Arcadian Functor

occasional meanderings in physics' brave new world

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Marni D. Sheppeard

Friday, May 22, 2009

Everett Today

This afternoon I went to a fascinating and informative seminar by Peter Byrne on the life of Hugh Everett III, the originator of the Many Worlds interpretation. The story is based on a seemingly exhaustive search of papers, notes and letters, some discovered only recently in LA. A long sequence of these documents, along with photographs, were flung briefly onto the projector during a lightening fast hour and a half summary of Everett's life. Amongst the gems was a short personal reply that Everett received as a child, to a lost letter, in which Einstein states that there is no irresistable force and no immovable object.

There was a transcript from a conference involving Wheeler (Everett's advisor), deWitt, Podolsky, Feynman and others, which concluded with Feynman's criticism of the concept of universal wave function. As history shows, this criticism was largely ignored by the relativists, and others. There was a brief account of the interactions between Wheeler and Bohr, and Everett's friendship with Misner. Everett himself, the proud son of a military man and a brilliant (but forgotten) mother, was destined for an illustrious career at the Pentagon during the cold war.


Blogger nige said...

Before learning that he was into many worlds quantum mechanics philosophy, around 1992 when trying to grasp fallout I went to SRIS in London specially to read a paper that Hugh Everett III's co-authored, called 'The Distribution and Effects of Fallout in Large Nuclear-Weapon Campaigns', Operations Research, Vol. 7, No. 2, March-April 1959, pp. 226-248. My university didn't have Operations Research but the SRIS of the British Library did.

It is completely and spectacularly devoid of any physics whatsoever about fallout; the whole fallout distribution mechanism is totally ignored. They don't even consider the fallout particle-size distribution, which is key to determining whether the fallout is spread over a massive area in relatively uniform low concentrations or whether you get a very non-uniform distribution.

Exactly the same pseudoscience abounds in Hugh Everett III's extravagant multiverse (many worlds) interpretation of the uncertainty principle:

'If you ... use the ideas that I’m explaining in these lectures – adding arrows for all the ways an event can happen – there is no need for an uncertainty principle! ... on a small scale, such as inside an atom, the space is so small that there is no main path, no “orbit”; there are all sorts of ways the electron could go, each with an amplitude. The phenomenon of interference [by field quanta] becomes very important ...’ (Feynman, QED, 1985, pp. 56, 84. Emphasis added.)

Dr Thomas Love states:

‘The quantum collapse [in the mainstream interpretation of quantum mechanics, where a wavefunction collapse occurs whenever a measurement of a particle is made] occurs when we model the wave moving according to Schroedinger (time-dependent) and then, suddenly at the time of interaction we require it to be in an eigenstate and hence to also be a solution of Schroedinger (time-independent). The collapse of the wave function is due to a discontinuity in the equations used to model the physics, it is not inherent in the physics.’

This is absolutely vital to Hugh Everett III's many worlds speculations.

Alain Aspect's experiments and PhD thesis ignore loopholes when claiming entanglement from photon correlations: the detectors are very inefficient and Aspect relies on the unproven assumption of the independence of emission events. His data has to be adjusted for fair sampling, the assumption that the ensemble of pairs detected is a fair sample of those emitted, which - given the low efficiencies of the detection of individual polarized photons - is highly questionable.

See the arXiv paper:

'In some key Bell experiments, including two of the well-known ones by Alain Aspect, 1981-2, it is only after the subtraction of "accidentals" from the coincidence counts that we get violations of Bell tests. The data adjustment, producing increases of up to 60% in the test statistics, has never been adequately justified.'

The Physical Review policy is to suppress these facts:

‘In 1964, John Bell proved that local realistic theories led to an upper bound on correlations between distant events (Bell’s inequality) and that quantum mechanics had predictions that violated that inequality. Ten years later, experimenters started to test in the laboratory the violation of Bell’s inequality (or similar predictions of local realism). No experiment is perfect, and various authors invented “loopholes” such that the experiments were still compatible with local realism. ...

‘This loophole hunting has no interest whatsoever in physics.’

Thus the multiverse is not unquestionable dogma, which of course happened. Sorry if this comment is too long, off topic, or seems to ignore the rules of courtesy for comments, just delete it if so (I'll copy it to my blog).

May 22, 2009 11:45 AM  
Blogger Kea said...

Hi Nigel. Thanks for the comments. My impression of Everett is roughly as you state - it seems he was far too arrogant, given the small contribution he made to physics. The Pentagon loved him because he came from the 'right' background. That's the 20th century for you.

May 22, 2009 8:14 PM  

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