Laputa: The word, which I interpret the Flying or Floating Island, is in the original Laputa, whereof I could never learn the true etymology. Lap in the old obsolete language signifies high, and untuh, a governor, from which they say by corruption was derived Laputa, from Lapuntuh. But I do not approve of this derivation, which seems to be a little strained. I ventured to offer to the learned among them a conjecture of my own, that Laputa was quasi lap outed; lap signifying properly the dancing of the sunbeams in the sea, and outed, a wing, which however I shall not obtrude, but submit to the judicious reader.Not to be confused with Islamofascism.
The 'Visibility Range' map (with the grey buffer zones) shows that all islands in this region were within sight or detection range of each other. While some islands might not be directly visible from adjacent islands both would have been visible (or detectable) from mid-journey.
The bone-box is original; the first inscription, which is in Aramaic, "Jacob son of Joseph," is authentic. The second half of the inscription, "brother of Jesus," is a poorly executed fake and a later addition. Please note that the fraud is so blatant that I did not bother to go into extreme detail on whether the faked addition is supposed to be Hebrew or Aramaic. (If that's a vav, -- then it's Hebrew, not Aramaic; if it's yod, then it's says 'my brother', not 'his brother' or 'brother of'. By no stretch of the imagination can one claim this to be in Aramaic... 'of' in Aramaic is 'di'.) You have to be blind as a bat not to see that the second part is a fraud.Rochelle I. Altman is an expert on scripts and an historian of writing systems and her detailed Final Report on the James Ossuary can be found on the IOUDAIOS site at the University of Pennsylvania. Updated 22 Jan 2003 - I found out this fun fact recently
In a phone interview from Israel she told me that her comment about “blind as a bat” was not meant for public consumption.
An international team of scientists said Thursday they have used a mathematical algorithm to detect recurring patterns in the networks making up everything from food webs to the Internet to gene regulation in cells. By uncovering these crucial building blocks of networks, researchers have taken an important step toward unraveling the bewildering complexity of these systems, which they term "motifs." "Understanding a motif's function may open the way to new ways of dealing with diseases for which there is no cure at present, diseases that are complex network-level malfunctions," researcher Uri Alon, a physicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, told United Press International. The research is based on the assumption that information and energy tend to flow in distinct networks. Certain plants and animals are eaten by specific lifeforms in food webs, for instance. "21st-century sciences are obsessed with networks. The big problem is how to break down these complex networks into parts we can understand," Alon said from Belgium. For instance, although scientists have mapped out where every human gene is, they do not yet fully understand how these thousands of genes interact, said physicist Albert-Laszlo Barabasi of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. "In order to cure some of the major diseases such as cancer or depression, where several genes are functioning simultaneously, you need to understand the networks of the cells," he explained. Using the algorithm, Alon and colleagues have developed a new experimental technique that maps out the wiring diagrams of these networks. "We start with a network -- a list of elements and their connections," he said. "We then count how many times different patterns appear in this network. To understand which of the many patterns that occur are significant and potentially important, we compare the network to a large set of randomized networks. These are networks ... made of the same elements but rewired so that the connections are scrambled. In each of the randomized networks we again count the number of appearances of the different patterns." After a while, the computer program reveals some patterns occur much more often than they would at random. "These are likely to be patterns that are 'designed in' or 'highly selected for' by evolution," Alon said.This stuff makes me think of Stuart Kauffman's work on random boolean networks. He examined a wide range of random networks and discovered that only the ones that had an optimum amount of interconnectivity demonstrated interesting behaviour. Networks that weren't very well connected tended to freeze up and ones that were too well connected behaved chaotically. This current work takes the opposite "bottom-up" approach. Rather than studying the behaviour of completely random networks, this group studied real networks found in nature such as gene networks, neural networks, food-chains etc. (as well as others like the Internet and electronic circuit diagrams). They scanned through the connections of each of these networks looking for the patterns that occur much more frequently than they would in a network that had been connected randomly. Only those patterns that occurred considerably more often in these living non-random networks were noted and by this decomposition technique were able to deduce the most important functional building blocks (design "motifs") that go in to making these networks tick. But still, just like Kauffman's models, these patterns tend to be few in number and only connect a relatively few nodes at any one time and yet remarkably they manage to perform important and quite complex regulatory tasks. For a look at the actual research being described here, check out Uri Alon's website.
And it's this strong possibility that Europa could support life that is prompting NASA's decison to crash the space probe Galileo into Jupiter next September rather than risk contaminating the moon with microbes from earth.
September / October 2001 • The American Spectator
The American Spectator: You open your new book with a dramatic statement. “It is my firm belief that the last seven decades of the twentieth century will be characterized in history as the dark ages of theoretical physics.” Can you explain that?
Carver Mead: Modern science began with mechanics, and in some ways we are still captive to its ideas and images. Newton’s success in deriving the planetary orbits from his law of gravitation became the paradigm. To Niels Bohr early in this century, when the quantum theory was invented, the atom was thought of as a miniature solar system, with a nucleus as the sun and electrons as planets. Then, out of the struggle to understand the atom came quantum mechanics. Bohr gathered the early contributors into a clan in Copenhagen, and he encouraged them to believe that they were developing the ultimate theory of nature. He argued vigorously against any opponents.
Among whom was Albert Einstein. He had already scored a triumph with relativity theory by that time. But the history books tell us that he lost the argument with Bohr. Can you explain their dispute? And why do you now award the verdict to Einstein?
Bohr insisted that the laws of physics, at the most fundamental level, are statistical in nature. Physical reality consisted at its base of statistical probabilities governed by Heisenberg uncertainty. Bohr saw these uncertainties as intrinsic to reality itself, and he and his followers enshrined that belief in what came to be known as the “Copenhagen interpretation” of quantum theory. By contrast Einstein famously argued that “the Lord does not throw dice.” He believed that electrons were real and he wrote, in 1949, that he was “firmly convinced that the essentially statistical character of contemporary quantum theory is solely to be ascribed to the fact that this [theory] operates with an incomplete description of physical systems.”
So how did Bohr and the others come to think of nature as ultimately random, discontinuous?
They took the limitations of their cumbersome experiments as evidence for the nature of reality. Using the crude equipment of the early twentieth century, it’s amazing that physicists could get any significant results at all. So I have enormous respect for the people who were able to discern anything profound from these experiments. If they had known about the coherent quantum systems that are commonplace today, they wouldn’t have thought of using statistics as the foundation for physics.
Statistics in this sense means what?
That an electron is either here, or there, or some other place, and all you can know is the probability that it is in one place or the other. Bohr ended up saying that the only statements you can make at the fundamental level are statistical. You cannot grasp the reality itself, only probabilities related to it. They really, really, wanted to have the last word, and the only word they had was statistical. So they made their limitations the last word, saying, “Okay, the only knowledge that there is down deep is statistical knowledge. That’s all we can know.” That’s a very dangerous thing to say. It is always possible to gain a deeper understanding as time progresses. But they carried the day.
What about Schrodinger? Back in the 1920s, didn’t he say something like what you are saying now?
That’s right. He felt that he could develop a wave theory of the electron that could explain how all this worked. But Bohr was more into “principles”: the uncertainty principle, the exclusion principle—this, that, and the other. He was very much into the postulational mode. But Schrodinger thought that a continuum theory of the electron could be successful. So he went to Copenhagen to work with Bohr. He felt that it was a matter of getting a “political” consensus; you know, this is a historic thing that is happening. But whenever Schrodinger tried to talk, Bohr would raise his voice and bring up all these counter-examples. Basically he shouted him down.
It sounds like vanity.
Of course. It was a period when physics was full of huge egos. It was still going on when I got into the field. But it doesn’t make sense, and it isn’t the way science works in the long run. It may forestall people from doing sensible work for a long time, which is what happened. They ended up derailing conceptual physics for the next 70 years.
So early on you knew that electrons were real.
The electrons were real, the voltages were real, the phase of the sine-wave was real, the current was real. These were real things. They were just as real as the water going down through the pipes. You listen to the technology, and you know that these things are totally real, and totally intuitive.
But they're also waves, right? Then what are they waving in?
It's interesting, isn't it? That has hung people up ever since the time of Clerk Maxwell, and it's the missing piece of intuition that we need to develop in young people. The electron isn't the disturbance of something else. It is its own thing. The electron is the thing that's wiggling, and the wave is the electron. It is its own medium.
You don't need something for it to be in, because if you did it would be buffeted about and all messed up.
So the only pure way to have a wave is for it to be its own medium.
The electron isn't something that has a fixed physical shape.
Waves propagate outwards, and they can be large or small. That's what waves do.
So how big is an electron?
It expands to fit the container it's in.
That may be a positive charge that's attracting it a hydrogen atom or the walls of a conductor. A piece of wire is a container for electrons. They simply fill out the piece of wire. That's what all waves do.
If you try to gather them into a smaller space, the energy level goes up.
That's what these Copenhagen guys call the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. But there's nothing uncertain about it. It's just a property of waves. Confine them, and you have more wavelengths in a given space, and that means a higher frequency and higher energy. But a quantum wave also tends to go to the state of lowest energy, so it will expand as long as you let it. You can make an electron that's ten feet across, there's no problem with that. It's its own medium, right? And it gets to be less and less dense as you let it expand. People regularly do experiments with neutrons that are a foot across.
A ten-foot electron! Amazing!
It could be a mile. The electrons in my superconducting magnet are that long.
A mile-long electron! That alters our picture of the world most people's minds think about atoms as tiny solar systems.
Right, that's what I was brought up on this little grain of something. Now it's true that if you take a proton and you put it together with an electron, you get something that we call a hydrogen atom. But what that is, in fact, is a self-consistent solution of the two waves interacting with each other. They want to be close together because one's positive and the other is negative, and when they get closer that makes the energy lower. But if they get too close they wiggle too much and that makes the energy higher. So there's a place where they are just right, and that's what determines the size of the hydrogen atom. And that optimum is a self-consistent solution of the Schrodinger equation.
So much for the idea of the quantum world as microscopic...
Bohr and his followers had this notion that you got to the quantum world only when things were very small. Well that's because the only thing they knew that exhibited quantum characteristics was an atom. They said, "Well, an atom is so small, we'll never see one." Now, it turns out, people have put atoms in cavities and you can see a single atom perfectly well.
That experiment has been done many times now. In fact, if you do it properly, you can make atoms totally coherent. Do that with a lot of them, and you get Bose-Einstein condensate a bunch of atoms in phase that act like one big matter wave. It was first demonstrated in 1995 by Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman in Colorado.
The early experiments that dealt with things like black-body radiation and light passing though double slits couldn't they detect those effects?
The experiments on which the conceptual foundations of quantum mechanics were based were extremely crude by modern standards. The detectors available Geiger counters, cloud chambers, and photographic film had a high degree of randomness built in, and, by their very nature, could register only statistical results. The atomic sources were similarly constrained large ensembles of atoms, with no mechanism for achieving phase coherence. Understandably, the experiments that could be imagined were all of a statistical sort.
The most famous of those experiments involved a "single" photon that somehow succeeded in going through two holes at once.
That uses a point-particle model for the "photon" a little bullet carrying energy. If you define the problem this way, of course, you get nonsense. Garbage in, garbage out.
So how should we think of a photon?
John Cramer at the University of Washington was one of the first to describe it as a transaction between two atoms. At the end of his book, Schrodinger's Kittens and the Search for Reality, John Gribbin gives a nice overview of Cramer's interpretation and says that "with any luck at all it will supercede the Copenhagen interpretation as the standard way of thinking about quantum physics for the next generation of scientists."
So that transaction is itself a wave?
The field that describes that transaction is a wave, that's right.
So how about "Schrodinger's cat" the thought experiment he proposed to illustrate the impossible conundrum of quantum theory. The cat is in a closed box, with a quantum-based trigger that either does or does not release poison. Gribbin summarizes the standard Copenhagen view of the situation: "Neither of the two possibilities has any reality unless it is observed." So is the cat dead or alive? The standard quantum-theory answer we're quoting Gribbin again would be "The cat has neither been killed nor not been killed until we look inside the box to see what happened." In other words, reality is observer-dependent.
That is probably the biggest misconception that has come out of the Copenhagen view. The idea that the observation of some event makes it somehow more "real" became entrenched in the philosophy of quantum mechanics, and, like the other misconceptions, is said to be confirmed by experiment. Even the slightest reflection will show how silly it is. An observer is an assembly of atoms. What is different about the observer's atoms from those of any other object? What if the data are taken by computer? Do the events not happen until the scientist gets home from vacation and looks at the printout? It is ludicrous!
Gribbin goes on to describe an experiment with entangled photons, which shows quantum entities affecting one another at long distances with no passage of time. He says this "proves that there is no underlying reality to the world."
That is the experiment proposed by John Bell, the late Irish physicist, and done in its most definitive form by John Clauser I'm currently in discussion with him about his fascinating findings. But the results say nothing whatsoever about what is and is not real.
In your book, you ambitiously redraw the boundaries of physics. In the "dark age" of the last 70 years, you say, a fundamental distinction was drawn between classical physics mechanics, electricity and magnetism and modern physics, consisting of quantum theory and relativity. Bohr connected the two with his "correspondence principle." What was that?
That was one of the big mistakes they made. They wanted the quantum domain to approximate the classical Newtonian world. And it simply doesn't. But Bohr believed that if you picked a limit where there are enough wavelengths, everything would average out to the same result you get from Newtonian physics.
So by "correspondence," he meant a correspondence between the quantum world and the larger Newtonian world?
Yes. And that was the wrong assumption.
When you get to coherent quantum systems, they don't have a Newtonian limit at all.
Coherent quantum systems "scale" in a way that is entirely different.
You propose dividing physics into "coherent" and "incoherent" systems. What's the difference?
Okay. The quantum world is a world of waves, not particles. So we have to think of electron waves and proton waves and so on. Matter is "incoherent" when all its waves have a different wavelength, implying a different momentum.
On the other hand, if you take a pure quantum system the electrons in a superconducting magnet, or the atoms in a laser they are all in phase with one another, and they demonstrate the wave nature of matter on a large scale. Then you can see quite visibly what matter is down at its heart.
Perhaps we can compare it to water in a bathtub. If you "reinforce" the bath water at the right moment, a big wave will suddenly slosh out onto the floor. That is the macro equivalent of what you are describing. But when the little wavelets lap against one another, then not much happens incoherence, in other words. Is that right?
That's right. In the coherent system, the waves are all in phase. But now, instead of water, let's think of something solid, say a billiard ball. A billiard ball is an incoherent mixture of lots of little matter "waves" that are interfering with one another all the time.
But to our everyday understanding, on the "macro" level, a billiard ball is also "coherent" in the usual sense of that word. It obeys Newton's laws, for example. Throw it with a certain velocity and we can predict where it will land.
Right, but that is a different sense of the word. As I describe them, coherent and incoherent systems are dominated by different sets of physical laws. With the incoherent systems that we see all around us, time is one-directional. And things that come apart don't spontaneously come together again. And the inertia of the billiard ball, for example increases linearly with the number of atoms. With coherent systems, on the other hand, time is two-directional, and inertia increases with the square of the number of elements.
In a superconducting magnet, the electron inertia increases with the square of the number of electrons. That's foreign to Newtonian thinking, which is why Feynman had trouble with it. A coherent system is not more real, but it is much more pure and fundamental.
Can we finesse this business about time going backwards and forwards? Understanding quantum physics is hard enough as it is! When Bohr proposed the correspondence principle, he wanted to keep a single set of laws: "As above, so below." And yes, in the microcosm, when things are jumbled up and "incoherent," it does approximate the physics of the macro-world. But under appropriate conditions what you term coherence the micro-world seems to operates in a quite different way?
Right Bohr put his foot on the wrong stone, the Newtonian side rather than the quantum side. The underlying reason is that Newtonian physics was phrased in terms of things like position and momentum and force which are all characteristics of particles. Bohr was wedded to particles.
Are coherence and incoherence absolutes can something be "a little bit pregnant?"
Yes, it can be. Light from an ordinary fluorescent bulb has a certain amount of coherence, but light from incandescent bulbs has almost none. With coherence, all the waves have a common phase. When they're out of phase you get all these fringes and interference patterns.
"Coherence" seems comparable to electricity it has existed forever, and we could see it in the sky as lightning, but only in the nineteenth century were we able to harness it. And only recently have we been able to harness coherent phenomena.
Right. And once we have harnessed them in the laboratory, and begin to understand them, we can start to see them in the universe around us. There are increasing indications that many of the objects in the universe have coherent things going on in them. There are known to be masers in the atmospheres of some stars. It's now thought that a lot of the beaming of pulsars has to do with laser-like action. That's just surmised from the actions of these very mysterious objects mysterious within the normal realm of incoherent physics. The universe is probably full of coherent physics.
That brings us back to Einstein experimental results continue to vindicate his viewpoint, no?
The Bose-Einstein condensate, for example, or the quantum hall effect, or the superconducting quantum interference device I list ten of them in my book, beginning in the mid-1930s and going up through 1995. Not many of your readers will have heard of them. But most people know what lasers and superconductors are, and they demonstrate nature acting in ways that Bohr and Heisenberg did not anticipate a coherent state. Unfortunately, it was not until the 1960s that those results became widely known. So Einstein didn't have that information. He predicted coherent phenomena, but he didn't have a single example that he could actually get his hands on.
So orthodoxy won the day.
And after Bohr defeated Einstein, nobody else would take on the argument. Because if they put Einstein under, think what they would do to you.
And yet it all turned on some very open questions...
Einstein's basic point was that unpredictability does not mean intrinsic uncertainty.
His other complaint was that Bohr was removing understanding from the field of physics. Bohr argued quite passionately that intuitive understanding was just not possible any more, and that you were old-fashioned if you insisted on it.
And so mathematical description was substituted for understanding?
Absolutely. It's conceptual nonsense.
You can calculate stuff with the theory, but the words people put around it don't make any sense. That had the effect of driving the more conceptually-oriented students out of physics. We have ended up with more and more mathematicians in the physics departments. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with mathematics it's the language we use to express the precise relations of physical law. But there is an increasing tendency to mistake the language for the physics itself.
Once we lose the conceptual foundations, the whole thing becomes a shell game.
There are very few conceptual workers left in the field. Feynman was one of the last ones, and he wasn't willing to take on the Copenhagen clan. Nobody was, until we come to A. O. Barut, John Dowling, John Cramer, and a few others.
A lot of the trouble seems to come down to the idea of matter being composed of particles, rather than waves.
Point particles got us into terrible trouble.
If you take today's standard theory of particle physics, and the standard theory of gravitation, it is well known that the result is "off" by a factor of maybe ten to the power of 50. That's 10 followed by 49 zeroes. The amount of matter in the universe is way, way more than what is observed. And that discrepancy comes, at its heart, from assuming that matter is made made up of point particles.
What's the problem with them?
Because point particles are assumed to occupy no space, they have to be accompanied by infinite charge density, infinite mass density, infinite energy density.
Then these infinities get removed once more by something called "renormalization."
It's all completely crazy. But our physics community has been hammering away at it for decades. Einstein called it Ptolemaic epicycles all over again.
Ptolemaic astronomers assumed that the earth was at the center. But then it became more and more complex to calculate the orbits of visible planets. When you assume the earth is the center, you have to add epicycles to the existing orbits to adjust them. In the same way, when you assume photons are point particles, and all you can calculate is probability, you have to add epicycles of conceptual nonsense to "explain" even the simplest experiment.
So when results don't fit theory...
The theory has to be adjusted, with band-aids stuck on top of one another. This happens all the time with science, but especially with the statistical quantum theory. It takes enormous work to take that theory and work it into a form that is useful for anything except those questions that it was initially devised for. And the band-aid epicycles are then announced as a triumph for the theory. It's amazing how long they have gotten away with it.
Is there a message in all this?
What this is telling us is that we have simply not been thinking about it right. We have to start working through the whole subject again. And that is going to take real work. I've gotten a little start on various pieces of it. Barut and Dowling got some wonderful results with the hydrogen atom. But there's a whole lot more work to do.
Running through your work is the idea that the deeper thing is probably simpler.
It always worked out that when I understood something, it turned out to be simple. Take the connection between the quantum stuff and the electrodynamics in my book. It took me thirty years to figure out, and in the end, it was almost trivial. It's so simple that any freshman could read it and understand it. But it was hard for me to get there because all of this historical junk was in the way.
Much has been made of the philosophical implications of quantum theory.
Once Bohr and Heisenberg won scientific the debates, they went around pontificating about philosophy.
What was the thrust?
They said that if the quantum world is inherently uncertain, if the only information about basic physics is statistical, then we need to rethink our view of all of reality. In a way it was a throwback to the old arguments between science and religion. Newtonians used the ability to predict the planets' positions as a refutation of standard religion, which said, well, "God puts them where he wants and you have just have to have faith about that." Religion didn't need to take a stand against Newton, but it chose to, starting with Galileo. And this terrible polarization set in.
So quantum theorists took us back to the unknowable, where things have to be taken on faith or on authority?
Yes, but as we look out at the universe today, there's nothing that makes it anything but more awesome. In fact, as we look back at those pictures and we think, "Now how could anyone who had any deep sense of faith believe in a God that would make stars by punching little holes in a cardboard sky?"
What was anti-religious about the Newtonian view? He was personally religious.
Nothing, but his followers framed the issue as, "If you can predict it, that shows that religion is wrong."
The quantum theorists reopened the question as "No, you can't predict it, because it's basically statistical."
NASA poured cold water on claims by Hindu news services that the US agency's spaceborne cameras had discovered the remains of the mythical bridge built by Rama across the Palk Strait. "Remote sensing images or photographs from orbit cannot provide direct information about the origin or age of a chain of islands, and certainly cannot determine whether humans were involved in producing any of the patterns seen," said NASA official Mark Hess. NRI websites like Indolink.com and the Vaishnava News Network had run a story earlier this week saying that "space images taken by NASA" had revealed "a mysterious ancient bridge in the Palk Strait." The story gained currency when it was picked up, unquestioningly, by the PTI. NASA said the mysterious bridge was nothing more than a 30 km long, naturally-occuring chain of sandbanks called Adam's bridge. Hess said his agency had been taking pictures of these shoals for years. Its images had never resulted in any scientific discovery in the area. The Internet story further claimed "archaeological studies reveal that the first signs of human inhabitants in Sri Lanka date back to…about 1.75 million years ago" as does the age of the bridge. This, in turn, matched the age when the events of the Ramayana took place. Historian B.D. Chattopadhyay of Jawaharlal Nehru University says the archaeological record says nothing of the sort. There is no evidence of a human presence in the subcontinent, he says, before roughly 250,000 to 300,000 years ago. It is generally believed man's hominid ancestors did not leave their African home until about two million years ago. At least three ship channels have been dug through Adam's Bridge without any evidence of manmade construction. The sandbanks are not at a greater depth, never being more than 3 or 4 feet at high tide. Geologists believe the sandbank did at one time rise above sealevel. Temple records suggest it was submerged by a violent storm as recently as 1480. Communication experts say that false, suspect news finds much greater circulation than normal because of the internet. NASA's Hess said, "The images reproduced on the websites may well be ours, but their interpretation is certainly not ours."