segunda-feira, setembro 30, 2019

Nerdtastic Fiction: "A Greater Monster" by David David Katzman

”I was having a hard time wrapping my head around...why I was doing what I was doing. And what exactly was I doing? Outlines softened. Surfaces went foggy. What was I supposed to be doing? I was caged in solid smoke, sharp smoke. I saw it settling in, filling the space. A skintight dream with hard corners, corroded metal defined space. I shaped the proportions when I could to avoid the spikes. The hard-beat of work. Pain and pleasure cannot be argued with. They demonstrate me. Touching is just electrons repelling. Nothing can touch. Ever. I passed my arm before my eyes and watched it skip past me like slowed frames in an old movie. Life was stop-motion. Realization: We render times by stitching together moments - flipping pages in the book of consciousness presents a continuous stream. Our senses too slow to realize the separation of moments, like a strand of pearls through eternity. Time is terrifying, time is unspeakable. Clock-time lies down between moments...but distance warps with velocity, time bends with velocity. Frames of Reference. Are not absolute. Are selfish. A private reality. Clocks have a life of their own. Framed by references.”

In “A Greater Monster” by David David Katzman

I was first introduced to Bizarro at The British Council when my English instructor, Vicky Hartnack, had us read a story by Carlton Mellick III. A lot of people in the class thought it was stupid, childish, and "weird for the sake of weird." Then the instructor broke it down and explained to us why it was actually an intelligent piece of writing. Those in the class that didn't get it are a lot like the people who dismiss Bizarro: they aren't as smart as they think they are.

Do Bizarro writers get six figure advances? Nah. If someone says they do, they’re wonderfully over-the-top. Most publishers would look at SF, satire and the generally weird as they would a two week old tuna sandwich. The money is in the masses--books one hears about on NPR and Oprah. Bizarro writers have to pay at vanity presses to get their stuff published and, well, yeah: they end up with a storage unit full of books. But with the internet and younger generations, there's probably a steadily growing market/scene for the genre. Nerdtastic books about aliens, robots and sex are not so far off from anime, manga, snarky blogs and the strange worlds of video games. And...seriously: the folks commenting about the lack of literary quality in the genre need to realize that whether or not they like a book is a subjective thing; a genre as it stands alone is a genre only. It's entirely pretentious to presume that one genre above others lays universal claim to the best wordsmithing. Sheesh. Some people watch golf and some people watch half-naked android chicks shooting up crablike security bots in a dystopian future Tokyo. That's just how it is. I won't take a prudish "it's bloody weird that Bizarro nonsense and I like me books linear and with a happy ending..." approach. I'm not really interested in what they do in their spare time though. They could snort ketamine off a dead hooker's back every night while playing SNES games with imaginary friends and it wouldn't make me appreciate what they've written anymore than what I do now. It's either good or it's whack regardless of how much of a frat pack they are. But Katzman’s novel has got me thinking over the weekend. While I hold dear that Bizarro, as a genre, is not for me, I got punched in the face by it; I must have a look to see if there are any *what I would consider* meaningful writers like Katzman amongst the skidmarks. Bizarro writers aren't trying to be Ed Wood. According to some statements made online, Bizarro wants to create the literary equivalent of the Cult section at video stories. The Cult section of a video store isn't simply filled with Ed Wood titles and other bad B-movies. It is varied, though a key distinguishing factor is "weirdness." Can be madcap weirdness. Surreal weirdness. Satirical weirdness. A mix of many weirdnesses. Book stores tend not to have such a section, so people who want truly weird fiction must search a bit more, unfortunately. And it's hard to judge a genre by simply hearing about it, or reading just a few titles. There are many Bizarro authors, and they have very different styles and approaches, not all of which are juvenile. Read “A Greater Monster.” I can guarantee you’ll re-read it like I did. What’s it about? Not sure. It's like jazz, free-forms, free-floating, riffs and fugues, a dive into unsettling textures and ideas. 'Experimental' it is, but not necessarily so far out that you won't find something of yourself in it. I’ll have to re-read it once again to find whether the Monster is within me.

David David Katzman has more imagination in one finger than the Bolex brothers could ever dream of. One of the main reasons SF is subjected to such universal disparagement is the preconceived notion that it is all badly written prose written by infantile minds obsessed with shiny things. So give them good prose (vide quote above). And no shiny things. Mr. David David Katzman please step up to the plate. Nary a spaceship/zap gun/shiny thing in sight (there might be the odd talking toaster). And such remarkable, fluid, humane prose. Although you've got to like your cup of tea dark if Katzman is going to be your cup of tea (and apologies for the pun).

NB: SF = Speculative Fiction.

sábado, setembro 28, 2019

ΛCDM Universe: “Fear of Physics” by Lawrence M. Krauss

“And why does the Higgs exist, if it does? Is there a more fundamental theory that explains its existence, along with that of electrons, quarks, photos,  and W and Z particles?”

In “Fear of Physics” by Lawrence M. Krauss

“Electricity and magnetism are the different ‘shadows’ of a single force, electromagnetism, as viewed from different vantage points, which depend upon your relative state of motion.”

In “Fear of Physics” by Lawrence M. Krauss

“We appear, with reasonably high precision, to live in a flat universe.” (*)

In “Fear of Physics” by Lawrence M. Krauss

NB: (*) This book was published in 2006. In 2019, my take on this is quite different. The statement that the Universe is 13.8 billion years old is a statement of universal simultaneity, either that or it is a meaningless statement. A universal simultaneity is a direct contradiction of Relativity Theory under which there can be no universal simultaneity! At root, the "expanding universe" model rests on two early 20th century assumptions that are almost certainly wrong. The first assumption, implicit in Friedmann's GR solutions to a universal metric (now commonly called the Friedmann-Lemaitre-Robertson-Walker metric) is that the cosmos constitutes a singular entity possessed of a universal frame - the metric. In itself this is contradictory of Relativity Theory which does not admit a universal frame. The second assumption is, of course, that the redshift-distance relationship discovered by Hubble is a consequence of a recessional velocity of some sort. That assumption reinforces and doubles-down on the cosmos as unitary entity assumption. The resulting ΛCDM model is the modern day equivalent of Ptolemaic cosmology. Despite the fact that it can be massaged to agree with actual observations (by the injudicious use of free parameters), the model bears no resemblance to the cosmos we actually observe. The big bang and inflation are an unobservable creation myth. Substantival space, time and/or spacetime are not empirically observable; they are relational concepts like temperature that have no physical correlate. There is no empirical evidence for the existence of dark matter or dark energy, that combined supposedly comprise 95% of the ΛCDM "universe". Modern cosmology is an empirically-baseless, unscientific mess. What is needed is not "new physics", just a new, realistic model of the cosmos we actually observe. Unfortunately, such a model is unlikely to spring forth anytime soon from the scientific academy. As long as the academic community remains mesmerized by the erroneous mathematicist’s belief, that mathematical models are more important than empirical evidence - most especially negative empirical evidence, the absurdities will continue to pile up - as unobservable, but oh-so exciting, "new physics". Modern cosmology is deeply embedded in a new dark age, where a sacrosanct model holds sway over the evidence of our lying eyes. It ain't pretty if you care about science. Don't forget particle physics and string theory. Future sociologists are going to have a field day with the degree to which theoretical physics has gone totally off into fantasyland. Curved spacetime and expanding space are a modeling of energy radiating out and mass coalescing in. The fact these two balance out is already fully accepted by the cosmology community "Omega=1." That this relationship is best described as a cosmic convection cycle is simply not considered. This problem doesn't occur occasionally, this is the operating paradigm in modern theoretical physics. It is the way science is now taught and conducted. Anyone who learned theoretical physics since the late 1970s - early 1980s is steeped in this approach; it is the watery realm in which they swim and it is invisible to most theoretical physicists. It is simply the way things are done.

The study, care, and feeding of preferred mathematical models has become the work of theoretical physicists. Physical reality itself is now studied as an adjunct, explored only in search of empirical verification for a particular model.

Better observational data will be needed to confirm or refute these models of so many unknowns. Older estimates will yield to newer, better estimates (and better methods of making those estimates). That said I have a few questions. To wit:

1) Can we be confident that the Hubble Flow is symmetric in all directions? Should we accept that Hø is a constant at all?

2) It seems that ΛCDM is a more rickety model than first thought?

If I am still alive 20 years from now, I won’t be surprised to know that these questions haven’t been answered yet...

terça-feira, setembro 24, 2019

Homo Quantus: "The Quantum Magician" by Derek Künsken

A Quantum brain! I don't think evolution would have ever be able to produce such a complex computer, made of tissue. Think about how a Quantum computer work; it's happening in our heads!  I swallowed a transformer toy back in the eighties so I'm ahead of the curve on this one.

Roughly speaking, quantum information is unique: you cannot destroy it, you can teleport it, but you cannot clone it. The superposition of quantum states has a range from zero to fully entangled in the context of many measurements. The states are associated with the range of energies. The superposition speaks about the collective, correlated dynamics of the states in the context in which the energies of the states are defined. A thing or two on the unknowns: sometimes, physicists don't know what these particle really do from the mechanics perspective, but they have energy levels and fall to the lowest states. A correlated state may be additionally unstable (more dynamical). The description of that dynamics (the system as a whole) is so huge, that this amount of information cannot be used by itself. Finally, when an interaction occurs, randomness is combined with the states of particles, so you may not obtain any relevant calculation from the quantum computer. In addition, entanglement goes beyond the classical space and time, while this window into weirdness closes exponentially nonetheless. Künsken, uses the Copenhagen Interpretation notion that the full information at the micro-level doesn't even exist until nature has to commit to a choice regarding whether a classical bit is 1 or 0 (experiments by Anton Zeilinger, too busy to look it up now). There are some ideas on recovering "full determinism" even with QM (papers by t'Hooft of all persons), but these hurt my philosophical feelings: Künsken’s take on QM explores, in a SFional, Nature's way of having to avoid dealing with an infinite number of bits (and maybe Nature computes using symbolic expressions using x's anyway; Even in a Newtonian Universe, "perfect information" could not be achieved even in principle).

Künsken drives at setting up a SF novel a la Penrose and Hameroff, i.e., using quantum vibrations in microtubules. I don't see any problems with Penrose and Hameroff (“The Emperor’s New Mind” makes ample use of this) and when you look at photosynthesis, it's microtubules that help transmit information to the reaction sites via a quantum walk which makes it more efficient. I think this is a good thing as well because if you ask me quantum consciousness is a no brainer. Nature has figured out how to shield coherence long enough to use things like quantum superposition to be more efficient. Why would this efficiency be prohibited from the human brain? The too wet and warm excuse went out the door with quantum biology. The brain seems to work on a classical and quantum level. A few years back I read a very interesting book by James Tagg called “Are the Androids Dreaming Yet?” True artificial intelligence will need quantum circuitry added so A.I. can do what's called a quantum walk. So A.I. will need a quantum aspect to try and mimic the human brain. The idea is to label a set if molecules which later will propagate throughout the brain in order to transmit some information. If these molecules were tagged by binding with other molecules (i.e., just chemically), once these have propagated to different sites, any change in state of a single one will not affect the rest. And this is where quantum entanglement gets interesting, because if one of these changes its label, then the rest of the set also will change it, because of entanglement. There is no need for an explicit connection (axon, dendrite, APs code) to do that, what implies that quantum entanglement would propagate any change in state immediately. Thus, different mechanisms can be switched on or off almost instantaneously (assuming a two state entangled system). This adds another dimension to information processing in the brain, certainly worthwhile to investigate, and Künsken’s Homo Quantus takes form. Künsken built a novel around the concept of us being able to create our own reality through our thoughts, expectations, beliefs, intentions, desires, etc. But we are all "entangled", connected in some deep way, so that our desires, intentions, beliefs, etc. interfere and exert force on each other's realities? This may be what makes the next state of reality chaotic, indeterminate, and probabilistic. Is reality some type of de-coherence, in which one unified, coherent reality is de-cohering and experiencing the inevitable conflict? The problem is that some of Bayesianism and randomness overlap. So determinism, objectivity, and dependence become a choice. The solution won't be all-or-nothing. Some mechanisms of olfaction use quantum properties, yet some aspects of psychology probably just have noise. Now which Markov processes are bootstrapped or emulated because a more interesting inquiry. Where are maps, references, reactions, and faithful mirrorings of the territory used and for what kind of real time contexts are we still learning shortcuts? We are cognitively lazy in automation, yet forever curious and exploratory to the point of neuroticism...

’They’re entangled particles,’ Belisarius said. ‘They can be used to transmit one bit of information pretty much instantaneously, across any distance. When you signal me, this one bit will tell me that the warship made it through safely, that you’re free and we’ve received our down payment. That will be our signal to send the rest of the warships through.’”NO! NO! Why did you do that Künsken??? 

You took me out of the Story faster than lightning! There’s a bunch of theorems in QM that deal with this: “no-communication” theorem, “no-cloning” theorem, and so on. The one that interests us here is the first one. You cannot send information (qubits) by using two entangled particles. To be able to, it would imply FTL messaging… What entanglement means is if you measure the state of a variable of one of the pair, you know the value of that state for the other. No information at play here! Wham! This felt like a whack to side of the head! The actual rule is not that nothing can go faster than light, the rule is information can't go faster than light. The problem with entanglement is no information actually moves faster than light; I will not try to explain why this is; there are plenty of great books out there that explain it a lot better than I could; the fastest you can get any information is at the speed of light, even using entanglement. The biggest role for entanglement looks now to be in certain information processing. In a nutshell:

1. We know the entangled particles must have undefined spins before we measure them because if they didn't they would sometimes give the same spin when measured in a direction perpendicular to their well-defined spins (and they never do);

2. We know the entangled particles can't have hidden information all along about which spin they will give in different directions because if they did we would measure different results at the two detectors >5/9ths of the time and we don't - we only get different results 50% of the time;

3. We can't use this behaviour to communicate faster than light because we can only pick the direction to measure in, we can't force the spin to be up or down - and it will be random with 50/50 probability. When the two detectors pick the same direction to measure in the results at one detector will be random but the opposite random of those measured at the other detector, which is a bit spooky.

Bell's inequalities uses 3 directions, but let's use two for simplicity. Let's say spin up/down is one direction and spin left/right is another that is orthogonal (aka perpendicular). If you measure spin up, then any subsequent measure of up/down spin will always be up. If you then measure spin left, any subsequent measure will always be left. BUT, if you measure spin up, then measure spin left, then measure spin up/down again, the result will be 50/50 and random between up or down. This is true for any two (or more) properties that are subject to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal. It isn't always 50/50, that depends on the details. I used the simplest example in which it would be truly 50/50 just to simplify the explanation. Randomness is key here...Adam Becker's book is a good place to start.

For a purported Hard SF novel, this is all quite lame. It reminds me of Liu Cixin’s also supposed Hard SF (vide the “Issue with the Pendulum”: glaring physics mistake at the end of chapter 19 of "The Three Body Problem"; Liu Cixin said that when the moon was overhead the pendulum had less weight and when it was at the other end (underneath) the pendulum had more weight... but in both cases he should have said less. Anyone who understands basic gravity and tides should know this. This an unforgivable considering the book's topic. People describe the book as "science-oriented". But with simple mistakes like this and so much "fiction", I would not put it in the "hard science" category. I'd place it on the really-really-soft-SF-category like Künsken’s)…I had to dock another star…

I read the rest of Künsken’s novel just for the heist itself…Greg Egan still reigns supreme when it comes to Hard SF (vide Schild’s Ladder).

domingo, setembro 22, 2019

Dazzling and Mesmeric: "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel

(My own battered copy)

Felled, dazed, silent, he has fallen; knocked full length on the cobbles of the yard. His chapters turn sideways; his pages are turned toward the gate, as if someone might arrive to help him out. One blow, properly placed, could kill him now. Love the Book, Love the TV show but they ain't the same thing. There was something about the method that drew me in and enveloped me as if I were walking along side Cromwell or sitting in the same boat being rowed up the Thames - his asides were whispered in my ears - if ever a book illustrated how reading can trump film then here it is (whether it was historically accurate or not I couldn't give a flying fuck).

Translated from Portuguese, I once heard this (I'm paraphasing because I don't remember the exact words): "It is barely readable owing to having no speech marks so you just do not know who's speaking. It is also confusing in its writing style as it flips between story lines with no hint of that change. The author's use of 'he' to cover anyone in a group makes following the dialogue irritatingly hard and I kept having to re-read chunks when I discovered that the person I thought was speaking was not. I was reading and thinking "Who?" "What"? "Where?". I was that lost." "Indirect free style" aka "free indirect speech" which is what sometimes makes the pronouns ambiguous. So does Jane Austen in "Pride and Prejudice", and once I realised what was going on, I had no trouble there. If I didn’t have trouble with Austen, why should I have trouble with Mantel?

I've just finished re-reading "Wolf Hall" for the umpteenth time and it's dazzling. The richness of the detail, the re-imagining of Cromwell's character, the exuberance of his outlook and household, the sheer joy and freshness of the prose. It's a book that gives me energy with every read - actually injects me with energy, makes me want to write or build something, just in an effort to keep up. Lots of people say 'don't bother, read C.J. Sansom instead' and though I enjoy a Shardlake here and there I never return to them for a second read. They don't seem to me to be doing anything fresh or new, much as they pass the time. "Wolf Hall" is an entirely different prospect. I thought the TV mini-series of "Wolf Hall" was perhaps the second-best TV production of the last 20 years (after "Breaking Bad"). The way the real life portraits were incorporated into the plot was genius (Rylance was miscast though; he's on screen constantly looking world-weary and sad and old, with his tired eyes and croaky flat voice - not dynamic, not convincing as the former soldier, merchant and lawyer with the soul and brains, social skills and physical presence to rise though the Tudor court. For those who find this adaptation of Wolf Hall slow, hard to follow and less than thrilling, I can heartily recommend the zippy, simplistic and pulse quickening shite that is "The Tudors"...)

Once someone also said to me: "Don't read it; it's unreadable." Yes, it is odd. The novel's critics should maybe read cook books or manuals for operating refrigerators (which they might have been better off doing). It seems that nowadays to qualify as being top-notch literature, we just need written words to have been published in book form. Hilary Mantel is a writer who, for me, has restored meaning to discredited terms like "true artist" and "genius". I know shockingly little about the Tudors and had to keep putting down "Wolf Hall" to Google the main characters, but even that didn't detract from my sense of awe at the artistry and humanity in this book. Maybe the readers' problem is that they are approaching it as simple communication when it is best appreciated as a work of art with indescribable effects. I'm also reminded of a snippet I heard in an Oprah speech once (I know, philistine alert!):

Oprah (to Toni Morrison, paraphrased again): You know, I have to read your sentences 2 or 3 times before I understand the meaning!
Morrison: That, my dear, is called "reading.

My piece of advice for what’s worth: you should do yourself a favour and carve out adequate time to read intensely. Mantel's prose is so mesmeric and fascinating that attempting to read whilst commuting or in wee blocks of time will simply ruin the experience. If you have a short attention span and need sensation it will be a meaningless read; so many complain they can't get into the story but I suspect they are treating these books like airport thrillers. Give Mantel the real undivided attention that great books deserve.

NB: If you find Mantel difficult to read you should try Saramago: stream-of-consciousness paragraphs lasting forever with minimal punctuation and I read him in Portuguese (the English and German translations are even more baffling)! Saramago reigns supreme!

sexta-feira, setembro 20, 2019

Fight to the Death - Eça vs. Balzac: "The Yellow Sofa" by Eça de Queiroz

 “Hearing her there, he turned, peeped in...And what he saw - good God! - left him petrified, breathless. The blood rushed to his head and so sharp was the pain at his heart that it almost threw him to the ground. On yellow damask sofa, fronting a little table on which there stood a bottle of port, Lulu in a white negligee, was leaning in abandon on the shoulder of a man whose arm was around her waist, and smiling as she gazed languorously at him. The man was Machado!”
(Entrou. (...) e o que viu santo Deus, deixou-o petrificado, sem respiração, todo sangue na cabeça, e uma dor viva no coração, que quase o deitou por terra... No canapé de damasco amarelo, diante de duma mesinha, com uma garrafa de vinho, Lulu, de robe de chambre branco, encostava-se, abandonada, sobre o ombro dum homem, que lhe passava o braço pela cintura, e sorria, contemplando-lhe o perfil, com um olhar afagado em languidez. Tinha o colete desabotoado. E o homem era Machado.”)

In “The Yellow Sofa” and in the original Portuguese edition “Alves & Cia” by Eça de Queiroz

It's always struck me that the epigraph to Anna Karenina was an injunction to suspend judgment. "Vengeance is MINE, saith the Lord, [not yours]. I [not you] will repay."

That is, it's not not our job or responsibility or privilege to judge or carry out vengeance. That injunction should ring throughout the reading, as a reminder to approach these characters and their actions open-mindedly and open-heartedly, and as a brief encapsulation of what I see as the suggestion that these characters--and by extension people in general--are far too complex for our profane and limited comprehension that can only deal with the binaries of damned/not-damned, guilty/non-, etc. I know Tolstoy turned into quite the judgmental curmudgeon later in life, but his main works of fiction strike me as saying, in essence, "Here is humanity. Look. Judge not.

Books written about cheating almost always get it wrong. We all know tab (a) goes into slot (b). Even Eça cannot escape this dictum...What most authors leave out are all the lies but not my favourite Portuguese novelist. In real life lies bring down governments, get people fired, see children tossed out of school and make families fall apart. You can only describe sex acts so many times but lies are the damaging details.

I’ve read Madame Bovary. I hate books about stupid women. I think the misogyny that underscores so many of these books is what makes me dislike them so. Bill Clinton was not a bad president but he shook his finger at us and lied and that is now his legacy.

A lot has changed since Madame B. and the Scarlet Letter - in literature as in life - the adulterous woman may no longer have to kill herself or be killed, at least in western society, but what remains unchanged thru the centuries is the gulf between attitudes to a woman's adultery and a man's. In Louise Doughty's Apple Tree Yard the adulterous woman is shamed and nearly destroyed not just because she is a wife and mother, and about to be a grandmother, but because it is revealed that she went out in public without any knickers and had sex against a wall in a back alley. Could there be a situation - or a plot - where a man is similarly shamed for going out without any underpants (we'll allow him trousers, just as she wore a skirt) and having sex in a public place? I don't think so. There might be a few sniggers in court, perhaps, but I doubt it would destroy him - and it is unlikely to form the basis for a literary plot. Challenging though.

Ludovina only rivals Mme Marneffe in Balzac's "Cousin Bette in which a femme fatale whose husband keeps a low profile while she juggles her four lovers, playing them off against each other (at one point they are actually bidding against each other for the right to call her their mistress) and making all of them believe that he is the father of her future child. No English novelist of the period would have touched a plot like that with a barge-pole. Eça comes a close second by delving instead into the lies being the salt that rubs the wound raw. And they turn even the good memories sour...The master role of the duels' godparents, who act as deterrents and dissipators of the tragedy, stands out. They are largely responsible for the comical and burlesque side of the novel, by masterfully using the art of sophistry to lead to the forgiveness of the “transgressor” pair, the reconciliation of partners, and the return home of the adulterous wife. Mainly because, while comforting Godofredo, they comment on the piquant details of their own adventures with married women. What Eça wants to denounce here is precisely the overlapping of less noble motives to stifle a scandal that would be condemned by the morals of the day. Eça unlike Flaubert is much more interested in transcending the microcosm of the family to the worldview of Portuguese society as a whole, demonstrating the failure of ideals in the face of an increasingly fast and arduous world. It was in this world that a Portugal of the end of the sec. XIX, based on the great Portuguese Sea Expeditions and colonialism. Eça de Queirós and the Generation of 1870, intended, through its art and its policy, to promote the updating of the Portuguese mentality.

NB: Anyone who has ever been cuckolded will have a field day reading "The Yellow Sofa", I'd say...or maybe not...

terça-feira, setembro 17, 2019

Rugby World Cup 2019

Cricket is a game for gentlemen played by gentlemen,
Football is a game for gentlemen played by hooligans,
Rugby Union is a game for hooligans played by gentlemen,
And Rugby League is a game for hooligans played by hooligans

I've never been so excited for a RWC. 2011 and 2015 were too nerve wracking. Next Saturday morning (05:45 Fiji vs. Australia)/early afternoon is going to be a complete write-off. I haven't told the wife yet...

RWCs are unfortunate that unlike soccer, the small differences in standard between teams makes for some very one sided and ultimately rather dull rugby. Much as I enjoyed the first 15 minutes of the recent NZ vs Tonga game, there was little entertainment value for the neutral in such a once sided game compared to for example, a NZ club game. Of course, its the shocks that stand out, Japan - SA most recently, but it was one result across a tournament, the only other near "shock" was Samoa losing to Scotland by only 3. They stand out because they are shocks.

It's a shame - it was the same across the amateur RWC I was lucky enough to go to in '87, looking at the pool stages, not one shock result. It shows that rugby hasn't managed to spread the money and the power - if anything - its more concentrated in the usual places. We're pretty sure that the winners will be from a small number of starters. I'm certainly going to be a keen spectator - I enjoy the minnow fixtures and am looking forwards to seeing the USA play Tonga and I'm certainly looking forwards to seeing NZ- SA in a pool match as well as the fixtures between the 6Ns teams and other top teams.

My main hope is that games are not decided by injury or sending-offs. That alongside some consistent application of the breakdown laws and offside would go a long way to making the game less constricted and some sympathetic reffing for the scrum would be useful - I have safety concerns at scrum time when the minnow teams play the big boys. My other hope is that we get to the last 8 without any major injuries so these games represent the best each country can put out and that all the knock games are close. Reading that back - it does seem a bit negative - but international rugby (for me) does have some questions to answer. I love the game - loved playing it - but for me it needs more competitive countries to be in place - we've had 24 years of professional RWCs and really, too little has changed.

There are a small core of teams, the rest are fodder. As against football, there will rarely be shocks. If World Rugby want to increase participation and their audience, I would have added a shield competition in parallel with the WC, like the Challenge Cup in Europe. Reduce the main tournament to 16 teams and have a Challenge Cup of four groups where the winners would go into a quarter final with the last four teams in main competition. I find the games with the tier 2 countries to be more entertaining. The issue is that World Rugby don't really have the power many think they do. They can and do carry out some great promotion, they make free TV shows that are shown globally and you'll always find a rugby video on an aeroplane. They are paying the salaries now of a few of the tier 2 coaches, they offer coaching courses anywhere. That's where most of the RWC money goes. What they can't control are things like player release and fixtures. Tier 2 teams get rare games and almost always on the other tier one team's terms. They have nothing really to build on when they get players for a week to play random games at an away venue once a year when their name comes out of the hat. I think the Nations Cup thing was quite flawed but you could see the intention was to bring another 2 teams up into tier 1 status and the unions voted it down.

Some big games the first weekend of the tournament: Opening game – Japan v Russia should be a nice win for the hosts. Aus v Fiji and indeed Fra v Arg, which should help decide one of the qualifiers in Pool C. The NZ v SA game is huge IMO, because the winner is almost guaranteed to meet Scotland, Japan or Samoa, fighting it out for 2nd place in Pool A against Ireland. The winner of Pool B, should therefore have on paper, what is likely to be the easiest quarterfinal across the board. So, the team for this match, can play one really big game, then have 4 relatively easy games, spread over more than a month, then potentially a semi and final - for which they will be relatively well rested. Whoever wins this game out of SA and NZ, could potentially miss Arg/Fra/Wales/Ire/SA in the quarters and semis, on the other side of the draw. Those are all extremely good, one-off knockout game teams, that would cause concern. Hence, I think this match is almost an early final, with a chance to have a rest if it all goes wrong. History has shown also, that winning the pool game, usually leads to a win further in the tournament, if those teams meet again. If England win their pool, then they would come into their semi having played some tough games - Fra/Arg/Ton and then likely Wales or Aus in the quarter (admittedly for knockout rugby, sometimes an advantage). Injuries could be more of a factor though. Another advantage to the winner of the NZ v SA game, is if they keep going, they go into Semi-final 1, which is played on the Saturday before the final, as opposed to Semi-final 2, played on the Sunday – an extra days rest, which as we know these days, can be crucial to get tired bodies and minds, in top shape for the final. The AB’s beat SA in Semi-final 1 on Sat in 2015. Australia played their semi the next day, so had a day’s less rest for the final.

AB-wise, clearly 2019 is not the same team as 2015. The 2015 AB's will rank as one of the top 2/3 ABs teams of all time - along with the 1924 Invincibles (played 32 games/ 4 Tests) and either Whineray or Lochore AB teams. (apologises to Fitzpatrick, Mourie and Shelford teams)

My view the RWC 2019 ABs will depend on:

1. Retallick playing all the finals
2. Retallick playing all the finals ( I think he is that important to the AB forwards)
3. Injuries to any key players
4. How refs whistle the games - what does world rugby want to focus on?
5. ABs play style - how do they beat rush defense and what is plan B?

The rest is just noise -- all the talk of how good the wingers are ( Bridge and Reece) etc or how poor Ben Smith is count for nothing if the forwards don’t get at least parity in possession, set pce and don't miss tackles.

Someone is going to have to beat New Zealand. They are the bench mark but are not unbeatable like teams of previous years. I’ll be backing England all the way but have South Africa as slight favourites provided Pollard stays fit. Without a fit Retallick, it will be a lot harder for New Zealand in the bigger games. In respect to Ben Smith, he has been one of my favourite players to watch over the years and will go down as one of the greats. But from what I’ve seen of him recently (which I admit isn’t as much as the England lot), maybe this World Cup is a step too far? He can probably still do a job at 15, but as an England fan, would be very happy with him on the wing against the likes of May, Watson etc.

RIP: Cordeiro do Vale/Serafim Marques.

NB: I was discussing this with a rugby union fan a few days ago about how the draw could work against England as they have their two "easier" games first up and then they'll have to play 5 tier 1 nations on the bounce (if they want to win it) starting with Argentina and France in the group and with no opportunities for resting players or shrugging off injuries. It's a tough ask and there will be injuries I'm sure and because of it I find it difficult to see England winning the tournament much as I'd love them too.England has probably the most difficult road to reach the final. Their pool draw means England will have to peak for four really tough games in a row with Argentina, France at the end of pool C. Then a probable quarter-final against Australia, semi against NZ then final. Achievable yes. Realistically not really. Team-wise, England's recent form does not suggest well win the RWC. The SA tour, 6 nations and losing at the principality stadium. Eddie is a great coach and has improved the team but we don't have players like Wilkinson, Johnson, Robinson, Dallaglio, Greenwood, Cohen or Sheridan. Vunipola, Itoje, Kruis, George, Farrell, Tuilagi & may as pretty handy (Curry looks alright too), but they're not the same as the mythically invincible 2003 side. I watched Farrell play against Jonny Wilkinson in the Heineken Cup. It did show the difference in class that exists between players from 2003. Compare Greenwood with JJ or Slade who seem incapable of beating anyone on a 1 to 1 basis. England has a full squad of good players but no one except perhaps Itoje who is top international standard. I am a passionate England supporter since playing rugby at ISA in Lisbon but "Engaland" just doesn't have the players to worry the likes of SA and NZ. The decline in English rugby since 2003 is largely due to the lack of competitive rugby played in state schools in my opinion. English local teams have dwindled through lack of players since the early 1990s. Everyone rightly raves about Wilkinson for his kicking, defence and organisation (I certainly do) but Greenwood was the player that made the England backline purr, by instantly assessing what needed to be done in any situation and then doing it. He wasn't quick but had a fantastic rugby brain and made decent journeymen (at international level) like Tindall and Cohen look like world class players by reading the game and doing the basics very, very well. On song and without injuries I would think that England could beat anyone in world rugby. But it's a hard, complex game. Farrell could forget that he has arms - red card. Vunipola, Tuilagi more injuries, a certain player in the front row could lose it, and on it goes. Mako, Sinkler and Genge are not selected for their set piece. They are good enough but no more. However they all run and two have hands like backs. All of the second rows are fair in the set piece. But none are selected because they dominate. They are in the squad because they have additional; pace, passing ability, off loading games, tackle and win back possession. As for Billy, Curry and Underhill all liabilities in the line out but fantastic in the loose and in defense. Who out of that lot do we rely on and who do we take for granted. Farrell and Ford work brilliantly together, on his day Manu is unplayable and the back 3 of: Daly, Watson and May (in that order) is fantastic and rapid. Like (almost) all teams England needs luck...On the other hand, world beaters don’t rely on luck to win repeatedly. That’s why England are unlikely to win it, but they do have enough talent to go far. It’ll be a shame if they don’t.

segunda-feira, setembro 16, 2019

Pascal's Triangle: "Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime" by Sean Carroll

“When a spin is measured, the wave function branches via decoherence [according to the MWI], a single world splits into two and there are now two people where used to be just one. It makes no sense to ask which one is ‘really me.’ Likewise, before the branching happens, it makes no sense to wonder which branch ‘I’ will end up in. Both of them have every right to think of themselves as ‘me.’ [...] The world duplicates, and everything within the world goes along with it.”

In “Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime” by Sean Carroll

“Many-Worlds is the most falsifiable theory ever invented.”

In “Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime” by Sean Carroll

Let me get this out of the way first. Let me put forth the main 4 “interpretations”:

1 - "The particle travels through both slits: one in this universe and another which was generated because it had the possibility of going through both. Interference comes from the parallel universes interacting. (MWI)"

2 - "The particle goes through one slit, but it's guided by a pilot wave which goes through both and creates the interference. (Bohmian)"

3 - "The wave function has no definite position until it's measured, but measurement destroys the wave-like nature by forcing a collapse of some kind. (Copenhagen)"

4 - "Reality is subjective, so it doesn't make sense to talk about where the particle represented by the wave function is before measurement. (QBism)"

Now you have two choices. One, you pick your super favorite interpretation out of the four above, but be clear about what it explains trivially and what it leaves as crazy magic. Or two, you realize that without actual science to distinguish them, as I said in another post, these are all just idle thoughts to ponder while you shut up and calculate. I mean hell, we don’t even know that the one true interpretation has even been dreamed up and articulated yet.

If we apply Occam's Razor here, the MWI no longer looks like the neatest conclusion. In fact, once you throw in the fine-tuning problem of the Standard Model, the conclusion I draw from Occam's Razor is that all the interpretations are just blind shots in the dark; there's a much more fundamental process occurring which we don't understand because of insufficient experimental evidence. It could be string theory, it could be tiny turtles, or it could be something entirely different.

We actually are on figuring out if quantum states of quantum particles are affecting Neural Connections. Also decisions are pretty much made by bound Neural connections sending electric signals through them in an predetermined order which then in the end sends out a signal of what you do, think and so on. To that we are pretty sure that free will isn't a thing, but the product of saving and using information from the outside world: 

Ice cream tastes good, but poop doesn't.
How do you know that poop doesn't taste good?
You've never eaten it. You smelled it.
And that smell turns into signals which are send through the whole brain to a few parts of it, into the memory for example. That memory is stored by creating multiple Neural connections which when seeing poop again, you know how it smells and thus can imagine the taste of it, too.
Same goes with thoughts of decisions, believes, opinions and so on.

And we are suspecting that the brain works in quantum levels, too. The many worlds interpretation seems to only work for two eigenstates with probabilities of 50/50 splitting into 2 universes.  However anyone who's actually taken a course in Quantum knows that the probability of measuring either spin up or spin down depends on the wavefunction going in. The probabilities for each eigenvalue are almost never even, they could be split 60/40, 99/1 or any number of different combinations.  Does that mean there's 99 universes for a measurement and 1 for the other. This gets even more complicated when dealing with an observable that has n eigenvalues. The Hamiltonian for the hydrogen atom theoretically can have an infinite number of energy levels, is there a universe for measuring every single one? Come on Carroll! Give!

The real distinction is not between different interpretations but two different approaches: realist and instrumental. People on the realist side need an interpretation like MWI or Bohm's pilot waves. They need them to justify their philosophical prejudices at the cost of abandoning scientific consistency. People on the instrumental side don't need any interpretation, just the framework for calculations. For some reason this framework is called by many people "Copenhagen interpretation" but in fact this "interpretation" is just a set of INSTRUMENTAL base concepts needed to do calculations. Some people define this approach using concepts of information theory (funny fact: Heisenberg did the same! For him wave function was all about information) while some others don't like to give particular names to concepts that are not useful, and describe this approach as "shut up and calculate". It's worth to notice that all realistic approaches to QM are in serious disagreement with modern particle physic, and with Occam's razor. I dunno, physicists spend lots of time thinking about issues that aren't covered in standard textbooks. I mean, that's the whole point of being a research scientist. I think part of it is that physicists don't see interpretational questions as affecting their research. But we do love hearing colloquia on fields besides our own, even if the results of these fields don't have immediate or obvious implications for our own work, so I think the shunning of foundations must have other reasons. I suspect it's an aversion to questions that cannot be empirically settled. Back in the day there weren't too much people who were interested in quantum mechanics but not doing real, genuine physics. Now there's plenty of them: philosophers, people interested in quantum computing, much more people doing non-relativistic (and non-innovative) QM etc. I'm deeply convinced that among the genuine quantum physicists (I mean people who really understand modern QM, especially Quantum Field Theories aka modern particle physics) the Copenhagen interpretation is dramatically  more popular than the rest combined. I don't understand why almost no one talks about Bohm's pilot wave theory which is nothing but pure crack-pottery in the light of the current knowledge about particle physics...

In the mathematics of Hugh Everett’s many worlds theory the parallel universes or extra dimensions are at right angles to each other. In a process of spherical symmetry forming and breaking the mathematics can represent the surface of a sphere always being at right angles to the centre of the sphere. As a process of continuous energy exchange this can be seen in our everyday life with electromagnetic fields always being at right angles to each other. The reason why strings need extra dimensions and spheres only need three is because the two dimensional surface of a sphere can form a dynamic membrane or what I like to call a two dimensional boundary condition. In our everyday life this is represented by the movement of positive and negative charge with positive charge formed by the outer convexed curvature and negative charge formed by the inner concaved curvature. This dynamic two dimensional boundary condition allows the use of the holographic principle with the information of our three dimensional Universe encoded holographically with the movement of positive and negative charge. The other great advantage of having spheres instead of strings is that an interior of a sphere is naturally three dimensional.

The many worlds interpretation was designed to preserve determinism in the face of infinite uncertainty in quantum physics (i.e., probability wave function - double-slit experiment). The irony is that it has imploded under the weight of it's own declaration of determinism. It's logic has reacted to itself like it was it's own auto immune disease. MWI's "alternate worlds" conflict with it's deterministic foundations and it evaporated itself. Simply, if the universe was determined it wouldn't produce alternatives of itself. There wouldn't be probabilities in a determined universe to necessitate alternatives. Read David Albert's objections. It's all over but the yelling for the MWI. The math behind MWI is simply the extrapolation of the unrealized probabilities - what might have been... lol

It has always bothered me that in quantum mechanics we construct objects so as to obtain and use rigorous probabilistic description, while at the same in mathematics we can only say that probabilities "naturally" appear in quantum mechanics (because classical statistical physics is not really random). I'm glad to learn that probability professors refer to that vicious circle as a "scandal" as well. It cannot be stressed enough that "interpretations" is where we impose the arbitrary connections between reality and a self-contained mathematical theory. If we get rid of Probabilities in QM where does that that leave MWI? What if true randomness is deterministic?  (As in Pascal's triangle.)  It's unpredictable from within, but it's a simple mathematical function that generates everything.

If only more people understood the Transactional interpretation of quantum physics, which explains all the same things as Copenhagen, but doesn't come to the same ridiculous conclusion about "observation" being the trigger for wave-particles to collapse. Instead, you simply need to believe that there are particles that are so small and fast they can travel backwards through time. Since we already accept that if you travel at the speed of light, time freezes (from your perspective) it seems pretty logical that if you travel slightly faster, time moves backwards. Some people might say Transactional Interpretation is another ridiculous conclusion to the away to the wavefunction collapse...ROTFL! Sometimes I do too! That depends on the amount of beers I’ve already drank...How do you know it's not the quantum wave-particles that are making the choices, and the "decisions" you think you make aren't just a natural side-effect of those quantum processes? Even if I just agreed that one can "decide" stuff, how does that prove that billions of complete and nearly identical universes are spawned every second - as is required by multiverse theory? How does all the energy and matter required to make all these billions of universes just magically appear when required? Where are the other universes located compared to ours? Is there a universe where you aren't shit at science? So many questions and so little time for physicists like Carroll to answer!

This way of thinking is not only very likely deluded but is actually dangerous as at leads to an abstract view of things. Anyone else aware of Lee Smolin's recent theories about time which posit that time, rather than being an illusion as posited by Einstein and just about all physicists is a reality?

Carroll's book is pure rant to me. It replaces the usual confusion and mysticism about Copenhagen "observers" with confusion and mysticism about consciousness and bizarre claims that somehow being the leaf node in a tree of branching quantum events means you cannot trace back to your local root node. Which, from a computer science and math point-of-view is super silly. As silly as the dumb observer claims one usually hears when people misinterpret Copenhagen to mean that human observers cause the universe to exist or similar nonsense.

MWI fails to generate the known Born probabilities because it is bound into the number of branching wave evolutions, which are independent of the amplitudes - but the amplitudes squared are what gives the actual probabilities. I mean, MWI really does fail by any fair and honest accounting, even though proponents indulge sketchy and suspect runarounds like pretending that some worlds don't really count, and various mumbo jumbo. Haven't you thought about all that yet? I do have a version of MWI of my own in which 'probabilities' can be properly understood and as bonus can explain why we get the Hilbert space but that’s not something for this post. I think it is time for Carroll to start selling cars; he’d sell of a bunch of them in the blink of an eye. Everett must be having fun on the other side of the rainbow...

(*) Now, you ask me: “what interpretation do I believe in?” None of the four above.

NB: David Wallace has done a better job at “explaining” the Multiverse (technically "multiverse" is not the same as "MWI" though, but they are the same in that there is no observational evidence for either and neither make any predictions at all)