Wave-Function Story

Last time I started with wave-functions of quantum systems and the Schrödinger equation that describes them. The wave-like nature of quantum systems allows them to be merged (superposed) into combined quantum system so long as the coherence (the phase information) remains intact.

The big mystery of quantum wave-functions involves their apparent “collapse” when an interaction with (a “measurement” by) another system seemingly destroys their coherence and, thus, any superposed states. When this happens, the quantum behavior of the system is lost.

This time I’d like to explore what I think might be going on here.

Continue reading


Wave-Function Collapse

Quantum physics is weird. How weird? “Too weird for words,” as we used to say, and there is a literal truth to words being inadequate in this case. There is no way to look at the quantum world that doesn’t break one’s mind a little. No one truly understands it (other than through the math). It’s like trying to see inside your own head.

Since we’re clueless we make up stories to fit the facts. Some stories advise that we just keep our heads down and do the math. (Which works very well but leaves us thirsty.) Other stories seek to quench that thirst, but every story seems to stumble somewhere.

One of quantum’s biggest and oldest stumbling blocks is wave-function collapse.

Continue reading


MWI: Probability

I’ve come to realize that, when it comes to the Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) of quantum physics, there is at least one aspect of it that’s poorly understood. Since it’s an aspect that even proponents of MWI recognize as an issue, I thought I’d take a stab at explaining it. (If nothing else, I’ll have a long reply I can link to in the future.)

The issue in question involves what MWI does to probability. Essentially, our view of rare events — improbable events — is that they happen rarely, as we’d expect. Flip a fair coin 100 times; we expect to get heads roughly 50% of the time.

But under MWI, someone always gets 100 heads in a row.

Continue reading


Upload

A week ago Sunday I stayed up late binging Solar Opposites. This Sunday I stayed up to 4:00 AM binging Upload, a new comedy from Greg Daniels (just released on Amazon Prime). In both cases, my intent was to check out just an episode or two, but in both cases I couldn’t stop watching.

Solar Opposites was more like a fun party I didn’t want to leave (I’m a night owl, anyway). Upload, likewise, was a delight I didn’t want to end, but I was also seriously sucked into a really good story. I am very much anticipating season two.

I don’t hand out Wow! ratings lightly, but Upload just might rate one.

Continue reading


Complexity and Randomness

Last week, when I posted about the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (MUH), I noted that it has the same problem as the Block Universe Hypothesis (BUH): It needs to account for its apparent out-of-the-box complexity. In his book, Tegmark raises the issue, but doesn’t put it to bed.

He invokes the notion of Kolmogorov complexity, which, in a very general sense, is like comparing things based on the size of their ZIP file. It’s essentially a measure of the size of information content. Unfortunately, his examples raised my eyebrows a little.

Today I thought I’d explore why. (Turns out I’m glad I did.)

Continue reading


Spiders

I have no illusions about being a writer. As with many people, I like to express myself, so I write about the things I think and talk about. I suspect the handful of readers who know me in real life find these posts similar to our conversations. (Some posts have come from those conversations.)

Fiction, let alone poetry, are skills a bit beyond my ken, but every once in a while something pops out of my brain. Seems some thoughts don’t work as well dressed in basic prose (although you’d think it goes with everything).

This has been sitting in my Drafts folder since August 2012, and given that it’s spring and I’m cleaning out the backlog, it’s definitely time to get rid of the…

Spiders

I share my world with spiders;
I like the wee beasties.
They live their little lives,
While I live mine. (A giant among them.)
I regard their predatory nature.
Tiny hunters, fierce and fatal.
Small solitary watchers;
Do they, in turn, regard the giant?
Do they tell stories to their young:
‘Ware the giant! Stay off the white walls!
Do not draw the giant’s eye,
Least the tissue come whisk you away.

I’m a computer programmer by career and hobby, so I have a natural affinity for things that come in packages of eight. I also love that they eat other bugs, especially the occasional ant.

And Spiderman always was one of my favorite Marvel heroes. (Come to think of it, he may, in fact, be the top fave.)

Stay friendly to spiders, my friends!


Interactive Boloney

I was planning on curling up on the couch with some good reading material today, but I bumped into something in my news feed this morning that raised my blood pressure and gave me the perfect excuse to get rid of another old note and vent some spleen (I like to keep it aired out).

The bitter irony is that what I see as a problem just doubled. It used to involve just one episode of a TV series I really like. Now it involves another episode of another TV series I like. Two episodes I will never, ever touch. If they were the last TV episodes in the world, I’d stop watching TV.

I’m talking about Netflix and their @#$%ing interactive videos.

Continue reading


Solar Opposites

Sunday I binged through all eight episodes of Solar Opposites, a new cartoon from Justin Roiland and Mike McMahan. It was originally created for Fox, but shelved. Now it’s on Hulu, released just last Friday (May 8).

Roiland is well known to Rick and Morty fans as, not only half the creative team (along with Dan Harmon), but as many of the voices, in particular both of the titular main characters. (Apparently considerable drinking and ad-libbing goes on during voice recording.) In Solar Opposites, Roiland restricts himself to just one main character.

If you like Rick and Morty, you’ll probably like Solar Opposites.

Continue reading


Cool Elmore Leonard

For this Mystery Monday I want to tell you about a great American writer whose name you might not know: Elmore Leonard (1925–2013). As with Philip K. Dick, another great American writer, it’s quite possible you’ve seen a movie based on his work without realizing it. In fact, Elmore Leonard gives Stephen King a run for the money when it comes to works adapted to film.

Two of my very favorite films, Get Shorty (1995) and Jackie Brown (1997), are adaptations of Leonard’s novels. The former is the second film that restarted John Travolta’s career, and many believe the success of the film greatly depends on the source material (I quite agree).

If you like crime fiction, you definitely want to get into Elmore Leonard.

Continue reading


Parker: Humble Pi

I just finished Humble Pi (2019), by Matt Parker, and I absolutely loved it. Parker, a former high school maths teacher, now a maths popularizer, has an easy breezy style dotted with wry jokes and good humor. I read three-quarters of the book in one sitting because I couldn’t stop (just one more chapter, then I’ll go to bed).

It’s a book about mathematical mistakes, some funny, some literally deadly. It’s also about how we need to be better at numbers and careful how we use them. Most importantly, it’s about how mathematics is so deeply embedded in modern life.

It’s my third maths book in a month and the only one I thoroughly enjoyed.

Continue reading