift even in the single-photon regime, but no blue-shift, I believe that no one will be able to come up with a very rational argument interpreting such a result in a classical mechanics framework. And, a systematic reduction of light flux should provide additional clues to the way that the quantum nature of matter emerges gradually.

It’s true that our intuitions can so easily go wrong once in the quantum realm. Yet, my own intuition is that even if not in this particular experimental set-up (i.e. with this big a beam for the mechanical oscillator) then at least in a different but similar experimental set-up, the quantum blue-red asymmetry would continue to show up even in the single-photon regime. (TBD: write a post to indicate the reason behind keeping this intuition.) It should make the critics skeptics fall silent (for a while!!).

One final note. If you wish to see more comments on this matter, see Sean Carroll’s coverage of the same experimental development (and the same PhDComics-produced video) at his blog, here: [^].

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I have quite a queue of (even very recent) comments I made elsewhere. I should be back with a couple of them pretty soon. Also, a few interesting links.

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One more series! … What happened to the earlier series on tensors?:

I will resume my series on tensors once I get settled in Karjat. As of today, I am too busy organizing my stuff for the relocation to Karjat. And, I anyway don’t have a scanner at home. (Have been jobless, remember?). Friends whose scanner I could have used also all seemed to be too busy these days. So, I have decided to postpone the tensor-related series for a month or so. I will do the experiment myself and resume the tensors-related series in or after mid-July.

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Update (June 23, 2013, 11:38 PM)

A Song I Like:
(Marathi) “ghar thakalele sanyaasi, haLu haLU bhint hee khachate…”
Music and Singer: Hridaynath Mangeshkar
Lyrics: Poet “Grace”, i.e., (Marathi) MaNikrao GoDghaaTe


[As usual, may be I will come back and edit this post a bit—or, may be, I will not!]

[Update June 23, 2013: Added: The “A Song I Like” section. May be, I will come back and edit and streamline this post, once, again!! OR, May be, I will NOT!!!]]