Paperity

If you are in one of the S&T fields and don’t know what “paperity” means, then guess it’s time you checked out the Web site: [^].

Came to know of it only today. Was doing some Web search on QM, and landed here [^]. Then, out of curiosity, also checked out an outgoing link [^] from that page, and thus, got the idea behind the site. … Hmmm… Need to explore it a bit more, but no time right now, so, may be, some time later!

Bye for now.


A Song I Like:

(Hindi) “saawan barse, tarse dil…”
Music: Aadesh Shrivastava, Anand Milind
Singers: Hariharan, Sadhana Sargam
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri

[TBD. May be tomorrow. Done right tonight (21:40 IST, 11 July 2017). Also corrected the spelling of “paperity” in the title and in the text.]

“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]

 

In QM, local action does make sense

We have been too busy with our accreditation-related work, but I still had to squeeze in a comment at Scott Aaronson’s blog.

In case you don’t know, Scott Aarsonson is a tenured Associate Professor in CS at MIT (I mean the one in Cambridge, MA, USA). Scott’s opinions count—at least, they are very widely read (and often, also very extensively commented on and discussed).

This year, Scott was invited to respond to the Edge’s annual question [^]. In the latest post on his blog covering his and others’ responses to the question [^], Scott singled out three answers by others (at the Edge forum) which he thought were heading in the wrong direction. In Scott’s own words:

Then there were three answers for which the “progress” being celebrated, seemed to me to be progress racing faster into WrongVille

In particular, the following residents of the so-called “WrongVille” were of immediate interest to me; let me continue quoting Scott’s words:

Ross Anderson on an exciting conference whose participants aim to replace quantum mechanics with local realistic theories.  (Anderson, in particular, is totally wrong that you can get Bell inequality violation from “a combination of local action and global correlation,” unless the global correlation goes as far as a ‘t-Hooft-like superdeterministic conspiracy.) [Emphasis in bold is mine.]

The minimum implications here are these two: (i) quantum mechanics—not this interpretation or that interpretation of its existing mathematics, but the entire mechanics of the quanta itself—cannot ever be local, and (ii) therefore, any attempts to build a local theory to explain the quantum phenomena must be seen as a replacement for QM [a lock, stock and barrel replacement, I suppose].

One further implicit idea here seems to be that any local theory, if it yields the necessary global correlation, must also imply superdeterminism. In case you don’t know, “superdeterminism” here is primarily a technical term, not philosophical; it is about a certain idea put forth by the Nobel laureate ‘t Hooft.

As you know, my theorization has been, and will always remain, local in nature. Naturally, I had to intervene! As fast as I could!!

So I wrote a comment at Scott’s blog, right on the fly. (Literally. By the time I finished typing it and hit the Submit Comment button, I was already in the middle of some informal discussions in my cabin with my colleagues, regarding arrangements to be made for the accreditation-related work.)

Naturally, my comment isn’t as clear as it should be.

It so happens that our accreditation-related activities would be over on the upcoming Sunday, and so, I should be able to find the time to come back and post an expanded and edited version early next week. Until then, please make do with my original reply at Scott’s blog [^]; I am copy-pasting the relevant portion “as is” below:

Anderson’s (or others’) particular theory (or theories) might not be right, but the very idea that there can be this combination of a local action + a global correlation, isn’t. It is in fact easy to show how:

The system evolution in QM is governed by the TDSE, and it involves a first derivative in time and a second in space. TDSE thus has a remarkable formal similarity to the (linear) diffusion equation (DE for short).

It is easy to show that a local solution to the DE can be constructed. Indeed, any random walks-based solution involves only a local action. More broadly, starting with any sub-domain method and using a limiting argument, a deterministic solution that is local, can always be constructed.

Of course, there *are* differences between DE and TDSE. TDSE has the imaginary $i$ multiplying the time derivative term (I here assume TDSE in exactly that form as given on the first page of Griffith’s text), an imaginary “diffusion coefficient,” and a complex-valued \Psi. The last two differences are relatively insignificant; they only make the equation consistent with the requirement that the measurements-related eigenvalues be real. The “real” difference arises due to the first factor, i.e. the existence of the i multiplying the $\partial \Psi/\partial t$ term. Its presence makes the solution oscillatory in time (in TDSE) rather than exponentially decaying (as in DE).

However, notice, in the classical DE too, a similar situation exists. “Waves” do exist in the space part of the solution to DE; they arise due to the separation hypothesis and the nature of the Fourier method. OTOH, a sub domain-based or random walks-based solution (see Einstein’s 1905 derivation of the diffusion equation) remains local even if eigenwaves exist in the Fourier modeling of the problem.

Therefore, as far as the local vs. global debate is concerned, the oscillatory nature of the time-dependence in TDSE is of no fundamental relevance.

The Fourier-theoretical solution isn’t unique in DE; hence local solutions to TDSE are possible. Local and propagating processes can “derive” diffusion, and therefore, must be capable of producing the TDSE.

Note, my point is very broad. Here, I am not endorsing any particular local-action + global-correlation theory. In fact, I don’t have to.

All that I am saying is (and it is enough to say only this much) that (i) the mathematics involved is such that it allows building of a local theory (primarily because Fourier theoretical solutions can be shown not to be unique), and (ii) the best experiments done so far are still so “gross” that existence of such fine differences in the time-evolution cannot be ruled out.

One final point. I don’t know how the attendees of that conference think like, but at least as far as I am concerned, I am (also) informally convinced that it will be impossible to give a thoroughly classical mechanics-based mechanism for the quantum phenomena. The QM is supposed to give rise to CM (Classical Mechanics) in the “grossing out” limit, not the other way around. Here, by CM, I mean: Newton’s postulates (and subsequent reformulations of his mechanics by Lagrange and Hamilton). If there are folks who think that they could preserve all the laws of Newton’s, and still work out a QM as an end product, I think, they are likely to fail. (I use “likely” simply because I cannot prove it. However, I *have* thought about building a local theory for QM, and also do have some definite ideas for a local theory of QM. One aspect of this theory is that it can’t preserve a certain aspect of Newton’s postulates, even if my theorization remains local and propagational in nature (with a compact support throughout).)

OK. So think about it in the meanwhile, and bye for now.

[BTW, though I believe that QM theory must be local, I don’t agree that something such as superdeterminism is really necessary.]


A Song I Like:

(Hindi) “aaj un se pehli mulaaqaat hogi…”
Singer: Kishore Kumar
Music: R. D. Burman
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

[E&OE]

 

 

 

The indistinguishability of the indistinguishable particles is the problem

For many of you (and all of you in the Western world), these would be the times of the Christmas vacations.

For us, the Diwali vacations are over, and, in fact, the new term has already begun. To be honest, classes are not yet going on in full swing. (Many students are still visiting home after their examinations for the last term—which occurred after Diwali.) Yet, the buzz is in the air, and in fact, for an upcoming accreditation visit the next month, we are once again back to working also on week-ends.

Therefore, I don’t (and for a month or so, won’t be able to) find the time to do any significant blogging.

Yes, I do have a few things lined up for blogging—in my mind. On the physical plane, there simply is no time. Still, rather than going on cribbing about lack of time, let me give you something more substantial to chew on, in the meanwhile. It’s one of the things lined up, anyway.


 

Check out this piece [^] in Nautilus by Amanda Gefter [^]; H/T to Roger Schlafly [^].

Let me reproduce the paragraph that Roger did, because it really touches on the central argument by Frank Wilczek [^][^]. In the Nautilus piece, Amanda Gefter puts him in a hypothetical court scene:

“Dr. Wilczek,” the defense attorney begins. “You have stated what you believe to be the single most profound result of quantum field theory. Can you repeat for the court what that is?”

The physicist leans in toward the microphone. “That two electrons are indistinguishable,” he says.

Dude, get it right. It’s not the uncertainty principle. It’s not the wave-particle duality. It’s not even the spooky action-at-a-distance and entanglement. It is indistinguishability. Amanda Gefter helps us understand the physics Nobel laureate’s viewpoint

The smoking gun for indistinguishability, and a direct result of the 1-in-3 statistics, is interference. Interference betrays the secret life of the electron, explains Wilczek. On observation, we will invariably find the electron to be a corpuscular particle, but when we are not looking at it, the electron bears the properties of a wave. When two waves overlap, they interfere—adding and amplifying in the places where their phases align—peaks with peaks, troughs with troughs—and canceling and obliterating where they find themselves out of sync. These interfering waves are not physical waves undulating through a material medium, but mathematical waves called wavefunctions. Where physical waves carry energy in their amplitudes, wavefunctions carry probability. So although we never observe these waves directly, the result of their interference is easily seen in how it affects probability and the statistical outcomes of experiment. All we need to do is count.

The crucial point is that only truly identical, indistinguishable things interfere. The moment we find a way to distinguish between them—be they particles, paths, or processes—the interference vanishes, and the hidden wave suddenly appears in its particle guise. If two particles show interference, we can know with absolute certainty that they are identical. Sure enough, experiment after experiment has proven it beyond a doubt: electrons interfere. Identical they are—not for stupidity or poor eyesight but because they are deeply, profoundly, inherently indistinguishable, every last one.

This is no minor technicality. It is the core difference between the bizarre world of the quantum and the ordinary world of our experience. The indistinguishability of the electron is “what makes chemistry possible,” says Wilczek. “It’s what allows for the reproducible behavior of matter.” If electrons were distinguishable, varying continuously by minute differences, all would be chaos. It is their discrete, definite, digital nature that renders them error-tolerant in an erroneous world.

You have to read the entire article in order to understand what Amanda means when she says the “1-in-3 statistics.” Here are the relevant excerpts:

An electron—any electron—is an elementary particle, which is to say it has no known substructure.

[snip]

What does this mean? That every electron is the precise spitting image of every other electron, lacking, as it does, even the slightest leeway for even the most minuscule deviation. Unlike a composite, macroscopic object [snip] electrons are not merely similar, if uncannily so, but deeply, profoundly identical—interchangeable, fungible, mere placeholders, empty labels that read “electron” and nothing more.

This has some rather curious—and measurable—consequences. Consider the following example: We have two elementary particles, A and B, and two boxes, and we know each particle must be in one of the two boxes at any given time. Assuming that A and B are similar but distinct, the setup allows four possibilities: A is in Box 1 and B is in Box 2, A and B are both in Box 1, A and B are both in Box 2, or A is in Box 2 and B is in Box 1. The rules of probability tell us that there is a 1-in-4 chance of finding the two particles in each of these configurations.

If, on the other hand, particles A and B are truly identical, we must make a rather strange adjustment in our thinking, for in that case there is literally no difference between saying that A is in Box 1 and B in Box 2, or B is in Box 1 and A is in Box 2. Those scenarios, originally considered two distinct possibilities, are in fact precisely the same. In total, now, there are only three possible configurations, and probability assigns a 1-in-3 chance that we will discover the particles in any one of them.

Some time ago, I had mentioned how, during my text-book studies of QM, I had got stuck at the topic of spin and identical particles [^]. … Well, I didn’t have this in mind, but, yes, identical particles is the topic where I had got stuck anyway. (I still am, to some extent. However, since then, this article [^] by Joshua Samani did help in getting things clarified.)

Anyway, coming back to Wilczek and QM, Gefter reports:

Wilczek puts it this way: “Another aspect of quantum mechanics closely related to indistinguishability, and a competitor for its deepest aspect, is that if you want to describe the state of two electrons, it’s not that you have a wavefunction for one and a separate wavefunction for the other, each living in three-dimensional space. You really have a six-dimensional wavefunction that has two positions in it where you can fill in two electrons.” The six-dimensional wavefunction means that the probabilities for finding each electron at a particular location are not independent—that is, they are entangled.

It is no mystery that all electrons look alike, he [i.e. Wilczek] says, because they are all manifestations, temporary excitations of one and the same underlying electron field, which permeates all space, all time. Others, like physicist John Archibald Wheeler, say one particle. He suggested that perhaps electrons are indistinguishable because there’s only one, but it traces such convoluted paths through space and time that at any given moment it appears to be many.

Ummm. Not quite—this only one electron part. Wheeler never got “it” right, IMO. He also influenced Feynman and “won” him, but in the reverse order: he first got Feynman as a graduate student, and then, of course, influenced him. … BTW, how come Wheeler’s idea hasn’t been used to put forth monotheistic arguments? Any idea? As to me, I guess, two reasons: (i) the monotheistic people wouldn’t like their God doing this frenzied a running around in the material world, and (ii) the mainstream QM insists on the vagueness in the position of the quantum particle, so that its running from “here” to “there” itself is untenable. … Anyway, let’s continue with Amanda Gefter:

So if the elementary particles of which we are made don’t really exist as objects, how do we exist?

Good job, Amanda!

… Her search for the answer involves other renowned physicists, too; in particular, Peter Pesic [^]:

“When you have more and more electrons, the state that they together form starts to be more and more capable of being distinct,” Pesic said.

Only when you have “more and more” electrons?

“So the reason that you and I have some kind of identity is that we’re composed of so enormously many of these indistinguishable components. It’s our state that’s distinguishable, not our materiality.”

IMO, Pesic nearly got it—and then, just as easily, also lost it!

It has to be something to do with the state! After all, in QM, state defines everything. But you don’t really need the many here—there is no need for a “collective” approach like that, IMO. And, as to the state vs materiality distinction: The quantum mechanical state is supposed to describe each and every material aspect of every thing.

So, that’s a physicist thinking about QM(,) for you.

…Anyway, Amanda has a job to do, and she continues doing as best of it as she can:

Our identity is a state, but if it’s not a state of matter—not a state of individual physical objects, like quarks and electrons—then a state of what?

Enter: Ladyman, a philosopher:

A state, perhaps, of information. Ladyman suggests that we can replace the notion of a “thing” with a “real pattern”—a concept first articulated by the philosopher Daniel Dennett and further developed by Ladyman and philosopher Don Ross. “Another way of articulating what you mean by an object is to talk about compression of information,” Ladyman says. “So you can claim that something’s real if there’s a reduction in the information-theoretic complexity of tracking the world if you include it in your description.”

There is more along this line:

Should such examples give the impression that the real patterns are patterns of particles, beware: Particles, like our electron, are real patterns themselves. “We’re using a particle-like description to keep track of the real patterns,” Ladyman says. “It’s real patterns all the way down.”

Honest, what I experienced when I first read this passage was: a very joyful moment!

We are nothing but fleeting patterns, signals in the noise. Drill down and the appearance of materiality gives way; underneath it, nothing.

Ladyman tutoring Amanda, that was.

Here is a conjecture about the path they trace together; the part in the square brackets [] is optional:

We (i.e. a physical object in this context)-> Fleeting Patterns -> Fleeting Patterns -> Signals in the Noise –> [We –>] Signals in the Noise –> Appearance of Materiality –> Appearance of Materiality –> Appearance –> Nothing.

Fascinating, these philosophers (really) are. Ladyman proves the point, once again:

“I think in the end,” says Ladyman, “it may well be that the world isn’t made of anything.”

You could tell how rapidly he would go from “may well be” to “is,” couldn’t you?


So, that is what I have picked up for thinking. I mean, the two issues raised by Wilczek.

(1) The first issue was about how the indistinguishability of the indistinguishable particles is a problem. I will come back at it some later time, but in the meanwhile, here is the answer in brief (and in the vague):

Electrons are identical because: (i) the only extent to which we can at all determine that they are identical is based on quantum-mechanical observations, and (ii) observables are operators in QM.

That much of an answer is enough, but just in case it doesn’t strike the right chord:

The fact that observables are operators means that they are mathematical processes. These processes operate on wavefunctions. They “bring out” a mathematical aspect of the wavefunction.

Even if electrons were not to be exactly identical in all respects, as long as the QM postulates remain valid—as long as observables must be represented via Hermitian operators so that only real eigenvalues can be had—you would have no way to tell in what micro-way they might actually be different.

If you must have a (rather bad) analogy, take two particles of sand of roughly the same size, and gently drop both of them in a jar of honey (or some suitable fluid) at the same time. Both will fall at the same rate (within the experimental margin), and if, somehow, classical mechanics were such that it was only the rate of falling that could at all be measured in experiment, or at least, if the rate of descent alone could tell you anything about the size (and shape) of the sand particle, then you would have to treat both the particles as exactly the same in all respects.

The analogy is bad because QM measurements involve eigenvalues, and, practically speaking, their measurements are more robust (involving less variability from one experiment to another) as compared to the rate of descent. Why? Simple. Because, no matter how limiting you might get, fluid dynamics equations are basically nonlinear; eigenvalue situations are basically linear. That’s why.

I don’t think this much of explanation is enough. It’s just that I haven’t the time either to think through my newer QM conjectures, or work out their maths, let alone write blog posts about them. The situation will continue definitely for at least a month or so (till the course and the labs and all settle down), perhaps also for the entire teaching term (about 4 months).

(2) The second issue was about how multi-dimensionality of the wavefunction implies entanglement of particles. As to entanglement, I will be able to come to it even later—i.e., after issue no. (1) here.

Regarding purely the multi-dimensionality part, however, I can already direct you to a recent post (by me), here [^]. (I think it can be improved—the distinction of embedded vs embedding space needs to be made more clear, and the aspect of “projection” needs to be looked into—but, once again: I’ve no time; so some time later!)

Bye for now.

 


A Song I Like:

(Marathi) “ashee nishaa punhaa kadhee disel kaa?”
Singers: Hridaynath Mangeshkar, Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Yashawant Deo
Lyrics: Yashawant Deo

 

[May be another pass tomorrow or so. I also am not sure whether I ran this song before or not. In case I did, I would come back and replace it with some other song.]

[E&OE]