And now for something scientifical …


"The Falcon 9 lifted off at 6:53 p.m. EDT (2253 GMT) from historic Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. About 8.5 minutes later, the first stage came back to Earth for a pinpoint landing on the robotic SpaceX ship named "Of Course I Still Love You," which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. It was the second successful mission in three days for SpaceX. [The Rockets and Spaceships of SpaceX]

This was the booster's second successful landing; the first came on Feb. 19, when the rocket stage helped send SpaceX's Dragon cargo capsule on an uncrewed resupply run to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA. (That February launch, by the way, was SpaceX's first from Pad 39A, which previously hosted liftoffs for NASA's Apollo and space shuttle programs.)"


Re-usable boosters are now a proven commodity.  SpaceX is IMO going to dominate the commercial space industry for a long time.  I look forward to seeing the first flight test of their heavy booster.

I have been studying quantum mechanics lately.  Any thoughts about that field?  pl



""After visiting Hyperloop One’s test site in Nevada and meeting its leadership team this past summer, I am convinced this groundbreaking technology will change transportation as we know it and dramatically cut journey times," Virgin Group founder Richard Branson said in a press release.

Hyperloop One is headed by Shervin Pishevar, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist best known as an early investor in Uber. The Los Angeles-based startup is conducting feasibility studies in Dubai and Finland for the transit system. US cities like Denver and Nevada have also submitted proposals for the construction of a Hyperloop.

The Hyperloop is a nascent transportation system that works by shooting pods through a vacuumed-sealed tube at speeds that experts say could reach 700 mph. "  BI


Branson visualizes tubes that can run underground, above ground or under water.  Pods will carry passengers or cargo in these tubes at the speeds mentioned.  He was interviewed on TV today and mentioned the prospect of cargo being unloaded offshore from ships tied up at artificial islands with the good then being loaded into pods for transport far inland bypassing existing harbors.  The harbors can then be re-developed.  pl

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54 Responses to And now for something scientifical …

  1. egl says:

    Re studying quantum mechanics:
    Kenneth Ford, 101 Quantum Questions, is a good orientation if you’ve never heard of the two-slit experiment or aren’t quite sure why neutrinos are interesting. The table of contents gives an idea of what to expect.
    Leonard Susskind, Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum, goes one step beyond the gee-whiz-quantum-effects-are-weird with a nice combination of phenomena and easy calculation. You will have to study this carefully. Susskind also has a lecture series on YouTube.

  2. Babak Makkinejad says:

    In regards to QM:
    To my knowledge, there is no sensible non-technical presentation of QM. All such presentations that I have seen aim to shock-and-awe the reader into a state of intellectual paralysis. No attempt is made to connect it to prior physical theories and scientific ideas.
    Even many of the technical treatments, depending on when they were composed, reek of the prevalent intellectual fad of their epoch; positivism (prior to WWII), mysticism (after WWII), fantasy (The Many-World’s Interpenetration).
    The quest ought to be the discovery of Physical Truth which, however central it might be to the development empirical sciences, does not make money at the popular level nor advances one’s professional career.
    I will be concrete:
    The two technical presentations that I have liked – for reasons of taste, consistency, coherence of ideas, and other such qualitative prejudices – are:
    The Statistical Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics:
    Schrodinger’s Mechanics:
    There is a 3rd approach, by the formerly black-listed Bohm, that I am studying – it is a very interesting and creative approach, like the Action-at-a-Distance approach of Narlikar and Hoyle to Cosmology – “Wonderful, but is it right?”. Please see:
    All of the interpretations of QM are metaphysical statements on the nature of Reality – they are guesses and cannot be decided on basis of experimentation; I do not find other interpretations useful.

  3. ChuckO says:

    I’m not qualified to judge the credibility of the following info, but I offer it up for commentary by others who are more knowledgeable. I read an article by a physicist who questioned the practicality of such a system. The problem comes from the fact that the hyperloop tube must contain a vacuum. Any breach in that tube, even a very small one, would lead to catastrophic failure. According to the article I read, a rifle bullet could penetrate the tube, and cause such a failure. If that is true, the hyperloop is not practical. Not only would it be ripe for a terrorist attack, but a relatively minor earthquake might lead to a breach where the tubes are joined.

  4. DianaLC says:

    These posts are the ones that make me wish I were younger. I will most likely not live to see the time when this sort of travel is commonplace.
    My first child was born in 1975, and I remember hoping that by the time he reached adulthood, he could take his mother on a ride into space.
    When he was thirteen, he spent a few weeks in Japan with the family of the boy who had been our exchange student here. His most exciting experience cane from riding the bullet train all around Japan with his friend, needing no adult supervision.
    But, sadly, he’s probably not going to be able to take his mother on that sort of trip here in the US or on a rocket to outer space.
    Thanks for the report!

  5. mike says:

    Space-X founder, Elon Musk, also wants to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid with solar and his PowerWall batteries. He has already started something similar but on a smaller scale on Hawaii’s Kauai. I’m a fan of Musk and a fan of solar, but I think these huge centralized solar facilities are not as beneficial to homeowners as rooftop installations. My son has rooftop solar. He only needs some offset power from the grid in July and August with the AC going full blast. Many homeowners here in coastal WA state are installing solar systems even though our sunny and partly sunny days are few and far between.

  6. Old Gun Pilot says:

    Richard Feynman’s lectures are a good place to start. He makes a complex subject easy to follow and he’s enjoyable to watch. Many are are available on youtube.
    Here’s one where he discusses quantum electrodynamics (QED), the subject which won him the Nobel Prize.

  7. ChuckO,
    I don’t see how a leak would cause a catastrophic failure. Small leaks could certainly cause a failure or at least a degradation in efficiency, but I don’t see how it would cause a catastrophic implosion or explosion. A similar system was envisioned by an inventor in the mid-1800s. He secretly built a small pneumatic subway under NYC in 1869.

  8. Croesus says:

    “terrorist attack.”
    How sad.
    Col Lang encourages the Committee to pursue challenging scientific discipline and to peer into the future, but some remain moored on the sand of a concocted fear-based past.
    One lives in the hope that minds that have disciplined themselves to the extent of mastering quantum mechanics will be sufficiently keen to deal construct relations with other peoples and nations in a way that is less likely to require fear mongering.
    In an earlier comment I mentioned Jake Sullivan’s testimony before a US House of Reps Foreign Affairs committee. Sullivan is about 41 years old, educated in public high school in Minneapolis, Minnesota, then Yale & Yale Law. He was sharp and clear and unruffled, even when Representatives behaved like baying coyotes (or C-grade prosecutors).
    Bad things will always happen in a complex world, but they are less likely to devolve to “terrorist attacks”
    when well-disciplined minds evaluate the problems cooly and clearly.
    If our society can produce more Jake Sullivans, maybe we can move beyond “terrorism” as a societal meme, and concentrate more on Hyperloop.
    (Come to think of it — was the Japanese sarin gas attack on one of Japan’s MagLev trains? They’re still running.)

  9. Bill Herschel says:

    Please take a look at Richard Feynman’s QED. You’ll love it.

  10. Last weekend my younger son and I took in the Caps home opener. We went early so we could stop by the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. After our recent discussion about the proposed lunar space station/base, I had a strong desire to see the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project exhibit. Just seeing it again fortified my hope for the future of mankind. Among the other exhibits, we saw the Mercury and Gemini capsules. I am amazed by the smallness of these craft, far smaller than my old VW bug. The space walk from that Gemini capsule was quite an adventure. The spacewalker’s suit ballooned up from the pressure differential and his visor fogged over. His partner had to pull him back in the capsule and seal the hatch behind him before the capsule could be sealed and repressurized. I imagine it had to be like pulling somebody with a rucksack and snowshoes into that VW bug. What an adventure. SpaceX, by making these launches routine and cheaper, is paving the way for far grander adventures in space.

  11. Quartered Safe Out Here says:

    Agree. Colonel, if you spend a few hours with Schoedinger’s cat thought experiment and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, you may feel like you’ve wandered off into Douglas Adams territory. Fortunately what goes on at the nano-level has little impact on the Newtonian world we live in. But you get to share in obtuse jokes such as: A cop pulls Prof Heisenberg over and asks him “Do you know how fast you were going?” and Heisenberg said “No, but I know where I am.” Sorry about that.

  12. outthere says:

    what’s the hurry?
    plant some seeds
    watch them grow
    a miracle right before your eyes!
    and you did not even burn any hydrocarbons!

  13. Jimmy W says:

    COL and all, freight rail traffic has always prized low-cost way over speed. The proven alternative of air freight has cornered the market of high-speed priority freight. Therefore, freight rail competes with other surface freight on the basis of cost only. Passenger rail, due to speed requirements, displaces/replaces freight rail. For example, Acela hardly takes any freight, its revenue all comes from passenger.
    So Hyperloop can either compete on cost against freight rail, or on speed/cost against freight air. This is why Hyperloop is unlikely to succeed on the basis of freight. It can only succeed if it can demolish the competing passenger air.

  14. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think US has a very deep bench but those sitting on the bench are kept out of the arena because they are empiricists.
    Whenever idealists gain dominance, they drive the empiricists out; regardless of the political or religious orientation of such idealists (who wish to make the world Righteous.)

  15. SR Wood says:

    I had some good college coarse(s) in physics but this Forbes article does a good job of summing up quantum mechanics. Wish they had it 40 years ago when I studied physics.

  16. FourthAndLong says:

    Don’t miss Feynman’s treatment of the double slit experiments. Available in his Cal Tech lectures but also in one or two of his more popular books. Many professional physicists consider it the finest introduction to the entire subject. And if that doesn’t get through to you, there is essentially not much point in proceeding further. It attempts to show precisely how different QM is from classical. Nothing fancy, no exotic anything, but really fundamental. And essentially no math.
    That lecture is reproduced, somewhat updated, in his ‘Six Easy Pieces’ by Feynman and Leighton, as chapter six.
    And yes his QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, is marvelous as can be.
    His attempt to give a layman’s presentation of why antimatter has to exist is a fascinating sidelight, tho technically a failure, as he acknowledges. His failure in doing so partly convinced him that no one truly understands the subject yet. It was part of his attempt to explain in every day terms the bizarre connection between spin and statistics. But he couldn’t. Einstein, in his nomination of Wolfgang Pauli to the Nobel academy for the physics prize, seemed resigned to accepting it as an experimental fact. Various people, Pauli included, thought they derived it mathematically from special relativity plus standard QM, but no one was too impressed by those attempts. George Sudarshan claims a derivation wo using special relativity. I couldn’t understand it though.
    It’s the idea behind the exclusion principle of chemistry. Why can’t more than two electrons share an atomic orbital ? More or less an independent force of nature, in a par with gravity and electromagnetism? No one wants to accept that. Geniuses like Schwinger, Pauli and Sudarshan thought they ‘derived’ it. Feynman wasn’t buying it though. He was famous for saying “don’t let anyone tell you they understand quantum mechanics, because they don’t.’ But he also said that literally everything there is to understand about QM is right there in the double slit experiment, entanglement too (he gave a justification of that last somewhere. Murray Gelman seemed to agree.)

  17. ISL says:

    High pressure (pneumatic) versus vacuum. At the speeds desired, the tube must maintain a high vacuum or the vehicle will tear itself apart (due to compressional heating). Keeping flanges of a hyper loop perfectly leak free despite thermal cycles (in the desert of all places) is beyond any current or near term technology, so it would need to be backed up with massive vacuum pumps (and redundant backup pumps) at every flange, pushing costs into the stratosphere plus cancelling the energy savings.
    Its a great idea for humanity in a century or so when star trek technology is available.
    Now its a great idea to lighten the wallets of various VCs.

  18. FourthAndLong says:

    It’s worth trying to work it out anyway. May have other applications.

  19. Will.2718 says:

    Even after earning a BS in Physics, I truly didn’t understand Quantum Mechanics (“QM”) until entering the Masters program in Electrical Engineering. Then it was like a light bulb turning on in my head. I’ve seen my key insight later in print, but I came up with it all by my lonesome.
    For example the uncertainty principle, the more you know about a particle’s position, then the less you know about its momentum and vice versa. Just a consequence of wave mechanics and the superposition principle. In electronics, one goes back and forth between the time domain and frequency domain. Imagine a trumpet blowing a pure C note with no beginning and no end. Its frequency is perfectly established but its time position is all over the place. Likewise, imagine a single infinitely sharp drumbeat. It is perfectly known in time, but its frequency is all over the place- best approximated by a fourier infinite series of sine waves. So there you go, the more you know of one domain, then the less you know of the other.
    I met my hero Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac in his 90’s when he was giving a talk at the Morehead Planetarium. Got him to autograph my copy of his “Principles of QM-” the book where he predicted the existence of the positron, found shortly thereafter, and speculated about the magnetic monopole, still lurking out there.
    My Electromagnetics Physics Professor, Dr Palmatier, was a close friend of DeWitt, who collaborated with Wheeler on some work. Always been fascinated by the Many Worlds Interpretation of QM and the multiverse concept.

  20. r whitman says:

    One of my undergraduate physics professors 65 years ago was fond of saying that a century from now much of new physics theory will be considered witchcraft.
    Quantum mechanics, Big Bang Theory and Relativity are likely candidates.

  21. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Here is a repeat from one of your posts. IMO it cannot be repeated enough:
    “But we were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted into battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses.” (Robert Ardrey, African Genesis)
    Perhaps there is still a future for mankind-perhaps not. Here is a more appropriate Ardrey quote for our times: “The dog barking at you from behind his master’s fence acts for a motive indistinguishable from that of his master when the fence was built” (The Territorial Imperative)
    Diplomacy and governance du jour seem to be the purview of barking dogs
    Ishmael Zechariah

  22. mongo says:

    Hello Sir,
    To say that you are studying quantum mechanics is a little vague — I could say in response that you are studying everything in physics that doesn’t relate to gravity. Other learned members of the group have suggested some good resources to look at, but I’ll refrain from joining in unless you have something in particular that interests you.
    The quantum world can be thought of in terms of three domains: quantum mechanics, which is essentially Newtonian mechanics with probability theory added in, quantum electrodynamics (QED), which mainly deals with the family of particles that largely persist and are directly observable in nature (protons, electrons, neutrinos, etc.), and quantum chromodynamics (QCD), which deals with the (so far) most basic particles that combine to form those that QED deals with (quarks, the Higgs, etc.).
    It’s important to keep in mind that all of this stuff is mental constructs that people have put together to help them visualize what our instruments detect. An electron may or may not be a little spherical thing whose position and momentum are known to a finite accuracy. We know that they exist, but only indirectly. We can talk about them as having the properties of both a particle and a wave, but that’s not something that our senses report — we come to those conclusions be observing the behavior of large numbers of these things in aggregate through experiments like Young’s double slit diffraction.
    Happy Hunting,

  23. mongo says:

    Hi TTG,
    It depends on how close to a true vacuum they need to have in the tube. Adding air to a tube like this would add friction and possibly turbulence, which could make the transport wobble to the point where it bumps into things. Depending on the speed, this could result in annoying dents or it could mean it bashes into something hard enough to destroy itself.

  24. b says:

    What happens to a (pressurized) vehicle that rides at several hundred miles per hour in a vacuum when that vacuum suddenly turns into a comparatively “solid” gas at atmospheric pressure?
    Try to breach a concrete bunker with a Porsche 911. The experience will be similar.

  25. Ivan says:

    The only advice I would like to give Col Lang, is never, ever read a book which mentions Schrodinger’s Cat or Heisenberg Uncertainty, that does not also contain some mathematics. I say this as a person who wasted many years reading such books as ‘The Dancing Wu Li Masters’. The mathematics to understand QM is not that difficult, being largely a more abstract version of the vector and matrix mathematics that one sees in say for example game programming books. But it is also possible to acquire sufficient understanding through the study of the Schroedinger partial differential Equation. There are many ways to acquire such knowledge, and a visit to a well stocked library, or better still taking some extra-mural courses would save an incredible amount of time and mental effort. I am afraid that most of the popular books are not worth the paper they are printed on.
    Therefore while it is no shame not study QM, it would be very saddening if anyone tries to acquire such knowledge through the mass of popular books. I would recommend ‘The Dreams that Stuff is made of’. A volume of original papers and articles edited and presented by Steven Hawking. Depending on one’s background, one may find the mathematical papers heavy going, but there is sufficient knowledge to be gleaned even in the the non-mathematical articles, which together form a connected whole.

  26. FkDahl says:

    In my opinion the cost calculations for hyperloop are sheer fantasy, under estimating the cost of production and running by an order of magnitude. From my career in physics and semiconductors I have plenty of experience of high-vacuum systems (Hyperloop predicted pressure is 1/1000 atm) ; they fail and require a steady supply of spare parts. Maintenance is much simplified if parts of the system can be shut off and isolated; pump down time is strongly dependent on the amount of moisture that enters during room pressure maintenance work. Highly reliable and large valves would be needed to isolate parts of the tube – valves would need to be the size of hobbit-doors here, not the usual 2-8 inch size. Leak likelihood scales with the circumference: getting the o-rings to sit just right is an art. OK you say, we don’t need no egg-head high-vacuum system with turbo pumps, just low vacuum, still, a certain amount of pumps are needed per length of tube.
    In case of a bullet sized leak the incoming gas will move with near the speed of sound and the impact on an oncoming train will be catastrophic. In case of survivors they will have to figure out how to survive in a steel tube at a pressure at best comparable to Mt Everest.
    Add to this the climate : a 10C temperature swing will make the San Francisco-Los Angeles tube of ~560km expand 72m. How to deal with that? You could anchor it down and bear the stress for X number of sun-cycles, or let the station positions float.. Of course you could insulate it, but then that bears against the un-realistic construction costs Mr Musk proposed. And that is the constant temperature change: in a place like California one can easily have a 40C temperature delta between top and bottom : in a high vacuum vessel with some kind of joints every tens of meters.
    Hyperloop makes Mr Mush appear like a snake oil doctor.

  27. Simpleton says:

    A key aspect of QM is entanglement. Read about EPR (Einstein, Podolski, Rosen thought experiment) and John Bell’s Inequality to (fail to) understand the strange world of QM. This
    issue gets to the heart of the fundamental difference between classical and quantum mechanics.

  28. turcopolier says:

    entanglement seems to have been incomprehensible to Einstein especially since he could not disprove its existence. pl

  29. Mel says:

    I wouldn’t think the tube would just explode or implode on its own. I would fear a train going Mach 1 hitting air that wasn’t supposed to be there. Shock waves, etc. Trans-sonic behavior was a disaster for some of the first airplanes that got there.

  30. turcopolier says:

    I mentioned QM to learn how many here would actually know anything of such a subject. Interesting result. pl

  31. FourthAndLong says:

    It’s remarkable how the concept of fields has proliferated in physics since its inception. There’s now a field for everything under the sun. Higgs may be the latest. But when Maxwell introduced the concept at Cambridge for his doctorate, regarding his electromagnetic theory, it was not accepted, he had to do something else. And his supervisors were the leading physicists of the day — real all time major leaguers. But they simply could not get their heads around the concept of a field. Maxwell himself struggled with it, positing all sorts of mechanistic constructs, but to no avail. So since he apparently was able to accept the abstraction it posed, we now have field theory.
    Interesting how in our day we get freshman and HS students to learn these things that James Jeans and his colleagues couldn’t understand.

  32. Jagger says:

    The contradictions between the quantum world and our experienced world made me question simple, basic assumptions of reality. Questioning basic assumptions is important because many fallacies arise from those assumptions. The same type of questioning leads to a clarification of the strengths and weaknesses of science. It is vital to comprehend the limitations of science. Finally, those contradictions leads us to examine the subjective manner in which we primarily experience existence. A subjective existence which lies outside the bounds of science.
    One little example: is time fundamental to existence? Of course…until you think about it a bit. The quantum world will make you think about it as you attempt to explain contradictions. Personally, I now have serious doubts about the fundamental nature of time to existence.
    As for science, science is a great tool but a limited tool. The scientific process is very effective when dealing with the physical/material world-what we can measure and observe. Yet by the very nature of the process, it completely breaks down when dealing with the subjective world which is a majority of our experience of existence. It is necessary to realize the limitations of science before we comprehend the value of other methods of understanding.
    The desire for understanding often leads to speculative reason, metaphysics, as our only hope when attempting to come to grips with the oddities of the quantum world. I think it is interesting because the questions naturally lead to theories about existence and then, whether there is any meaning or purpose to existence. For some, it is a fascinating subject and for some, it is a complete a waste of time because even if answers are found, the answers really change nothing.

  33. FourthAndLong says:

    Einstein also rejected the idea of black holes when they were first discussed. And initially modified his general relativity theory because it predicted an expanding cosmos, and he was sure the universe had to be steady state — same always and forever. Then Hubble made his discovery and Einstein became delighted that he was, er, um, right the first time. He wanted a Mozart universe. I’ll never understand how a man of his awesome intelligence could so doggedly stick to theories which depended on differential equations, which depend on matter and the world being infinitely divisible, and furthermore extending infinitesimal theories all over space. How can that work ??
    He was famous for saying “God does not play dice with the universe” in response to the probabilistic formulations of QM. I wish I could have been there to say: “Hey Al ! Do you really think the Lord God Almighty actually writes down Lagrangians ??”

  34. Allen Thomson says:

    I aced the graduate QM course at American U back in 1974. (And even got the gummint to pay for it, though the relation of QM to my official duties was not obvious.)
    However, I would not equate that to actually knowing anything about it.

  35. ISL,
    I checked out the Hyperloop One FAQ and they did address this question. They plan on a medium vacuum that can tolerate leaks. The maglev train could still run in an Earth atmosphere tube, but it would be horribly inefficient. I now see the difference between this and the pneumatic train… two totally different concepts.

  36. FourthAndLong says:

    I’m 65, and it appears many here are my near contemporaries. We who are Americans were raised in the Space race era. After Sputnik lets just say that the youth of the USA were rather strongly urged to study science and engineering. And if a lad showed promise on aptitude tests many of my teachers considered it their patriotic duty to steer us such wise. And my goodness me, that was one patriotic era. Try not standing for the National Anthem in many parts of the US, and you were lower than a child molester. Jehovah’s witnesses were lynched at times during the second world war in the United States, as they claimed the conscientious objector draft status.
    Try to imagine smartphones existing in 1955 and a Russian hacking scandal making the news. Or LGBT rights and gay marriage. This America truly is the most awesome noble experiment ever devised despite everything.

  37. bks says:

    All this adoration of SpaceX is misplaced. NASA was reusing the shuttle over thirty years ago. SpaceX is dependent on NASA science, engineering, launch facilities tracking and funding. JFK proposed a manned mission to the moon on 25 May 1961. Neil Armstrong took a step onto the moon 20 July 1969, just over eight years later. SpaceX was founded in 2002. That’s fifteen years ago and they have yet to even recapitulate the Mercury missions (1958-1963). Yes, NASA had more resouces than SpaceX, but they didn’t have the 50 years of research and expertise in electronics and material science that accumulated in the interim.

  38. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I agree with you in regards to the Exclusion Principle; it is a non-classical additional force that evidently encompasses weak, electromagnetic, and strong force – it is like a common aspect of all forces at Quantum level.
    In Quantum Theory of Magnetism, the “Exchange Integral” is sometimes referred to as such.

  39. Babak Makkinejad says:

    IN regards to Black Holes, their existence is inconsistent with Quantum Mechanics.

  40. Babak Makkinejad says:

    In regards to Black Holes, their existence is inconsistent with Quantum Mechanics.
    Einstein was a monist. I am too. And I do not know how particularity can emerge from the universal. Even Spinoza did not outline a quadrature for doin so, but that does not mean it is impossible even in principle.
    All of contemporary cosmology is based on differential equations and continuity of space-time as well as distribution of matter.

  41. different clue says:

    I remember reading somewhere that when Einstein said to Neils Bohr ” God does not play dice!” that Neils Bohr replied ” Don’t tell God what to do!”

  42. outthere says:

    Yes I remember those days well, walking up the hill to honors physics class, sputnik beeping overhead, and watching an incredible new Saarinen building being constructed. Transistors were a new thing, and IBM was working to manufacture them in a new/different way – a vital step towards manned space flight.
    And I remember when LBJ’s top advisor was arrested in a mens’ room, and hastily secretly fired.
    So yes, there has been progress.
    But there has also been a downside, just ask almost any wild creature. Here’s a good start on that subject:
    The Fate of Earth
    Humanity’s survival on this planet seems more uncertain than ever. But what happens when we look at ourselves through other creatures’ eyes?
    By Elizabeth Kolbert
    October 12, 2017

  43. FourthAndLong says:

    Yes. Spin is fascinating. Lasers do their thing being essentially a Bose –Einstein condensate phenomenon. Any number of photons can exist in the exact same quantum state, being as they have integral, as opposed to half integral integral spin. Seperation of matter, that it takes up space at all — because electrons are fermions, spin one half.
    One idea intrigued me long ago, that matter was “on the average” Bosonic. And that gravity, so fundamentally attractive is a ” residual” manifestation of Bosonic matter’s tendency to flood into one state, as with the lasing photons. After all, most aggregates of atomic matter do have integral spin most of the time. Thus gravity, profoundly weak, is what’s left over in the collosal ongoing tendency to become a B E condensate. But I couldn’t manage a quantitative estimate. Lack the mathematical talent.

  44. Ivan says:

    ..and presented by Stephen Hawking…

  45. Colonel – Quantum theory? As remote for most of us as the far side of the moon though not, unsurprisingly, so remote for some of your readers. Shall we ever end up with whatever they might call that theory of everything they’re hoping to reach? And if so, will these investigations into the innermost properties of matter itself reinforce our current view that matter is all there is? That once we understand all things to do with matter we understand all things to do with Man?
    That materialist view of us humans has been gathering steam since before the Enlightenment. Darwin wrestled with the implications of it for decades. Painstaking to the point of genius but somehow timid, or maybe just plain scared of those implications, it took him a while to come out with it. Maybe he’d have waited even longer, if a gifted amateur hadn’t happened to put it all together in an afternoon and nearly forestalled him. It wouldn’t have mattered. It was there already, in the air waiting to be noticed; but when Darwin did come out with his Origin of Species – the clue’s in the very name itself so bye bye God or anything metaphysical – they took the ball and ran with it.
    Didn’t they run with it, and for such a distance. Primitive Darwinism, a way of thinking about evolution that took little account of feedback or ecological systems but focused mainly on the misunderstanding that the strongest tiger wins, ran all the way to the Third Reich – and well beyond. For let’s not pretend that that way of devil take the hindmost thinking isn’t still enormously powerful amongst those far removed from the study or the pulpit.
    More significantly for us, the materialist view that we’re nothing else but a collection of atoms, and that there are no secrets about us that can’t be discovered and understood and predicted once we’ve put in enough time in the lab, took off like an explosion in an ammunition dump and apart from a few cranks or diehards it’s the view that rules our world.
    Pity, because both takes are bullshit. On the scientific level or any other. On the most simplistic level we’ve now fully grasped the fact that the strongest tiger doesn’t win in anything but the short term. The super-tiger eats all the prey and dies out. The tiger can only exist in balance with everything around him including the grass he treads on. Wish the cronies would grasp that, poor suckers, but that’s by the way. As for understanding and prediction, the climate scientists and the mathematicians are grappling with the world of complex systems. I think we’re starting to realise that, given the fact that measurement disturbs the thing measured, and given that everything to the furthest point of space affects everything else, we may be able to discover everything about the world, including us, but we’re never going to be able to predict it fully. As Mrs Pelosi said – didn’t she? – we’re going to have to get to the future before we can see what’s in it. There are no short cuts.
    But that’s by the way too, essentially, because make no mistake such thinkers as Dawkins, that fearsome materialist, are quite correctly insisting that there is no real physical difference between us humans and a chunk of rock. No difference at all except that we’re formed out of more bits and pieces. We’re both arrangements of matter and that’s the end of it. Materialism rules!
    Does it hell. When did you ever see a chunk of rock looking at another chunk of rock and saying “that’s a chunk of rock. I must be a chunk of rock too”? No, we have to go all the way with Dawkins, every damned inch and more. We have to accept materialism as the basis of any sensible thinking about ourselves. And then we have to go further. We have to accept the implications of consciousness.
    Dawkins, bless him, reckons we can crack consciousness. Sooner or later we’re going to discover the exact combinations of matter that give rise to the phenomenon, or the illusion even, that we know as “consciousness”. ‘Course we will, Mr Dawkins, it’s only a question of time. We both know that. We’ll crack it soon enough.
    But when we’ve done that we’re still going to be conscious. We’re still going to be humans with our own specific type of consciousness. And when we accept that, we’re going to have to take a closer look at our own specific type of consciousness. I wouldn’t be surprised if the theologians and the metaphysicians, even if they use antique concepts and definitions long since lost to most of us, didn’t come in handy there.
    Last night I was reading that most unexpected of theologians, Oscar Wilde. All theatrics and paradox, Wilde, with that poser’s “We must fail gracefully, darlings, since fail we must” fatalism that reconciles so many to defeat. But underneath that false determinism there must have been a very sharp brain and an almost preternatural intuition. He was in the thick of that first great surge of materialism that was in short order to flood our entire world. Suddenly he flashes out, not just an acceptance of Dawkins’ fearsome materialism, but an insight into what we must find beyond it:-
    “Life is a question of nerves, and fibres, and slowly built-up cells in which thought hides itself and passion has its dreams.”

  46. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Can you please elaborate regarding gravity as a Bose condensate?

  47. David says:

    I absolutely agree that one should avoid books that just talk about Schrodinger’s cat or the Uncertainty principle. There are four, but equivalent mathematical approaches to doing quantum mechanics. Historically the first was Heisenberg’s use of matrices and this approach is used in “Quantum Mechanics in Simple Matrix Form” by T.F. Jordan which is now a Dover paperback.
    This is a really nice book and requires the least mathematical background of any serious quantum mechanics book that I know of, yet it teaches one to do actual calculations whose results would require much more advanced mathematics if done using any of the other three approaches. If you know simple algebra, then you know enough to learn about complex numbers and matrices which takes up the first part of the book. The book has been used to teach quantum mechanics to high school students.
    I also agree with the other people here that Feynman’s book “QED:The Strange Theory of Light and Matter” is superb. Get the edition which has Anthony Zee’s introduction where he explains how Feynman was able to make the physics simple, but with out simplifying it.
    As was also mentioned, Leonard Susskind’s book on Quantum Mechanics is also excellent, but it requires one to know calculus and to have either read his previous book on classical mechanics or to already know that subject.

  48. David says:

    I don’t think this has been proven at all. We already have a semi-classical approximation which predicts Hawking radiation
    and some string theorists have made claims that it is also present in a fully quantised theory of gravity.
    A colleague said to me that “The black hole will be to 21th century physics what the harmonic oscillator was to 20th century physics”.

  49. LeaNder says:

    positivism (prior to WWII), mysticism (after WWII), fantasy (The Many-World’s Interpenetration)
    Babak, that’s pretty curious, at least considering mysticism. Even if we differentiate between religious and secular mysticism over the centuries.
    But I am aware of your organizational frameworks needs, which for one reason or another I assume are outside your general field concerning your central theses.

  50. LeaNder says:

    Great joke, QSOH, from my as always limited grasp of matters.

  51. Babak Makkinejad says:

    For QM to be consistent, Gravity must be quantized, viz. Graviton must exist. However, if photons cannot exit a Black Hole, gravitons could not either, implying that gravity field would cease to exist outside og a BH.

  52. DH says:

    The idea that an observer determines anything seems silly unless consciousness saturates reality, or something.
    Here’s a great talk from a Quantum Theory Without Observers meeting by Tim Maudlin about Bell’s Theorem. Most of the slides are printed material so you can pause the video and ponder each point as Maudlin goes along:

  53. fanto says:

    all who know more,
    why is speed of light the ultimate limit of speed?; the dictum of cosmologists is that the universe expands from the moment of Big Bang until now, some 14 billion years ago. Big Bang must have started with a fantastic speed, approaching the speed of light and it continues until now, as evidenced by the famous ´red-shift´ in light spectrum. Why is it a problem to my nitwit mind? The consequences of trying to answer my dilemma are quite monstrous.

  54. fanto says:

    with your permission, I would like to quote your entry in my talk.

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