Thursday, November 21, 2013

The next round of shutdown and deep sequestration cuts

January 15 is the scheduled time for the next round, and it's pretty serious.

Here are some thoughts I posted to the Lifeboat list about what's going on... from what it means to
how it might be contained:


About two weeks ago (see, I expressed great excitement
about the POSSIBILITY that a new DARPA program, XS-1, and follow-up on
a recent NASA-funded
study (see link posted at could restore our hopes of
getting affordable energy from space, and many other activities based
in space.

There are many threats or obstacles to making that real. The one which
worries me the most right now is sequestration. See:

The current sequestration path would imply VERY deep cuts in all of
DOD, NASA, as well as DOE, NSF, education and food for hungry
children. Budget negotiations which do not include entitlements or
taxes would basically revisit the same old budget space, and be
unlikely to change much on a partisan basis. Mitch McConnell says
there WILL NOT
be another shutdown in January... but folks said that kind of thing
before the last one, too.

With the same players in motion, and with the Tea Party encouraged by
recent polls on the President's popularity, there is not a strong
logical basis for ruling out another shutdown, followed by the same
old sequestration trajectory  and the nasty irrational politics about
specific budget items which deep cuts are likely to entail. CBO, for
example, has begun circulating the idea of just zeroing out humans in
(Will humans on earth be far behind?)

... So... it begins to get beyond my field (let alone what any of the
organizations I work with take a stand on)... but it begins to seem to
me that new balanced nonpartisan actions EITHER on Obamacare plus
Medicare (aimed at  preventing future cost growth
and maximizing efficiency, so as to minimize the payment by taxpayers
plus patients for the same level of medical benefit overall), OR on
tax reform, are pretty much the best hope of averting this kind of
disaster. A friend noted that this would cause elimination of some
jobs in healthcare (since improvement in efficiency would require
that, as well as cut some profits)... but the only alternative is to
cut jobs in the other areas, given the deficit constraint.

I have heard that there are certain changes and efficiencies which the
president really wanted for himself at the start, which he didn't push
because stakeholders would object;
however, a quietly arrived at deal between both parties would be freer
to allow more of that, so long as the ideological center of gravity is
not moved. (For the conservative side,
I could envision more opportunity for midwives and home births, and
less for unnecessary Caesarians, and also a prohibition on funding
through these venues of deep brain stimulation in medical treatment of
humans. My libertarian side was really
alerted by: . Yes, there are
folks chomping at the bit of a huge new gravy train... but in a time
of triage, there are many many reasons** not to
prepare to pay for that.) (On the technical side, I see lots of emerging possibilities for new "five cents" types of tests to displace "$200 tests priced at $2,000.")

Just two months... I do hope they can do a whole lot better than what
the URL above suggests! Otherwise a lot of us will be in trouble,
especially at the cutting edge.

Best of luck,


** I have heard many stories from people in a position to know about
how Parkinson patients, the group with the best claim to benefit, have
had brains fried by their implants.
For the general case... if you went to an auto mechanic, and he said:
"I have no idea how
your engine works, but I have a big hammer, and if you pay me I can
make a bigger one.
Just pay me, and I will take a big swing at your engine..." Like
frontal lobotomies of old.
Many people trust doctors much more than they trust auto mechanics
(though not everyone these days), so people have gotten away with
that... but I would hope
instead for a major research push to actually UNDERSTAND that essential system,
the brain, far more than we do today. A long story... but efficient
focused R&D need not be anywhere near as expensive as what people want
for DBS deployment.


For those who want to dig even deeper:

Towards the end of the discussion, people raised a point: ANY system
which reduces the combined payment by taxpayers and patients for
medical care will end up cutting costs which take the form of jobs.

I thought of an extension of the image of "ten people to screw in a lightbulb."
One screws in the light bulb. Four act as advocates for now allowing
it, hassling both doctor and patients. Four act as advocates and
record keepers for the action. The tenth person, who would normally
oversee many light bulbs, has to be full time on this one, to keep on
top of all nine other people.

But what of the lost jobs if we streamline this and only use one person?

A key point we didn't get to in the discussion:

To a first approximation, ANYTHING we do to reduce the deficit results in a loss
of jobs SOMEWHERE. If there is no deal between Administration and
Republicans to reduce costs in a technical way for Obamacare and
Medicare, there will still be deficit reduction...  by sequestration.
So an "equal number' of jobs will be lost anyway -- in
sectors like defense and research and education (not to mention food
for the poor), where
the damage will be more than just the jobs. That's VERY real as we
look ahead to January 15. (Indeed, that's why I hope for serious
action on this front, or on tax reform, or both, by January 15.)

Cutting out all funding for deep brain stimulation under Obamacare and
Medicare, by contrast, would mainly cut the growth of NEW JOBS in that
sector. Of course lots of folks are salivating over the hope of lots
of new money... but that's exactly what national budget planning needs
to worry about.


However... to honest, that is all just a first approximation. I have
looked a lot more deeply into the technical economics of this,
especially when I worked in Specter's office in 2009,
and was asked to give a Congressional briefing on the job impacts of
different climate bills.

IN THEORY, we could meet the deficit targets WITHOUT reducing jobs at
all (maybe even adding some) by exploiting what I call an "x-y"
strategy. Some government commitments (spending or tax breaks)
generate a lot more jobs (x) than the usual, while others generate a
lot less (y).  Thus by expanding x and cutting back y, at least for
the duration of high unemployment rates, we could increase jobs while
not affecting the deficit (if we start from a base of adequate deficit

But the practical problem is that x-y is too high level math for a lot
of key people
in the US, and the specific elements of x and y are highly political.
For example, many
tax breaks today (especially oil breaks) are of the y variety, passed
on more like Christmas presents, not really changing actions or
investments to a measurable degree.
On the other hand, the old "cash for clunkers' program had a big x
(because it was like a MATCHING fund eliciting legitimate private
sector investment); the "White House of Japan" developed a program
"Three Pillars of Eco-Economy" which they estimated would have three
times the multiplier effects of ordinary spending or public debt,
building on the clunkers idea, with matching fund incentives of
various kinds, moving in directions we know we need to move into

Still, if we cut out inefficiencies, there is hope that the Fed or
fracking will result in enough new jobs to keep us from going bust
altogether as a result of deficit reduction.
It scares me that this is only a hope... but... one day at a time.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Author of Ender’s Game Explains Egyptian Book of the Dead

Ender’s Game is a powerful new movie we saw last week at an IMAX theater near us.  It’s based on a famous science fiction novel of the same name, by Orson Scott Card, a very important author. Before I get to the Book of the Dead, I should say something about Orson Scott  Card himself.

Orson Scott Card is not just entertaining to read (he is). He is thought-provoking in an important way.  All of us need our thoughts to be provoked a bit, to help us think out of the box, and see a bigger picture. There are lots of science fiction authors which provide only empty entertainment (which bores me to death usually),  but Card is much better than that. I have read dozens of his novels… just as I have read dozens of the novels of Modesitt, another equally interesting sci fi author who happens to be Mormon. Card often defends the Mormon establishment, while Modesitt is often very clear about characterizing its limitations and even satirizing it, but both are valuable to read.

But to be honest – my respect for Card goes deeper than this. In my view, Card is a genuinely inspired writer – a writer who gets inputs from the noosphere, which some would call “divine inspiration.” That’s a very real thing, in my view, however you explain or understand it. In fact, Card even has one cycle of books (The Song of Earth”) which talk about how “divine inspiration” MIGHT work, in physical terms, which has influenced my thinking on some technical points.

But of course, having “divine inspiration” does not make one infallible. No humans, and no other living creatures, can possibly be infallible. Thus reading Card, or Modesitt, or the Bible or Ayn Rand, is like watching a TV news show in a way – some scenes of incredible acuity and useful news, mixed in with a few obnoxious lying commercials and random pablum. One has to be mature enough to sort it out, or at least suspend judgment and consider some alternatives, to gain value from it. Believing everything in one of these books is a recipe for schizophrenia.  Even our own direct experiences need to be scrutinized very carefully…

As we planned to go see Ender’s Game, Luda  mentioned that some folks were boycotting the movie. I said: “Oh, that must be because of the silly, insensitive and inflammatory things he said about Obama in those newspaper columns. That annoyed me too, but that shouldn’t stop people from benefitting from this movie.” (I also wondered about how much sympathy he had towards the enemies of the US Constitution, in this book series Empire.) “No, it’s the gays and lesbians, who didn’t like some insensitive things he said about their causes…” Oh, well.  We didn’t see any picketing.

For years and years –there has been a kind of uncanny resonance between whatever I was thinking about at a deep emotional level and themes of Card’s current novels. For example, about 15 years ago, Card published a novel which my children undoubtedly thought of as “just another nice fairy tale” about someone establishing a magical relationship with a Russian princess. Turns out – that was exactly what I was doing right then in my life.  It’s OK for me to post, so long as I don’t give more details. By the way, Card was one of the four writers I mentioned in a previous post:
(There has also been some resonance at a different level with Dan Briown's novels, which tend to refer to specific people and groups I've been working with... but he wasn't one of those four writers.)

OK – now that the casual reader has been bored enough to give up, on to esoterica…

But still a little background first.

Back in 1972, when I accepted BOTH that “psychic’ or “spiritual” phenomena are real, and that they connect in an important way even to my own life… I became very interested in learning what I could learn from the experience of other people down through the millennia, in all cultures, filtered and laden with commercials as it may be. So long before I read Orson Scott Card, I read stuff like the Upanishads and… well, a lot of stuff. And tried to see through to rational explanations and the greater truths (and real experience) behind them all. That was  quite a challenge. For example,  how could you make real sense of “chakras” – after your first attempt at kundalini yoga generates results you cannot ignore? That was a first puzzle. And then… how can one make sense of notions like “etheric plane, astral plane, etc.”? That is a bit more natural; I have previously posted some sense of how I explain those kinds of experience in the “noosphere” context (being careful not to go too far in the level analysis). It is preposterous to imagine we each have “six bodies” or so, as theosophists sometimes say,  but there are levels of experience which can explain how they ended up with that idea.

And then, what of yin-yang and the Tibetan Book of the Dead?  Am tempted to say more, but it would take too many words to analyze them here and now. I have been to China (and Tibetan autonomous prefectures) enough to have a fairly complex understanding of what goes on there.

Many years ago, I recall that  a Rosicrucian source suggested obtaining the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Egyptian Book of the Dead, as some kind of prefatory reading. I did look at the Egyptian book briefly, but it left me cold, and I never returned to it. Like the theosophists, they postulated “more than one soul,’ a ba and a ka – and I simply could not relate to that at all.

But just about a month ago – I went to the library, and borrowed the first two books of a new trilogy by Orson Scott Card, the Gate Thief trilogy…

It was enjoyable, as usual with Card,  but I was disappointed at first. It seemed like just another coming-of-age world-of-mythology, much more human and entertaining than most of them, but just entertainment.  It has bits of old school Christian theology which raise my skepticism.

However… getting into the second novel.. he gets deeper and deeper into the concept of ka and ba. He anchors the idea in the flow of experience of the protagonist. And as I compared that with the flow of my own experience, I can begin to make sense of it… enough to be able to use it (like yin yang) as a kind of practical tool, a tool worth using, an additional window into the world which I can now make sense of.

He describes ka as “inself” and ba as “outself.” It is quite possible that he is confusing two distinctions here.. but in essence, he sees the ka as the real active and energetic self, and the ba as the extensions we create in the noosphere.

This fits nicely with the idea that the esoteric, psychic and spiritual reality we experience (which matters directly to us) is 99% a matter of “interaction within the noosphere,” where the noosphere is a kind of invisible large neural network intelligence of which we are parts. Our “souls” (ka) are like multichannel neurons within this larger brain. (Of course, I have also asked myself what the physical substratum might be of that large “invisible brain” – but the physics involved is pretty advanced, and we are still at the stage of learning to count “one little, two little, three little photons.” I have entire blog posts on the early elementary parts of the physics part of the story.) But --- tissues are made of cells and matrix. In fact, for neurons, the matrix and context are also partly a matter of other cells and other types of cell.

And in fact – the Gate Thief is also about gates or connections. Gates and connections are a fundamental aspects of any real intelligent system, beyond the very primitive level which I now call “vector intelligence.” (Probably someday I should post the slides for the plenary talk I gave last month to the international conference on extreme learning in Beijing, or the paper for Narendra’s workshop on learning and intelligent systems, defining the term in some detail.) Even at the level of fish, brains exploit concepts of symmetry, gating and attention essential to coping with the complexity of what we see in the world. It seems as if – the world itself may be structured as a 3+1-dimensional system (or  maybe a few more), but mind organizes its understanding into a different kind of structure, more like “graphs” (networks),
implemented by gating and connection.

All of this turns out to be especially relevant to unique aspects of my own life.

Aspects of my own life –

I remember some years ago when the current Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), Dr. Joe Bordogna (from the cognoscenti circle?), led a major awards ceremony in the big public room next to the main entry to NSF. I was there as part of the group receiving an award for cross-cutting collaboration, for interagency research in education.  Near the entry to the room, he was holding forth to some important person about the great challenge of getting people to break out of old paradigms, to think of new connections. “They are all so narrow and so rigid,
Even the most brilliant people we have. Getting them to think out of the box is like pulling teeth.” But then he looked at me and said: “Except for that one. That one acts as if there is no box there at all.”  Not a bad summary.  I have often wondered: why is it, when I see a new tricky problem, why is it that I can just look at the problem, and keep thinking about it, when almost everyone else I know seems to get instant paralysis?

In truth, it is not at all easy for me when the problem is hard enough. When I spent years trying to really understand quantum-classical equivalence, part of my motivation was to test my mind in a context where I knew I couldn’t accidentally “cheat” by using some form of unconscious telepathy; I focused on challenges for which no one on earth knows the answer.  I found it incredibly difficult to push ahead on these and many other topics, when it was just me and basically no one to talk to. It felt as if I was moving ahead at only 10% the rate I could achieve if there were someone to talk to and share it with.  And yet.. making any headway at all, it was clear I was at least moving, when other folks were not moving at all – and that gave me a unique responsibility to DO that kind of thinking, instead of spending time plotting career advancement and ego publicity which society tends to require of people.  Part of what was special was my will Not to be totally run over by social pressures (pressure by society to be less productive to society???). But also… there was a kind of “ba/ka” aspect, like the feelings in Card’s novel.

Many years ago, I remember giving a plenary talk on how to build a  brain, and talking about it with someone. “It was so inspiring for a day or two… a whole new way of thinking about things, which leads to new ways to make them work… but somehow… it was hard to remember… it slipped my mind…” and then he felt into the way of thinking of the majority of people in our society. Not enough matrix or ba? A kind of forgetfulness, or regression to the mean.. carried away by the matrix….

But on the psychic level… I do have some ability to force some matrix, a bit like the character in the book. Not those specific types of gates… and not just gates… but building up a kind of “ba” or infrastructure is very important, just like the more mundane cognitive mapping, in the  very highest level of creativity.

One final note. The issue of gates and connections and symmetry… spatial complexity… does occur at many levels of complexity. It is clear that the human brain does NOT make use of the most powerful symmetry principles available to intelligent systems embedded in n+1-dimensional hardware (with or without quantum entanglement). My claim is that the “noosphere” DOES, and that additional gating or connection is crucial to understanding how that level of intelligence works. The mathematics is advanced, but it is mathematical.

What of that other 1%?  I remember once saying to myself: “Their speculations are like fetuses debating the sex lives of their unknown parents. They should be careful not to take them too seriously.” The noosphere we can see every day, but it’s a big cosmos we live in. Earth (well, our solar system) is complex enough.

Best of luck…


And, oh yes -- what could Card have been confounding in his ba and ka discussion?
Card describes the Ka as "the real self/soul," and suggests that when we die, our whole self is there somewhere, as the ka.

But in fact... our "whole self" as we normally experience it is a kind of symbiosis of our brain and of our "personal soul" ("the multichannel neuron").  When the brain dies, we do lose a lot. That's the way it is. "Divorce of the alchemical marriage." How much gets lost? In a way, Gurdjieff's school of mysticism can be summarized as "try to store as much as you can on the hard drive, not on the volatile
storage, so it survives the next power outage." Some folks lose almost everything. (For example, those Moslems who shun Itzjihad and believe that following rules is enough.. and fundamentalists in Christendom or other realms of the same ilk... or even true nothingness-style Zen Buddhists..,
basically dissolve away like dry paper turning to dust, blown away on the wind. It is sad to see.) But exercise of the hard disk creates a longer-lasting human heritage.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

a suggestion to prevent economic disaster in EU and also great progress for all of humanity


When this position paper was approved, 7-2, by the National Space Society, different people had different reasons for supporting it. For myself - I wrote it because I view this as a concrete action that would help with THREE important subgoals important to the larger goal of preventing human extinction, which I worry about a lot.

In the World Space Forum, I posted:

What are some good strategies to really help space? Liddell-Hart told us that the best strategy is one which tries to "kill two or three birds with one stone." Von Neumann told us to seek win-win or Pareto
optimal solutions. And so, at, you will see a new position paper aimed at three goals -- to seriously reduce the risk of the EU falling into a depression, to accelerate low-cost forms of solar farms on earth, and to set the wheels in motion for serious market-oriented investment in space solar power ( Opportunity-and-How-to-Capture-It).  I really hope that some of you are committed and capable enough to follow up on this lead. There is a lot at stake.

IN FACT -- avoiding economic depression in the EU was a major part of my motive here. Back in 2009, when I worked in the office of Senator Specter, I was asked to evaluate the jobs benefits of various climate change proposals. I studied the best CBO report on that subject, and the economic analyses they cited; the head of CBO attended my briefing on what we really know about creating jobs, and what we can learn from multisectoral econometric models. At the end of the day, it's clear to me that all of the Big Three -- EU, US and China -- are facing very serious risks of falling into much deeper unemployment and recession. But lots of the bankers in the EU and even the classic greens seem to be in a kind of paralysis, arguing with each other, but not being creative about how to get out of the box. I do hope that the positive and creative energy of the space community can help in overcoming that paralysis, not only for the sake of space but also other goals.

Here is a brief explanation I wrote for a noneocnomist in NSS. Then I will add more details on why I think that this "small" measure could have huge benefits to the European economy.

To the noneconomist: ========================================

I haven't said a whole lot more about the economics aspect, because, so far as I know, Mark and I are the only ones in NSS leadership with graduate degrees in economics. But the economic aspect is serious, and the EU is in serious danger right now. The Germans know that if Greece goes under (and then Italy and Spain, and then France), their economy is not immune. But they also know lots of reasons why they don't want jobs in Greece to be preserved at the cost of sending money down the rathole of the Greek government. Stimulating PRIVATE SECTOR jobs, based on private investment, in the sunny nations of southern EU, could be a very big deal; the electricity industry involves trillions of dollars of capitalization, more than enough private stimulus, if it can be mobilized. High-cost solar farms aren't really worth the investment, but the feed-in tariff sets a cap on what people get paid, and encourages the lower cost versions more. (In fact, I hope it stimulates the lower cost dish-style solar thermal solar farms, which do not depend on buying PVs from China.) The immediate investment in earth solar farms would be greater than the immediate investment in deploying solar power satellites... but if we do a good enough job on the other fronts, it COULD start entering the real market as soon as a decade from now. Having a clearly defined market NOW is crucial to the investments NOW to prepare for what we can deploy a decade or two from now.


More details:

EU, US and China are all facing problems with aggregate demand versus government debt. In all three areas, true Depression was averted in 2009-2013, because of government spending at levels which now appear nonsustainable... yet other sources of demand have not risen enough to fill the gap. The resulting dilemmas actually work out in very different ways in the three areas. In the EU, the essential problem is that central banks are hitting limits on what they can do to support governments in the south of the EU, while rising unemployment already has rising politically nonsustainable aspects all the way form Greece to France.  Key questions: how can we fill the gap
with new private sector investment, on a large enough scale, while staying within the constraint that the investment must be real investment, with measurable payback?

This proposal would stimulate immediate investment in making solar farms in the sunny regions
of the EU, where jobs are most needed. Because it is based on making existing markets more competitive by allowing new entries (presumably in the 15-20 cents slot), it is a valid investment lowering costs to consumers (without compromising on environmental and security objectives which EU leaders have rightly already been committed to). I sit big enough? At about ten cents per kwh,
world electricity generation is t about $2 trillion, with a capitalization many times that; a major
new capitalization, with new solar farms (and grid investments), we already get numbers big enough to
dwarf the budget deficit of Greece, for example. This one small step would not be so small.

I tend to suspect that a feed-in-tariff of <=20 cents for solar farms would give much more incentive to
large solar thermal solar farms, where more of the jobs stay in the EU, than PV farms which rely so much on imported solar panels these days. 

Of course, all of the Big Three depend a lot on each other, and it's important to all three that no
one just "falls off the horse" (as all three are in danger of doing right now!).


Best of luck,


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Updated thoughts on the debate about 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.)

mathematical secrets of physical reality

I wish they weren't secret... the math isn't really so hard... but it's hard enough
that it looks as if it will be secret forever for this planet... just as chimpanzees may never develop a high technology, large scale societies of humans may also have limits (and badly designed web pages or voicemails which pretend to be AI may not solve the problem either).
But... here is some attempt to spill just a few beans.

Two weeks ago or so, I did a blog post on "FTL" possibilities, referring to a more establishment paper I
posted at, in the quant-ph section.

That paper addressed a well-established real world problem in mainstream electronics and photonics.

The problem is -- how can we simulate chips or other circuits, so that we can start to design them before we actually have to build them?

More and more industries have learned to design things in computer simulation before they pay the high cost of actually building things that don't quite work as intended, which need to be scraped, taking lots of time and money, and never really fully exploring the space of possible designs. People have pretty much caught on to what this requires, and they know that it's becoming ever more essential as designs become more complicated.

For most industries, they know how to do that kind of simulation. The system is a collection of objects in three dimensions, and they can build a reflection of the "same thing" in some kind of three-dimensional array
inside the computer. But there is a real problem here, as electronics and photonics try to continue Moore's Law, and push towards more and more devices on a chip, with smaller and smaller devices. At the nanoscale, you can't ignore quantum mechanics. But standard quantum mechanics says that the universe is actually 3N-dimensional at the quantum level, where N is larger than the number of electrons in the entire system. How do you do correct simulation of a system, governed by equations in more than 3 million dimensions? How do you fit that into your computer?

On the advice of a leading physicist, I decided to start putting out "little pieces" of a more general system,
one by one, so that people might understand. The arxiv paper asked: how far down can we go
if we have to use a computer model which is "lumped parameter" -- just a finite number of bits,
and a really simple digital type model like what devotees of finite state machines can understand?
That did OK. And the FTL posting here showed that that finite state approach can do important new things that no one has ever done yet.

But it can go only so far. At some point, we need to exploit more powerful computer simulatin methods, which represent continuous fields, like partial differential equatoin (PDE) simulators. (PDE simulations are
long the mainstay of many other fields, I get ads all the time from COMSOL, which has such a diversity of users -- and mathematicians scrutinizing when the simulations are reliable and when not, like some friends in Memphis, where a famous guy named Erdos often hung out.) In my last posting, foir example, I mentioned a classic new experiment by a guy named Zeilinger... where it offered a nice clean digital picture... but the experimentalist warned that it only works that when when the timing is exactly right, because of the continuous variable involved in quantum interference.

So: how can we push on to cases where we really need PDE simulations to capture quantum effects?
For example, how could we build the kind of simulators that would make Livermore able to give exact predictions of energy levels in their experiments on laser fusion in advance?

Well, I have some new results on that. Maybe I'll have a chance to write them up enough that someone else will know before I die of old age -- but maybe not. It's not as if I don't have other things I am responsible for worrying about, and things I have to deal with.

In the meantime... just FYI... here is the text (names removed for obvious reasons) of an email
I recently sent that world-class physicist I mentioned above, with a little more detail at the end about the context...


First, I should apologize for being too glib about the P mapping in that draft paper I sent you earlier.

The truth is that my wife Luda and I did reinvent almost exactly the standard Glauber-Sudarshan P mapping in the 1990s.
More precisely:

contains the basic P mapping (but reinvented, only slightly different notation),
a dual "B-sub-W" mapping probably equivalent to Q mapping, and a "reification" version which shares some features with Winger-Weyl but does not really work out
due to subtle problems with operator norms. There are actually some useful new results there, in my view.

It was a great disappointment to me to learn soon later, from Walls and Milburn, that it was just a reinvention.
That kind of thing can be painful, but we need to accept it… and perhaps I accepted it more energetically than I should have.

I learned as well that a complete correspondence with bosonic field theories required more than just that original version.
Or, to put it another way, to develop mappings from ANY  Hamiltonian field theory with a first-order Lagrangian to bosonic quantum field theory, one needs to 
be more explicit about "phi' and "pi."  Thus in 2003, we published a kind of extended version of the P mapping, complete with a proof of the basic
operator average theorem, in the International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos, also posted at:

Yes, that is not just the traditional form of the P mapping. I did briefly notice that folks like Agarwal claimed to be addressing general bosonic theories
in their papers on the P mapping, and so I overestimated what is already out there in the general literature. It does seem that
our 2003 results are a significant extension. The results really are quite straightforward -- for anyone who knows the algebra of creation and annihilation field operators.

But this poses a bit of a challenge. I have gone a bit further this past month, to nail down the issue of equivalence in spectra
between classical PDE and bosonic field theories, but it really does require the 2003 paper as a prerequisite. Given the psychology and politics of these things..
well, I remember Bob O'Connell's suggestion about the New York Annals.


This past month, the one book I reviewed in great detail here was Carmichael's Statistical Quantum Optics, volume 1. 
I notice that he uses the term "super operator" for the dynamic operator in the master equation. (I had been using
some other term, and called it A… the operator from rho to rho dot, with rho considered as a "vector in (N*(N+1)/2) 
dimensional space." ) For the case of classical Hamiltonian field theories, for the 2003 paper, we derived general master equations
quite different from the usual Schrodinger equation… but still conserving the same normal form Hamiltonian. Thus any function of the Hamiltonian (and of the momentum P operators) 
would be a left eigenvector of A, EITHER for standard bosonic quantum field theory OR for classical statistics, even though the two sets of dynamics are different.
Neither is dissipative, unless modified to reflect some reservoir or boundary condition assumptions. 

The beauty of this is that equilibrium ensembles computed classically give correct quantum mechanical spectra. Indeed, the operator 
average theorem can be applied to the operators
delta(H - E0) and delta (P - P0), telling us that the usual energy eigenspace
projections (for zero momentum states) give us correct probes (duals or adjoints) for the density of classical states with the exact same energy.
Indeed, those functions of energy are all left-eigenvectors of A, representing stable equilibria.
Thus, for example, if the Skyrme of the nucleon/nucleus turned out to be correct, as bosonic field theory, then the classical PDE simulations of Manton and Sutcliffe would be
exact valid canonical QFT calculation for the energy levels of those systems -- even for nuclei made up of bound solitons.
As you know, I think I can come up with bosonic models more likely to match the real data there, but the equivalence if spectra is general across all possible models of this type.


All of this is pretty exciting to me, but the prospect of writing it up is overwhelming, since it not only requires
knowledge of operator field theory (which seems to be growing weaker by the year in high energy physics, due to the popularity
of Feynman path integral formulations), but also the 2003 paper as a prerequisite.


Still, I would guess that you are one of the people on earth who can fully understand all this…

and this week, I have two panels to set up and a keynote talk to give at an IEEE meeting in Baltimore
(on a different subject, space solar power, which is a whole lot easier).

Best regards,

The context is that Luda and I wrote a draft, upgrade_v11, of a paper proposing a new PDE type model
(much more complete than the draft version I had when I wrote a chapter for the festscrift of Leon Chua last year, Adamatzky ed) suitable for the kind of nuclear simulations I mentioned above, which, among other things, might well lead to new nuclear technologies (where "shake and bake" design would be too risky on planet earth). But to get it really right, a lot of math is needed... and our paper was very dense, with enough ideas for about ten papers. "Why not just publish a series of ten papers, with more detail on each idea?"
People who send proposals to NSF often get the same advice, when they cram so much into a proposal that
reviewers don't have enough detail to figure out any one of them. Paper one was easy
(see quant-ph and the previous blog). But paper number two, on equilibrium equivalence,
may already still strain the bit rate of processing of our society. Maybe it's possible to get so far as step two
of ten. Maybe someone else out there will follow through on what step one already opens up.

Or maybe not.

Time to get back to bed...

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Beware of Apple Mavericks -- productivity, security issues

Last week, I decided to install Apple's new free operating system Mavericks on one of the three or four laptops around the house. I'll say more about why, and the larger implications.. but for now, IF YOU are considering downloading Mavericks, I should get straight to why this was something of a disaster for me.
A little thing, with huge implications. And yes, some odd resonance with the NSA and Obamacare scandals floating around us this week.

Shortly after the new desktop appeared... a message appeared :"Calendar Agent wants to access your external group information and settings." Four buttons to choose - ?, always allow, deny, allow.

I looked dimly at that window.. and Luda chanced by: "Of course deny. How could you even think about it?" Since her information is part of the external contact information, and she is very strict about such things,
she would not want me to allow it. (I am suddenly reminded of Chancellor Merkel's unusual vehemence
about the NSA scandals, compared to many other world leaders. That may be partly due to other nations having their own active programs, and to personal history... but historians sometimes say wars between France and Germany were partly due to Germans feeling more upset about intrusions on personal space and privacy. In my personal experience, there is truth in that -- but proper Russians are even more uptight about privacy issues... long stories...)

I had no intention of allowing it myself either. (Among other things, I never use the Apple Calendar.
Google calendar works a lot better for me.) So I just hit "deny." And then the message appeared again, instants later, exactly the same. I would click deny 5 times in a row, but it just kept coming back.

OK, let's try "?". No information at all. The button didn't work. It seemed that the pushy people who designed this window would not take no for an answer, and didn't want to bother explaining themselves.

The damage is more than I really expected. Yes, we have three or four laptops, but I did most of my work on the Mac one, because of many advantages. But now... if my productivity gets reduced about 50% by the never-ending CalendarAgent (which I can just ignore to some extent, like constantly swatting at a horde of flies which keep diving for my face)... the obvious alternative is to switch permanently to the PC desktop which I am typing on right now. And hope that Apple eventually fixes this, so that I can go back to using the Mac.


Now, a little more on details....

What's wrong with just caving? Maybe that's what most people did who installed Mavericks this past week.
(Yes, there were a lot of them.) Being in the Twitterverse, why not let a hundred corporations know absolutely everything about you and every person you know? Many answers to that. And yes, respecting Luda's rights is an absolute unconditional constraint for me, so why even think about the other reasons?

Another thing that bothered me here. When my big Imac in the office crashed last year, in a suspicious sort of way, I did an intensive search on Mac viruses and related stuff. (In fact, there was a blog post last year.)
I wondered how they got around an operating system which was supposed to be 99.99% in compliance
with the high security standards of the "orange book." For the main vector of transmission... the operating system did "protect" users by saying that crucial data and permissions would not be released to a third party (like a virus) unless a window appeared requesting access, and the user OKed it. Then you may kiss your hard drive goodbye. And blame it on hardware. This new window reminds me a whole lot of the window I saw in accounts of Maccontrol. What's more, Mavericks clearly allows the source of the window
to engage in a level of bullying (and no option "never ask" or "never ask this month") which fully deprives
the user of effective choice.

This reminds me of how the line between a malicious virus and a normal piece of commercial software has become ever more blurry. "Evil viruses may sneak in and steal your personal data." While other programs may bludgeon you into doing it, without giving you much choice. I sold my stock in Adobe when they started
"being evil." (That was painful, because I really needed the access to usable JBIG2 compression of scanned papers. Really crucial historic papers may be lost. But they became "evil" in many ways, not just bludgeoning users but also kludging up any use of pdf for folks who have Acrobat installed.)


When one takes long walks in various parts of Arlington, Virginia, and goes downtown at times for meetings
in places like Rayburn, one can bump into all kinds of interesting people. Not so long ago,
I ran into a friendly quite guy who works a lot with NSA -- but not at all the Snowden type.
 He talked about how depressed he was about the worsening cybersecurity problems we have, with
power systems, banks, and all the rest in a losing fight with hack attacks of all kinds, relying on new plans based on patent medicine too weak to really work. "Why does it have to be this way?
We long ago figured out how to solve and prevent all these problems. We told them how, and even developed the tools, like what's in the rainbow books. Why do they just let things go to hell?"
I replied: "The rainbow books? I heard of the orange book, because I worked on that system long ago, but I never heard of the rainbow books." "Oh yes, the purple book is very interesting...."

Other folks told me about SE-Linux properly installed....


By the way, the changeover to Mavericks was yesterday.

Apple did urge people to upgrade on the first day, and many did.
But I did at least do some web searching before deciding to try anyway,
on one of our laptops. The tech press reported crashing problems for only about 4% or less...
(typical of some medical stuff that doesn't apply to us). It reported just one really major glitch:
folks who use Apple Mail to get and organize their gmail couldn't do it anymore.
They advised "wait a few weeks until Apple fixes this." Maybe I should have.
I have planned to use AppleMail that way, sooner or later... but it isn't urgent anyway.
(It was pretty messy when I did one experiment with it about a year ago.)

Why adopt in the first week anyway? I really liked the idea of reduced battery drain and higher speed,
which make a real difference when using a laptop. So when I seemed to have gotten a week of feedback, and Apple urged us on... I did make a decision I would now correct if I could (short of trying to play risky games with time, not warranted by something so small).

It was also a bit of a mess actually to do the installation. It wasn't like clicking on Adobe's button to download a new edition of Acrobat Reader! At the "App Store" tab (available only on Macs of course),
they want to make sure you have a Relation with Apple first. (Like buying a rug from some folks in Turkey. You must first take time for some apple tea..) But those are not feelings; they just want to augment their database to sell you stuff. No compromises allowed. And then... well, at least one can search open help files when it still doesn't do anything.   Click on "download"... and the wheel turns for a moment, and then it stops.
Nothing happens. Again and again and again. Not just queues; at any time of day.

The solution was to notice a new "X" icon in the dock, and then right click on it. (That on a laptop designed not to do right clicks. Well, keep trying...). Status "paused." (Who paused it? No windows of notice about THAT.)  Choose "resume". And then watch it be "paused"again a moment later. I gave up...
but hours later... notice a little bar under the X, with a tiny bit of blue. So I left it unmolested for about an hour, after which it announced it was ready, with a BIG X on the screen. Hit "install."
It says "installing, just a few minutes." But "you are not plugged in to power right now. PLug in.."
Plugged in. Then after the few minutes begins the real install, another hour or so; I just left the room where I plugged it in.

And then... well, after a restart, that new screen. Initially, the new desktop was a nice powerful ocean wave image... with all my icons about 5-10 times as big as before. Luda didn't like either, but I figure I can change the icon size back... if and when a new version of Mavericks appears which makes the laptop usable again.

Best of luck...


One week later:

Am back to the PC. For awhile, I just moved the CalendarAgent window to a location near the trash can,
carefully avoiding clicking anywhere near it by accident (one click to lose them all). But the speed of the new OS was never as great as the old one, and it really started slowing a lot yesterday. It's totally locked up now.

In that first hour... I never checked the iBooks option, since the Kindle paperwhite is so much better to
read books on, physically (and battery-wise).  I did ask Luda to look at the maps, since we do
fancy GPS stuff a lot. One glance at the map, and she just laughed, More precisely:
it was smart enough to use wifi immediately to locate us to within a couple of blocks, but the satellite image
had far less resolution than gmaps, and she was quickly able to spot things much older than the gmaps images we usually use.

Oh, well... downstairs at the PC desktop again...


Another week:

Out of the woods?

After lots of google searches... lots of other people had the CaldenarAgent and slowdown problem. Some documented that CalendarAgent (OR other required stuff) explained the slowdown problem. One guy reported the only way to turn off this nasty agent was to do a whole series of technical Unix type
operations which can be very risky...

Of course, I previously tried just deleting the Calendar altogether, which it wouldn't let me do.

But yesterday... I went INTO Calendar, and deleted the accounts it had set up for me by default.
Basically chose options within calendar to shut off everything. Then, after one final "deny",
the bad window went away forever. And maybe I am back to normal state! Am using the MacBook
even now, because of its convenient location.

BUT... it is still annoying now, as before, that the cursor just jumps around out of control on
the MacBook so often. Half way into sentence... it moves your words to somewhere else.

Have started to think about whether I should buy a new laptop... Vaio?... something else?
Did Mac ever fix this cursor nonsense in new models? But other things to think about...


Much later (Nov 21):

The problem of jumping cursors seems to be endemic to almost all laptops with trackpads.
Lots of people have put posts on the web complaining about how it impairs their productivity.
It should be better, in theory, for laptops with a separate "click bar" under the trackpad,
like the MacBook I have been using, because then trackpad by itself could move the cursor
WITHOUT clicking to shift typing to the new location; however, that doesn't work out for me in practice. EARLIER Apple operating systems had an option not to allow stray delicate touches
on the trackpad to count as clicks; I don't see that option in Mavericks.

I have looked at a number of new laptops at Costco, and did not see any which would clearly solve this problem. However, I heard that HP sells a laptop (not ALL its laptops!) with a button to just turn off
the trackpad whenever you like -- for example when typing.  Maybe that's where I will have to go.
Ironically, for simple scrolling of the content... where I'd want to use the trackpad... well, I just use the page down key now. (Did I turn off too much on the trackpad options, in a futile effort to stop the cursor jumping? Maybe.)

So maybe there is an HP in my future.

I wonder whether anyone thought of putting the trackpad in a different location, like close to the screen or to the right, where there is less chance of one's sleeve brushing it when one types? Or does
the delicate physical setup tweak the trackpad anyway too often (as suggested by folks who had the problem due to battery expansion)?