Search FQXi


If you are aware of an interesting new academic paper (that has been published in a peer-reviewed journal or has appeared on the arXiv), a conference talk (at an official professional scientific meeting), an external blog post (by a professional scientist) or a news item (in the mainstream news media), which you think might make an interesting topic for an FQXi blog post, then please contact us at forums@fqxi.org with a link to the original source and a sentence about why you think that the work is worthy of discussion. Please note that we receive many such suggestions and while we endeavour to respond to them, we may not be able to reply to all suggestions.

Please also note that we do not accept unsolicited posts and we cannot review, or open new threads for, unsolicited articles or papers. Requests to review or post such materials will not be answered. If you have your own novel physics theory or model, which you would like to post for further discussion among then FQXi community, then please add them directly to the "Alternative Models of Reality" thread, or to the "Alternative Models of Cosmology" thread. Thank you.

Forum Home
Introduction
Terms of Use

Order posts by:
 chronological order
 most recent first

Posts by the blogger are highlighted in orange; posts by FQXi Members are highlighted in blue.

By using the FQXi Forum, you acknowledge reading and agree to abide by the Terms of Use

 RSS feed | RSS help
RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Dan Smith: on 5/1/18 at 6:31am UTC, wrote Every engineering student needs to clear the competency demonstration...

Robert McEachern: on 1/21/14 at 19:29pm UTC, wrote Akinbo, "However is describing a relationship between clocks and gravity...

Akinbo Ojo: on 1/21/14 at 18:50pm UTC, wrote Yes, Rob. The concept of invisible or dark stars predated General...

Robert McEachern: on 1/21/14 at 16:32pm UTC, wrote Akinbo, "General relativity theory from which the concept of black holes...

Plato Hagel: on 1/21/14 at 16:25pm UTC, wrote Nothing wrong with holding people's feet to the fire. I think in a way this...

Akinbo Ojo: on 1/21/14 at 10:21am UTC, wrote It has become necessary to take theoretical physicists up on concepts and...

John Merryman: on 1/21/14 at 0:20am UTC, wrote What if, as seems apparent on so many levels, complexity has stability...

Robert McEachern: on 1/20/14 at 23:22pm UTC, wrote "the wireless protocol 802.11 that we all use probably every day came out...


RECENT FORUM POSTS

Eckard Blumschein: "Robert, While Carroll and Rovelli are looking for an explanation of..." in First Things First: The...

Georgina Woodward: "The Schrodinger's cat thought experiment presents 3 causally linked state..." in Schrödinger’s Zombie:...

Roger Granet: "Well put! Physics is hard, but biochemistry (my area), other sciences..." in Will A.I. Take Over...

Georgina Woodward: "BTW The neck scarves are a promotional souvenir given out at non sports..." in Schrödinger’s Zombie:...

Robert McEachern: ""At the risk of stroking physicists’ egos, physics is hard" But every..." in Will A.I. Take Over...

Steve Dufourny: "Personally Joe me I see like that ,imagine that this infinite eternal..." in First Things First: The...

Steve Dufourny: "lol Zeeya it is well thought this algorythm selective when names are put in..." in Mass–Energy Equivalence...

Steve Dufourny: "is it just due to a problem when we utilise names of persons?" in Mass–Energy Equivalence...


RECENT ARTICLES
click titles to read articles

First Things First: The Physics of Causality
Why do we remember the past and not the future? Untangling the connections between cause and effect, choice, and entropy.

Can Time Be Saved From Physics?
Philosophers, physicists and neuroscientists discuss how our sense of time’s flow might arise through our interactions with external stimuli—despite suggestions from Einstein's relativity that our perception of the passage of time is an illusion.

Thermo-Demonics
A devilish new framework of thermodynamics that focuses on how we observe information could help illuminate our understanding of probability and rewrite quantum theory.

Gravity's Residue
An unusual approach to unifying the laws of physics could solve Hawking's black-hole information paradox—and its predicted gravitational "memory effect" could be picked up by LIGO.

Could Mind Forge the Universe?
Objective reality, and the laws of physics themselves, emerge from our observations, according to a new framework that turns what we think of as fundamental on its head.


FQXi BLOGS
October 18, 2019

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: Interesting Ways to Die (and More) [refresh]
Bookmark and Share
Login or create account to post reply or comment.

Blogger Ian Durham wrote on Jan. 20, 2014 @ 21:30 GMT
Raphael Bousso vs the World
The final full day of the conference in Vieques began with a session on quantum gravity. (Some slides and videos from the meeting are now up: here.) Seth Lloyd led off the longer talks by essentially summarizing what we know about in-falling information in black holes and gave the sage advice that if you should find yourself falling into a black hole, whatever you do, don’t struggle. (Some background on the firewall issue and whether you catch fire when you fall into a black hole: here.) He was followed by Raphael Bousso who essentially argued that we can’t get rid of firewalls but we also can’t prove it. I will have more to say on this in a moment.

After Bousso came Carlo Rovelli who gave a fascinating talk on thermodynamics in gravitational fields. He began by introducing the Tolman-Ehrenfest effect that argues that temperature is actually not constant in space at thermal equilibrium but, rather, varies with gravitational field. In particular it is dependent on the local metric equation. This is in contrast to the so-called Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics which, somewhat trivially, says that if two systems are in equilibrium with a third, then all three are in equilibrium which implies that the temperature must be a constant. Rovelli, on the other hand, argued that if we re-interpret the Zeroth Law, it can be preserved if we assume that information remains constant. That is, though the temperature may not remain constant since it is technically a dynamical property (at least by certain definitions), the information adjacent systems have about one another remains constant instead. Incidentally, the definition Rovelli used was that temperature is a measure of the number of states transiting a boundary per unit time. This is part of a larger argument that Rovelli makes that quantum gravity (due to effects such as this) demands that we work without space and time. Personally, I think he has a valid point, though it is difficult to do (nevertheless, generalized probabilistic and information-based theories offer some promise).

There were a few short talks prior to the panel discussion having to do with firewalls and black hole complementarity and then the sparks began to fly. In my summary talk I referred to it as "Raphael Bousso versus the world" which is a bit of an oversimplification, but the rest of the panel seemed to put Raphael’s feet to the fire. (Zeeya's note: Ian's summary talk slides are available here. Nice title, Ian!) Seth Lloyd and Don Page did eventually come to his defense, but it was quite the spirited debate. While I am not an expert on the subject, I noticed another bifurcation of sorts along the GR/quantum lines. To emphasize how spirited a discussion this session became, Anthony Aguirre tried to simply obtain some consensus on the source of Hawking radiation and it was like pulling teeth. After much prodding and more spirited discussion, Andrew Hamilton had the last word by answering that whatever it is, it’s physical and dictated by nature which says to me that there’s a lot more work to do.

Existential Risk: What's going to kill us first? What will hurt the most?
After lunch there was another session of lightning talks. I actually made it to these so I can briefly summarize (especially given that they may not have been videotaped, though I’m not sure). First up was Bill Poirier who gave a quick talk about single-particle, relativistic Bohmian mechanics. Hendrick Ulbricht followed with a quick introduction to the MAQRO project which aims to investigate macroscopic quantum states. Jeff Tollaksen followed with a talk about time-symmetric quantum mechanics and weak values (basically an overview of his usual work). David Craig then discussed decoherent histories and the relational interpretation of quantum mechanics (he also discussed the Cauchy-Schwarz inequality and the uncertainty relation which is a very interesting topic, but is worth a blog post unto itself). Mauro D’Ariano then talked about a derivation of the Dirac equation from purely information-theoretic principles, in particular quantum cellular automata. Howard Barnum discussed generalized probabilistic theories, in particular discussing dual spaces which are actually a fascinating topic that gets into rigged Hilbert spaces and other such intriguing things (also fodder for another blog post). Ken Wharton then argued that we should be spending more time looking at path integrals (he’s winning me over to some of his arguments). Markus Mueller then discussed the relationship between geometry and probabilities as it pertained to information. Laurence Doyle of SETI talked about how non-human forms of communication (e.g. in other animals and even plants) can help to inform SETI via information theory (notably Zipf’s law). Craig Hogan then spoke about on-going experiments in Planck-scale physics at Fermilab in which he discusses the fact that spacetime geometry itself was wiggling (this is an idea first proposed by Eddington in his Fundamental Theory). Steve Gratton then discussed the interplay of maximum entropy methods and quantum field theory. Finally Michael Vassar introduced a company that he co-founded with Jaan Tallinn and others called MetaMed Research that is focused on delivering information on medical issues and noted that they were hiring.

The final session of the day focused on two, somewhat related topics. The first topic was set up by the announcement of the next FQXi essay contest which focuses on how humanity can steer our future. The contest is co-sponsored by the aforementioned Jaan Tallinn who, these days, focuses a lot of his energy on addressing existential risk (he has even helped start a center to study the topic at Cambridge). The first session then began with a poll of the panelists and then the audience concerning what they viewed as the greatest existential risk that humanity presently faces. The answers were generally what you would expect--global warming, AI gone bad (this has long been Jaan’s bugbear), biotechnology, loss of biodiversity, rogue comets, unfettered greed--but it took awhile before anyone really brought up education (or lack thereof) as really being at the root of every single one of these problems. I piped up and said that none of these problems can be successfully tackled if people don’t understand and/or simply don’t care. In other words, humanity is really the greatest existential risk to itself. Unfortunately (in my personal opinion) not enough time was spent discussing this given that it is at the root of all of these problems. How can we change attitudes and better educate people? One thing we can’t do (that I tried to emphasize both after this session as well as after my summary talk the next morning) is dismiss other people’s concerns as trivial or not relevant. Whether we agree with it or not, people who have, for example, economic reasons for doubting global warming, are not going to change their minds simply because we tell them to. To them, their concerns are very real and we need to at least recognize that even if we do not agree. Otherwise they will simply ignore us or worse, work to undermine us.

Ian Durham wrap things up
An argument that I found particularly interesting--and one that I happen to agree with--was put forward by Everard Findlay who said that scientists and artists are the ones who can really save the world and they have to find ways to work together. Similarly, Sarah Hreha argued for more integration between science and society founded on empathy (something I had pointed out more than once). Given that one of the things that art is very good at is inducing emotion which can help foster empathy, I think some of her ideas meshed well with Everard’s. And echoing what I had ranted about before, Federico Faggin said we all need to change ourselves.

The second half of the panel focused on the related topic of communicating science and how FQXi can be better at what it does. In a fascinating story that I had not known, Valerie Jamieson noted that the wireless protocol 802.11 that we all use probably every day came out of fundamental astronomical research by John O’Sullivan. Emphasizing some of the issues mentioned above, Jennifer Ouellette noted that science journalism is a two-way street--we can’t simply lecture at our audience.

There was some interesting discussion on the final morning of the conference after my summary talk, but much of it built on discussions already mentioned in previous posts. All-in-all, it was an excellent conference, as usual. One of the best things about these conferences is the ability to make connections and start (or continue) collaborations. In a conversation with Kevin Knuth, he openly wondered how much we might accomplish if we stuck a bunch of people like this in the same place for a month. I think I could handle a month on Vieques. Maybe.

Bookmark and Share
this post has been edited by the author since its original submission

report post as inappropriate


Robert H McEachern wrote on Jan. 20, 2014 @ 21:48 GMT
"it took awhile before anyone really brought up education (or lack thereof) as really being at the root of every single one of these problems."

And at the root of THAT problem, as I predicted in a book I wrote over 20 years ago, is that the very concept of education (going to school to learn things that may one day prove useful to know), is becoming obsolete.

That may, or may not be a good thing; "AI gone bad (this has long been Jaan's bugbear)"

Why bother to learn all that "stuff", when your future, "super-smart" phone will be able to provide you with THE answer, before you even realized you were about to need it?

Rob McEachern

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate


Robert H McEachern wrote on Jan. 20, 2014 @ 23:22 GMT
"the wireless protocol 802.11 that we all use probably every day came out of fundamental astronomical research by John O'Sullivan."

Astronomers have been making rather overblown claims, for work done in others fields, since at least the time of Henri Poincare's "The Value of Science."

I will grant you that the people were employed to work on a tool for radio-astronomy, but the tool itself, and their expertise, was not concerned with any "fundamental astronomical research": "Using their knowledge of radio waves, electrical engineering and signal processing..."

When engineers build devices to transmit and play music, it does not make them musicians.

Yeah, the first application was for processing radio-astronomy signals, but the people were not doing astrophysics, they were doing electrical engineering and signal processing.

Rob McEachern

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate


John Brodix Merryman wrote on Jan. 21, 2014 @ 00:20 GMT
What if, as seems apparent on so many levels, complexity has stability issues and we are building to a reset? (You know the wave is peaking when it's mostly foam and bubbles) Then it won't be so much a matter of saving humanity as it is, but engineering a viable descent to a more stable and resilient future?

Hope that's not too dystopian, I'm thinking through the topic.

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate


Akinbo Ojo wrote on Jan. 21, 2014 @ 10:21 GMT
It has become necessary to take theoretical physicists up on concepts and ideas they keep bringing up so that we do not continue beclouding issues, going round in circles and bringing up non-existing paradoxes. On the so-stated "Interesting ways to die" and the advice that "if you should find yourself falling into a black hole, whatever you do, don’t struggle"...

It is a 'fact', almost incontrovertible within General relativity theory from which the concept of black holes arose that time stands still in black holes, that clocks run infinitely slow. Therefore any process, including death takes an infinite proper time to complete. This is why light cannot escape a black hole, as it takes an infinite time to transit a given distance. This is what the original theory of General relativity predicts. It is therefore surprising if an expert talks of a 'struggling' in a black hole or even 'death'. These are dependent on 'clocks running' in the black hole. What you get in a black hole, if they exist in the form that GR originally predicts is so to speak 'Eternal life' not death. Any dissenters?

Akinbo

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Robert H McEachern replied on Jan. 21, 2014 @ 16:32 GMT
Akinbo,

"General relativity theory from which the concept of black holes arose"

The concept of a black hole arose prior to General Relativity. It is, in effect, postulated by the combination of Special Relativity and Newtonian gravity: From Newton's law of gravity, one can compute the "escape velocity" from an object with mass. As the mass becomes larger, so does the escape velocity. But if light velocity is limited to Special Relativity's postulated speed of light, then it is possible to have masses so large, that the escape velocity exceeds the speed of light.

"Therefore any process, including death takes an infinite proper time to complete." But so does your perception of it. An observer is always "in phase" with itself.

Rob McEachern

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Akinbo Ojo replied on Jan. 21, 2014 @ 18:50 GMT
Yes, Rob. The concept of invisible or dark stars predated General relativity. However is describing a relationship between clocks and gravity is almost unique to GR. This concept of clocks has almost been consigned to the dustbin by supporters of GR. The slowing effect of gravity on clocks is an accepted idea in mainstream. And the more intense the gravity, the more the slowing according to this...

view entire post


Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Robert H McEachern replied on Jan. 21, 2014 @ 19:29 GMT
Akinbo,

"However is describing a relationship between clocks and gravity is almost unique to GR".

Pendulum clocks depend upon gravity. Long before Einstein came along, it was known that their period depends upon altitude, and that gravity depends upon altitude; period depends upon gravity.

"Then talking of who perceives the delay in time. I think this is experimentally settled that both observer and the observed." But they do not perceive it to be the same. That is what relativity is all about. Their "naive", raw perceptions must be "transformed", prior to being compared.

"...the foundations of what most of us believed about black holes has just begun to shake" I have never included myself among the "most of us". I think the whole discussion, by physicists, in regards to the information content of black holes and whether or not is destroyed, is due to their profound misunderstanding of the nature of information.

Rob McEachern

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate


Plato Hagel wrote on Jan. 21, 2014 @ 16:25 GMT
Nothing wrong with holding people's feet to the fire. I think in a way this forces one to think about all they have said and put together to show where they are at. This doesn't mean people are not open to change.

So such get togethers are important from my perspective as it reveals areas where people can either correct misconceptions they have or add to the developing new ones that are forming in their minds.

Of course from a general perspective there is nothing in life that might not be considered handled in this way.

Thanks for the update.

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate


Login or create account to post reply or comment.

Please enter your e-mail address:
Note: Joining the FQXi mailing list does not give you a login account or constitute membership in the organization.