Would it happen to me, too? …Also, other interesting stories / links

1. Would it happen to me, too?

“My Grandfather Thought He Solved a Cosmic Mystery,”

reports Veronique Greenwood for The Atlantic [^] [h/t the CalTech physicist Sean Carroll’s twitter feed]. The story has the subtitle:

“His career as an eminent physicist was derailed by an obsession. Was he a genius or a crackpot?”

If you visit the URL for this story, the actual HTML page which loads into your browser has another title, similar to the one above:

“Science Is Full of Mavericks Like My Grandfather. But Was His Physics Theory Right?”

Hmmm…. I immediately got interested. After all, I do work also on foundations of quantum mechanics. … “Will it happpen to me, too?” I thought.

At this point, you should really go through Greenwood’s article, and continue reading here only after you have finished reading it.


Any one who has worked on any conceptually new approach would find something in Greenwood’s article that resonates with him.

As to me, well, right at the time that attempts were being made to find examiners for my PhD, my guide (and even I) had heard a lot of people say very similar things as Greenwood now reports: “I don’t understand what you are saying, so please excuse me.” This, when I thought that my argument should be accessible even to an undergraduate in engineering!

And now that I continue working on the foundations of QM, having developed a further, completely new (and more comprehensive) approach, naturally, Greenwood’s article got me thinking: “Would it happen to me, too? Once again? What if it does?”


…Naah, it wouldn’t happen to me—that was my conclusion. Not even if I continue talking about, you know, QM!


But why wouldn’t something similar happen to me? Especially given the fact that a good part of it has already happened to me in the past?

The reason, in essence, is simple.

I am not just a physicist—not primarily, anyway. I am primarily an engineer, a computational modeller. That’s why, things are going to work out in a different way for me.

As to my past experience: Well, I still earned my PhD degree. And with it, the most critical part of the battle is already behind me. There is a lot of resistance to your acceptance before you have a PhD. Things do become a lot easier once you have gone successfully past it. That’s another reason why things are going to work out in a different way now. … Let me explain in detail.


I mean to say, suppose that I have a brand-new approach for resolving all the essential quantum mechanical riddles. [I think I actually do!]

Suppose that I try to arrange for a seminar to be delivered by me to a few physics professors and students, say at an IIT, IISER, or so. [I actually did!]

Suppose that they don’t respond very favorably or very enthusiastically. Suppose they are outright skeptical when I say that in principle, it is possible to think of a classical mechanically functioning analog simulator which essentially exhibits all the essential quantum mechanical features. Suppose that they get stuck right at that point—may be because they honestly and sincerely believe that no classical system can ever simulate the very quantum-ness of QM. And so, short of calling me a crack-pot or so, they just directly (almost sternly) issue the warning that there are a lot of arguments against a classical system reproducing the quantum features. [That’s what has actually happened; that’s what one of the physics professors I contacted wrote back to me.]

Suppose, then, that I send an abstract to an international conference or so. [This too has actually happend, too, recently.]

Suppose that, in the near future, the conference organizers too decline my submission. [In actual reality, I still don’t know anything about the status of my submission. It was in my routine searches that I came across this conference, and noticed that I did have about 4–5 hours’ time to meet the abstracts submissions deadline. I managed to submit my abstract within time. But since then, the conference Web site has not got updated. There is no indication from the organizers as to when the acceptance or rejection of the submitted abstracts would be communicated to the authors. An enquiry email I wrote to the organizers has gone unanswered for more than a week by now. Thus, the matter is still open. But, just for the sake of the argument, suppose that they end up rejecting my abstract. Suppose that’s what actually happens.]

So what?

Since I am not a physicist “proper”, it wouldn’t affect me the way it might have, if I were to be one.

… And, that way, I could even say that I am far too smart to let something like that (I mean some deep disappointment or something like that) happen to me! … No, seriously! Let me show you how.

Suppose that the abstract I sent to an upcoming conference was written in theoretical/conceptual terms. [In actual reality, it was.]

Suppose now that it therefore gets rejected.

So what?

I would simply build a computational model based on my ideas. … Here, remember, I have already begun “talking things” about it [^]. No one has come up with a strong objection so far. (May be because they know the sort of a guy I am.)

So, if my proposed abstract gets rejected, what I would do is to simply go ahead and perform a computer simulation of a classical system of this sort (one which, in turn, simulates the QM phenomena). I might even publish a paper or two about it—putting the whole thing in purely classical terms, so that I manage to get it published. (Before doing that, I might even discuss the technical issues involved on blogs, possibly even at iMechanica!)

After such a paper (ostensibly only on the classical mechanics) gets accepted and published, I will simply write a blog post, either here or at iMechanica, noting how that system actually simulates the so-and-so quantum mechanical feature. … Then, I would perform another simulation—say using DFT. (And it is mainly for DFT that I would need help from iMechanicians or so.) After it too gets accepted and published, I will write yet another blog post, explaining how it does show some quantum mechanical-ness. … Who knows such a sequence could continue…

But such a series (of the simulations) wouldn’t be very long, either! The thing is this.

If your idea does indeed simplify certain matters, then you don’t have to argue a lot about it—people can see its truth real fast. Especially if it has to do with “hard” sciences like engineering—even physics!

If your basic idea itself isn’t so good, then, putting it in the engineering terms makes it more likely that even if you fail to get the weakness of your theory, someone else would. All in all, well and good for you.

As to the other possibility, namely, if your idea is good, but, despite putting it in the simpler terms (say in engineering or simulation terms), people still fail to see it, then, well, so long as your job (or money-making potential) itself is not endangered, then I think that it is a good policy to leave the mankind to its own follies. It is not your job to save the world, said Ayn Rand. Here, I believe her. (In fact, I believed in this insight even before I had ever run into Ayn Rand.)


As to the philosophic issues such as those involved in the foundations of QM—well, these are best tackled philosophically, not physics-wise. I wouldn’t use a physics-based argument to take a philosophic argument forward. Neither would I use a philosophical argument to take a physics-argument forward. The concerns and the methods of each are distinctly different, I have come to learn over a period of years.

Yes, you can use a physics situation as being illustrative of a philosophic point. But an illustration is not an argument; it is merely a device to make understanding easier. Similarly, you could try to invoke a philosophic point (say an epistemological point) to win a physics-based argument. But your effort would be futile. Philosophic ideas are so abstract that they can often be made to fit several different, competing, physics-related arguments. I would try to avoid both these errors.

But yes, as a matter of fact, certain issues that can only be described as philosophic ones, do happen to get involved when it comes to the area of the foundations of QM.

Now, here, given the nature of philosophy, and of its typical practitioners today (including those physicists who do dabble in philosophy), even if I become satisfied that I have resolved all the essential QM riddles, I still wouldn’t expect these philosophers to accept my ideas—not immediately anyway. In fact, as I anticipate things, philosophers, taken as a group, would never come to accept my position, I think. Such an happenstance is not necessarily to be ascribed to the personal failings of the individual philosophers (even if a lot of them actually do happen to be world-class stupid). That’s just how philosophy (as a discipline of studies) itself is like. A philosophy is a comprehensive view of existence—whether realistic or otherwise. That’s why it’s futile to expect that all of the philosophers would come to agree with you!

But yes, I would expect them to get the essence of my argument. And, many of them would, actually, get my argument, its logic—this part, I am quite sure of. But just the fact that they do understand my argument would not necessarily lead them to accept my positions, especially the idea that all the QM riddles are thereby resolved. That’s what I think.


Similarly, there also are a lot of mathematicians who dabble in the area of foundations of QM. What I said for philosophers also applies more or less equally well to them. They too would get my ideas immediately. But they too wouldn’t, therefore, come to accept my positions. Not immediately anyway. And in all probability, never ever in my lifetime or theirs.


So, there. Since I don’t expect an overwhelming acceptance of my ideas in the first place, there isn’t going to be any great disappointment either. The very expectations do differ.

Further, I must say this: I would never ever be able to rely on a purely abstract argument. That would feel like too dicey or flimsy to me. I would have to offer my arguments in terms of physically existing things, even if of a brand new kind. And, machines built out of them. At least, some working simulations. I would have to have these. I would not be able to rest on an abstract argument alone. To be satisfactory to me, I would have to actually build a machine—a soft machine—that works. And, doing just this part itself is going to be far more than enough to keep me happy. They don’t have to accept the conceptual arguments or the theory that goes with the design of such (soft) machines. It is enough that I play with my toys. And that’s another reason why I am not likely to derive a very deep sense of disenchantment or disappointment.


But if you ask me, the way I really, really like think about it is this:

If they decline my submission to the conference, I will write a paper about it, and send it, may be, to Sean Carroll or Sabine Hosenfelder or so. … The way I imagine things, he is then going to immediately translate my paper into German, add his own name to ensure its timely publication, and … . OK, you get the idea.

[In the interests of making this post completely idiot-proof, let me add: Here, in this sub-section, I was just kidding.]


2. The problem with the Many Worlds:

“Why the Many Worlds interpretation has many problems.”

Philip Ball argues in an article for the Quanta Mag [^] to the effect that many worlds means no world at all.

No, this is not exactly what he says. But what he says is clear enough that it is this conclusion which becomes inescapable.

As to what he actually says: Well, here is a passage, for instance:

“My own view is that the problems with the MWI are overwhelming—not because they show it must be wrong, but because they render it incoherent. It simply cannot be articulated meaningfully.”

In other words, Ball’s actual position is on the epistemic side, not on the ontic. However, his arguments are clear enough (and they often enough touch on issues that are fundamental enough) that the ontological implications of what he actually says, also become inescapable. OK, sometimes, the article unnecessarily takes detours into non-essentials, even into something like polemics. Still, overall, the write up is very good. Recommended very strongly.

Homework for you: If the Many Worlds idea is that bad, then explain why it might be that many otherwise reasonable people (for instance, Sean Carroll) do find the Many Worlds approach attractive. [No cheating. Think on your own and write. But if cheating is what you must do, then check out my past comment at some blog—I no longer remember where I wrote it, but probably it was on Roger Schlafly’s blog. My comment had tackled precisely this latter issue, in essential terms. Hints for your search: My comment had spoken about data structures like call-stacks and trees, and their unfolding.]


3. QM as an embarrassment to science:

“Why quantum mechanics is an “embarrassment” to science”

Brad Plumer in his brief note at the Washington Post [^] provides a link to a video by Sean Carroll.

Carroll is an effective communicator.

[Yes, he is the same one who I imagine is going to translate my article into German and… [Once again, to make this post idiot-proof: I was just kidding.]]


4. Growing younger…

I happened to take up a re-reading of David Ruelle’s book: “Chance and Chaos”. The last time I read it was in the early 1990s.

I felt younger! … May be if something strikes me while I am going through it after a gap of decades, I will come back and note it here.


5. Good introductory resources on nonlinear dynamics, catastrophe theory, and chaos theory:

If you are interested in the area of nonlinear dynamics, catastrophe theory and chaos theory, here are a few great resources:

  • For a long time, the best introduction to the topic was a brief write-up by Prof. Harrison of UToronto; it still remains one of the best [^].
  • Prof. Zeeman’s 1976 article for SciAm on the catastrophe theory is a classic. Prof. Zhigang Suo (of Harvard) has written a blog post of title “Recipe for catastrophe”at iMechanica [^], in which he helpfully provides a copy of Zeeman’s article. I have strongly recommended Zeeman’s write-up before, and I strongly recommend it once again. Go through it even if only to learn how to write for the layman and still not lose precision or quality.
  • As to a more recent introductory expositions, do see Prof. Geoff Boeing’s blog post: “Chaos theory and the logistic map” [^]. Boeing is a professor of urban planning, and not of engineering, physics, CS, or maths. But it is he who gives the clearest idea about the distinction between randomness and chaos that I have ever run into. (However, I only later gathered that he does have a UG in CS, and a PG in Information Management.) Easy to understand. Well ordered. Overall, very highly recommended.

Apart from it all:

Happy Diwali!


A song I like:

(Hindi) “tere humsafar geet hai tere…”
Music: R. D. Burman
Singers: Kishore Kumar, Mukesh, Asha Bhosale
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri

[Has this song been lifted from some Western song? At least inspired from one?

Here are the reasons for this suspicion: (1) It has a Western-sounding tune. It doesn’t sound Indian. There is no obvious basis either in the “raag-daari,” or in the Indian folk music. (ii) There are (beautiful) changes in the chords here. But there is no concept of chords in the traditional Indian music—basically, there is no concept of harmony in it, only of melody. (iii) Presence of “yoddling” (if that’s the right word for it). That too, by a female singer. That too, in the early 1970’s! Despite all  the “taan”s and “firat”s and all that, this sort of a thing (let’s call it yoddling) has never been a part of the traditional Indian music.

Chances are good that some of the notes were (perhaps very subconsciously) inspired from a Western tune. For instance, I can faintly hear “jingle bells” in the refrain. … But the question is: is there a more direct correspondence to a Western tune, or not.

And, if it was not lifted or inspired from a Western song, then it’s nothing but a work of an absolute genius. RD anyway was one—whether this particular song was inspired from some other song, or not.

But yes, I liked this song a great deal as a school-boy. It happened to strike me once again only recently (within the last couple of weeks or so). I found that I still love it just as much, if not more.]


[As usual, may be I will come back tomorrow or so, and edit/streamline this post a bit. One update done on 2018.11.04 08:26 IST. A second update done on 2018.11.04 21:01 IST. I will now leave this post in whatever shape it is in. Got to move on to trying out a few things in Python and all. Will keep you informed, probably after Diwali. In the meanwhile, take care and bye for now…]

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Caste Brahmins, classification, and ANN

1. Caste Brahmins:

First, a clarification: No, I was not born in any one of the Brahmin castes, particularly, not at all in the Konkanastha Brahmins’ caste.

Second, a suggestion: Check out how many caste-Brahmins have made it to the top in the Indian and American IT industry, and what sort of money they have made—already.

No, really.

If you at all bother visiting this blog, then I do want you to take a very serious note of both these matters.

No. You don’t have to visit this blog. But, yes, if you are going to visit this blog, to repeat, I do want you to take  matters like these seriously.

Some time ago, perhaps a year ago or so, a certain caste-Brahmin in Pune from some place (but he didn’t reveal his shakha, sub-caste, gotra, pravar, etc.) had insulted me, while maintaining a perfectly cool demeanor for himself, saying how he had made so much more money than me. Point taken.

But my other caste-Brahmin “friends” kept quiet at that time; not a single soul from them interjected.

In my off-the-cuff replies, I didn’t raise this point (viz., why these other caste-Brahmins were keeping quiet), but I am sure that if I were to do that, then, their typical refrain would have been (Marathi) “tu kaa chiDatos evhaDa, to tar majene bolat hotaa.” … English translation: Why do you get so angry? He was just joking.

Note the usual caste-Brahmin trick: they skillfully insert an unjustified premise; here, that you are angry!

To be blind to the actual emotional states or reactions of the next person, if he comes from some other caste, is a caste-habit with the caste-Brahmins. The whole IT industry is full of them—whether here in India, or there in USA/UK/elsewhere.

And then, today, another Brahmin—a Konkanastha—insulted me. Knowing that I am single, he asked me if I for today had taken the charge of the kitchen, and then, proceeded to invite my father to a Ganesh Pooja—with all the outward signs of respect being duly shown to my father.


Well, coming back to the point which was really taken:

Why have caste-Brahmins made so much money—to the point that they in one generation have begun very casually insulting the “other” people, including people of my achievements?

Or has it been the case that the people of the Brahmin castes always were this third-class, in terms of their culturally induced convictions, but that we did not come to know of it from our childhood, because the elderly people around us kept such matters, such motivations, hidden from us? May be in the naive hope that we would thereby not get influenced in a bad manner? Possible.

And, of course, how come these caste-Brahmins have managed to attract as much money as they did (salaries in excess of Rs. 50 lakhs being averagely normal in Pune) even as I was consigned only to receive “attract” psychic attacks (mainly from abroad) and insults (mainly from those from this land) during the same time period?

Despite all my achievements?

Do take matters like these seriously, but, of course, as you must have gathered by now, that is not the only thing I would have, to talk about. And, the title of this post anyway makes this part amply clear.


2. The classification problem and the ANNs:

I have begun my studies of the artificial neural networks (ANNs for short). I have rapidly browsed through a lot of introductory articles (as also the beginning chapters of books) on the topic. (Yes, including those written by Indians who were born in the Brahmin castes.) I might have gone through 10+ such introductions. Many of these, I had browsed through a few years ago (I mean only the introductory parts). But this time round, of course, I picked them up for a more careful consideration.

And soon enough (i.e. over just the last 2–3 days), I realized that no one in the field (AI/ML) was talking about a good explanation of this question:

Why is it that the ANN really succeeds as well as it does, when it comes to the classification tasks, but not others?

If you are not familiar with Data Science, then let me note that it is known that ANN does not do well on all the AI tasks. It does well only on one kind of them, viz., the classification tasks. … Any time you mention the more general term Artificial Intelligence, the layman is likely to think of the ANN diagram. However, ANNs are just one type of a tool that the Data Scientist may use.

But the question here is this: why does the ANN do so well on these tasks?

I formulated this question, and then found an answer too, and I would sure like to share it with you (whether the answer I found is correct or not). However, before sharing my answer, I want you to give it a try.

It would be OK by me if you answer this question in reference to just one or two concrete classification tasks—whichever you find convenient. For instance, if you pick up OCR (optical character recognition, e.g., as explained in Michael Nielson’s free online book [^]), then you have to explain why an ANN-based OCR algorithm works in classifying those MNIST digits / alphabets.


Hint: Studies of Vedic literature won’t help. [I should know!] OTOH, studies of good books on epistemology, or even just good accounts covering methods of science, should certainly come in handy.

I will give you all some time before I come back on that question.

In the meanwhile, have fun—if you wish to, and of course, if you are able to. With questions of this kind. (Translating the emphasis in the italics into chaste Marathi: “laayaki asali tar.” Got it?)


A song I like:
(Marathi) “ooncha nicha kaahi neNe bhagawant”
Lyrics: Sant Tukaram
Music and Singer: Snehal Bhatkar

 

Absolutely Random Notings on QM—Part 2: LOL!

I intend to aperiodically update this post whenever I run into the more “interesting” write-ups about QM and/or quantum physicists. Accordingly, I will mention the dates on which I update this post.

I will return back to Heisenberg and Schrodinger in the next part of this series. But in the meanwhile, enjoy the “inaugaral” link below.


1. Post first published on 08 July 2018, 13:28 hrs IST with the following “interesting” write-up:

Wiki on “Fundamental Fysiks [sic] Group”: [^]


A Song I Like:

(English, “Western”): “old turkey buzzard…” from the movie “MacKenna’s Gold”
[I here mostly copy-paste, dear gentlemen, for, while I had enjoyed the song especially during the usual turbulent teens, I have not had the pleasure to locate the source of the same–back then, or ever. Hence relying on the ‘net.[Oh, BTW, it requires another post on the movie itself, though! [Just remind me, that’s all!]]]
Music: Quincy Jones
Lyrics: Freddy Douglass
Singer: Jose Feliciano

 

 

Absolutely Random Notings on QM—Part 1: Bohr. And, a bad philosophy making its way into physics with his work, and his academic influence

TL;DR: Go—and keep—away.


I am still firming up my opinions. However, there is never a harm in launching yet another series of posts on a personal blog, is there? So here we go…


Quantum Mechanics began with Planck. But there was no theory of quanta in what Planck had offered.

What Planck had done was to postulate only the existence of the quanta of the energy, in the cavity radiation.

Einstein used this idea to predict the heat capacities of solids—a remarkable work, one that remains underappreciated in both text-books as well as popular science books on QM.

The first pretense at a quantum theory proper came from Bohr.


Bohr was thinking not about the cavity radiations, but about the spectra of the radiations emitted or absorbed by gases.

Matter, esp. gases, following Dalton, …, Einstein, and Perin, were made of distinct atoms. The properties of gases—especially the reason why they emitted or absorbed radiation only at certain distinct frequencies, but not at any other frequencies (including those continuous patches of frequencies in between the experimentally evident sharp peaks)—had to be explained in reference to what the atoms themselves were like. There was no other way out—not yet, not given the sound epistemology in physics of those days.

Thinking up a new universe still was not allowed back then in science let alone in physics. One still had to clearly think about explaining what was given in observations, what was in evidence. Effects still had be related back to causes; outward actions still had to be related back to the character/nature of the entities that thus acted.

The actor, unquestionably by now, was the atom. The effects were the discrete spectra. Not much else was known.

Those were the days were when the best hotels and restaurants in Berlin, London, and New York would have horse-driven buggies ushering in the socially important guests. Buggies still was the latest technology back then. Not many people thus ushered in are remembered today. But Bohr is.


If the atom was the actor, and the effects under study were the discrete spectra, then what was needed to be said, in theory, was something regarding the structure of the atom.

If an imagined entity sheer by its material/chemical type doesn’t do it, then it’s the structure—its shape and size—which must do it.

Back then, this still was regarded as one of the cardinal principles of science, unlike the mindless opposition to the science of Homeopathy today, esp. in the UK. But back then, it was known that one important reason that Calvin gets harassed by the school bully was that not just the sheer size of the latter’s matter but also that the structure of the latter was different. In other words: If you consumed alcohol, you simply didn’t take in so many atoms of carbon as in proportion to so many atoms of hydrogen, etc. You took in a structure, a configuration with which these atoms came in.


However, the trouble back then was, none had have the means to see the atoms.

If by structure you mean the geometrical shape and size, or some patterns of density, then clearly, there was no experimental observations pertaining to the same. The only relevant observation available to people back then was what had already been encapsulated in Rutherford’s model, viz., the incontestable idea that the atomic nucleus had to be massive and dense, occupying a very small space as compared to an atom taken as a whole; the electrons had to carry very little mass in comparison. (The contrast of Rutherford’s model of c. 1911 was to the earlier plum cake model by Thomson.)

Bohr would, therefore, have to start with Rutherford’s model of atoms, and invent some new ideas concerning it, and see if his model was consistent with the known results given by spectroscopic observations.

What Bohr offered was a model for the electrons contained in a nuclear atom.


However, even while differing from the Rutherford’s plum-cake model, Bohr’s model emphatically lacked a theory for the nature of the electrons themselves. This part has been kept underappreciated by the textbook authors and science teachers.

In particular, Bohr’s theory had absolutely no clue as to the process according to which the electrons could, and must, jump in between their stable orbits.


The meat of the matter was worse, far worse: Bohr had explicitly prohibited from pursuing any mechanism or explanation concerning the quantum jumps—an idea which he was the first to propose. [I don’t know of any one else originally but independently proposing the same idea.]

Bohr achieved this objective not through any deployment of the best possible levels of scientific reason but out of his philosophic convictions—the convictions of the more irrational kind. The quantum jumps were obviously not observable, according to him, only their effects were. So, strictly speaking, the quantum jumps couldn’t possibly be a part of his theory—plain and simple!

But then, Bohr in his philosophic enthusiasm didn’t stop just there. He went even further—much further. He fully deployed the powers of his explicit reasoning as well as the weight of his seniority in prohibiting the young physicists from even thinking of—let alone ideating or offering—any mechanism for such quantum jumps.

In other words, Bohr took special efforts to keep the young quantum enthusiasts absolutely and in principle clueless, as far as his quantum jumps were concerned.


Bohr’s theory, in a sense, was in line with the strictest demands of the philosophy of empiricism. Here is how Bohr’s application of this philosophy went:

  1. This electron—it can be measured!—at this energy level, now!
  2. [May be] The same electron, but this energy level, now!
  3. This energy difference, this frequency. Measured! [Thank you experimental spectroscopists; hats off to you, for, you leave Bohr alone!!]
  4. OK. Now, put the above three into a cohesive “theory.” And, BTW, don’t you ever even try to think about anything else!!

Continuing just a bit on the same lines, Bohr sure would have said (quoting Peikoff’s explanation of the philosophy of empiricism):

  1. [Looking at a tomato] We can only say this much in theory: “This, now, tomato!”
  2. Making a leeway for the most ambitious ones of the ilk: “This *red* tomato!!”

Going by his explicit philosophic convictions, it must have been a height of “speculation” for Bohr to mumble something—anything—about a thing like “orbit.” After all, even by just mentioning a word like “orbit,” Bohr was being absolutely philosophically inconsistent here. Dear reader, observe that the orbit itself never at all was an observable!

Bohr must have in his conscience convulsed at this fact; his own philosophy couldn’t possibly have, strictly speaking, permitted him to accommodate into his theory a non-measurable feature of a non-measurable entity—such as his orbits of his electrons. Only the allure of outwardly producing predictions that matched with the experiment might have quietened his conscience—and that too, temporarily. At least until he got a new stone-building housing an Institute for himself and/or a Physics Nobel, that is.

Possible. With Herr Herr Herr Doktor Doktor Doktor Professor Professors, anything is possible.


It is often remarked that the one curious feature of the Bohr theory was the fact that the stability of the electronic orbits was postulated in it, not explained.

That is, not explained in reference to any known physical principle. The analogy to the solar system indeed was just that: an analogy. It was not a reference to an established physical principle.

However, the basically marvelous feature of the Bohr theory was not that the orbits were stable (in violation of the known laws of electrodynamics). It was: there at all were any orbits in it, even if no experiment had ever given any evidence for the continuously or discontinuously subsequent positions electrons within an atom or of their motions.

So much for originator of the cult of sticking only to the “observables.”


What Sommerfeld did was to add footnotes to Bohr’s work.

Sommerfeld did this work admirably well.

However, what this instance in the history of physics clearly demonstrates is yet another principle from the epistemology of physics: how a man of otherwise enormous mathematical abilities and training (and an academically influential position, I might add), but having evidently no remarkable capacity for a very novel, breakthrough kind of conceptual thinking, just cannot but fall short of making any lasting contributions to physics.

“Math” by itself simply isn’t enough for physics.

What came to be known as the old quantum theory, thus, faced an impasse.

Under Bohr’s (and philosophers’) loving tutorship, the situation continued for a long time—for more than a decade!


A Song I Like:

(Marathi) “sakhi ga murali mohan mohi manaa…”
Music: Hridaynath Mangeshkar
Singer: Asha Bhosale
Lyrics: P. Savalaram


PS: Only typos and animals of the similar ilk remain to be corrected.

 

May the person from Oakland, CA, USA, please stand up and be counted?

May the person from Oakland, CA, USA, please stand up and be counted?

I mean the one who has been hitting my blog, in the rather more recent times, a bit too far often to be otherwise statistically justifiable?

Hmmm….?

[The predecessor to him, during the Obama years, was someone similar from “Mississauga, Canada.”

But nearly not as noticeable, robotic, and therefore, not so readily noticeable. At least to me, back then.]


And once again: If you are/want to be fake, leave this blog alone. I don’t need your support.

For one simple reason: I know you can’t give me that.

Another reason, viz. the fact that I have been a programmer, and so know: Robots are controlled by people.


No songs section for this post.

 

Yes I know it!

Note: A long update was posted on 12th December 2017, 11:35 IST.


This post is spurred by my browsing of certain twitter feeds of certain pop-sci. writers.

The URL being highlighted—and it would be, say, “negligible,” but for the reputation of the Web domain name on which it appears—is this: [^].


I want to remind you that I know the answers to all the essential quantum mysteries.

Not only that, I also want to remind you that I can discuss about them, in person.

It’s just that my circumstances—past, and present (though I don’t know about future)—which compel me to say, definitely, that I am not available for writing it down for you (i.e. for the layman) whether here or elsewhere, as of now. Neither am I available for discussions on Skype, or via video conferencing, or with whatever “remoting” mode you have in mind. Uh… Yes… WhatsApp? Include it, too. Or something—anything—like that. Whether such requests come from some millionaire Indian in USA (and there are tons of them out there), or otherwise. Nope. A flat no is the answer for all such requests. They are out of question, bounds… At least for now.

… Things may change in future, but at least for the time being, the discussions would have to be with those who already have studied (the non-relativistic) quantum physics as it is taught in universities, up to graduate (PhD) level.

And, you have to have discussions in person. That’s the firm condition being set (for the gain of their knowledge 🙂 ).


Just wanted to remind you, that’s all!


Update on 12th December 2017, 11:35 AM IST:

I have moved the update to a new post.

 


A Song I Like:

(Western, Instrumental) “Berlin Melody”
Credits: Billy Vaughn

[The same 45 RPM thingie [as in here [^], and here [^]] . … I was always unsure whether I liked this one better or the “Come September” one. … Guess, after the n-th thought, that it was this one. There is an odd-even thing about it. For odd ‘n” I think this one is better. For even ‘n’, I think the “Come September” is better.

… And then, there also are a few more musical goodies which came my way during that vacation, and I will make sure that they find their way to you too….

Actually, it’s not the simple odd-even thing. The maths here is more complicated than just the binary logic. It’s an n-ary logic. And, I am “equally” divided among them all. (4+ decades later, I still remain divided.)… (But perhaps the “best” of them was a Marathi one, though it clearly showed a best sort of a learning coming from also the Western music. I will share it the next time.)]


[As usual, may be, another revision [?]… Is it due? Yes, one was due. Have edited streamlined the main post, and then, also added a long update on 12th December 2017, as noted above.]

 

 

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….]

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]