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Archive for April 19th, 2018

You thought quantum mechanics was weird: check out entangled time

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Sally Davies writes at Aeon:

In the summer of 1935, the physicists Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger engaged in a rich, multifaceted and sometimes fretful correspondence about the implications of the new theory of quantum mechanics. The focus of their worry was what Schrödinger later dubbed entanglement: the inability to describe two quantum systems or particles independently, after they have interacted.

Until his death, Einstein remained convinced that entanglement showed how quantum mechanics was incomplete. Schrödinger thought that entanglement was the defining feature of the new physics, but this didn’t mean that he accepted it lightly. ‘I know of course how the hocus pocus works mathematically,’ he wrote to Einstein on 13 July 1935. ‘But I do not like such a theory.’ Schrödinger’s famous cat, suspended between life and death, first appeared in these letters, a byproduct of the struggle to articulate what bothered the pair.

The problem is that entanglement violates how the world ought to work. Information can’t travel faster than the speed of light, for one. But in a 1935 paper, Einstein and his co-authors showed how entanglement leads to what’s now called quantum nonlocality, the eerie link that appears to exist between entangled particles. If two quantum systems meet and then separate, even across a distance of thousands of lightyears, it becomes impossible to measure the features of one system (such as its position, momentum and polarity) without instantly steering the other into a corresponding state.

Up to today, most experiments have tested entanglement over spatial gaps. The assumption is that the ‘nonlocal’ part of quantum nonlocality refers to the entanglement of properties across space. But what if entanglement also occurs across time? Is there such a thing as temporal nonlocality?

The answer, as it turns out, is yes. Just when you thought quantum mechanics couldn’t get any weirder, a team of physicists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem reported in 2013 that they had successfully entangled photons that never coexisted. Previous experiments involving a technique called ‘entanglement swapping’ had already showed quantum correlations across time, by delaying the measurement of one of the coexisting entangled particles; but Eli Megidish and his collaborators were the first to show entanglement between photons whose lifespans did not overlap at all.

Here’s how they did it. First, they created an entangled pair of photons, ‘1-2’ (step I in the diagram below). Soon after, they measured the polarisation of photon 1 (a property describing the direction of light’s oscillation) – thus ‘killing’ it (step II). Photon 2 was sent on a wild goose chase while a new entangled pair, ‘3-4’, was created (step III). Photon 3 was then measured along with the itinerant photon 2 in such a way that the entanglement relation was ‘swapped’ from the old pairs (‘1-2’ and ‘3-4’) onto the new ‘2-3’ combo (step IV). Some time later (step V), the polarisation of the lone survivor, photon 4, is measured, and the results are compared with those of the long-dead photon 1 (back at step II).

Figure 1. Time line diagram: (I) Birth of photons 1 and 2, (II) detection of photon 1, (III) birth of photons 3 and 4, (IV) Bell projection of photons 2 and 3, (V) detection of photon 4.

The upshot? The data revealed the existence of quantum correlations between ‘temporally nonlocal’ photons 1 and 4. That is, entanglement can occur across two quantum systems that never coexisted.

What on Earth can this mean? Prima facie, it seems as troubling as saying that the polarity of starlight in the far-distant past – say, greater than twice Earth’s lifetime – nevertheless influenced the polarity of starlight falling through your amateur telescope this winter. Even more bizarrely: maybe it implies that the measurements carried out by your eye upon starlight falling through your telescope this winter somehow dictated the polarity of photons more than 9 billion years old.

Lest this scenario strike you as too outlandish, Megidish and his colleagues can’t resist speculating on possible and rather spooky interpretations of their results. Perhaps the measurement of photon 1’s polarisation at step II somehow steers the future polarisation of 4, or the measurement of photon 4’s polarisation at step V somehow rewrites the past polarisation state of photon 1. In both forward and backward directions, quantum correlations span the causal void between the death of one photon and the birth of the other.

Just a spoonful of relativity helps the spookiness go down, though. In developing his theory of special relativity, Einstein deposed the concept of simultaneity from its Newtonian pedestal. As a consequence, simultaneity went from being an absolute property to being a relative one . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 April 2018 at 7:01 pm

Posted in Science

Your Online Purchase Might Get Declined For No Reason Anyone Is Willing to Tell You

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Dystopia alert. Kevin Drum writes at Mother Jones:

The Wall Street Journal tells us today about Riskified, a company that scores consumer behavior and then decides whether to approve or deny purchases. It’s used mostly for online purchases, by big and small sellers alike:

Michael Green, 50 years old, found out about one of the firms by accident. He ordered headphones online for his son’s 18th birthday. Days later, when he hadn’t heard anything about the order, he contacted the headphone brand, Audeze, which told him the purchase had been canceled because a third-party firm had determined he was a fraud risk. Mr. Green noticed that the status of his order said “Riskified Rejected.” When he emailed Riskified to ask why he had come up as a fraud risk, a customer service agent told him the company had no further information. “There was no explanation, no appeal,” said Mr. Green, a financial professional in Austin, Texas.

But wait!

After The Wall Street Journal contacted Riskified, CEO Eido Gal said Mr. Green’s order was incorrectly declined. “Riskified tends to be far more accurate and efficient than traditional fraud-prevention methods, but no solution is perfect, and we’re still improving,” he said.

There are two big problems here. First, there’s the usual “fuck you” attitude that all these companies have unless a reporter calls them up. Mr. Green was up the creek for no reason he could determine, and Riskified refused to bother looking into it until the Wall Street Journal contacted them. Suddenly, it turned out Green was “incorrectly declined.” How about that?

The second big problem is that no one knows what goes into these algorithms that check consumer behavior. For example, did you know that a third of all people named Green are black? Did that have any effect on things? There’s no telling, since Riskified’s algorithms are proprietary and they won’t tell us. What’s more, it’s even possible that this little factoid had an effect without Riskified even knowing it. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 April 2018 at 4:24 pm

‘People don’t realize’: Trump and the historical facts he wants you to know

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Jenna Johnson writes in the Washington Post:

As President Trump announced that South and North Korean leaders have his blessing to discuss a permanent end to the military conflict between their two countries, he dropped in a quick history lesson.
“People don’t realize the Korean War has not ended,” Trump said on Tuesday, his face contorting into a look that seemed to communicate surprise and bafflement. “It’s going on right now.”
For Trump, people don’t realize a lot of things.
There was the time in March 2017 when Trump informed top Republican Party donors that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. “Great president. Most people don’t even know he was a Republican, right?” Trump said. “Does anyone know? A lot of people don’t know that.”
When he visited France last summer, Trump explained that “France is America’s first and oldest ally” and that “a lot of people don’t know that.” Several days after the trip, Trump said in an interview that French President Emmanuel Macron “loves holding my hand” and that “people don’t realize he loves holding my hand.”
Trump’s public remarks are filled with dozens of similar comments. They often begin with some variation of the phrase, “Most people don’t know . . .,” and end with a nugget of information that many of those surrounding him — fellow world leaders, diplomats, journalists, politicians or aides — do indeed already know.
According to Trump, most people don’t know that there’s more than one Air Force One; that the heroin epidemic has ravaged New Hampshire; that the Empire State Building was constructed in less than a year; that universities “get massive tax breaks for their massive endowments;” that Clemson University is “a great academic school, one of the top 25;” or that nonprofit organizations and churches are barred from endorsing political candidates.
Trump’s lessons are often accompanied by raised eyebrows, widened eyes and a “gee whiz” look that suggests perhaps the nation is witnessing the president’s education in real time.
Is Trump playing the role of educator in chief, or simply sharing historical facts he’s newly learned? The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
It is true that many Americans do not know basic facts about their country, said Charlie Copeland, the president of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a conservative group that challenges the quality of education that many university students receive. The institute used to do an annual survey to measure civic literacy — but the results were repeatedly so abysmal that it was stopped in 2011, he said.
“I think that American history has become almost an untaught subject today,” Copeland said.
Many of Trump’s “people don’t know” remarks have involved foreign policy. In a meeting with the Italian prime minister in April 2017, Trump noted that “Italy is one of America’s largest trading partners” and that “a lot of people don’t know that.”
While meeting with the president of Afghanistan last fall, Trump acknowledged that the situation on the ground is complicated and “people don’t realize you had 20 terrorist groups in Afghanistan.”
And during a news conference in Vietnam in November, Trump said that “people don’t realize Russia has been very, very heavily sanctioned.”
Sometimes Trump will go a step further and suggest that Washington needs to simplify the way that it talks about complicated issues so that Americans will better understand.
He has suggested calling community colleges “vocational schools,” because “we don’t know what a community college means.” He claims  . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 April 2018 at 3:50 pm

Trump’s Lawyer Forgets to Pretend He’s Innocent, Also Compares Him to Mobster

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Jonathan Chait writes in New York:

One of the ways in which the scandals around President Trump have come to resemble a mob movie, other than the nature of the crimes themselves, is that nobody involved is putting up much of a pretense that Trump is innocent. Asked today by Katy Tur if “there’s any chance [Michael Cohen] would end up cooperating, flipping,” Anthony Scaramucci said no, because Cohen ‘is a very loyal person.”

You meant because Trump is innocent, right? Cohen is not going to testify against Trump because Trump did nothing wrong?

Not all of Trump’s supporters feel so confident that Cohen will respect the omertà. In a conversation with Trump last Friday, Jay Goldberg, one of Trump’s lawyers, warned the president, “Michael will never stand up [for you]” if charged by the government, according to TheWall Street Journal. But why would Trump have anything to worry about, unless … Trump committed a crime that Cohen knows about?

In an interview with the Journal, Goldberg elucidated his concerns about Cohen’s loyalty and the devastating impact it would have if he cooperated with the government. “The mob was broken by Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano caving in out of the prospect of a jail sentence,” Goldberg explained.

Again, this makes a lot of sense as a legal defense strategy for a businessman who has probably done a lot of illegal stuff. But as a public-relations strategy, isn’t Trump’s lawyer supposed to say he believes Cohen is innocent, and would be shocked to learn if he did something wrong, because of course Trump has never engaged in any illegal behavior and would never tolerate it among his employees? He’s probably not supposed to casually liken the president of the United States to the boss of a criminal syndicate.

UpdatePolitico has more reporting on Trump allies expressing concern that Cohen will flip on Trump. All of the sources implicitly assume both Cohen and Trump are guilty of serious crimes. (Because otherwise, Cohen couldn’t give prosecutors any information damaging to Trump.) And many of them also use mafia lingo. “I think for two years or four years or five years Michael Cohen would be a stand-up guy. I think he’d tell them go piss up a rope,” says a defense lawyer who represents a senior Trump aide, “But depending on dollars involved, which can be a big driver, or if they look at him and say it’s not 2 to 4 years, it’s 18 to 22, then how loyal is he?” . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 April 2018 at 3:39 pm

Should Quantum Anomalies Make Us Rethink Reality?

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Bernardo Kastrup writes in Scientific American:

Every generation tends to believe that its views on the nature of reality are either true or quite close to the truth. We are no exception to this: although we know that the ideas of earlier generations were each time supplanted by those of a later one, we still believe that this time we got it right. Our ancestors were naïve and superstitious, but we are objective—or so we tell ourselves. We know that matter/energy, outside and independent of mind, is the fundamental stuff of nature, everything else being derived from it—or do we?

In fact, studies have shown that there is an intimate relationship between the world we perceive and the conceptual categories encoded in the language we speak. We don’t perceive a purely objective world out there, but one subliminally pre-partitioned and pre-interpreted according to culture-bound categories. For instance, “color words in a given language shape human perception of color.” A brain imaging study suggests that language processing areas are directly involved even in the simplest discriminations of basic colors. Moreover, this kind of “categorical perception is a phenomenon that has been reported not only for color, but for other perceptual continua, such as phonemes, musical tones and facial expressions.” In an important sense, we see what our unexamined cultural categories teach us to see, which may help explain why every generation is so confident in their own worldview. Allow me to elaborate.

The conceptual-ladenness of perception isn’t a new insight. Back in 1957, philosopher Owen Barfield wrote:

“I do not perceive any thing with my sense-organs alone.… Thus, I may say, loosely, that I ‘hear a thrush singing.’ But in strict truth all that I ever merely ‘hear’—all that I ever hear simply by virtue of having ears—is sound. When I ‘hear a thrush singing,’ I am hearing … with all sorts of other things like mental habits, memory, imagination, feeling and … will.” (Saving the Appearances)

As argued by philosopher Thomas Kuhn in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, science itself falls prey to this inherent subjectivity of perception. Defining a “paradigm” as an “implicit body of intertwined theoretical and methodological belief,” he wrote:

“something like a paradigm is prerequisite to perception itself. What a man sees depends both upon what he looks at and also upon what his previous visual-conceptual experience has taught him to see. In the absence of such training there can only be, in William James’s phrase, ‘a bloomin’ buzzin’ confusion.’”

Hence, because we perceive and experiment on things and events partly defined by an implicit paradigm, these things and events tend to confirm, by construction, the paradigm. No wonder then that we are so confident today that nature consists of arrangements of matter/energy outside and independent of mind.

Yet, as Kuhn pointed out, when enough “anomalies”—empirically undeniable observations that cannot be accommodated by the reigning belief system—accumulate over time and reach critical mass, paradigms change. We may be close to one such a defining moment today, as an increasing body of evidence from quantum mechanics (QM) renders the current paradigm untenable.

Indeed, according to the current paradigm, the properties of an object should exist and have definite values even when the object is not being observed: the moon should exist and have whatever weight, shape, size and color it has even when nobody is looking at it. Moreover, a mere act of observation should not change the values of these properties. Operationally, all this is captured in the notion of “non-contextuality”: the outcome of an observation should not depend on the way other, separate but simultaneous observations are performed. After all, what I perceive when I look at the night sky should not depend on the way other people look at the night sky along with me, for the properties of the night sky uncovered by my observation should not depend on theirs.

The problem is that, according to QM, the outcome of an observation can depend on the way another, separate but simultaneous, observation is performed. This happens with so-called “quantum entanglement” and it contradicts the current paradigm in an important sense, as discussed above. Although Einstein argued in 1935 that the contradiction arose merely because QM is incomplete, John Bell proved mathematically, in 1964, that the predictions of QM regarding entanglement cannot be accounted for by Einstein’s alleged incompleteness.

So to salvage the current paradigm there is an important sense in which one has to reject the predictions of QM regarding entanglement. Yet, since Alain Aspect’s seminal experiments in 1981–82, these predictions have been repeatedly confirmed, with potential experimental loopholes closed one by one. 1998 was a particularly fruitful year, with  . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 April 2018 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Instructive GOPM failure: black rice, pork, apple, and cabbage

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Not an absolute failure, but the rice was greatly undercooked and the pot had too much liquid. However, I figured out the problem and will repeat the dish to verify that my analysis is correct.

Here’s the recipe I followed, listing the layers in the order in which they were put into the pot (from the bottom up, in effect).

Rub 2.25 qt Staub cast-iron round cocotte (or other ≈2 qt cast-iron dutch oven) with olive oil, then add the following, all of which are 0 WW points except as indicated:

2 shallots, chopped <- the problem: rice should go in first—see comment below
6 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 Tbsp = 1 WW point)
1/3 cup black rice (aka “Forbidden Rice”) (7 WW points)
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
salt and freshly ground pepper
12 oz (3/4 lb) boneless pork sirloin, cut into chunks (6 WW points)
sprinkling of dried thyme
1 Honeycrisp apple (or other apple), cored and cut into chunks (don’t peel)
light sprinkling of ground cinnamon
3/4 cup chopped or shredded red cabbage

1.5 Tbsp olive oil (6 WW points)
1 Tbsp Enzo apple balsamic vinegar (1 WW point) or 1 Tbsp sherry or red-wine vinegar (0 WW points)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (1 WW point)
juice of 1/2 lemon

Put the lid on, put into pre-heated 450ºF oven for 45 minutes, remove, let sit 15 minutes and enjoy.

Total the way I made it is 22 WW points, and for us this is 4 servings, thus 5.5 WW points per serving, which counts as 6 WW points.

If the rice is added first, it is on the very bottom, where it gets hotter and where the liquids accumulate to cook it. By putting the rice atop the shallots, it did not rest in liquid but was steamed—and for not long enough.

I’m going to make it again, but put the rice in first. I think that’ll do it.

UPDATE: Better, but not perfect. Still perfectly edible and healthful.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 April 2018 at 11:26 am

Posted in Food, GOPM, Recipes

Phoenix Artisan Green Ray brush, Avo Nice Shave soap and splash, and RazoRock German 37

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I couldn’t resist the look of the Green Ray synthetic from Phoenix Artisan. It looks like horsehair, which I consider a handsome look, and it’s a fine brush in use, right at the top of the size I like: it’s 24mm, and generally I go with 22mm or even 20mm. But this brush works well and feels great in the hand: very solid. For $13 I consider it a bargain. It’s called a “hybrid” knot because it’s midway between a fan shape (the traditional British knot) and a bulb shape (the traditional German knot), and for me it feels and works great: money well spent.

Avo Nice Shave is quite a good soap. (It’s clear that “avo” must be pronounced like the “avo” in “avocado”—it has to be for the pun to work.) It has for me the same wonderful effect on my skin as other Phoenix Artisan/Crown King soaps, and that is doubtless due to the ingredients:

Potassium Stearate, Glycerin, Potassium Cocoate, Aqua, Potassium Kokumate, Sodium Lactate, Potassium Shea Butterate, Potassium Castorate, Sodium Stearate, Potassium Cocoa Butterate, Potassium Avocadoate, Chlorophyll, Fragrance

Note the Chlorphyll, which probably accounts for the color. My immediate impression on opening the tub was “Gucamole!” 🙂 The lather was wonderful in consistency and in fragrance:

Top: Creamy Avocado, Citrus Peel, and Olive
Heart: Bosc Pear, French Lavender, and Basil
BottomBlonde Woods, Musk, and Cyclamen blossom

Since the brush is synthetic, I took care to shake it well to remove excess water—so well I had to add just a little water as I loaded, but that’s ever so much easier than removing water.

Three passes with the German 37 did a perfect job. I find this razor to be (for me) the best of the Merkur 37 clones (including the Merkur 37 itself). At $12 for just the head it’s a great bargain. (The German 37, unlike the Merkur 37 and the other clones, is a three-piece razor, a definite advantage since it allows one to purchase the head only and allows for swapping handles.)

A good splash of Avo Nice Shave aftershave finished the job. The aftershave’s fragrance profile matches that of the soap, and the ingredients are:

Alcohol, Lavender Hydrosol, Essential/Fragrance Oil, Glycerin, Aloe Vera, Avocado Oil, Liquid Chlorophyll

Note the presence of avocado oil, which (a) suggests that my practice of vigorously shaking my aftershaves before opening the bottle to apply is a good idea—some separation might well occur; and (b) is probably why it leaves my skin feeling so nice.

When I ordered them I meant to get the combination of soap and aftershave, which gives a $5 price break, but I clicked the wrong item. So it goes. I pay a $5 fine for not paying attention. Here’s the combination offer.

And, speaking of avocado oil, I highly recommend using that when you do high-temperature sautéing and frying: avocado oil has the highest smoke point of any cooking oil (271ºC / 450ºF), a neutral taste, and an excellent nutritional profile quite similar to extra-virgin olive oil.

I avoid using seed oils—canola (rapeseed), peanut, corn, grapeseed, safflower, cottonseed, soybean, etc.—because of the bad Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratios. Cottonseed and soy oils are mostly found in commercial products (mayonnaise, canned sardines, salad dressings, and the like—always read the list of ingredients for any foods you eat), where they are used because they are dirt cheap (and because food companies really don’t care that much about your health: their focus is on profits). More information on cooking oils can be found here. BTW, if you like mayo, make your own. It’s extremely easy and tastes much better than the commercial stuff. And if you look at commercial mayos labeled “olive oil,” you’ll find that they use primarily canola and/or soybean and/or cottonseed oil with just a hint of olive oil.



Written by LeisureGuy

19 April 2018 at 10:05 am

Posted in Food, Shaving

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