Sunday, January 14, 2018

review of the Caribbean cruise we returned from yesterday

Today (Saturday Jan. 13)  we disembarked from the MSC Seaside cruise to Western Caribbean, originally planned to be Eastern Caribbean. Overall it was the most frustrating and unpleasant of the 9 sea cruises we have taken so far, but I will try to be specific about good parts, bad parts, and things to watch for.

The best part for me, by far, was the ship excursion to Kohunlich. We have already visited many other Mayan sites, in the company of world-class archeologists, but our tour guide, Edna, whose home town is along the bus route we took, told us many interesting things we did not know yet. This experience, and a new look at the ocean from the 19th floor, were the two spiritually meaningful parts of the cruise, without which R&R would be the only justification. (Well, now that I think of it, getting a waiter one day became an esoteric experience too.)

The ship itself was the next best part. It is shiny, new, big and beautiful, more than any of the others we have traveled on.

The Jamaica port day was lots of fun.  My wife wisely booked a local driver, through Juta tours, who took us very early first to the main falls (Dunn? Another D name?), and then to botanical park tour. We really enjoyed clambering up from the bottom (labelled only as "exit") over rushing water and smooth rocks to the top, stopping to copy the three locals who stood in a natural shower and take pictures. But if any of us did not have perfect attention  to our immediate surroundings, it would have been easy to die. As we left, we shivered to see the huge crowd entering, to think what THAT implied for safety and fun where we just were. My wife says that the ship excursion requires the whole line of people to hold hands, a terrible mess, but understandable given the safety issues. We did learn a little at the botanical garden as well.

That was the great and good stuff OFF the ship. But on the ship, there were so many snafus it is hard to know where to begin.

There were only 4 free restaurants, a large cafeteria (like Norwegian garden cafe but not the same scale), a tiny cafeteria up near the main pool, and two normal restaurants, Seaside and Ipanema. Perhaps because of overpopulation, even the main cafeteria was controlled-access much of the time, open only to certain people at certain times. So for example, when we returned to the ship at about 3Pm from GrandCayman island, the only food I could get was an overcooked dry hamburger and an old style fatty hot dog with a little plastic package of relish and mayonnaise (no ketchup) from the pool area. People were willing to promise hot tea with lemon in the restaurants, but 1/3 of the time they delivered and 2/3 it became another case of no food.
For dinner, it was assigned seating and time, in group tables, for the lucky ones. As black card folks, we had a wonderful window view and waiters much better than any others we saw aboard the ship, but the random selection of table mates was a bit jarring.  We knew to race home from Mexico, and not change clothes, to meet the assigned time. (It was that or no food that day; we are glad they did not enforce the strict dress code on us that day, but rules in general were somewhat random.) Our table mates had no food that day after breakfast because they did try to meet the dress code, and it was closed. Even yesterday, it said "closed" to us, but we physically opened the doors and mentioned Captain's event, so they let us in. On Norwegian, we never had to worry about no-food days.
We signed up for lots of bennies -- spa, drinks in mealtime, coffee package, medium wifi. Wifi worked well, in the end,BUT we lost a lot of time because no one told us we had to type "login.com" in the address bar even after successfully navigating the tricky web site which comes up. It woukd be so easy for them to just tell us that,on the web site itself, instead of creating huge unnecessary lines in the reception area for people asking the same question.
The drink and coffee packages work great if you like to start your day with wine over breakfast and end with a couple of cappuchinos as you go to bed.  But we ended up using less than half the coffee coupons, because restaurants would not take them, and none of the venchi places would accept them for anything but coffee. If your caffeine intake is limited, maybe you should forget the coffee package, and just give in to the regular restaurant coffee -- unless you prefer eggs with water.
The eighth floor buffet was reasonable for lunch. Meat in sauce was OK. Bar offered just heineken inside for beer on the mealtime drinks package, but around the corner outside newcastle ale was also available on draft; helpful and friendly folks. Seaside restaurant had great salmon for breakfast, but seating and waiters were a nightmare.
(First day: "sorry for the delay; we are looking for a cook." Later: "sorry, we do not know where the waiter for your area is.")
On assigned dinners, Italian dishes were generally much better than others, though the prime rib on the last day was great. I am surprised the French Embassy has yet to complain about the so-called French onion soup, a tasteless red glob.
On the very first day, they were clear we should go to the emergency station indicated on our cards and on the map in our room. But the two did not match.  Folks were tested on going to what their cards say, but we had no map of where to find it. But crew had signs, so we survived that.
There are also gates connecting balconies. On the first day,  I was disconcerted to see unfamiliar kids on our balcony, laughing and peering in to us. We called steward who needed a special tool to lock the gate, but a few days later in the night the gates got loose again on both sides, banging noisily all night.

Captain was proud spa is "the biggest." One of the NCL ships had a spa which SEEMED a lot bigger, with views outside the ship and more powerful jets, but still the spa WAS good. Great background music. Steam baths, finnish sauna, access to a jacuzzi on private outdoor deck. Snow room.

The shows were mostly not up to NCL standards. Time-travel show was the best for me, "powerful but disconnected." But if you don't build time machines, it might be less powerful for you.
Specialty restaurants -- Yamaguchi is a real artist and we enjoyed quality things we haven't seen anywhere else. At chef's table, huge volume of food, including giant shrimp, but desert cake was the only bit of real flair. I am reminded of a table mate who ordered chicken, asked for some sauce, and was told that Tabasco and ketchup were the only choices.

One table mate commented about the effect of too many people on elevators.  I just shrugged my shoulders; I have never seen fast elevators on any cruise ship, and don't mind walking. But when 2 of the 4 next to us stopped working, and many folks became surly due to missing food and such, it really did become an issue.

At Grand Cayman, the tour we booked was cancelled due to earthquake, tsunami alert and such. We were not the only ones a bit frustrated. But local people had nice $20/person 7 stop tours. Near the port exit, to the right, was a small but amazing marine park; if we had brought our own snorkeling gear.. but it was amazing anyway. I wonder what those huge fish were right by the ladder and the steps down into the water.

Consider bringing a bar of soap and a simple workable salt shaker before you come on board. The elegant bath foam was so astringent that I had hours of on-again off-again intense pain after my first shower. After that I avoided washing all parts which medicine most demands we wash. The tables have many beautiful glass salt grinders,  and they can be made to deliver a little salt for a little while. Yes I understand the philosophy, but I also understand voodoo and do not want to be forced to practice it.

MSC practiced language diversity more than other cruise lines, but not other kinds of diversity, freedom and choice.

===============

Addendum:

Our very first cruise, long long ago on Carnival, was previously the worst and we never sailed on it again. Like MSC, they had assigned seating. They assigned us to eat with a Biblical family from Waco. When they lectured us on how sinful our  thinking was... well.. not fun. I was somewhat worried as we approached the MSC at Miami, right next to Carnival ships, knowing that for the second time we would face assigned seating again. Great worry, but not to fear. Our seat assignments were with a family very similar to old neighbors of mine with high mafia connections. Much easier conversations, but it seems once again we scared people somehow, though it didn't seem that way. Later debate: is the mafia irrelevant now, because the FBI downed it? Or did they take over the reins to the FBI itself? Or is that an issue of semantics?

Time to end this post.

Well... when I get two pictures of Hell from Luda, I will do a facebook post linking here:

============================

Grand cayman: anyone who tracks financial networks should not be surprised that there is a convenient express lane to hell there. Still, we were surprised when we got off the boat (URL) and were told: "Your tour is cancelled, because a 7.6 earthquake hit right where you were sailing, with a tsunami alert." Well, not exactly there, but I had been thinking how Trump's new tax law does not do justice to the game theory aspects of where the money goes around the world,  or to the Panama papers scandals well-known in Europe. With or without the new tax law, the US could bring back more money by cooperating more with EU and others who actually care about the strength of the people, enough to plug the most horrible leaks.
But this earthquake was small compared to what hit Mexico and NAFTA this past year...

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

To Vedanta folks about events and deep spirit in Iran

Just a few months ago, one of the sponsors of this list organized a major conference in Mumbai (which we discussed at the time) on interfaith dialogue with Iran. I regretted not being able to just pay my own way and come, because I am living off of a retirement pension now -- comfortable enough if I do not spend unnecessarily.

What I regretted most was missing a chance to connect with Mohsen Qomi,  one of the key speakers. Given his role on the program, I did a web search, and learned that he is a really key adviser of Khamanei, and a really powerful thought leader in Iran. But I was baffled by a huge dichotomy in his thinking:

(1) On the one side, he has stressed the importance of developing spirit and not just formalisms, and been emphatic that the formalistic faithful and total materialists are equally abhorrent. This is really central to our human spiritual reality as I see it, and it is exciting to see someone in a position of power who claims the same foundations.

(2) But in many writings, he urges something which looks like a mindless racist crusade to kill all Americans and Israelis. People from those nations have made many mistakes, but so have people from all nations on earth, and uncompromising hatred as a primary value can contaminate everything else, including even (1) itself. 

The events of the past week suggest that we are not called to put these difficulties on a back burner. Donald Trump's comments about Iran remind me of his comments about the FBI; it is good that he cares, but it would be helpful if he said less when he doesn't quite understand what is going on. (My wife says the same about some of my recent efforts to make sense of hairy quantum physics experiments; we all are fallible, and therefore human society needs to become less fragile with respect to that universal fallibility.) Obviously I would not take his comments as a proper starting point for the dialogue which is needed here. 

IN PRINCIPLE, Khomenei's idea of an Islamic Republic (not Khamanei, but Khomenei) does not logically depend on any effort at mass murder of Jews or Americans. Also, the current protests directly address that core idea, not the issue of relations with the US or Israel, and naturally create enormous concern in the leadership of Iran.  Dialogue about that idea itself will be important, both on the mundane level of our existence and on the spiritual levels.

Like the bhakti movement and St Paul in Christianity (and Bernard Shaw in Back to Methusaleh), Qomi emphasized the need to develop and manifest spirit in human life, that law alone is not enough. It seems reasonable to guess that the most important decision makers in Iran have concluded that Western nations like the US have not just separated church and state, but have impoverished the energy, attention, focus and funding used to support the growth and mobilization of the nonmundane aspects of human minds. The concept of Islamic Republic was to modify the notion of Republic to fill that hole. Protesters in the streets of Iran are now complaining about the huge flow of funds to madressas, caused by the power of the clerics, even in devout parts of Iran which most supported Khomenei's revolution in the first place.

One odd thing is that Donald Trump himself and Bannon are supporting the same kind of greater flow of funds to (Christian) madressas, and reduced separation of church and state, in the US itself (as the Ray Moore event illustrates). But he supports Christian formalists... well, like what Qomi rightly complains about. 

If the vast funding of madressas in Iran had funded folks like Sufis or yogins developing real spiritual energy, and positive impacts, I doubt we would see what we now see in the streets of Iran. In principle, the discussions we had with Ramanuja Foundation and Quakers about how to develop real spiritual strength and not just narrow indoctrination, are relevant to the core hope of Komenei, which  the present structure of Iran (providing excess recruitment to power of folks aimed at goals like hatred and suppression of others) is not doing justice to. Spirit alone would be enough to create more harmony, if it were truly stronger. 

Of course, there are karmic effects as well. Iran rightly says we should think about the Palestinian refugees, but Syrian refugees are now a much larger locus of pain on this planet. 
Khamanei would say that support of Assad was necessary to prevent narrow soul-suppressing sectarianism in Syria, which is rational, but which leaves his hands no less pure than those of the US here. It is very sad what tradeoffs have been faced by both nations, and only by less narrow approaches (less narrow than either Quds or Trumps) can we come to have better choices. 

So: time to rethink education of the spirit, and what it really requires? In my view, any really authentic growth of the spirit makes us closer to the noosphere, and thus to each other. 

But of course, narrow and temporary things like the economics of the oil industry have also caused regressive phenomena in all nations. That too will pass.

======================

Added later:
These are important issues, and I tried to be careful yesterday to do justice to higher intelligence.

But I also agreed yesterday.. if anyone is at all interested, there are more mundane, human and humorous aspects we could discuss here.

For example, when Khamanei said.. "I detect the sign of outside influence here. It is clear that someone with high levels of intelligence is involved..",
was he trying to make it clear to everyone that he was NOT blaming Trump? (Or did he actually believe it was Trump and trying to flatter him the way Putin does so successfully in that case? Putin does have experience in dealing directly with billionnaire oligarchs.) 
If Khamanei were to believe (as Quds folks undoubtedly try to persuade him) that Trump is behind this, it would be as unrealistic as Trump's similar beliefs that an unemployed and depressed old woman in New York (Hilary Clinton)  is the secret Fu Manchu behind the Deep State. (The Deep State or The Swamp is basically a real and serious concern, but it is more like Bannon himself than Hilary Clinton. I have seen quite directly what it is and how it works in many situations, and how it gets to be outside the law by centering itself outside the legal state proper. Using Mercer money to fund theocracy is a beautiful illustration of contradictions fostered deliberately.) The sheer location of the protests should make that clear. Yes, there are a few fingerprints of higher intelligence in these protests, but a different kind of intelligence, not one that we are called to ignore. More like mandate of heaven issues. 

But in the end, sheer demographics are a pervasive source of instability for all nations of the Middle East, likely to grow and affect ALL organized states, as the mobilized mass unemployment rises. In the end, the restrictions on women, forcing them to dedicate more of their lives to having children and reducing their options in other spheres, are a key cause of that, and it is grossly ironic that so many clerics both in Islam and in Christianity demand such an assertion of male biological urges over and against spirit when they claim to be representing spirit. The misunderstanding and misquote of Aristotle by power seeking hypocrites in the West is one of the many deep cultural problems of this world; Iran is certainly not alone in being in a "GOD" (Grow Or Die) situation.

======================

A few more rough add-on thoughts on interfaith dialogue.

A few weeks ago, Turki Faisal gave a major talk in DC, where he summarized HIS view of spirit and religion in one word: "obedience."

In truth, just as hatred is a kind of central problem in Iran, I have long felt that there is one most central problem in the basic beliefs of Catholicism and Salafism. I gave up Catholicism when I was 8 to 12, because I felt it would be dishonest to accept the axiom that the Pope is infallible. That is central to that organization, because the axiom is basically the foundation for an epistemology of unquestioning obedience to a chain of other people. In Salafism, the belief that "Mohammed is the last prophet" AND that direct spiritual revelation is no longer admissible to anyone (let alone nonclerics) is equally fatal as an axiom. I was excited to see that Qomi appears to reject that viewpoint, but what about "obedience"? I could ask "What does Turki Faisal MEAN by obedience if he rejects any direct personal connection to God?" Just a question.

But it reminds me of a curious situation with Quakers.

In the one time I visited India (2015), I was surprised that the visa on arrival required that we identify religion, by checking about six options or "other". 
It is curious to be asked to define exactly what one believes about spirit and life in just one or two words. But when we have to, we have to, and those who demand this should of course respect the fact that most of us must have reservations about any two-word summary.

In my case, I picked "Quaker Universalist." About half the Quakers in this area are Christocentric Quakers, people of "the book," which in this case means the Bible or the New Testament. About half are Quaker Universalists, people of many books, who generally do look deeply into the Bible but also look just as deeply and respectfully to all the great books conveying the greater mass of human experience and thought. (Certainly Buddhism gets deep attention here.) I usually feel comfortable with that and many other definitions of Quaker Universalism (including the weekly group meditation practiced by all Quakers), but when I think about Islam I suddenly realize the ways in which I seem to be a minority of one.

The vast majority of Quakers, either Christocentric or Universalist, would be JUST as comfortable with THEIR version of obedience to God as Turki Faisal, maybe even more. The vast majority believe that the most important part of the weekly meeting for worship (and meditation practiced elsewhere of course) is to try to listen for the voice of God, and try to obey it. This is not an easy practice, but what is easy and what is right are not always the same. It demands a lot of mental discipline, and people do try to help each other respectfully in learning that discipline, as well as some of the basic disciplines discussed in the New Testament like removing the beam form one's own eye first, and so on). 

But no, I do not rest my mind in the normal fuzzy image of what the word "God" means. I suppose I am closer in a way to those people I met in the high Andes, who think of something like earth mother (more precisely noosphere) and sky father (our deep connections to galaxy and beyond, even a phrase pater galacticus which I have used at times in meditation, with proper respect to Yeshua). And I think more of alchemical marriage than of simple obedience. (My wife at times enjoys how I see analogies between relation with her and relation with God.) I suppose, in the end, this says that OTHER Quaker Universalists are closer to islam than I am.. but the uncompromising quest for real truth might have a few supporters  as well, and I do hope the new dialogues will make room for them.

======================================
=======================================

Later, one of the Vedanta folks commented:
There are two worst thing which mankind has done to it in past 5000 years. First it divided itself into  different nationalities -
mostly based on artificial  social, economic, religious, cast  and political  considerations. Up to the  
administrative point of view, one could understand the division of mankind into different  nationalities. But when the different
nationalities, created based on artificial social/religious/caste,/economic/political considerations start looking antagonist to each
other, things become worse to worst

The second worst thing which mankind has done to it is  its division in different religions which started looking antagonist 
to each other, None of the so called founder  of any  religion had actually set up any religion during their time. The so called
founders of all religions were actually very secular , truly spiritual, all loving people and  their message and teachings  aimed
equallyat the entire humanity and not a particular section of people. Centuries after the departure of the so called founder of the
 religions that  some of their misled followers, who themselves had gone  astray from the original teachings, created such a
  hardcore instituitionalized  setup around the original teachings that original message became obscure  to the extent that only
outer institution started becoming visible and that is how   separate religions took birth.

================ my reply:
Thanks,...!

Your post reminds me of a beautiful theory, less realistic than your version of the story, but still useful in a poetic or metaphoric sense.

Many of the old cabbalists believed that the whole cosmos was once just one great mind, God, but that it somehow fractured into trillions of tiny sparks. Our true duty, they argued, is to bring the sparks back together. The novel Voyage to Arcturus by John Lindsay echoes that beautiful but incomplete view.

It is very scary, in a way, to think that we were once whole, and fell into schizophrenia. As we look at the religions and politics and cultures of earth, it does have a depressing similarity to hopeless total insanity. Why not just give up on the whole planet? 

As that thought hit me again this morning, I replied with a sentence I wrote a year ago for some folks in the high Andes: "pachamma es una nina." The mental characteristics of insanity (schizophrenia in particular) are sometimes easy to confuse with the characteristics of simple immaturity. We simply have a lot to learn. It is still possible we will not learn enough of the right mix of things, soon enough, to survive at all as a species, but it would be irrational and unnatural not to keep trying, especially as we do seem to be learning and coping bit-by-bit with complex challenges.


Friday, December 29, 2017

Is China supporting King Kim? Who lied, Trump or Xi, or...?

The news today suggests a very serious war of "who lied?" which might well lead to a global nuclear war if not handled right. If people indulge in the usual undisciplined black and white thinking colored by oversimplified assumptions. We really need other people to look into this and raise their voices!
And yes, my visits to top people in China and Korea this month have influenced how I see it.

When Senator Graham estimates a 30% probability that Trump will take preemptive military action against North Korea sooner than expected... he has very good reason. It is not just Trump's mood in play here. 

Trump says China violated very important and serious promises by supplying oil to North Korea. Not only the US intelligence agencies (no close friends of Trump!) but also the South Koreans take his side in the debate. So is Xi simply lying? Are Xi's promises and stated intentions worthless, and will military action really be necessary simply in order to keep the US alive?

==========

Since I saw many, many things in China, I am very much aware of a third possibility here: that Xi is not really running such things in China, that Xi does have a political incentive to appear to run China more than he does, and that there are OTHER folks in China lying both to Xi and to Trump, on course to create to a world nuclear war. I wonder whether Russia could help both Trump and Xi by helping them both understand who in their countries has REALLY been conspiring against both of them towards war?

Long before this oil issue arose, when I was in China, I saw a number of pieces on China's space activities, like:

http://www.businessinsider.com/china-building-worlds-fastest-wind-tunnel-to-test-weapons-2017-11

Today, in google news, when I search on "China hypersonics," I see important updates.

A few years ago, with encouragement from the staff of Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md, House Armed Services Committee), I encouraged US national security people to consider something: "What if the US or China or someone else fully develops the new hypersonic launch capability which we know how to implement (in 5 to 10 years), which would let them orbit a hundred to a thousand much times as much mass PER DOLLAR of launch cost as any other nation? (I know about the possibilities because of work I funded at NSF,, subject to a lot more intensive technical review than make work programs like NASA's SLS; see www.werbos.coim/space.htm for some links and details.) Folks at the Marshall Institute really took notice, but soon after "the swamp" intervened to reorganize Marshall to take national security and space off their mandate. (Have to defend those make work programs above all else, including life itself.) But China noticed, it seems. The link above is one of many showing that the Chinese military promised Xi Jinping that China would not allow corruption to do what HTV-2 (and underfunding XS-1) did to US capabilities in hypersonic launch; they promised that China would indeed pull such a "sputnik" on the US, and develop capabilities important not only to military strength but to life or death needs of the world civilian economy as well. 

From the stories, it's clear that that's what the military told Xi Jin Ping. They told him that they have a hero of reentry structures (the most crucial endangered technology needed to make low-cost RLV real) which would let THEM do what HTV-2 couldn't (which DARPA's cancelled version of ALASA could have done). They told him that repeated reentry demands a lot and should not be believed unless fully tested (true!), but and that China could test that by cloning the US civilian wind tunnel which is enough for the job (a bald faced lie, and they would know better). (The same Chinese military intelligence which knows about the HTV-2 failure and the structures problem which caused it would certainly know about the WPAFB test facility, the only one in the US capable of testing true multiple reentry capability.)

IN fact, even the old stories make it clear that those military folks lied to Xi, and got away with it, \in order to push for a more near-term capability, what they really wanted: the ability to reenter just enough to blow up Washington DC. That has been their goal, unmistakable.

Would certain people in the military have the will and the power to lie to Xi, in such fundamental (testable) matters, including not only hypersonics but also their support for North Korea?
Could they even be delighted with how their strong covert ties with North Korea can be used to give them plausible deniability in future activities using North Korea as a pawn to destroy the US, which they hate  much more than they love the prosperity of the people of China? Who really runs China, anyway? Did Xi leave the job incomplete when he purged Bo and Zhong?

Many find such things hard to believe. Isn't China totally ruled  by one man, like the Romulan Empire of the old Star Trek series, like what some folks thought Russia was like? But even Trump overestimated how much power a President of the US possesses, and even today he underestimates the scale and nature of forces  he calls "the swamp." (Which I do not imagine; I have seen a whole lot first hand in this area.) Old fashioned Kremlinology actually applies to China today much more than it did to China at the time of Mao, as various groups jockey for power in different spheres.


If  dramatic actions are not taken to get at the roots of this problem more directly, the main alternative I see in real logic to the preemptive action would be quick transfer of a full independently controlled deterrent to South Korea (removable only as part of a symmetric agreement denuclearizing the entire peninsula, civilian and military sides both).  The US and China have both neglected the key hypersonics technology so much that a new cooperation between South Korea and Boeing could allow THEM to do the leapfrog in cost, aimed at civilian international anchor missions, even as a balance or hedge against signing up for Xi's "one road" program to sell steady solar electricity from China's deserts across long HVDC power lines.


But maybe that is all I should say today. Best of luck. We will all need it.


Objective reality IS a major part of mainstream physics

Popular culture -- and even conventional wisdom in general science -- often lags behind the real cutting edge of what is being learned by the best mainstream hard core science.
This post addresses an important example: the issue of whether objective reality exists.
Some people on the Vedanta list recently quoted a famous book by d'Espagnat, repeating the old idea from the 1920's that quantum mechanics proves that objective reality does not exist. I explained why not, and, more important, reviewed what needs to be done next to understand reality better:

==========================================================


On Fri, Dec 29, 2017 at 11:19 AM, Paul Werbos <paul.werbos@gmail.com> wrote:
Do physicists believe in objective reality or not? The exchanges here are somewhat discouraging to me, because the true story is very well documented and I have given solid citations on the issue before this. On the other hand, ... has shown enough insight that I may add some new details here today.

People have quoted a book by d'Espagnat, to deduce that objective reality is no longer a mainstream option in physics. Frankly, the comments did not encourage me to see what his recent writings may be, but I certainly remember a very important canonical survey book from d'Espagnat on Bell's Theorem experiments and what they tell us. I remember reading large parts of it in about 1975, in the Harvard Coop bookstore, and being very impressed that he had the integrity and ability to report much of the truth about the very first Bell experiment, by Richard Holt at Harvard, which actually disagreed BOTH with quantum mechanics AND with the assumptions Einstein had used in analyzing the EPR experiment (the original idea for this experiment).

   (Comment: I had tea with Richard at Harkness Common on the day he got those first results, and will never forget that day. But a later review by Clauser and Shimony also notes that the first experiment did not "agree with quantum mechanics." Or with the VERSION of quantum mechanics they assumed?)
Espagnat has a long resume, but no real scientist would tell us we should automatically defer to a claim about physics based on a quotation from one person long ago. (Hey, Newton had a nice resume, and people have quoted him on odd things). I did say, in my previous posts, that many mainstream versions of quantum field theory do perpetuate the old idea  that objective reality does not exist, but many do not. (My point is that objective reality IS a major mainstream option, explained in detail below)

If we have to have an idiotic war of resumes and egos, let's start with scholar.google.com. I am a bit surprised that d'Espagnat's top citation seems to be 38. That is lower than I would have expected, so maybe someone can find a more positive indicator? But for David Deutsch (search on Deutsch author, with word "quantum"), he gets over 5000 citations for his top paper. (I get 4700, but that's for the Chinese version of mathematics underlying neural networks.) More important, Deutsch was not just an anthology writer, but the creator of a whole new branch of empirical quantum physics:
https://www.ictp.it/about-ictp/prizes-awards/the-dirac-medal/the-medallists/dirac-medallists-2017.aspx
He is the guy who developed the version of quantum computing which animates almost all the work in the West today. HE DEVELOPED it by paying serious attention to the respected but obscure theory of Everett and Wheeler, who showed that quantum field theory is 100% consistent with the idea of objective reality, if we assume that the cosmos or "multiverse" we live in has infinite dimensions. That concept of objective reality, and David Deutsch's work on it, is certainly as mainstream as one can get. Quantum computing in the paradigm of David Deutsch is a highly empirical and real branch of physics, far more consistent with science as defined by Kuhn and Bacon than is speculative stuff like superstring theory, let alone... some of what we have seen here.
Once again, I highly recommend David Deutsch's book The Fabric of Reality for a highly credible version of objective reality in well-validated mainstream physics today.
========
So why would anyone pooh-pooh that? I don't know. There is a lot of destructive factionalism in all branches of science these days (and all branches of religion as well). Some would perhaps pooh-pooh Deutsch's version of quantum field theory, and pretend it does not even exist. (I have certainly seem computer scientists behave that way, pretending ignorance of algorithms they don't own.) But perhaps in this case, it was just a matter of context, leading him to interpret "objective reality" with EINSTEIN'S version of objective reality, in which we assume the cosmos is finite-dimensional, maybe just 3+1-D curved Minkowski space. 

Certainly the concept of objective reality in 3+1 dimensions is far more controversial and marginal in mainstream physics today than is the concept of multiverse reality.
So then, I can imagine a True Believer (Vedantist or Marxist, whatever) asking: "So which do YOU believe? You must believe SOMETHING. If not, you are a confessed ignorant wimp, beneath the attention of all real people."

Sorry. I believe in Sanity or Zhengqi much more than I believe in any specific theories or ontologies about the cosmos or the absolute. Part of Sanity is being honest to oneself about one's many areas of ignorance. In first person science, as in third person science, the folks who feel obligated to pick an opinion the way they pick dress-up clothing to appeal to their vanity simple WEAKEN themselves, their ability to learn, and their credibility in the eyes of those who have attained a moderate degree of sanity.
I do adhere to the GENERAL notion of objective reality, for reasons I should not review again here. (e.g. at www.werbos.com/Mind_in_Time.pdf, an IFNA journal paper which only halfway made it to google scholar.)

I do not believe that physicists have a duty to PICK the TRUE theory as we know it today. Rather, the first duty of physics is to LEARN BASIC THINGS WHICH IT DOES NOT YET KNOW. That requires a multipronged approach. The the area of quantum technology, I would advocate greater use and testing of a specific MULTIVERSE theory, MQED, compared with KQED (Deutsch's version  of QED). That work would simply ASSUME multiverse realism, and not waste time on various fantasy alternatives popular among philosophers or even abstract alternatives popular among mathematicians.

On the other hand, on a parallel prong, I am also interested in work on three levels of possible deeper theory, aimed at theories which "approximate" MQED or which MQED could be seen as an approximation of. And yes, for the deepest of these, I have IDEAS for how to construct a credible PDE model fulfilling Einsteinian realism. Like 'tHooft, I recognize that no such specific theory exists as yet on earth. I am ever so sad that 'tHooft shares the goal,  but imposes restrictions on himself and others which make it logically impossible to attain the goal. I view him as someone like the person who wants to drive to a far place in his/her car, but is just too fussy to replace an old spark plug without which the journey is impossible. And is so fussy he would not even let anyone else make the attempt. (Google typed "fuzzy", not fussy. OK, it is right. And it knows I type "fuzzy" more often than I type "fussy.") 

But... I have thought about that experiment which Holt told me about, which d'Espagnat mentioned, which is a mystery to this day. Just this week, I have seen some leads which POSSIBLY, just possibly, might have some explanation. With a very noisy thermal partially coherent source of entangled photons (a mercury vapor lamp) AND calcite type polarizers... DO calcite polarizers (and similar beamsplitters) transform n-occupancy photon states differently from polaroid or sunglasses type polarizers, either with or without allowance for the time symmetry of all such passive objects? I don't know, but it would be really neat if explanation could be found not only for the "best" experiments but for all of them. Even neater if anyone else on earth would be willing and able to learn that humble simple KQED/MQED math. Seriously. Having just one 70-year-old retiree on the task is not a good situation, especially when I have other responsibilities.
If just one of you can really catch up with such things, it would be exciting and important. 

Happy New Year..

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Net neutrality and the terminator threat

Crude as the Terminator movies were, both T2 and T3 deserve careful watching for the technical scenarios they offer, serious and professional (at least in part). SECURITY was absolutely crucial in the breakouts which led to the end of humanity, and it is also crucial to interactions with places like North Korea which rise to being extinction threats as well if one considers the whole chain of possible events. 

That being so... the net neutrality debate now underway (with Google, Amazon and ACLU and others planning to challenge the recent FCC ruling and even push for new legislation) really fits within our scope. Here are my thoughts this morning about that debate:

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Many people in DC think of the net neutrality debate as "Which giant stakeholder should be given all the goodies?" That way of thinking is by itself a disaster. Conservatives claim the government should not be picking winners and losers, but clearly there is a lot of hypocrisy in DC which has been hurting the US in numerous ways; however, for now, let me focus on the net neutrality issue and the future of the internet.

Net neutrality was a SYSTEM, not a specific list of winners and losers. The folks getting rid of it, step by step, argue that a "system" is basically just a mass of regulations, and all regulations should be eliminated.  Zero regulation would also be a system. Which is the best system, one of these two or something altogether different?

It turns out that physical reality is really important to policy in this sector, just as it was in the deregulation of electric power. Conservatives often quote Santayana: "Those who do not learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them." In electric power, it was learned that vertical integration, combining the generation of power and local distribution and ownership of the wires all together, led to immense monopoly power. Obviously, the combination of content generation and internet transmission altogether would lead to even more massive monopoly problems, threatening not only prices and growth and fairness but democracy and culture themselves. 

The way to minimize regulation, and create more real market competition, in electric power was to forcibly SEPARATE ownership of the wires from generation. 

But here, the physical layer of the internet is a COMBINATION of wires and wireless. 

Some people, trying to defend the recent FCC action, have argued that the wires are all going to go away anyway, so let's build a system where what goes over the wires will decay but wireless will replace them, providing a massively competitive wireless system. THIS TACIT ASSUMPTION is at the core of why they are screwing things up.

What's wrong with the assumption and where it leads us?

To begin with, what about security? It really is important not to underestimate the importance of security both in operating systems and in communications. Security has been only a mid-level problem in the past, but it's important to understand that technology is changing, massively and fast, all over the world, and that platforms which were viable in the past are rapidly moving towards being unworkable altogether. Electric power has been at the forefront of the need for stronger security, and it is really scary how NSA has abolished the Information Assurance group which worked with Red Hat to provide relatively unbreakable operating systems for crucial functions in electric power. That's one of the areas which urgently calls for new approaches, to achieve a sustainable balance, but security of communications is just as important. At the end of the day, folks who say "don't worry, all our wireless is encrypted"... either don't know about some of the recent developments or don't really care so long as neglect serves their personal interests. (Yes, Virginia, vested interests do pervert things at times in DC.)

If we decide that we DON'T want the hard wired internet system to go to hell, the lessons from electric power clearly apply. Logic suggests that net neutrality is too weak for that sector, and that wires and content generation should simply be separated 100%, with rational algorithms used to determine routing just as electricity is routed by rational algorithms (which continue to evolve).

Of course, even the wireless system is not just one big happy free competitive network for all. 

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What will new quantum technology (currently being led by China in the relevant areas) do to systems like bitcoin (or wireless) which depend so heavily on encryption? I have recently heard major miners worry about that... as well they should. There is an impressive article in PRL this past month from about 15 places in China, including Pan Jianwei as one of the authors, which in my view has huge implications for the breaking of encryption, far beyond the traditional David Deutsch digital quantum computing advertized in the West. But there is another generation coming even beyond that, hinted at very lightly in the PRL paper, related to some of the things we discussed at CASIA (one of the coauthors) a few weeks ago. No, Virginia, technology will not be the same in five years as it is now, and it is certainly not ONLY Xi Jinping making decisions in this arena. 

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All for now. Best of luck,

    Paul

P.S. I was intrigued to learn that www.werbos.com/NATO_terrorism.pdf has been studied in more places than you might expect in Beijing. (That was published in a book from NATO/IOS Press.)

Friday, December 15, 2017

are they nuking the world internet? No joke....

IEEE folks recently asked me for a quick assessment of what's really happening with net neutrality, after the President's new order.  WAS net neutrality actually the right position for folks who believe in orderly free markets instead of dark ages chaos? Is there a good analogy to electric power regulation (a subject we understand very well at IEEE)? (And are we on the edge of real chaos now?)

Here is my dense but concise reply for technical experts:
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Subject: Re: Open Internet Order
Hi, Roger!

The decision to separate transmission and generation back under Reagan was based on the fact that bundling them together resulted in so much concentration of power that higher levels of regulation were really unavoidable, with bad side effects. For years before Reagan, it was mostly assumed that this was a textbook example of a sector so far from standard market economic efficiency theorems that a radically different, government type regime was necessary. That in turn was due to all kinds of bad stuff which preceded regulation. But by splitting it up, and working VERY hard on rational market design (through collaboration of economists and engineers, much of it funded by the group I worked in at NSF), the DEGREE of market competition was increased and regulation became less onerous. (More can still be done in that direction, of course.) IEEE standards are a similar paradox: standards sound like violation of market freedom to some, but in practice they allow more market competition and are good for customers, companies and the nations. Net neutrality versus no net neutrality is a similar thing; if net neutrality were replaced by something EVEN MORE like the modern way of managing electric power grids, maybe improvements would be possible, but ham-handed getting rid of it may be more of a disaster than people begin to know as yet. The whole It sector is in flux, and dark ages thinking is not a path to anything workable.

This is actually just one aspect of a complex of issues I've been discussing with a lot of folks lately. New ways of thinking about cybersecurity is also one of the most urgent needs.

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For a more coherent discussion for less technical people, see:

www.linkedin.com/pulse/net-neutrality-chicken-little-right-paul-werbos/?published=t

I am very glad that Google and ACLU will be fighting to reverse the net neutrality decision.
But as I think about it, I realize how important it is for EVERYONE to truly understand more of what is at stake here.
I hope that a few additional thoughts may be useful to Google, ACLU and the rest of you in that important outreach.
So here are my thoughts, a bit more reflective and serious than the initial reactions:

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Jones versus Moore outcome: view from the spirit watch

Because there are so many delicate things happening in the world, I have mostly not posted what I see directly in the noosphere, even after Quaker friends and my collaborator Yeshua urged me to live up to the "watch."

But after the election tonight, and so much curious speculation, I feel some duty to say a bit.

The voters of Alabama want "drain the swamp" even more than ever. But Trump and Bannon have done more and more to convince people that they simply don't understand enough to really achieve that.

The tax bill is a one of several central examples of that. Just as China dumping solar panels is a way to get a narrow advantage, as in prisoner's dilemma or Nash equilibrium, at a net cost to the world as a whole (which I learned a lot about last month), so too is a tax bill trying to compete with other nations in a myopic mercantilist way (like UK's policy to US before free trade and American revolution). The EU is all concerned about Panama papers now; a TREATY with Europe on taxes, bringing money back from ALL tax havens and leveling the playing fields, would have been far better. Like the tariffs which led to the real Great Depression, such an initiative is rather risky, to say the least, and of course voters will see that THEY didn't benefit, if it goes through as now planned. I feel sorry I didn't comment before. The careless trashing of net neutrality is even bigger.

But I also hope factions in the Democratic party do not succumb to wishful thinking. I am reminded op some international negotiations decades ago when one side moved to a viable compromise position, the other side got emboldened and went off the deep end, and there was oscillation and damage for a long time. At the noosphere level... DON'T underestimate the issue of Moore's contempt for the US constitution, as opposed to just sex scandals!!! The mandate of heaven will not go to those who would tear up the core spirit holding the US together, and Trump himself would do well to pay more attention both to that and to the spirit of truth. Even as draining the swamp and rapprochement with Russia are also higher imperatives.

What should higher levels choose if Trump crosses the line too far, but the choice of sex scandals versus Russia phobia is really terrible? THAT much I do not see right now. I would sooner hope he wakes up, repents, and tells his dog Bannon which way is up in the swamp.

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One reason I post despite the hold on confidential stuff... stronger feedback than usual....
very visible energy at work...

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Is Trump capable of a "return to Jesus" moment? One may hope. But as for Moore, despite his false pretense to represent the Ten Commandments (and his gross violations of his oath to support the Constitution), he has violated the Second Commandment on such a scale that I see little hope for him or his followers. But he probably doesn't even know what the Second Commandment is!!! (Hint: it wasn't in English.)