Can you imagine President Trump sitting down to read a health care bill? It’s like trying to imagine a dog doing your taxes. It just doesn’t compute.” - Jimmy Kimmel
Casting Shade on Bohr
The semi-famous philosopher Tim Maudlin takes on a couple of books in a review entitled
The Defeat of Reason. One of the books, What Is Real?: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics by Adam Becker, is concerned with Bohr and the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, and I won't discuss the other one. I first heard of the book, the review, and an apparent comment on the review by linguist and evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker via a critique by Lubos Motl. Lumo's review, as usual, was long on invective but short on fact and logic, but it did pique my interest. If I recall correctly, I once wrote a post entitled "Tim Maudlin is an Idiot", so I'm not a member of his fan club. He is, however, a philosopher who knows a lot about quantum mechanics and history, so my dismissal was perhaps a bit harsh. That said, I am not impressed by his review, and, based on that review, unimpressed by the book. The basic argument appears to be that Niels Bohr and colleagues sold physics on an illogical and anti-rational interpretation of quantum mechanics whichs obscures the fact that quantum mechanics is fundamentally incomplete. With Bohr as villain, the heroes are Einstein, David Bohm, and John Stewart Bell, with the heroes having been persecuted and driven into obscurity by the prevailing propaganda. Of course it's true that Bohm was persecuted, but that was for leftist/Communist politics, not physics. Fundamentally, though, I find Becker's story to be nonsense. Becker and/or Maudlin have mustered a few quotes that they think promote their case:
Einstein on Copenhagen: “The theory reminds me a little of the system of delusions of an exceedingly intelligent paranoiac.”
Robert Oppenheimer is reported to have said, “If we cannot disprove Bohm, then we must agree to ignore him.”
According to Rudolf Peierls, Bohr would often say, “truth and clarity are complementary.” This sentiment is the death of Enlightenment rationality.
When the Copenhagen interpretation got imported to the pragmatic soil of the United States, Bohr’s incomprehensible nonsense was replaced by the more concise “shut up and calculate.”
Philosophers might profit by developing an understanding of irony.
Many physicists have pondered the various mysterious aspects of quantum mechanics, and been bothered by it, but physicists aren't like philosophers, willing to debate the same pseudo puzzles for millennia. As long as the world has mysteries to explore, we need to get on with it. That was Bohr's answer to Einstein and Oppenheimer and Feynman's answer to physicists generally.
Many smart guys have attempted to go beyond Copenhagen, and perhaps some have made progress, but for most we are faced with Feynman's "Quantum mechanics is not only stranger than you imagine, it's stranger than you can imagine." Those who wander off to ponder its terra incognita are seldom heard from again.
It has been observed that many Americans of Indian descent are leftist with respect to American politics but rightist where Indian politics are concerned. Some find this counterintuitive or even paradoxical, but I don't think so. Americans of Indian descent tend to be highly educated and relatively prosperous but may well feel doubly endangered in the US, firstly by racial and ethnic prejudice, and also by the encroachment of American values on them and their children. Hence they are attracted to values of anti-discrimination and diversity in the American left.
In India, though, they are members of a wealthy and English speaking elite. As such, they fear the impact of the challenges to India's traditionally highly stratified society from below. India is one of the world's most unequal societies, and one of the reasons for the inequality is the traditional culture of caste, which is deeply embedded in culture and religion. They see those that challenge it as the grav…
Our world is infested by parasites; what keeps them down is partly Democracy and blah; partly that anywhere that becomes too uncompetitive gets out-competed. That's not a careful analysis, but what I mean is that we accept a balance as we must: as long as society functions, and produces enough wealth for all or most, we tolerate some parasites. And at least at the moment it is working: the share captured by the unproductive isn't too high...........William Connolley
Libertarians generally, and rich people especially, are preoccupied by slackers - those they perceive to not be pulling their weight. Of course we don't all quite agree on who those "parasites" are. There are some obvious suspects - the young, the aged and infirm. Then, of course, are the unemployed. People like that creep Mitt Romney think they are anybody who doesn't pay income taxes, even if the other taxes they pay amount to a higher tax rate than paid by Romney and his rich fans.
You may have heard about the Google engineer who got fired for writing a memo challenging some of the conventional wisdom about diversity. He had the bad luck or bad judgement to issue this memo just when Google has gotten into some trouble for alleged discrimination against women. If you want a calm, dispassionate analysis of the issues involved, you could (LOL!) check out the Lumonator's take. I'm not going to discuss it though, since I didn't really read the memo and know zero about Google's corporate culture.
I was more interested in this pearl of wisdom from some former Google engineer named Yonatan Zunger:Essentially, engineering is all about cooperation, collaboration, and empathy for both your colleagues and your customers.Who da thunk that?
Not me, to be sure, but then I'm not an engineer. Of course I might have suspected that some of those qualities might be useful to at least some engineers as well as humans more generally, but I sure wouldn't …