Sunday, June 11, 2017

Cockroaches, retrocausality, event horizons, and Titus-Bode is still a thing...

I've been scrolling through arXiv again, as you do on a rainy day, and suggest the following papers are worth a look:

* Can we Falsify the Consciousness-Causes-Collapse Hypothesis in Quantum Mechanics?
I see that it's co-authored  by someone from the School of Humanities and Liberal Studies from San Francisco State University - which sounds about the unlikeliest school on the planet to expect a groundbreaking paper in quantum physics to come from.

Sorry, perhaps that's too impolite, because I did like it.  As you may see, the paper discusses experiments that could use living creatures to test the hypothesis - with cockroaches being touted as a potential candidate.  (Cats who can walk through walls are one thing, but I hope cockroaches never manage that trick.)  Anyway, it ends up making the point that CCCH (see the title) is probably unfalsifiable, because to test it properly would require removing any arguably conscious thing (a cockroach brain, for example) out of the thermal effects that (apparently) can confound such an experiment.  In other words, whatever you use would have to be taken down to a temperature within a few degrees of absolute zero.  Since no one expects that anything arguably conscious can be conscious at that temperature, it's effectively unfalsifiable.   Neat argument - I wonder if it is right?

*   Did you know that there was a Centre for Time at the University of Sydney?  No, nor did I, but someone from there has written a short paper outlining the way that retrocausality can help sort out some of the perplexing problems in quantum mechanics.   (The only problem is, I thought that some experiments designed to show retrocausality hadn't come up with anything yet.  I have some posts about Cramer's experiment in the past, but here's a not so old media story about his failure.)

*  It's not quantum physics (although it involves it), but there is still some argument happening about whether event horizons really exist around black holes.  Because if they don't, it avoids the information loss paradox.   (I see one of the authors is from Macquarie University, by the way.)  

*  Hey, I didn't realise that scientists still puzzled about the Titus-Bode rule that applied to planetary orbits around the sun, but they do.  (I remember that in a Heinlein novel, the interstellar explorers find that other solar systems exhibited the same rule, and it was still being puzzled over.  I either hadn't heard, or had forgotten, that we already know that some other observed systems do eem to follow the rule.)   I learnt all of this from the intro to this paper, which is short but argues a physical cause for it.  It's not the clearest explanation I've ever read, but here's the abstract:
We consider the geometric Titius-Bode rule for the semimajor axes of planetary orbits. We derive an equivalent rule for the midpoints of the segments between consecutive orbits along the radial direction and we interpret it physically in terms of the work done in the gravitational field of the Sun by particles whose orbits are perturbed around each planetary orbit. On such energetic grounds, it is not surprising that some exoplanets in multiple-planet extrasolar systems obey the same relation. On the other hand, it is surprising that this simple interpretation of the Titius-Bode rule also amounts to a straightforward refutation of the celebrated theorem of Bertrand that has been in existence since 1873. 

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