Sunday, September 29, 2013

Thoughts on "The Road to Reality"

It's been nearly a decade since Roger Penrose wrote "The Road to Reality." This weekend, I finally finished the book. (I had read individual chapters here and there, but I finally found the time to sit down and read the whole book.) The reason that I finally forced myself to read the whole book is that I wanted to see how many of his speculations in 2004 are still valid today. Also, Roger Penrose has some very interesting ways of describing mathematical theories, and he recognizes the ad hoc and incomplete nature of the current "Standard Model," but doesn't shy away from stating his negative opinions about supersymmetry and string theory.

The book is a breath-taking overview of fundamental physics and geometry from the perspective of a Platonist. What's refreshing about the book is the fact that it's a history of physics and mathematics from the view point of a Platonist (i.e. somebody who believes that mathematics...and perhaps beauty and morality...are eternal, unchanging, and exist eternal to the material and mental world.)

Three worlds, Three mysteries  p20&1029 "The Road to Reality."

What makes the book so refreshing to read is that, in the decade since this book was published, the "physics media" (i.e. Sean Carroll, Lawrence Krauss, Brian Greene, Martin Rees. Leonard Susskind, and others) have attempted to dismantle neo-Platonism and a belief in an unchanging, external world of absolutes. Post-modernism infected most of the social sciences in the 50s-70s, but physics and mathematics were still holding strong against post-modernism and relativism until the 2000s, at which point in time, the "physics media" began hyping string theory, supersymmetry, multi-verses, universes from nothing, randomness, inflation, time symmetric laws of physics, and the quantum randomness. Luckily, as "natural" string theories and supersymmetries have faced an timely demise due to falsification by high-energy particle collider experiments, it's easier to see that the emperor has no clothes.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Road map for the Libertarian Party in the US

I'm writing this post because I'm in a state of disbelief over recent political changes taking place in Australia. What I mean by recent political changes is that the new prime minister of Australia has removed science and environmental ministers from his cabinet and has ended funded for an apolitical climate change working group. While I am a firm believer in limited government, I find the recent moves in Australia (along with some of the anti-science rhetoric in the tea party in the US) to be counter-productive to the cause of freedom. The goal of this post is to explain my beliefs on limited government (i.e. what should be funded by governments and what should not funded) and state my hope for the future of the Libertarian Party in the US.

My belief is that governments should fund public goods and should refrain from funding non-pubic goods. The strict economic definition of a public good is a good that is "non-excludable" and "non-rivalrous." The classic example of a public good is the military. National defense is "non-excludable" because there is no way to limit the benefits of a strong national defense only to those people who pay for the service. Also, national defense "non-rivalrous" because it does not get consumed (in the same way that hamburgers can be consumed.)

Another example of a public good is basic scientific knowledge.  Basic scientific knowledge can't be consumed and is not "less true" because somebody else learns the knowledge. It is also non-excludable because the knowledge can be transmitted on the internet with near-zero cost to anybody who is interested. It is virtually impossible for the scientists doing the research to keep the knowledge a secret because once they share the information, it can easily be put onto the internet and will spread like a wildfire. (Though, it should be pointed out that many forms of applied knowledge are not public goods. For example, knowledge of the amount of oil&gas in the ground in a specific location can be "consumed" and can be "less true" when somebody else learns this knowledge because this knowledge is not a constant with time.)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Experimental updates on the Weak Nuclear Force (and predictions for time irreversible dynamics)

This week, the Q-weak experiment at the Jefferson Lab published some initial results from an experiment in which they scattered electrons off of protons in the form of liquid hydrogen. The experiment involved sending in electrons of one spin, measuring the scattering angles, and then sending in electrons of opposite spin to measure the different in the scattering angles due to the difference spin of the electrons. The weak nuclear force caused differences in the scattering of electrons off of protons depending on the spin of the electrons because the weak nuclear force is parity asymmetric. From this difference in scattering, the researchers were able to measure the weak nuclear coupling constant for electrons and protons. This was the first time that researchers have isolated the weak charge of the proton at low collision energies. The value of this coupling constant is in good agreement with the Standard Model of physics. The figure below (Figure 2 from their paper) shows the asymmetry of scattering (due to the weak nuclear force) as a function of the scattering energy squared. Notice in this figure that the value for the asymmetry at zero energy (i.e. near room temperature energies) is not zero. This means that the weak nuclear force has a non-zero effect at room temperature for electron-proton scattering.