Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for April 20th, 2009

Can fractals make sense of the quantum world

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Very interesting article in New Scientist, which points out that quantum physics was established and worked out before we knew about black holes and about fractals. Use of those might reconcile quantum physics with common sense. The article, by Mark Buchanan, begins:

QUANTUM theory just seems too weird to believe. Particles can be in more than one place at a time. They don’t exist until you measure them. Spookier still, they can even stay in touch when they are separated by great distances.

Einstein thought this was all a bit much, believing it to be evidence of major problems with the theory, as many critics still suspect today. Quantum enthusiasts point to the theory’s extraordinary success in explaining the behaviour of atoms, electrons and other quantum systems. They insist we have to accept the theory as it is, however strange it may seem.

But what if there were a way to reconcile these two opposing views, by showing how quantum theory might emerge from a deeper level of non-weird physics?

If you listen to physicist Tim Palmer, it begins to sound plausible. What has been missing, he argues, are some key ideas from an area of science that most quantum physicists have ignored: the science of fractals, those intricate patterns found in everything from fractured surfaces to oceanic flows (see What is a fractal?).

Take the mathematics of fractals into account, says Palmer, and the long-standing puzzles of quantum theory may be much easier to understand. They might even dissolve away.

It is an argument that is drawing attention from physicists around the world. "His approach is very interesting and refreshingly different," says physicist Robert Spekkens of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada. "He’s not just trying to reinterpret the usual quantum formalism, but actually to derive it from something deeper."

That Palmer is making this argument may seem a little odd, given that he is a climate scientist working at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting in Reading, UK. It makes more sense when you learn that Palmer studied general relativity at the University of Oxford, working under the same PhD adviser as Stephen Hawking.

So while Palmer has spent the last 20 years establishing a reputation as a leading mathematical climatologist, he has also continued to explore the mysteries of his first interest, quantum theory (see "Quantum ambitions").

"It has taken 20 years of thinking," says Palmer, "but I do think that most of the paradoxes of quantum theory may well have a simple and comprehensible resolution."

Arguments over quantum theory have raged since the 1920s, starting with a series of famous exchanges between Einstein and the Danish physicist Niels Bohr.

Bohr and his supporters believed that …

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Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2009 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Email from Jane Hamsher

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Just received and acted upon:

If you saw the front page of the New York Times today, you saw them pick up an important story that Marcy Wheeler broke on FDL on Saturday — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in one month.

She reported how the interrogators went far outside of anything they were legally allowed to do, even under the expansive laws written by the Bush Administration.

Marcy’s work shows just how important it is that Attorney General Eric Holder appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate the torture of detainees.

You can sign the petition here:

The ACLU will be delivering the signatures to Secretary Holder later this week.  The deadline for signatures is 9am ET, Thursday, April 23.

Thanks for taking the time to stand up for the rule of law.

Jane Hamsher

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2009 at 2:00 pm


with one comment

From a story in the NY Times by Scott Shane:

The Obama administration, eager to avoid the political distraction of full-scale investigations of Bush administration programs, has offered a two-part message: waterboarding is illegal torture, but there will be no investigation of who ordered the torture or carried it out.

That is incredible. They admit that a crime has been committed, they acknowledge that our law and treaty obligates us to investigate and prosecute the crime, but they just don’t want to do it because it would be a lot of trouble.

This, of course, applies only to well-connected criminals.

I’m so disgusted that I’m going to stop blogging before I come over all cranky again.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2009 at 1:57 pm

Progress note

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Dishes all done, chicken almost done. Extremely hot here today. I’m drinking a glass of water with some pomegranate juice in it, along with ice and a dash of lemon bitters. Very refreshing.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2009 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Daily life

Beltway pundits against justice

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Glenn Greenwald has a new post on how much the beltway media elite are against any prosecution for past crimes (Bush Administration only, but I imagine they would agree that Jane Harman should also not have to answer charges). This, despite the fact that most people WANT justice served.

He also points out that this is a decision that Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel don’t get to make. It’s up to the Attorney General. Their comments are just a way of putting pressure on Eric Holder.

I just don’t understand this.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2009 at 1:23 pm

Joanne Mariner on the torture memos

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Joanne Mariner has this column in FindLaw:

The Obama administration’s release last week of four Bush-era memos on the abusive interrogations of detainees in U.S. custody has raised a host of questions. The memos, written by Justice Department attorneys, purport to authorize CIA interrogators to use a range of coercive techniques against detained terrorism suspects, even techniques that constitute torture under U.S. and international law.
The first and perhaps most compelling question is whether U.S. officials should be prosecuted for carrying out acts of torture, authorizing the use of torture, or ordering that torture be used. The administration was quick to suggest that it would not initiate such prosecutions, a move criticized by human rights groups and others.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents a number of detainees at Guantanamo, emphasized the deterrent effect of prosecutions. By prosecuting these abusive techniques as crimes, the government would ensure that they would not be used in the future. Conversely, "[f]or there to be no consequences not only calls our system of justice into question, it leaves the gate open for this to happen again."

Another important question raised by the memos is what happened to the information that was obtained using torture. Was it used only preventively—to provide leads about possible future plots? Or was this tainted—and likely quite unreliable—information used in legal proceedings that affected people’s rights?

Court and Other Legal Proceedings

The rules on admissibility of evidence vary dramatically from forum to forum. While the U.S. federal courts bar evidence obtained under torture or other coercion, not all legal proceedings have such strict protections.

Of greatest concern are proceedings in which the evidence is kept secret. Secret evidence is often synonymous with tainted evidence, since without the safeguards imposed by the adversarial system, it is easier for the government to throw in whatever evidentiary garbage it wants.

It is no secret that the administrative decisions regarding the continued confinement of individual detainees at Guantanamo were, in many cases, based on unreliable evidence obtained via torture. For example, statements coerced from Mohammed al-Qahtani, a detainee whose prolonged physical and psychological abuse is documented in a government interrogation log, were used in the administrative proceedings of at least 30 other prisoners.

We also know that the U.S. government provided information obtained from Abu Zubayda, the detainee whose planned abuse by the CIA was described in one of the recently-released memos, to the Canadian government for use in at least two deportation cases. (To their credit, the Canadian courts barred the information from being admitted as evidence.)

Terrorist Blacklists

In addition, this abusively-obtained information was almost certainly used in the blacklisting of individuals and groups allegedly linked to terrorism…

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Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2009 at 12:11 pm

Sites for cooks

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MakeUseOf reviews interesting recipe sites.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2009 at 11:48 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

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