Golden binary strengthened relativity, aether crackpots don't care
22 October 2017 | 7:46 am

Because it is the first combined electromagnetic-gravitational observation of an astrophysical event, the recent announcement of the LIGO-Virgo and electromagnetic discovery of the "golden binary" or "kilonova" has many consequences. One of them is about the process that may have created most of gold and platinum in the Universe, not to mention numerous less famous elements.

Another implication is the "standard siren". An article in Nature used the kilonova to measure the Hubble's constant in a new way. Instead of using "supernovae" as the "standard candles" whose distance may be determined from their luminosity, the "kilonova" is used as the "standard siren" whose distance is determined from their "sound" i.e. the gravitational wave. The terminology is supposed to be both witty (or creative) and self-explanatory so I hope you appreciate it.

But another consequence for "fundamental physics" is a new measurement of the speed difference between the gravitational and electromagnetic waves.

There was some moment when the neutron stars touched for the first time – and then some kind of an explosion began. So up to that moment of the collision, one could observe the periodic gravitational waves emitted by the two neutron stars that were orbiting each other, relatively peacefully.

After that moment, some violent changes of the matter around the neutron stars began. And that's observed by the regular electromagnetic telescopes. So most of the electromagnetic observations look at the events after the "touchdown". The earliest waves were the (very high-frequency) gamma-rays. The kilonova (merger of the neutron stars) manifested itself as a "short gamma-ray burst". In this way, gamma-ray burst experts have learned about an explanation for at least some of the short GRBs. Electromagnetic waves of lower frequencies were observed for longer periods – weeks etc. – after the "touchdown". The infrared observations were made even recently, a few months after the "touchdown"

Now, the gamma-ray burst occurred about two seconds after the "touchdown" extracted from the gravitational waves. The delay may be almost certainly attributed to some internal dynamics of the large chunk of matter that responded. Note that the diameter of the Sun is almost 2 light seconds, too. So some delays of this magnitude have to be expected.

Nevertheless, you should appreciate how tiny this delay relatively to the time that all the waves needed to get here. The distance of the kilonova was some 130 million light years. So it took 130 million years for the gravitational wave and the gamma-rays to get here. And they got here within at most two seconds after one another. Here is the ratio:

The speed ratio of the two waves differs from one at most by ten to the minus fifteenth power or so.

Let's try to consider some hypotheses that the speed of these waves isn't really equal to \(v=c\), to the maximum speed allowed by the special relativity. Write the difference between the (relatively low-frequency, LIGO-detectable, kHz or so, and that constant seems to be basically frequency-independent in the range, otherwise the LIGO signals would be totally screwed) gravitational waves' speed \(c\) and the speed \(v(E)\) of photons of energy \(E\) in terms of the ratio\[

f(E) = \frac{v(E)}{c}.

\] According to standard special relativity with massless gravitational and gravitational fields, we have \(f(E)=1\) for all \(E\). What are the empirically allowed deviations? Let's expand them in some power laws, use integer powers, the leading terms on both sides, and let's write the coefficients as multiples of the natural Planck mass \(M\):\[

f(E) = 1 + \frac{\alpha E}{M} + \frac{\beta M}{E}.

\] The coefficients \(\alpha,\beta\) stand in front of terms that are directly and indirectly proportional to the photon's energy \(E\), respectively. How big these dimensionless coefficients may be? The gamma-ray energy has reached up to some \(E=0.08\GeV\). So \(M/E\) is some \(1.5\times 10^{20}\).

The second, \(\beta\) term deviates primarily at low energies. We may see that \(\beta\lt 10^{-5}\) or so, to get 15 orders of magnitude from 20 orders of magnitude, from the gamma-rays themselves. And even smaller bounds on \(\beta\) may be obtained from the lower-frequency radiation (whose timing wasn't that precise but which have an even higher \(M/E\)). Clearly, no natural values of \(\beta\) – of order one – are allowed empirically.

On the other hand \(E/M\sim 10^{-20}\) so values up to \(\alpha\sim 10^{5}\) could still be allowed in the first term, the term that makes the very high, especially Planckian, energy electromagnetic radiation deviate from the actual maximum speed in the Universe. It's extremely unlikely that the experiments will be improved so that you would be able to prove \(\alpha\lt 1\) just from the delays: the distances in the Universe can be increased at most by two orders of magnitude but the "delay indistinguishable from zero" is linked to the radius of the binaries and those can't really be much smaller than what LIGO and EM friends saw in August – there aren't substellars neutron stars etc.

In this sense, the \(\alpha\) term in the dispersion relations will always be allowed by experiments that measure the delay and nothing else. This is the term that would indicate a very different speed of light for Planckian energies – which we can't achieve at colliders. For example, if you wrote some dispersion relations for a lattice whose spacing is one Planck length, you could get predictions that will always be compatible with these basic tests.

But some of the constraints on the violations of the Lorentz invariance have surely been improved by several orders of magnitude. See this LIGO-Fermi paper about the golden binary for some more details about it.

However, Backreaction has completely ignored the golden binary and the newest text over there is titled Space may not be as immaterial as we thought. It promotes some kind of an aether. While it's true that the golden binary hasn't disproved all conceivable aether-like or Lorentz-violating theories, I still find the insensitivity to experiments amazing. Ms Hossenfelder either doesn't understand the relevance of experiments and observations such as the "golden binary" for the theories at all; and she just doesn't care about this relevance at all. Both options are just plain terrible.

Even if you were imagining some theory that violates the Lorentz symmetry near the Planck scale, its low energy limit at much lower energies would have to be Lorentz-preserving. So the well-motivated part of the effective theory could still be made Lorentz-covariant. Even in quantum gravity, there is no known advantage that one could gain by abandoning the assumption of the (local etc.) Lorentz invariance.

It's been some 9 years since Leslie Winkle disagreed with Sheldon Cooper about the dependence of the speed of light on the frequency. It was the first episode of TBBT that I actually watched but I have re-watched the previous ones many times afterwards, both in English and in Czech. One still can't "totally rigorously prove" that Sheldon was right but there's been an impressive increase of evidence that Cooper (and Motl whom he really represented there) was right while Winkle (and Smolin etc.) was not.

One could say that these improvements are "analogous" to the negative results about supersymmetry. But this analogy is inadequate quantitatively. While the lower bounds on some superpartner masses have only improved by less than an order of magnitude, the upper bounds on numerous Lorentz-violating effects have improved by many orders of magnitude. There are still lots of natural reasons to think that supersymmetry could or should exist at relatively low, heavily sub-Planckian energies; but the well-motivated reasons for a violation of the Lorentz symmetry have faded away much more dramatically.

Positive articles about the aether mean that for some people, the empirical evidence just doesn't matter at all. There are lots of parasitic people – like Ms Hossenfelder – who pretend to be scientists but their whole lives are based on constant, permanent lies.

Catalonia, Czechia: not too happy a day in politics
21 October 2017 | 2:02 pm

In Madrid, the Spanish government decided to say "you're fired" to the elected Catalan government and appoint a puppet government instead. Based on the parties that will be included, the puppet government is supported by 8% of the Catalan voters. Moreover, some "authorities" are threatening Catalan president Puigdemont with up to 30 years in prison for "rebellion". He's my hero. Tonight, he will make a speech. I will understand if he surrenders.

Clearly, Spain doesn't belong to the European civilization and their heavy-handed approach won't make the problem go away. They can mask it but the underlying tension and desires to be independent will strengthen. I don't understand whether they want to allow new democratic elections in Catalonia because the support for pro-independence parties is bound to strengthen.

Results after 73% of polling stations have reported their tallies (in Czechia, we only need 2 hours for that counting – most other nations should learn from us). At the end, not only STAN mayors with 5.2% but also TOP 09 with 5.3% made it.

Meanwhile, billionaire Babiš exceeded the expectations and won the Parliamentary elections in Czechia.

At the turnout of 60.83%, billionaire and former Slovak communist snitch Andrej Babiš (who received his charges from the police weeks ago, because of one of his numerous frauds) and his non-ideological party – building on primitive populism articulated in the language of the uneducated, basically brain-dead, masses – got 29.6% of votes.

Right-wing, Eurocautious, but "mainstream" enough ODS that I voted for (and so did its founder, ex-president Klaus, because he was finally persuaded by his son's candidacy – Klaus Jr is the only well-known defender of a straight Czexit in current ODS and one might argue that Klaus Sr was actually the only true Euroskeptic in ODS when he led it, too) got 11.3% and became a silver medal winner, almost tied with SPD. Very far from the times when it was a dominant party (with 35%) under Klaus, however. On the other hand, ODS could have easily been the 5th party in the leaderboard so the silver is a silver lining for me.

The "multicultural fascists" SPD of Tomio Okamura, half-Czech, half-Japanese, got 10.6%. They dropped to the potato medal (fourth place) after a more promising beginning of the counting when they were second ahead of ODS.

Pirates, a new protest party of the youth and IT geeks, got over 10.8% as well, a statistical tie with SPD (the preliminary results looked a bit worse). They got the bronze medal.

Communists dropped from previous elections (14% has been normal) and earned less than 8%. Lots of the communist voters were obviously devoured by the former communist apparatchik, billionaire Babiš, of course, because he is trying to return the habits of the communist era much more aggressively than the communists. Communists, despite their heritage, because a somewhat intellectual party, somewhat pro-Parliamentarian-establishment etc. Babiš is anti-Parliament and anti-intellectual. And some of the old communist voters may have just died, something that some of us have been expecting for 25+ years.

The result of the following parties is absolutely catastrophic and I feel terrified even though I would never consider myself a real supporter of either of them. Social democrats – winners of the previous elections in 2013 with over 20% – got less than 7.5% (note that this 8% will be the only group of lawmakers that wants to adopt the Euro in Czechia!), Christian Democrats less than 6% (it's the only Czech party that considers Christianity important!), STAN mayors stand at 5.2%, near the fatal threshold (they finally got into the Parliament), and the only "globalist" PC pro-EU but conservative party, TOP 09, seemed to have less than 4% and remained outside the Parliament (in the final stages of counting, they climbed from 3.8% towards 5.3% and they made it, lots of good luck, indeed). Greens, Mach's SSO libertarians, Realists, and others are around 1.5% or less.

TOP 09 has some political heavyweights such as the leader Miroslav Kalousek – a true Parliamentary veteran – who won't get to the Parliament again. In some Twitter exchanges, I have warned him to avoid the fanatically pro-EU campaign etc. It was surely one of the reasons his party was "nearly" eliminated. Aside from the good luck that allowed them to stay in the Parliament, they may be happy that they won the elections outside Czechia – in those global stations, they got some 23% of votes, followed by the Pirates at 18% (I guess lots of these votes were cast on the beaches of Somalia).

Lots of the voters moved to Babiš's ANO. Some of the young people who used to vote for TOP 09 moved to the Pirates. Everyone else has suffered a big deal. ODS that I voted for is the only party with some "history" that achieved a "stable result" relatively to 2013.

The nominal winner of the elections Babiš will almost certainly need a coalition partner and his coalition potential is low because almost everybody said that they don't want to create a government with someone who is prosecuted by the police and expects 10 years in prison for frauds.

But he may easily bribe someone – that's how he has dealt with problems throughout his life. However, President Zeman has announced that he won't be in a hurry when he's expected to appoint a candidate prime minister. Zeman may wait for Babiš to be arrested – before a clear coalition, it's likely that the new Parliament will strip him of his immunity again – and then he may offer a pardon and the chair of the prime minister to Babiš who will be arrested in exchange for 50% of his company – for some 2 billion dollars plus a guarantee that Babiš will do everything to make Zeman reelected as the president. ;-)

I think that I am mostly kidding now but I am not 100% sure it's just a joke. ;-) Zeman is a good enough political chess player, I think, and his apparent "alliance" with Babiš in recent years is almost certainly just a strategic move, not a reflection of some deeply felt love in Zeman's heart. :-)

The three parties widely considered non-democratic, namely ANO, communists, and Okamura's SPD, will have a clear majority in the Parliament. That's surely scary for most traditional Parliamentarian politicians and for me, too.

However, with the final numbers, coalitions look rather transparent to me now. Victorious ANO may create a two-member coalition either with Okamura's SPD or with ODS or with the Pirates (102/200 deputies only; communists are too weak for that). Or numerous other coalitions with 2 (or more) coalition partners exist.

From the viewpoint of ODS I voted for, the strongest party of the politically mature people in these elections, there are two obvious choices: either the 2-member coalition with the criminal Babiš's ANO which seems enough. Or a wide coalition of everybody except for ANO and communists. Note that ANO and SPD have a majority in the Parliament so you simply can't exclude both. I would prefer the wild rainbow coalition without ANO and communists. That will obviously be controversial because of the inclusion of Okamura's SPD, the "multicultural fascists", but the parties simply must deal with the new reality. I have virtually nothing against Okamura – except that he will be too irritating for too many people in the world.

Well, there could be even more attractive "opposition agreement #2" models I am almost enthusiastic about. Okamura and/or commies and/or social democrats could get the Parliament and tolerate the minority government of ODS+TOP+STAN+KDU and maybe Pirates, or something like that. ;-) When I look what's numerically plausible, my frustration changes to some hopes if not experimental enthusiasm. This could easily become a Pyrrhic victory for ANO.

2.7 cheers for "shut up and calculate"
20 October 2017 | 8:13 am

Nima Arkani-Hamed is a member of the Aryan & Dominant White Professors program at Cornell University (how many external clicks did this cause LOL?) and he gave a talk about "shut up and calculate" last month over there:
Three Cheers for "Shut Up and Calculate" in Fundamental Physics
Nima adopted the division of the theoretical physicists to the askers or seers – like Lee Smolin who loved to impress the people by saying that "I view myself as a seer" (be sure that we've talked about these matters a lot so he had folks like Smolin in mind) – and the insatiable problem-set solvers who just want to get the technicalities right at the mathematical level and solve additional well-defined problems once some older ones are mastered.

And make no doubts about it, the "shut up and calculate" people are unambiguously the right ones.

Arkani-Hamed defended "shut up and calculate" – David Mermin's dictum usually misattributed to Feynman that was originally meant to sound pejorative – as the required pragmatic attitude that is needed locally in research for it to be scientific and not philosophical; however, a broader philosophical vision is needed, too.

He wants to have
the greatest respect for, such questions, coupled with a desire to find concrete paths to attacking them, rather than gaping at them in perpetual awe.
Arkani-Hamed discussed examples of the "shut up and calculate" that were important when Albert Einstein was searching for the general theory of relativity in the darkness of confusion. Einstein needed to understand certain mathematical facts properly and once he did, things became straightforward.

(I haven't attended or watched his talk. Aside from years of interactions with the speaker, what I needed to determine the content of Arkani-Hamed's talk was to "shut up and calculate" LOL.)

In fact, he said an insight that I've been saying for a very long time, maybe even in discussions with him: A theoretical physicist may afford to be "somewhat sloppy" and his research may be "less than straightforward" because once certain totally qualitative conceptual ideas are correctly identified, what remains to be investigated is basically a finite number of possibilities how the concepts can be combined into propositions and arguments in a "spiritually correct" way. And after some time, pieces simply fit together and one arrives at the complete, technically correct, detailed theory or argument. Well, in this sense, the rough philosophical ideas are more central and valuable; the detailed technical work may be reduced to some combinatoric labor that sufficiently intelligent graduate students or collaborators (or you) may go through.

Well, sometimes it takes less time and sometimes it takes more time to migrate from the rough sketch to the final product. I still remember some three weeks in early 2003 when Andy Neitzke and I were completing a calculation of asymptotical, highly-damped quasinormal frequencies of black holes using a monodromy argument. We knew the result which was already calculated by another method and supported by very strong numerical evidence; we knew that "some monodromy properties" of Bessel's functions were relevant, and they should be combined to a constraint that implies the right values of the frequencies. But it took three weeks to combine the pieces correctly so that it worked. Partly because of our frequent communication, we arrived at the "Heureka" moment almost simultaneously.

One may say that this was pure mathematics because the problem was well-defined. But many problems in physics may be conceptually harder and more fuzzy. I would argue that the string theory's sketch of a theory of everything has been available since the mid 1980s and string theorists have already been oscillating in the right "basin of attraction" for more than 30 years, and finding new interesting local minima and structures over there. But the mapping of the basin hasn't been quite completed yet.

I only gave 2.7 cheers for "shut up and calculate" while Arkani-Hamed gave 3. Well, I don't want to overwhelm you with technicalities but he actually gave \(\pi\) cheers to "shut up and calculate" while I gave \(e\) cheers. Where does the difference come from? Well, my thinking is still a little bit closer to that of a seer. ;-) You know, I actually find the deep questions very important. And in some sense, I view all the precise calculations and technical work to be primarily some pile of dirty work whose real purpose is to strengthen some far-reaching philosophical principles. Well, the calculations are needed not just to support the hot conceptual ideas. They're often needed to make them well-defined, too. The rough recipe or a theory – like the "sum over histories of interacting quantum fields" – may look attractive but you're not guaranteed whether it may be translated to actual numbers that compute meaningful predictions in particular situations. Indeed, you may find out that it's possible but only sometimes and new conditions and required procedures (e.g. renormalization) are needed which couldn't have been guessed if you always stood at the level of words.

If you have a theory, like quantum mechanics, you may learn what the theory predicts for certain observables in some situations. When the verbal definitions and algorithms sound well-defined enough and if you can really extract the right predictions in a sufficiently diverse set of examples, it means that you have almost certainly found the well-defined rules and it doesn't make too much sense to spend too much more time on words. If you can predict all the things in a huge class of problems even quantitatively or numerically, and if you still realize that and why these examples follow from the same recipe or the same theory, it means that you probably understand the situation better than just at the level of some philosophers' words.

I believe that Arkani-Hamed's point that "shut up and calculate" is forced upon us equivalent to this simple point – that the deeper we understand physics, the more clearly we see that the human language is inadequate and the only correct litmus test to decide whether we understand something is that "we know how to solve numerous problems".

The philosophically inclined people – the enemies of the "shut up and calculate" principle – seem to misunderstand this very basic point, namely the point that mathematics is more accurate than just the words. In the case of the "interpretations" of quantum mechanics, they implicitly assume that the mathematics of quantum mechanics has been identified correctly or almost correctly but what remains is some huge pile of extra words that should be added on top of the quantitative rules of quantum mechanics in order to "clarify" these quantitative rules.

But that's completely upside down. Mathematics is what clarifies vague philosophical words. Mathematical formulations of the laws are the clarification of the more vague ideas that existed before the theory became quantitative! If quantum mechanics tells you what is the input for the quantum mechanical calculations, how it's determined (by observations), whether these observations are well-defined objectively or need the decision of a conscious observer (the latter), what can be calculated (probabilities of future observations), and how these predictions are calculated (through the mathematics of unitary and Hermitian operators on a complex Hilbert space), then it tells you the maximum. This description is clearly superior in comparison what philosophers ever had or could have. Trying to increase the "verbosity" of the story makes the story less well-defined and less exact, not more so!

Again, I actually like the deep questions and some of my "shock and awe" is basically permanent. The quantum revolution has been the deepest transformation of the 20th century science – and analogously, its understanding could have been the deepest change of my thinking about the physical world. This change has long-term or permanent consequences. However, what's important is that it's not just the questions we are excited by. It's also – and perhaps primarily – the answers that physics has brought us.

What I (LM) find so annoying about the "interpreters" of quantum mechanics isn't that they're asking far-reaching questions. Far-reaching questions are great and important. What I find annoying is that
they ignore the answers. They seem to ask questions because they're pseudo-intellectual posers, not truly curious people. And when you look closely, these questions aren't true pure questions. They're demagogic tricks to promote old, wrong answers – and ignore any new, correct answers or the search for such new, correct answers! These are my, Motl's words – I added this sentence because I was told that some people misunderstood it.
So almost all the "interpreters" of quantum mechanics are asking deep questions that are actually recipes to think incorrectly. They implicitly and sometimes explicitly assume wrong things about Nature. When you ask "What is the precise objective, observer-independent state of affairs that exists in the real world at some moment," it's a question that deceives the recipient and wants him to think that there is some observer-independent information about Nature. But a key point of the quantum revolution is that it isn't the case. The knowledge of the state of the world must always be determined relatively to an observer and from his observations.

The idea that the laws of physics could depend on the observer could look like a contradiction to some people who would be told about it before 1925 – simply because they were used to the framework of classical physics and could have thought that it was there to stay forever. And it looked (and still looks) strange to lots of people who were recently told about it. But when one analyzes these matters properly, he must conclude that there is absolutely nothing illogical or logically incomplete about these laws of physics whose application depends on the observations. Most of the "interpreters" just don't want to learn these key answers – which is why their questions are actually just demagogic tricks to mentally keep themselves and their listeners in the 19th century while spending their careers by fooling people into thinking that the 19th century framework is more correct than the 20th century framework.

Also, what I don't share is Nima's optimistic picture of the future of pure theorists:
I will also argue that the "Shut Up And Calculate" philosophy is certain to grow in influence over time, as we draw ever closer to uncovering laws of physics governing the most fundamental elements of reality.
Do I agree with that? It depends on how you measure the "influence". If one were always capable of picking the "actual best" theoretical physicists at every moment, including in the year 2100, the statement above would be correct, I think. As the foundations of theoretical physics will be getting even more abstract, mathematical, or impersonal, the "shut up and calculate" philosophy will be more influential on the reasoning of these top people. This process is clearly ongoing in quantum gravity and other corners of cutting-edge theoretical physics.

But what's the algorithm to pick these top people in 2100? And will they exist at all? I surely believe that there exist some "basically objective" ways to decide which people are at the top – or bottom of the depths – of the theoretical physics reasoning. But all such claims are disputed. Can we discuss the "influence" at all? And are we sure that someone in 2100 will be doing deeper physics than e.g. Nima today? Won't the society turn off this deep layer of itself completely?

So I prefer to use a WYSIWYG definition of "influence". I think that people who are absolutely deluded and absolutely contradict the "shut up and calculate" paradigm are immensely influential in the sense that is "measurable by surveys and social sciences" and their influence seems to be growing further. You may search for "quantum mechanics (an embarrassment)" on YouTube. The first video you get has over 600,000 views. Nima is arguably the most charming and energetic among the men who have won the $3 million Milner Prize, the most generous award for theoretical physics that the world knows these days. Correct me if I overlooked something but I think he hasn't even gotten close to 600,000 in the number of views of his talks about the conceptual foundations of physics or science.

While I think that the influence of the "shut up and calculate" thinking and other things should increase with time, a sensibly sociologically measured influence of this kind is decreasing in time while the influence of demagogic philosophical babbling is increasing, perhaps skyrocketing. And those 600,000 viewers don't represent just the ignorant laymen. There are lots of PhDs and physics PhDs or at least self-confident science journalists, officials at science institutions, students, and kids who are just naturally curious about science but when they try to get one, they are served garbage.

The observations of the society that I can perform indicate that the people who are deep and who know what they're doing may be approaching extinction, a de facto eradication by fake scientists and the fads that are destructive for science that have teamed up with these fake scientists. A brilliant pro-science kid who is naturally driven to become a top theoretical physicist faces dozens of traps, misinformation, discouragement, and outright threats. How many of these brilliant kids can make it to the actual top these days? Some secret society – perhaps a new, science-optimized Templar Order – will have to be created to save the pure science (deep theoretical physics in particular) from extinction, from the cruel death prepared by the superficial thinkers and demagogues.

I believe that people like Nima who live a comfortable life in ivory towers may be seeing something else but the path of the brilliant and curious teenagers to the world class theoretical physics has become much worse than what it was just two decades ago and some nontrivial efforts may be needed to make sure that "real physicists of the Nima's kind" will exist in the year 2100 at all.

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