Tag Archives: Brian Dodson

Blog Round-Up

Lots of travel last week delayed the second installment on my D-Wave visit write-up, but I came across some worthy re-blog material to bridge the gap.

inholeI am usually very hard on poorly written popular science articles, which is all the more reason to point to some outstanding material in this area. I found that one writer, Brian Dodson, at the Gizmag site usually delivers excellent content. Due to his science background, he brings an unusual depth of understanding to his writing. His latest pieces are on General Relativity compatible alternatives to dark energy and a theoretical Quantum black hole study that puts the gravity loop approach to some good use. The latter is a good example as to why I am much more inclined to Loop Quantum Gravity rather than the ephemeral String theory, as the former at least delivers some predictions.

Another constant topic of this blog is the unsatisfying situation with regards to the foundational interpretations of Quantum Mechanics.  Lack of progress in this area can in no small measure be attributed to the ‘Shut up and calculate’ doctrine, a famous  quip attributed to Feynman that has since been enshrined as an almost iron rule.

To get a taste for how prohibitively this attitude permeates the physics community, this arxiv paper/rant is a must read. From the abstract:

If you have a restless intellect, it is very likely that you have played at some point with the idea of investigating the meaning and conceptual foundations of quantum mechanics. It is also probable (albeit not certain) that your intentions have been stopped in their tracks by an encounter with some version of the “Shut up and calculate!” command. You may have heard that everything is already understood. That understanding is not your job. Or, if it is, it is either impossible or very difficult. Maybe somebody explained to you that physics is concerned with “hows” and not with “whys”; that whys are the business of “philosophy” -you know, that dirty word. That what you call “understanding” is just being Newtonian; which of course you cannot ask quantum mechanics to be. Perhaps they also complemented this useful advice with some norms: The important thing a theory must do is predict; a theory must only talk about measurable quantities. It may also be the case that you almost asked “OK, and why is that?”, but you finally bit your tongue. If you persisted in your intentions and the debate got a little heated up, it is even possible that it was suggested that you suffered of some type of moral or epistemic weakness that tends to disappear as you grow up. Maybe you received some job advice such as “Don’t work in that if you ever want to own a house”.

At least if this bog post is any indication the times seem to be changing and becoming more permissive.