Busy, busy, busy… And will be. (Aka: Random Notings in the Passing)

Have been very busy. [What’s new about that? Read on…]


First, there is that [usual] “busy-ness” on the day job.


Then, Mary Hesse (cf. my last post) does not cover tensor fields.

A tensor is a very neat mathematical structure. Essentially, you get it by taking a Cartesian product of the basis vectors of (a) space(s). A tensor field is a tensor-valued function of, say, the physical (“ambient”) space, itself a vector space and also a vector field.

Yes, that reads like the beginning paragraph of a Wiki article on a mathematical topic. Yes, you got into circles. Mathematicians always do that—esp. to you. … Well, they also try doing that, on me. But, usually, they don’t succeed. … But, yes, it does keep me busy. [Now you know why I’ve been so busy.]


Now, a few other, mostly random, notings in the passing…


As every year, the noise pollution of the Ganapati festival this year, too, has been nothing short of maddening. But this year, it has not been completely maddening. Not at least to me. The reason is, I am out of Pune. [And what a relief it is!]


OK, time to take some cognizance of the usual noises on the QM front. The only way to do that is to pick up the very best among them. … I will do that for you.

The reference is to Roger Schlafly’s latest post: “Looking for new quantum axioms”, here [^]. He in turn makes a reference to a Quanta Mag article [^] by Philip Ball, who in turn makes a reference to the usual kind of QM noises. For the last, I shall not provide you with references. … Then, in his above-cited post, Schlafly also makes a reference to the Czech physicist Lubos Motl’s blog post, here [^].

Schlafly notes that Motl “…adequately trashes it as an anti-quantum crackpot article,” and that he “will not attempt to outdo his [i.e. Motl’s] rant.” Schlafly even states that he agrees with him Motl.

Trailer: I don’t; not completely anyway.

Immediately later, however, Schlafly says quite a remarkable thing, something that is interesting in its own regard:

Instead, I focus on one fallacy at the heart of modern theoretical physics. Under this fallacy, [1] the ideal theory is one that is logically derived from postulates, and [2] where one can have a metaphysical belief in those postulates independent of messy experiments.” [Numbering of the clauses is mine.]

Hmmm…

Yes, [1] is right on, but not [2]. Both the postulates and the belief in them here are of physics; experiments—i.e. [controlled] observations of physical reality—play not just a crucial part; they play the “game-starting” part. Wish Schlafly had noted the distinction between the two clauses.

All in all, I think that, on this issue of Foundations of QM, we all seem to be not talking to each other—we seem to be just looking past each other, so to say. That’s the major reason why the field has been flourishing so damn well. Yet, all in all, I think, Schlafly and Motl are more right about it all than are Ball or the folks he quotes.

But apart from it all, let me say that Schlafly and Motl have been advocating the view that Dirac–von Neumann axioms [^] provide the best possible theoretical organization for the theory of the quantum mechanical phenomena.

I disagree.

My position is that the Dirac-von Neumann axioms have not been done with due care to the scope (and applicability) of all the individual concepts subsuming the different aspects of the quantum physical phenomena. Like all QM physicists of the past century (and continuing with those in this century as well, except for, as far as I know, me!), they confuse on one crucial issue. And that issue is at the heart and the base of the measurement/collapse postulate. Understand that one critical issue well, and the measurement/collapse postulate itself collapses in no time. I can name it—that one critical issue. In fact, it’s just one concept. Just one concept that is already well-known to science, but none thinks of it in the context of Foundations of QM. Not in the right way, anyway. [Meet me in person to learn what it is.]


OK, another thing.

I haven’t yet finished Hesse’s book. [Did you honestly expect me to do that so fast?] That, plus the fact that in my day-job, we would be working even harder, working extra hours (plus may be work on week-ends, as well).

In fact, I have already frozen all my research schedule and put it in the deep freeze section. (Not even on the back-burner, I mean.)

So, allow me to go off the blog once again for yet another 3–4 weeks or so. [And I will do that anyway, even if you don’t allow.]


A Song I Like:

[The value of this song to me is mostly nostalgic; it has some very fond memories of my childhood associated with it. As an added bonus, Shammi Kapoor looks slim(mer than his usual self) in this video, the so-called Part 2 of the song, here [^]—and thereby causes a relatively lesser irritation to the eye. [Yes, sometimes, I do refer to videos too, even in this section.]]

(Hindi) “madahosh hawaa matawaali fizaa”
Lyrics: Farooq Qaisar
Singer: Mohammed Rafi
Music: Shankar-Jaikishan

[BTW, did you guess the RD+Gulzar+Lata song I had alluded to, last time? … May be I will write a post just to note that song. Guess it might make for a  good “blog-filler” sometime during the upcoming several weeks, when I will once again be generally off the blog. … OK, take care, and bye for now….]

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Off the blog. [“Matter” cannot act “where” it is not.]

I am going to go off the blogging activity in general, and this blog in most particular, for some time. [And, this time round, I will keep my promise.]


The reason is, I’ve just received the shipment of a book which I had ordered about a month ago. Though only about 300 pages in length, it’s going to take me weeks to complete. And, the book is gripping enough, and the issue important enough, that I am not going to let a mere blog or two—or the entire Internet—come in the way.


I had read it once, almost cover-to-cover, some 25 years ago, while I was a student in UAB.

Reading a book cover-to-cover—I mean: in-sequence, and by that I mean: starting from the front-cover and going through the pages in the same sequence as the one in which the book has been written, all the way to the back-cover—was quite odd a thing to have happened with me, at that time. It was quite unlike my usual habits whereby I am more or less always randomly jumping around in a book, even while reading one for the very first time.

But this book was different; it was extraordinarily engaging.

In fact, as I vividly remember, I had just idly picked up this book off a shelf from the Hill library of UAB, for a casual examination, had browsed it a bit, and then had began sampling some passage from nowhere in the middle of the book while standing in an library aisle. Then, some little time later, I was engrossed in reading it—with a folded elbow resting on the shelf, head turned down and resting against a shelf rack (due to a general weakness due to a physical hunger which I was ignoring [and I would have have to go home and cook something for myself; there was none to do that for me; and so, it was easy enough to ignore the hunger]). I don’t honestly remember how the pages turned. But I do remember that I must have already finished some 15-20 pages (all “in-the-order”!) before I even realized that I had been reading this book while still awkwardly resting against that shelf-rack. …

… I checked out the book, and once home [student dormitory], began reading it starting from the very first page. … I took time, days, perhaps weeks. But whatever the length of time that I did take, with this book, I didn’t have to jump around the pages.


The issue that the book dealt with was:

[Instantaneous] Action at a Distance.

The book in question was:

Hesse, Mary B. (1961) “Forces and Fields: The concept of Action at a Distance in the history of physics,” Philosophical Library, Edinburgh and New York.


It was the very first book I had found, I even today distinctly remember, in which someone—someone, anyone, other than me—had cared to think about the issues like the IAD, the concepts like fields and point particles—and had tried to trace their physical roots, to understand the physical origins behind these (and such) mathematical concepts. (And, had chosen to say “concepts” while meaning ones, rather than trying to hide behind poor substitute words like “ideas”, “experiences”, “issues”, “models”, etc.)

Twenty-five years later, I still remain hooked on to the topic. Despite having published a paper on IAD and diffusion [and yes, what the hell, I will say it: despite claiming a first in 200+ years in reference to this topic], I even today do find new things to think about, about this “kutty” [Original: IITM lingo; English translation: “small”] topic. And so, I keep returning to it and thinking about it. I still am able to gain new insights once in an odd while. … Indeed, my recent ‘net search on IAD (the one which led to Hesse and my buying the book) precisely was to see if someone had reported the conceptual [and of course, mathematical] observation which I have recently made, or not. [If too curious about it, the answer: looks like, none has.]


But now coming to Hesse’s writing style, let me quote a passage from one of her research papers. I ran into this paper only recently, last month (in July 2017), and it was while going through it that I happened [once again] to remember her book. Since I did have some money in hand, I did immediately decide to order my copy of this book.

Anyway, the paper I have in mind is this:

Hesse, Mary B. (1955) “Action at a Distance in Classical Physics,” Isis, Vol. 46, No. 4 (Dec., 1955), pp. 337–353, University of Chicago Press/The History of Science Society.

The paper (it has no abstract) begins thus:

The scholastic axiom that “matter cannot act where it is not” is one of the very general metaphysical principles found in science before the seventeenth century which retain their relevance for scientific theory even when the metaphysics itself has been discarded. Other such principles have been fruitful in the development of physics: for example, the “conservation of motion” stated by Descartes and Leibniz, which was generalized and given precision in the nineteenth century as the doctrine of the conservation of energy; …

Here is another passage, once again, from the same paper:

Now Faraday uses a terminology in speaking about the lines of force which is derived from the idea of a bundle of elastic strings stretched under tension from point to point of the field. Thus he speaks of “tension” and “the number of lines” cut by a body moving in the field. Remembering his discussion about contiguous particles of a dielectric medium, one must think of the strings as stretching from one particle of the medium to the next in a straight line, the distance between particles being so small that the line appears as a smooth curve. How seriously does he take this model? Certainly the bundle of elastic strings is nothing like those one can buy at the store. The “number of lines” does not refer to a definite number of discrete material entities, but to the amount of force exerted over a given area in the field. It would not make sense to assign points through which a line passes and points which are free from a line. The field of force is continuous.

See the flow of the writing? the authentic respect for the intellectual history, and yet, the overriding concern for having to reach a conclusion, a meaning? the appreciation for the subtle drama? the clarity of thought, of expression?

Well, these passages were from the paper, but the book itself, too, is similarly written.


Obviously, while I remain engaged in [re-]reading the book [after a gap of 25 years], don’t expect me to blog.

After all, even I cannot act “where” I am not.


A Song I Like:

[I thought a bit between this song and another song, one by R.D. Burman, Gulzar and Lata. In the end, it was this song which won out. As usual, in making my decision, the reference was exclusively made to the respective audio tracks. In fact, in the making of this decision, I happened to have also ignored even the excellent guitar pieces in this song, and the orchestration in general in both. The words and the tune were too well “fused” together in this song; that’s why. I do promise you to run the RD song once I return. In the meanwhile, I don’t at all mind keeping you guessing. Happy guessing!]

(Hindi) “bheegi bheegi…” [“bheege bheege lamhon kee bheegee bheegee yaadein…”]
Music and Lyrics: Kaushal S. Inamdar
Singer: Hamsika Iyer

[Minor additions/editing may follow tomorrow or so.]

 

“Measure for Measure”—a pop-sci video on QM

This post is about a video on QM for the layman. The title of the video is: “Measure for Measure: Quantum Physics and Reality” [^]. It is also available on YouTube, here [^].

I don’t recall precisely where on the ‘net I saw the video being mentioned. Anyway, even though its running time is 01:38:43 (i.e. 1 hour, 38 minutes, making it something like a full-length feature film), I still went ahead, downloaded it and watched it in full. (Yes, I am that interested in QM!)

The video was shot live at an event called “World Science Festival.” I didn’t know about it beforehand, but here is the Wiki on the festival [^], and here is the organizer’s site [^].

The event in the video is something like a panel discussion done on stage, in front of a live audience, by four professors of physics/philosophy. … Actually five, including the moderator.

Brian Greene of Columbia [^] is the moderator. (Apparently, he co-founded the World Science Festival.) The discussion panel itself consists of: (i) David Albert of Columbia [^]. He speaks like a philosopher but seems inclined towards a specific speculative theory of QM, viz. the GRW theory. (He has that peculiar, nasal, New York accent… Reminds you of Dr. Harry Binswanger—I mean, by the accent.) (ii) Sheldon Goldstein of Rutgers [^]. He is a Bohmian, out and out. (iii) Sean Carroll of CalTech [^]. At least in the branch of the infinity of the universes in which this video unfolds, he acts 100% deterministically as an Everettian. (iv) Ruediger Schack of Royal Holloway (the spelling is correct) [^]. I perceive him as a QBist; guess you would, too.

Though the video is something like a panel discussion, it does not begin right away with dudes sitting on chairs and talking to each other. Even before the panel itself assembles on the stage, there is a racy introduction to the quantum riddles, mainly on the wave-particle duality, presented by the moderator himself. (Prof. Greene would easily make for a competent TV evangelist.) This part runs for some 20 minutes or so. Then, even once the panel discussion is in progress, it is sometimes interwoven with a few short visualizations/animations that try to convey the essential ideas of each of the above viewpoints.

I of course don’t agree with any one of these approaches—but then, that is an entirely different story.

Coming back to the video, yes, I do want to recommend it to you. The individual presentations as well as the panel discussions (and comments) are done pretty well, in an engaging and informal way. I did enjoy watching it.


The parts which I perhaps appreciated the most were (i) the comment (near the end) by David Albert, between 01:24:19–01:28:02, esp. near 1:27:20 (“small potatoes”) and, (ii) soon later, another question by Brian Greene and another answer by David Albert, between 01:33:26–01:34:30.

In this second comment, David Albert notes that “the serious discussions of [the foundational issues of QM] … only got started 20 years ago,” even though the questions themselves do go back to about 100 years ago.

That is so true.

The video was recorded recently. About 20 years ago means: from about mid-1990s onwards. Thus, it is only from mid-1990s, Albert observes, that the research atmosphere concerning the foundational issues of QM has changed—he means for the better. I think that is true. Very true.

For instance, when I was in UAB (1990–93), the resistance to attempting even just a small variation to the entrenched mainstream view (which means, the Copenhagen interpretation (CI for short)) was so enormous and all pervading, I mean even in the US/Europe, that I was dead sure that a graduate student like me would never be able to get his nascent ideas on QM published, ever. It therefore came as a big (and a very joyous) surprise to me when my papers on QM actually got accepted (in 2005). … Yes, the attitudes of physicists have changed. Anyway, my point here is, the mainstream view used to be so entrenched back then—just about 20 years ago. The Copenhagen interpretation still was the ruling dogma, those days. Therefore, that remark by Prof. Albert does carry some definite truth.


Prof. Albert’s observation also prompts me to pose a question to you.

What could be the broad social, cultural, technological, economic, or philosophic reasons behind the fact that people (researchers, graduate students) these days don’t feel the same kind of pressure in pursuing new ideas in the field of Foundations of QM? Is the relatively greater ease of publishing papers in foundations of QM, in your opinion, an indication of some negative trends in the culture? Does it show a lowering of the editorial standards? Or is there something positive about this change? Why has it become easier to discuss foundations of QM? What do you think?

I do have my own guess about it, and I would sure like to share it with you. But before I do that, I would very much like to hear from you.

Any guesses? What could be the reason(s) why the serious discussions on foundations of QM might have begun to occur much more freely only after mid-1990s—even though the questions had been raised as early as in 1920s (or earlier)?

Over to you.


Greetings in advance for the Republic Day. I [^] am still jobless.


[E&OE]

 

Dileep Padgaonkar, R.I.P.

Dileep Padagonkar, R.I.P.


… I came to know about him a bit lately—certainly not when he was the Editor of ToI (or earlier). … It was sometime during the mid-noughties; it was mostly through an occasional edit-page piece or some other piece that he would write here and there. …

… I knew him more or less purely through his writing, even though we did share the same home-town, Pune. [The only few exceptions were a few TV appearances of his which I watched, once in a while, a while ago. … He somehow always seemed to appear in those half-sleeved sleeveless sweaters or something like that…]

But, talking of his writings (and TV appearances), occasional as these may have been, it was impossible to miss the fact that if phrases such as “a man of culture” or “a gentleman” might have any meaning in reality, then it would mean those few [unfortunately so very few] people like him.

Upon reading the news this morning, I was so sorry that he left us so early. …

… May his soul find “sadgati.”


Today’s Pune—the supposed Oxford of the East, the supposed City of Culture—is such that it will not bereave his loss as much as it should. … Naturally! You have to first have a kind of a value-system, a “sense” of what terms like “culture” mean, before you can even register a loss like that!

… Anyway…


My writing, both about QM and on other topics, has been going on, off-and-on. I should be back with something or the other in a while. May be about QM. May be about something else. But no promises as to when.


[E&OE]