Wednesday, October 30, 2013

songs of the heart

Where to start?

Back in 2009, it was great to meet Klauss Nobel, the guy behind the "Nobel prize in economics."
He described his commitment to real, authentic spiritual growth, and I tried to convey that I too am very much a part of that real world.  He was skeptical at first, but as he grew more open-minded he asked a key question:"OK, if you're real too, what music do you use to get there?"

I smiled, and said something about the stuff I got deep into in undergraduate years, and even until 1980 or so... from Rite of Spring to Bartok and eventually to Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and lots of other stuff. But between government employment, involvement in Quakers, and failure to fully adapt to the New Music Business Model... I haven't listened as much lately. A little Kitaro and Alan Parsons when I sort laundry in the bedroom, but that's not so often.

But conveniently, there is something in my mind which can pay background music when need be even without a machine. And there is something which can tune in to humanity as a whole, selected channels, a lot like "Cosmic Consciousness' as described by Bucke.

Unfortunately, a lot of stuff "playing" out there in the human noosphere is really awful stuff,
murderous and cacophenous. (I remember when I was young when people were anxious "if you can hear my thoughts, what about this unspeakable sexual images in there?" Yes, they are ever present in humanity, and I learned more respect for Freud as I grew older, but they are a whole lot better than all that awful murder stuff out there today.)

So I was very happy a few weeks ago when I heard something in the back of my mind which was more soothing, more consistent with peace of mind... but I had no idea what it was. Luda asked me to hum it into a "song recognition' program or two she found on the web, but to no avail. Just as we often need to 'change channels" when reality seems to be showing us an ugly B grade movie...
changing channels in the music can be positive.

So... a couple of days ago... it was embarrassing. Luda and I both turned out heads when we heard it (she could recognize it from my humming)... it was just a TV commercial! The commercial for Omega watches. Oh well, better than most commercials. So I even googled "omega commercial," and was delighted to see a nice U tube, and a link to the guy who graduated from Cambridge University who wrote this.

And in retrospect, it's pretty nice. In there, with all the lying political commercials,
is something which is actually pretty positive. (Though I will stick with my digital Swiss watch.My father was proud of his Omega, as I recall..). Maybe even more so than it seems at first.
Funny how the good guys can sometimes get equal time in unexpected ways.

It reminds me of what Oemga meant for Teilhard de Chardin, and how "Omega time" would translate for him. Oddly enough, as we get frustrated by silly partisan commercials, it does also remind us of
the leevl at which there is some unity between us and even the folks who do those silly commercials.
We are all int this thing together, whatever it may be.

Though yes, there are also a couple of other links...

Best of luck,


P.S. Meanwhile, Luda had me watch an anime about "the cat", preceding the cat coming back, full iof
a Tokyo version of "West Virginia." And today...
today has mainly been Tina Turner's
"What's love got to do with it?", changed to "What's eigenvectors got to do with it?"

Having answered that, I move on...

Saturday, October 26, 2013

physics behind the debate over black holes gobbling up the earth

There was a huge debate a few years ago: 
IF one of our nuclear labs should have the ability to accidentally create a tiny black hole, would this gobble up the entire earth? More precisely, would it lead to events hidden deep in the earth, following Einstein's general relativity, where the black hole grows very slowly, and then, "on a bad hair day," relatively suddenly yanks the floor out under us? (This is pretty much standard exponential growth, where the biggest effects take place at the end.)

Many of you know about the emotions and posturing which went into both sides of the debate. It amazes me how often life-or-death debates in the US seem to be decided like fashion shows.. people compare how they look in red clothes or ideologies, versus blue clothes, and the objective reality underlying the issues often does not really come out. Fashion, vested interests and politics decide, objective reality be damned.

But on the objective reality here, there are some interesting developments...

At a fundamental level, the problem is that there are two different versions of quantum field theory, the basis of the standard model of physics which all the leading mainstream people rely on. It is commonly assumed that they are equivalent, because it is very convenient for people to do so, and because it is "almost" true. But in this case, they lead to different predictions. One says we will all die if the little black hole is created; the other says not. And most people really understand only one of the two.

Of course, I don't expect any of you to take what I say on faith. And if you study the mathematical literature, you may know about DOZENS of formal versions of quantum field theory. So... to verify the basic situation, you can look at a book by Steven Weinberg, Quantum Theory of Fields,  to the first two pages in chapter 9, which can be understood well enough without getting into all the details in the rest of the book. Weinberg's account is the number one account of what quantum field theory is, in a practical sense, since Weinberg himself developed half of the standard model of physics (the better verified half), and lived what really happened. 

The two dominant mainstream theories are: (1) canonical quantum field theory, which I call KQFT (with "K" for "Copenhagen"); (2) Feynman path integral quantum field theory, which I call FQFT. As Weinberg reports, KQFT was responsible for all the great decisive victories of quantum field theory 
in the old days; the shift to FQFT among theorists was driven by the fact that a guy named 'tHooft found it easier to prove some things he wanted to approve by starting from FQFT (and making a few other assumptions..). Many powerful theorists are very deeply and emotionally committed to FQFT, but there never was any decisive experiment... except perhaps recently. It was more a matter of fashion and ways of keeping entertained.

But are they the same anyway?

Please forgive a humorous analogy. Almost 20 years ago, I was very entertained by a hard-to-read book on nuclear physics, The Skyrme Model, by Makhankov, Rybakov and Sanyuk. For years, they, in their empirical nuclear work, had used a model of strong nuclear reactions developed by a British nuclear physicist, Tony Skyrme. They dedicate their book to this great British physicist, whose work was not fully appreciated in the West, because he kept the best stuff in a drawer licked up in the most classified lab in all of the US, as a result of which the key parts of the work were almost unknown in the West but widely disseminated in Russia. 
But on a more serious note, they said that use of the Skyrme model was limirted a whole lot in  the West, because of the near-religious dveotion to Auantum Chromodynamics (QCD). But later someone proved that QCD and Skyrme model would be equivalent, in the limit as infinity equals three. That made a big impression in the West, legitimized the area, and led to quite a bit of work here.

KQFT being "almost equivalent" to FQFT isn't a case of infinity equalling three... but it is similar.

It's my understanding that KQFT is equivalent to FQFT if Hn=H.
More precisely... in KQFT, we assume that the dynamics of everything
(the universe or "multiverse") is governed by the Hamiltonian operator H. Some respected mainstream physicists even believe hat the state of reality at any time t is a wave function psi(t), which is governed by the generalized Schrodinger equation, psi dot = i H psi. From the viewpoint of KQFT, the correct Hamiltonian H is actually Hn, something called the "normal form Hamiltonian." You can see this most clearly, if you do not already know it, by looking at F. Mandl and G. Shaw, Quantum Field Theory, Revised Edition, section 4.3 ("Second quantization"), equation 4.47. (Mandl and Shaw presents QFT from the original, KQFT, perspective.) FQED effectively assumes the same dynamics, except that H is the raw Hamiltonian, based on matrix multiplication of operators, instead of the normal product. The difference between H and Hn mainly involves terms like "the vacuum energy term," which does not affect normal calculations in quantum electrodynamics, the kind of successful calculations which put QFT on the map.
"If those terms always cancel out and have no effect, then the two theoreies are equivalent."

But not quite. H also determines the level of energy of a system. The amount of gravity (of bending space) depends on the amount of energy. So it really matters. 
Also, random noise terms which cancel out in linear interactions cam have major effects when we go to nonlinear interactions, where we rely more on speculation than on empirical evidence. (As per any form of quantum gravity today.) Hawkings' prediction that little black holes will radiate away is based on FQFT. Rajaraman predicts that solitons will have a mass greater than the corresponding classical prediction, again because of those extra noise terms. (I have run through the same calculations in KQFT, and found that, unlike FQFT, it reproduces the classical mass prediction, for bosonic fields.) And folks in the INtegrity Institute say that they can build perpetual motion machines based on Casimir forces based on the same "free vacuum energy" which they, like FQFT, believe is really there, even though there is not a shred of empirical evidence to show that they are. "Have faith, the angels of political correctness and superstrings will save the earth." Einstein's work was not quite so speculative.

But there is another way to test the difference between the theories. The stochastic terms in FQFT predict certain transitions called "instantons" beyond what KQFT would predict. That prediction has been tested recently,
in the world of hard core empirical physics:

Little–Parks oscillations at low temperatures: Gigahertz resonator method
Andrey Belkin,a_ Matthew Brenner, Thomas Aref, Jaseung Ku, and Alexey Bezryadin
Department of Physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA

They did their best not to make waves... and the evidence needs much more investigation, both in theory and in experiment... but for now, the tentative conclusion is that FQFT fails while KQFT fits.

Of course, these are all just my personal impressions on a Saturday morning, not representing anyone. But is any of us really safe to just ignore the uncertainties and risks here? Is it rational to rely on faith, even if the risk should be only 10 percent?

Fortunately, I feel that the probability is less than 50% that humans have managed to create a small black hole... yet. But if we start to understand strong nuclear forces better, i HOPE we will learn to dispose of more energy...  and I hope we will try to understand what we are doing early on, and also that we will develop and use low cost access to space to allow some experiments a bit further from the planet we depend on.
(e.g. the DARPA project XS-1 may be more important than we know as yet, if they can stay the course and do it right, without giving in to lazy contractors who would prefer to use old expendable vertical technology.)

Best of luck,



P.S. Some folks have argued "if black holes could gobble up the earth, why didn't it already happen, since cosmic rays have enough energy." Cosmic rays, like some accelerators, have llots of energy, but the raw energy level is not the only factor. Throw a ball at the wall at 2 miles per hour, and not much happens. Throw a hunk of U235 at a wall made of U235, at the same speed, and a lot happens. Probably our accelerator experiments SO far, like cosmic rays, are dumb enough not to cause problems ... but we can't be sure, and we SHOULD be prepared to do things more interesting and less like what we have already seen in the atmosphere.

Others have asked: "Why don't we see evidence of OTHER planets gong black, if this is possible?" That wouldn't be predicted to happen every day out there... our observations of other planets are very recent... and the evidence so far does not exclude the possibility that we have looked at such places..

Krypton revisited?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Space and reality -- National Space Society Policy Issues Report

Report of the Policy Committee
October 16, 2013

The Policy Committee has contributions to make in at least four key areas as it stands:

(1)KALAM:  Support for the NSS-Kalam Initiative (or whatever we call it);
(2) USGOV: Trying to get action from the US government which  has the greatest benefit to the goals of NSS;
(3) POSITIONS: Generating positions statements mainly to support (1) and (2), but also to meet other goals of NSS as an organization, such as input to press releases and communication with membership, and achieving visibility on issues to help with fund-raising;
(4) VISITS: activities like Congressional visits or renewed phone tree, intended both to get membership support to assist (1) and (2), but also enhance membership experience and NSS visibility.

The needs are greater than what any one person can do justice to... but we have more than one person. I am especially grateful to Dale Skran for accepting the position as Deputy here, to spearhead aspects which I am not doing justice to, as I try to focus very intensely on certain areas.

With regard to POSITIONS, we have issued three new positions.  They included a response to a request for comment on new ITAR regulations, a statement on the NASA budget, and a response to a request for input from the NRC on the justification for human spaceflight.   The papers can be found at,, and We had lots of really serious input to both, and I like to believe they have had more traction than we  have seen as yet. We have also had deep discussions of space solar power (SSP), drawing not only of the policy committee but two advisory committees I have set up, one on SSP and another on low-cost launch technology –which are also the two pillars of Kalam’s proposals. For SSP, the existing NSS position paper is a few years old, but not a real problem; I am planning to consolidate what I have seen so far (about 200 pages, plus a couple of important reports) into a new draft, but my first goal is to follow up more concretely what I have learned, both in KALAM and USGOV.

Re KALAM and USGOV – I am extremely excited about what I have seen in three places:

In my view, these two things, considered together, make it far more likely that humans really will be able to settle space in a serious, cost-effective way – but only if we follow up and make the most of both opportunities. The DARPA activity looks a whole lot like the proposal from Kalam (and Gopal in his group) for a Hypersonic Test Vehicle (HTV), which makes them nervous; for example, Gopal urges us to consider the warning at:

That article is well worth reading.  On the plus side, it shows how Sponable is focusing on the key goal of developing enabling technologies for the private sector to deploy. It admits that a Mach 10 demonstrator is not  a true RLV – but is closer than the more conservative, less hi tech Mach 3 demonstrators planned by others with less resources. But the quotes from higher up folks in DARPA about giving equal consideration to vehicles without wings is a real worry (as Gopal stresses, for excellent technical reasons). The space movement has had many great political victories in the past which turned to ashes when we didn’t stay on top of the details and the implementation.

Mankins’ NIAC report (unlike the earlier IAA) report is “a whole new Bible” for SSP, in my view, because of how actionable it is. In his approach, we can do a whole lot of crucial work on earth, without needing a billion dollars, to mature the technology.

Discussions with Kalam’s group about hosting a great new workshop in India have worried me a lot. What is to keep them from becoming more empty talkfests? Mankins’ new report is really crucial in giving us something substantive to talk about and to do nest, without which UN style meetings are beside the point.  Both in USGOV and in India, the need for better focus on what a workshop will accomplish has been the real sticking point – and we are well-poised now to handle that. Still, there is one caveat: while John’s new plan is “THE” team A approach to SSP, we do need to keep room open for options like nonterrestrial materials (NTM) and the kind of mirror technology which the Indians seem to prefer; in addition to John, I hope that Ed McCullough can help push forward the technical substance of those “team B” options. To be honest – John’s new report begins to meet the very tough kinds of standards of NSF, and I am thinking about the possibility of an NSF role, which forces a whole new level of technical credibility. If a workshop plan meets high enough standards, I can envision a possibility of NSF cosponsorship, which the Indians would very much want. The Kalam declarations require a new high level of technical competence and immersion from within NSS – and I think they have been favorably surprised by how much that does now exist.

The US government shutdown has had huge costs to the USGOV and KALAM threads. In fact, we almost lost the possibility of India as a partner, when the existing US-India collaboration on their Mars mission appeared frozen out; however, that was resolved, and we seem to be back on track –though elections in India will take up most of Kalam’s personal attention until the end of November. The DARPA XS-1 meeting was cancelled. Some in the House have proposed that all government activity deemed “nonessential,” now on furlough, should be permanently cut off; yet the business model of SpaceX and Orbital would be extremely dislocated if that happened.  I had a meeting downtown at a very high level, enough to be sensitive, which had to be cancelled due to furloughs even at very high levels.  This has drawn in some of my own energy as well. I was also supposed to have discussions in China myself this week, cancelled (except for a video skype contact) due to cancellation of all official travel.

Regarding Congressional visits – our agreement to do a major joint briefing with IEEE has also been put on hold until the shutdown issue is firmly behind us. (A six week extension would not do the job.) But if Dale can get something going in the meantime, that would be great.

Dale has set up and run an advisory committee to address key issues – basically any issues in the Roadmap which are not within the scope of low cost access to LEO and SSP.  Please see his report on the activities of the NSS-ACSI for details.

Lynne suggested we form a subcommittee of the policy committee to do translation, from positions to press releases and such.  An ad hoc subcommittee consisting of Dale Skran, Al Globus, and David Brandt-Erichsen was formed to produce the press release for the- NASA budget position.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The movie Gravity -- and how it relates to our own life-or-death struggles

This morning -- I am glad I decided to see the movie Gravity yesterday, and would want to see it get an Academy Award next time.

It's not just another industrial accident movie, full of action and adrenalin (though it has those aspects, for those who crave them).  The old movie 'Aliens' had that kind of nonstop adrenalin too, but a world-class psychiatrist would not really have much interest in that movie, except to analyze what kind of people would make or enjoy it. But this one.... even though it is all set in a very hard-core objective reality, it is really a deep psychological movie.

"OK," says Luda, who didn't see anything but the trailer," but the will to survive is a feeling common to people all over the world.  And there are lots of movies which talk about struggle for survival."
Yes, but this one gets deeper into it... to the point where it raises some interesting new thoughts to me about the kind of psychological resources we need to marshall, in order to stay alive.

And let's face it, the human species is very much in that kind of struggle for its very survival right now. At the moment I write, the US government is shut down and perilously close to a debt ceiling crisis... and losing the US or falling into a new great depression would be a lot like losing a queen in a game of chess, losing a crucial piece in humanity's larger struggle to survive. As I observe (and try to help) in this larger struggle for survival, I see every day how much we need to marshall our full psychological strength and will, in exactly the same way Sandra Bullock had to marshall them... with a level of depth and reality far greater than what you see in the gauzy fanstasies which lead so many of the Congressmen today to paths about as promising as those of drug addicts.

What are those inner resources, and how can we understand them scientifically?

Most of the movie is about struggle, consciousness and will (but love and spirit enter as well) in the face of very harsh and solid objective reality. At the end.. a frog provides a really noteworthy touch...
and a little later Sandra Bullock stands up in a scene where indeed a picture equates to a thousand words and ideas.  This morning, I started telling myself: "OK, my main job today is to stay in the right frame of mind for the video Skype talk I give in Beijing tonight. So I will try to hold onto the feeling in that scene... I am a kind of child of the earth, connected to the sun and the fresh breezes and the life of this world.. and if I create new emotional hooks in myself today, they will be positive things connected to the needs and growth of those folks I talk to today." Just for today.

It reminds me a bit of the old concept of "resolutions." When I first read the discussion of that
concept in lower-level Rosicrucian literature long ago, the very mention of it struck me as somewhat alien. It reminded me of rural school teachers or mothers urging their little girl to repeat a hundred times "I will be a good girl today." But later, through life, I could see more and more how it fits in. Certainly we need a balance of our "inner to-do list" with the ones we write on paper.  

For example, in Gravity, some resolutions: "I will not let myself dissolve into a ball of jelly. I will survive.
I will make it." (Forgive me, but in describing it to Luda, I did mention Sophocles... a certain KIND of
powerful overt simplicity... but psychologically, it is more complex.)

Thinking about that this morning... I remembered a very advanced plenary talk on neuroscience in Montreal
a few years ago, where the guy basically said: "I have finally figured out the real functions of the two most advanced parts of the human brain, the leading edge of our consciousness. They are there to address the most difficult questions which the human brain is learning how to answer. One is -- where did I leave my car this time in the parking lot? The other is -- what was I trying to do anyway?" In my 2012 paper in Neural Networks, I discuss that further, and show the connection to a key new concept of "active memory."

So -- "resolutions" are basically a matter of making use of active memory (how we REALLY keep track
of our car in the parking lot) TO the issue of "what was I planning to do anyway?

Now tonight can I help the lead new intellectuals of China remember in future what THEY are trying to do? It's a bit scary, but not really scary like Gravity ... but it too is part of struggle for survival of humanity as a whole.


On a minor note... I can see some friends in NSS saying "Oh yes, it's a movie about orbital debris.
The problem isn't quite so acute as depicted here... but it is a chronic problem, and this should remind us not to forget it when we draw up lists of priorities and make strategic plans. Also, there is a struggle for more sustainable ways of living and working in space." Also true/

Thursday, October 10, 2013

shutdown -- it's not bad, it's worse

Like about 800,000 other people in the federal government (and many others beyond it),
I have been at home without pay (for now) for two weeks -- under orders to do nothing related to my job.
Since my job is related to a whole lot of things, it's hard to figure out what this really means.

For about a week, I cleaned up some loose ends in my understanding of basic physics. I could
have done more of that... but... felt called to really pay attention to what is going on here with the shutdown.
All just my personal impressions, of course, nothing official.

But first, some truth about where I am coming from. I basically agree with the President's position.
Many folks have said he was too soft on terrorism, and encouraged it too much as a result. There comes a point where a slippery slope takes you to a cliff even more certainly than trying to fight your way out.
I'll explain more below... but any honest and sane person should at least really listen to what the President has been saying, as he tries to explain it himself.

As I watch the players... many people demonize Boehner, for obvious reasons. But as I look at the history
of what Boehner has done and is planning to do... I see someone in a pathetically weak position,
who seems to feel "I have to obey orders, to keep my job."

In fact, I have had a lot of contact with staffers in both political parties. Starting in 2009 (when I was a Republican staffer myself on the Senate side), I have heard a whole lot of them complain about their
unpleasant dead-end job as much as any underpaid dissident worker at WalMart. And they explain what it means for them and their boss to have less autonomy than they used to.

So who is in charge, and what are they fighting for, and how long will they be on the scene?

Bloomberg BusinessWeek had a big article recently on "the real speaker of the House," former senator DeMint, head of Heritage. They and others have documented how strenuously the far right
(including Heritage and a few of their allies) have studiously urged House Republicans to "stand firm"
on their hostage threat.  One day, when the television news go to be ... less informative than it might have been... I went up to bed and turned on the radio... where all the stations I could get here
(next to DC!) were static, music or... on the one clear station with talk, incessant loud calls to "stand up for freedom, tell your Congressman to stand firm... this was paid for by..."

As I read Bloomberg, I thought back to some articles I had read about a big power struggle in which minions of Koch (and his right-hand man Fink, who ironically might be a distant cousin on the German side... if there is a German side)...  took over firm control of several Republican "think tanks." I remembered a meeting at Cato where even Fred Smith, a conservative and head of FedEx, had real problems not being
attacked by the ideological extremists and storm troopers who clearly were in charge.
And so... a quick google search on John Birch Society..... (for which I also have memories)...

When the House clearly failed in its efforts to bluff out the President, lots of rational people thought that the Republican Party, with its respect for the traditions of the Republic and its respect for the economy and for big business (and for its popularity) would do what Boehner clearly wanted to do initially -- pass a clean resolution. Obama has complained that Boehner broke his promises in the conversations they had had; but it seems that Boehner had no power to keep the promises, a bit like the President of Iran who must answer to the Ayatollah.

In truth... the John Birch society people like Koch (of "He who has the gold makes the rules")
really WANTED to shut down the government. That was just a quick realization of their long-term plan.
"The sky is not falling. Better to get it over with in one shot than just phase it out, as we had been planning. Government should be for national security, and for protecting the legal rights of the private sector such as our rights to our oil holdings overseas, and nothing else. We are HAPPY to have people discover that nonessential government is nonessential, and that we can do without it permanently." So much for NSF and NASA and NIH and food for the poor and all that.

And now this week a lot of people are surprised that the same folks who grinned about a government shutdown are looking forward with glee to shutting down the world financial system. They should not be surprised. Shutting down the federal reserve and all the large banks was always a part of their program. (The John Birch Society long say the big bankers like Rothschilds as evil centers of the world Communist conspiracy. Do read the wikipedia article... and hope they are not paid to take it down.)
But what if that causes a world depression? I can hear those folks saying.. maybe, maybe not, but that would be a small price to pay in adjustment, to get us back to true freedom.  Precisely the same kind of freedom which Mussolini offered people, which benefitted from depression.

How could we get to such a pass?

I do blame part of it on a previous Supreme Court ruling, out of touch on the idea that "corporations are people", even as the two-legged sort of people got a lot less respect. I blame part of it on well-meaning people who inadvertently went too far in reducing the rights of the minority in House rules, and it makes me nervous that Reid might make the same mistake in the Senate. (The rights of the minority are crucial to limiting what "51% of 51%" can inflict on the rest of us. If the rules gave the minority one day of control of the House floor every week, the shutdown would be over. And, more generally, there would be no control by groups far from what the majority enacted into law just the year before.  This is especially important when the 25% extremes on BOTH sides are really bad news.)

Part of it I would blame on the effects of gerrymandering by both sides in encouraging extremes, and in disempowering the people in the middle. If only we could get a constitutional amendment saying that all Congressional districts will henceforth based on a computer algorithm (specified in the amendment
or at most delegated subject to very strict rules) to be run nation-wide on Census data, as aggregates of Census tracts!! Many incumbents would worry... but what about the other guys YOU are worried about,
and what about the very survival of this nation, which is now under severe threat?

The irony is that I knew about the John Birch Society long before its attempted coup, because I was a very active Conservative Republican, back when that group really did stand for freedom and independent thinking. What we have now... well... Boehner starts to remind me of that feeble old Junker,
who made it to the history books as the laughable nonentity who paved the way for certain more serious folks.  What can Boehner do, really? That's a question for his conscience... but we all face a question of conscience here. I don't see the reinvention of Mussolini's corporate culture as the true path to freedom.

If the Business Roundtable knows how to face facts, they won't let a depression really happen.
They will take firm steps to get us back to a more authentic democratic system. As will any true Christians, who pay more attention to the words of Christ than to the words of Koch.

Of course, Koch is sincere... as sincere as the Ayatollah Khamenei, to much the same ends.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

Faster than light communication as a high school science project?

It is actually conceivable to me this morning that a high school student who learns a little MatLab
could do the crucial experiment, in simulation, which would open up FTL communication. Or, failing that, force us to revise our understanding of quantum mechanics, or at least create a useful tool for exploring design ideas in quantum computing.

 You can see the key idea in a couple of images:
 images of two experiments with links to detail

 See also:

 Matlab task a high school student could do
Notice that this specification does not require that you know any physics; in a way, it EXPLAINS the physics at a high  school level.

So what I owe you is a bit of explanation and background. (The background is a lot trickier than the
task itself!)

Lots and lots of people have proposed that you could produce faster than light communication (or even backwards time communication) by exploiting the weird properties of Bell's Theorem experiments, the kind of experiment shown on the first image. It has been shown that changing the angle of the polarizer on the left will change the probabilities of what you observe on the right, instantaneously or even backwards in time.  But a careful mathematical analysis shows that you can't use that kind of experiment for that purpose. However -- what if we could entangle THREE photons together, as in the bottom figure? THE BOTTOM FIGURE is just a kind of inspiration; it's isn't real. But it reminds me of how the magic of measurement is supposed to work, in standard quantum mechanics. If measurements are carried out in different orders... FTL communication might be possible. I have seen a lot of abstract theoretical debate about that, but nothing really decisive that I know of.  (I have seen debates of people who claimed they knew that literature well.. but of course, there could be something simple and clear that answers this that none of us knew about.) In any case, it's nice to be able to predict and design new experiments in this space.

By the way, I wanted to give you the URL for the NSF award to Yanhua Shih on his proposal for a "backwards time telegraph." But due to the government shutdown, I can't find it. It would be easy for anyone to find, by clicking on awards->search at -- after the web site comes back up. Shih is one the very top experimenters in this area.

After I read Keller's thesis, I looked to see what three photon experiments have actually been done, that would be relevant. I found many key papers, such as the paper by Greenberger, Horne Shimony and Zeilinger (GHSZ) which started this whole line of research. On the web, I found a PhD thesis by Michael Reck under Dr. Anton Zeilinger from 1996. In section 1.4, he says: "This dramatic result (GHSZ) has led to the search for sources of entangled triples. However, no sufficiently bright source has yet been realized." I downloaded a dozen papers by Zeilinger (of Austria), the real leader in this area. It seems he shifted his attention over time to another types of experiment, which could illustrate the same general ideas, which he could actually implement.  A key paper, right from the beginning of real experiments, is posted at:

What would it takes to do a simple model of experiments like what he shows in Figure 2 in that paper? Originally, I was thinking of doing a repeat of my own quant-ph paper, showing how we can use a kind of classical stochastic model of this type of experiment. That does not look hard. But first, I needed to extract exactly what standard quantum mechanics actually says here. The student MatLab specification does exactly that. It is a bit idealized, but that's fine for now; the qualitative predictions are what matter.

In the specification, I talk about what happens if we do the same operations in a different order.
If changing the order of measurements on the left changes what we can actually observe on the right, that's FTL. Of course, we can choose the angles to be anything we like; if we get FTL at any choice of angles, that's pretty radical.

Of course, someone with more math background could prove interesting theorems about this system. A lot of Zeilinger's resecnt work on this kind of system proves theorems about "local, causal hiudden variable theory," which aren't relevant to the questions we are asking here.

If any of the predictions look strange -- well, that would be interesting, since they could be tested.

Even in the worst case, this might be a useful step towards low-cost simulators for quantum optics circuits, as I discussed in my own recent arxiv paper (see the figures).


But as a matter of honesty... I should confess what my expectations really are here.

I think that the probability is about 50-50 that experiments with this system can show how a different order of the same operations  leads to different observable outcomes (different values for the array psi). (The order of calling procedures simply reflects which object the photons reach first. That can be controlled simply by moving some objects further from the source.) Even if it leads to different results, I feel it is only 50% likely (or less?) that the differences could lead to a scheme for FTL communication.

BUT: I also don't believe that the order of operations would really matter, in the real world,
in physical experiments.  It is quite possible that we need to revise  the standard
 formulation of quantum mechanics, to correctly predict this kind of experiment. Maybe; maybe not.  In a way, all of this started with Einstein, who proposed a simple experiment (EPR), where he didn't really believe the real world could be as strange as what standard quantum mechanics predicts.
 I don't believe the real world would be so strange that the order of measurements would really matter here... but IF STANDARD QUANTUM MECHANICS predicts that it is that strange, we need to know, and we need to follow up by doing the experiment. And maybe I would be surprised, just as Einstein would have been surprised at what happened to his simple idea. If so... well, maybe FTL communication might be possible after all, even without invoking things like bending space and nuclear energy. Maybe. I hope someone finds out... even as I switch to the world produced by government shutdowns and other things. But if I am right in my guess about the real world... well, we need to revise our models before we have any hope of doing things which would use the trickier forces we would have to use for FTL or backwards time technology.

But: a clarification: OF COURSE the outcome changes if a single photon passes through TWO polarizaers, and the order of the polarizer along its path is swapped. The question is: does it ever change the results when the timing of DIFFERENT photons reach in different objects IN PARALLEL is switched? In standard quantum mechanics, it is assumed that an act of measurement on one photon "condenses the wave function of the entire universe" at exactly that moment in time.


Just to be complete... as I look at Figure 2 in the paper 0201134, I do notice that TIMING is really crucial in these experiments. This simple model specification assumes that the timing is all set up correctly, as intended, as in their experiment. But how would we generate a more general model, able to address failures of the initial pulse timing and such? Keller's PhD thesis under Morton Rubin of UMBC says a lot about the more complicated and tricky mathematics required for that. In essence, one would have to pay the price of going to simulations of partial differential equations (PDE) to really cover those phenomena. There are very subtle issues involved, in the foundations of quantum theory, which I am sorry I did not appreciate back when Shih gave me a copy of Keller's thesis. (But then again, I don't think anyone else on earth understood those issues then either.) One of these days I may update and make public some new thoughts I have on how to address those issues... but not this week. Too many other things going on... and besides, the simpler cases can help get us all better prepared for the hard stuff anyway.

Friday, October 4, 2013

the struggle of life in higher Indian mysticism

First, before I get to higher mysticism, some background on the planet earth.

I try NOT to intrude on elections in India. In a way, I think of them as a delicate fishbowl.. "Be careful not to shake things and disrupt them.  When you do not know the facts, be very careful not to weigh in accidentally
on a position of ignorance."

But of course, we are all connected, and must be very serious about informed connections which do occur. Long ago, in my first couple of years at Harvard graduate school, there was a time when my best friends there were members of the Vedanta Society, an important group representing ... a strain of the culture of India which is much further up "the mountain" of spiritual development than the superstitious folk polytheism which you can also see across India (and even today in China, with golden calves and pigs very similar to what Moses, Jesus and Mohammed tried to eradicate). They mentioned at the time how some of their families were trying to create a new political party in India, Janata, to reflect what they hoped would be higher spiritual values. Yet at the same time... we bought our house (which I think of as "the house between the worlds") from the scion of the old Indian aryuveda healer/doctor family which tended to the spiritual and medical needs of the Ghandi family, so we see both sides. Of course there are two sides in the elections coming in late November -- basically between Ghandi's party (Congress) and Janata. They are important elections, but both sides have people carrying the torch for important ideas.


In the middle of all this, an important thinker in India, whose friends have a connection with one of the parties, and who is devoting a major part of his energy to spiritual pursuits, expressed his concerns by sending me the caption from a carton of Calvin and Hobbes:

Good morning...   !

Your quote from Calvin and Hobbes is a good conversation piece. Really, it applies to all of us
on earth. I have tried to grapple with the dilemma in many ways for a long, long time.

Actually, it connects to some of the same issues I was thinking about regarding self-knowledge versus Self knowledge. I am sorry that that reference was not as useful to you as I had hoped. 
Just as you often go back to Krishnamurthy... my brother has read deeply in the yoga aphorisms
of Patanjali, and I read extensively in the Upanishads a long, long time ago. Visiting my brother a few years ago, and looking at his brig scholarly book of Patanjali, I was intrigued by their story of evolution
of thought. Much of the recent work engages in everyday life in a very important way, but the older sources
do have a level of depth and connection to higher levels of evolution which are also important. All of the Upanishad scholars I have met in recent years talk about self versus Self. (Though of course there is more there.)

I do try to input information in a volume which could be paralyzing.

For example, one of the groups I have monitored is the National Security Agency, also known as NSA or No Such Agency. They have an interesting culture. Many of them are mathematicians -- as I once was,
and still am in some ways. They talk a lot about the problem of "drinking from a firehose." 
That is an expression I have taken up myself. The more one seeks authentic Self-knowledge,
beyond just narrow self-knowledge, the more finds oneself drinking from a firehose.

I do not actually take the religious/mystical extreme of saying one should renounce self in favor of Self. That is not natural, in my view. Following Western paths, I argue for an "alchemical marriage," a healthy balance and mutual support of these aspects. But the larger aspect certainly is a major part of my efforts and life -- even though the complexity makes it hard to cope with. A major challenge for all of us to learn how to cope
with more -- but not to violate "impedance matching," not to take on so much that we actually learn and achieve less than we would in a more realistic plan of action.

For myself, a major challenge in practical life has been the challenge of multiplexing versus focus. Of course,
we all face that challenge. So I tend to aim for "one at a time, but keep the structure in balance."

The past two or three weeks, I put my core energy into little things... things which will be useful for me to know even if this whole planet falls apart... I focused on certain fundamental mathematical issues  probablh outside your realm of interest, It was focused... but I have maintained enough balance that I created an agreement which will result in a Congressional briefing on space in late October (requiring lots of planning and preparation), will be visiting the relevant part of OSTP next week, and expect to prepare my keynote talk for the IEEE Baltimore conference/workshop on space solar power as a byproduct of preparations for these things. And today will get to assessing the dialogue I created on the SSP technical issues with my own
technical committees on that area. So it is not a case of total paralysis. It is possible to juggle multiple things -- and even to appreciate the sense of maintaining a multilevel multiplexed existence.

To be honest... in higher meditation last night... I did think a bit about archetypes as well..
and remembered Kwan Yin, and the Buddhist issue of Buddha versus Boddisatva.

But... my bus to work comes in ten minutes.


So that was that. No bus to work THIS morning, due to government shutdown!

But I didn't have to feel the usual level of tension in bed this morning, either...

and so I can extend this by describing some further experiences related to "the Self"
(as the Upanishads describe it) or the "noosphere" (the tradiitional Western concept I do make heavy use of),
which are more or less the same reality which folks like Teilhard de Chardin and the more enlightened Gaia thinkers try to describe.

It is curious to live life, at the spiritual level, a lot like a neuron inside a larger brain,
Bits of associative memory, which look like curious sideways little cells when we peer down into a brain, become vast archetypes and prototypes, which have "power" over the thinking in the brain, just as traumatic or euphoric or cathartic memories can effect the thinking of an individual. A week ago, a friend gave me a copy of the novel "Return of the Tetrarch" which is groping to cope with the power of such archetypes... just one piece of the noosphere.  I'm not into that approach very much, but it does color my thoughts enough that I do need to mention it. For example, I think of Santa Claus, Satan, Pocohantas, Kali, and the Thousand Buddhas as serious and somewhat "powerful" archetypes, but not as real people or as fundamental kinds of realities... the power of thought is great, but only because We give them energy. (By "energy" I really mean "psychic energy" or qi or backpropagation signals, but let me not be TOO precise here.)

There are those who say "Think of the devil and he appears." That's all I really wanted to start with here... but the feelings out there about "the devil" are so emotionally charged that I did need to put in a caveat. The "devil" isn't so real, but the saying does talk about a reality. It's a reality which applies not only to archetypes but to us -- to real people. We are all connected, and it is part of the nature of the noosphere that we continually, naturally and usually unconsciously make and break strong connections.


And so, many many years ago, I began to learn from experience about the phenomenon which Rosicrucians call "assumption." I introduced that before in this blog. "Assumption" is basically what happens when some kind of natural spiritual tendency towards empathy, "seeing through the eyes of other people," really goes very very far.
Human brains already have a natural system for empathy, called "mirror neurons," but here I am reerfring to a more powerful and higher level of intelligence, as in the noosphere. Even within human brains, there is something called "gating," where one field of the brain can see different aspects of the world at different times. The noosphere possesses a more powerful version of gating... and we can gate (to a variable degree)  to the deeper thoughts and feelings of other "souls" in the noosphere.

There was a time, in the 1980's, when my personal spiritual explorations involved a lot of work with assumption.
Sometimes I would be sitting in a chair, unavoidably a little tense no matter how hard I relaxed. Sometimes it would be more like deciding where I wanted to go, or what I was interested in... and was alert enough to wake into something like a lucid dream which wasn't a dream at all.

 For example... there was a time when I was amused that "Verbus" means "word" in Latin, and I felt it would be good to have a kind of code name to use in some spiritual interactions, just as people use usernames in some discussion lists. One night.. when my mind was wandering... I felt pulled into the mind of someone else...
who turned out to be a young woman (late teens?) who was really truly exasperated by the problem of trying to communicate with her parents. Deep inside herself she was radiating "WORDS! I want words! I need words!"
with intense emotion, and need, at a spiritual level. So I was pulled in... a bit... waking up..
and starting saying a few things... and got pulled in to a further degree... there was no mirror but she had a strong self-image and the way I came in.. I could get a basic idea of what she looked like
(in fact, I had a kind of natural civilized liking for her).. but then... when I came in to a greater degree, aware that I was in two places at once, and able to speak from my own viewpoint as well... that was a bit of a shocker to her, and that was the end of that.

But... that was just one small example from long ago... there was more veridical stuff...


In recent years, assumption happens differently, but still it is a major theme in my life.

This morning... for the second or third time... it was good to wake up from an assumption dream which was not a dream, conveying the thoughts of one of the world's leading aerospace engineers, who happened to be thinking of me. (That was so much more pleasant than some of the folks pleading for help whose minds I have been exposed to... there was a time years ago when even one of the Taliban had authentic spiritual inquiries...before hashish and rage and power politics and oil money overwhelmed them.)
And yes, he thought of me as an old guy -- which is utterly real -- but as someone building stuff.

It was actually more specific than that, but I need to pause to consider what is allowable to say,even when not naming names, in an obscure blog.

It is strange for him to be suddenly in a less structured existence... less dictated by
noise like organizational overspecific rules. There is a new freedom... to do things right... but without structure, will he just dissolve into jellyfish, like a person who magically loses his bones? (Lots of space activists do become that way  without even noticing it...). But he was counting on me to provide a kind of new structure... to hold together even without the bones... (And: my editorial: I did that already, in a previous iteration. But the process is easier when we are conscious...).

But... oops... must run...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

shutdown zingers in the noosphere

Before the shutdown, there was normal business as usual -- the usual mix of good and bad things.

On the positive side, there were two breakthroughs of a sort, for the first time giving
a reasonably clear and credible path to getting to 9 cents per kwh baseload electricity from space,
based on three web sites I find very exciting (based on my knowldege of the background):

Maybe there is hope for humans in space after all (though the key meeting may be cancelled due
to government shutdown.).

On the downside, I was really bummed out by the official video (which still a very important

They really do want to put wires into people's heads to control them... and it really is scary...
but that's not the main theme of today. Discussions of how to keep this from getting dangerously out of control have also been cancelled.


So what is this shutdown, really?

Technically, it's partly a function of rules which allow a "majority of a majority" to
do whatever they want, in the House. Since 30% of the nation really beelive in Adam and Eve,
and want to get rid of other viewpoints... if 30% believe that government should ONLY
do police and military work, they may simply WANT to shut down all the rest. That's
the real program for many of them; the rets is just an excuse. It's a shame they don't understand that
there are OTHER sources of excess power in our world, which can go out of control
(like the newly forming "clone armies") without countervailing power, as Galbraith noted long ago.

It was a bit depressing for me yesterday, watching the House by CSPAN, seeing and
understanding what was really going on. They will pick and choose just a few things to maintain..
planning for a very long shutdown, maybe permanent..
and science and space simply aren't on the list. What do you expect, with Adam and Eve and many folks who don't believe a man ever landed on the moon? (It's been awhile since I read polls on the latter, but they were similar. Same old 30%. Al Qaida and the old Communist Party also illustrated what a determined minority can sometimes do.)

So yes... those thoughts are very strong in the noosphere. "Let's just shut it down permanently."

But there are also thoughts coming from China. "Hey, you guys... if the US government will
no longer support science and space... we believe we can save you and humanity. Just come and work for us..."

Also: "... the French revolutoin all over again. It started with aristocarts pulling off a legal/politiocal
coup from the right, showing great pride in their ability to screw the rest of the nation...
and they were able to push very far... generating an equal and opposite reaction..."
Oh Lord, not the bloody heads again... please.. not that...

But can we stop it?

But... plan for today... back to study of photons ...
now that I really understand two-photon circuits

moving up to three and four, which actually can allow more surprising effects than folks have noticed yet...

and a quick trip to the embassy of China to pick up a visa.

Best of luck,