Sunday, December 6, 2015

Who?


  Driving back from Vermont (again) the other day, I was going through the little town of Hoosick, NY. While sitting at the traffic light, I happen to notice a small metal historic marker on the corner, the kind that you occasionally see.  From my vantage point, I was able to read "Chester A. Arthur". Below the name, was the word "President".  I thought to myself, "President of what?"  So, as I proceeded to drive, I said out loud "OK Google, who is Chester A. Arthur" (I think Siri is a more friendly entity then Google Now) She replied back "Chester Alan Arthur  was an American attorney and politician who served as the 21st President of the United States."

  President of the United States?!  I guess I must have been sleeping in class during those lectures.  I have no memory of him.  So I read that he served one term from 1881 to 1885.  He was Vice President and fell into the job because President James A. Garfield (I DID hear of him!) was assassinated. Further reading told me that Arthur did an ok job as president.  I looked at the list of all US presidents and I had a memory in History of all of them except good ol' Chester.
  So why was there a marker in Hoosick, NY when Chester Arthur was born in Fairfield, VT and buried in Albany, NY?  It seems that he once lived in Hoosick.  The town is probably most famous for being the burial place of Grandma Moses.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

What Matters Most....

  It has become acutely aware to me that there has been a decline in my agility over the past few years.  It seems like it is occurring increasingly more in a geometric function rather than linear.
Of course I could keep it at bay more if I took better care of myself, but I am trying (however there is room for improvement!).
  I mention this because I was listening to a General Conference Address by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  What he said gave me a different view on the whole Aging thing.  I quote:
  Several years ago I spent a Sunday afternoon with Elder Robert D. Hales in his home as he was recovering from a serious illness.  We discussed our families, our quorum responsibilities, and important experiences.
  At one point I asked Elder Hales, "You have been a successful husband, father, athlete, pilot, business executive and Church leader.  What lessons have you learned as you have grown older and been constrained by decreased physical capacity?"
  Elder Hales paused for a moment and responded, "When you cannot do what you have always done, then you only do what matters most."
  The simplicity of his answer was enlightening to say the least.  To me it is a simple guide to plan and prioritize both in matters spiritual and temporal.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Is Quantum Entanglement Real?

  Okay I am really going off on a tangent here.  Though I know very little about it, Quantum Mechanics is very fascinating.  I have talked about this before (What?! You don't remember?!*) but the one concept that completely blows me away is the Entanglement Theory.  There is a lot written about it but much of it is hard to digest and understand.  I did come across an article from the NY times that explains it more in lay terms.  It is written by David Kaiser who is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he teaches physics and the history of science:

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  "FIFTY years ago this month (now fifty-one), the Irish physicist John Stewart Bell submitted a short, quirky article to a fly-by-night journal titled Physics, Physique, Fizika. He had been too shy to ask his American hosts, whom he was visiting during a sabbatical, to cover the steep page charges at a mainstream journal, the Physical Review. Though the journal he selected folded a few years later, his paper became a blockbuster. Today it is among the most frequently cited physics articles of all time.
  Bell’s paper made important claims about quantum entanglement, one of those captivating features of quantum theory that depart strongly from our common sense. Entanglement concerns the behavior of tiny particles, such as electrons, that have interacted in the past and then moved apart. Tickle one particle here, by measuring one of its properties — its position, momentum or “spin” — and its partner should dance, instantaneously, no matter how far away the second particle has traveled.
  The key word is “instantaneously.” The entangled particles could be separated across the galaxy, and somehow, according to quantum theory, measurements on one particle should affect the behavior of the far-off twin faster than light could have traveled between them.
  Entanglement insults our intuitions about how the world could possibly work. Albert Einstein sneered that if the equations of quantum theory predicted such nonsense, so much the worse for quantum theory. “Spooky actions at a distance,” he huffed to a colleague in 1948.
  In his article, Bell demonstrated that quantum theory requires entanglement; the strange connectedness is an inescapable feature of the equations. But Bell’s proof didn’t show that nature behaved that way, only that physicists’ equations did. The question remained: Does quantum entanglement occur in the world?
  Starting in the early 1970s, a few intrepid physicists — in the face of critics who felt such “philosophical” research was fit only for crackpots — found that the answer appeared to be yes.
  John F. Clauser, then a young postdoctoral researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, was the first. Using duct tape and spare parts, he fashioned a contraption to measure quantum entanglement. Together with a graduate student named Stuart Freedman, he fired thousands of pairs of little particles of light known as photons in opposite directions, from the middle of the device, toward each of its two ends. At each end was a detector that measured a property of the photon known as polarization.
  As Bell had shown, quantum theory predicted certain strange correlations between the measurements of polarization as you changed the angle between the detectors — correlations that could not be explained if the two photons behaved independently of each other. Dr. Clauser and Mr. Freedman found precisely these correlations.
  Other successful experiments followed. One, led by the French physicist Alain Aspect, tested the instantaneousness of entanglement. Another, led by the Austrian physicist Anton Zeilinger, considered entanglement among three or more particles.
  Even with these great successes, work remains to be done. Every experimental test of entanglement has been subject to one or more loopholes, which hold out the possibility, however slim, that some alternative theory, distinct from quantum theory and more in line with Einstein’s intuitions, may still be salvageable. For example, one potential loophole — addressed by Dr. Aspect’s experiment — was that the measurement device itself was somehow transmitting information about one particle to the other particle, which would explain the coordination between them.
  The most stubborn remaining loophole is known as “setting independence.” Dr. Zeilinger and I, working with several colleagues — including the physicists Alan H. Guth, Andrew S. Friedman and Jason Gallicchio — aim to close this loophole, a project that several of us described in an article in Physical Review Letters.
  HERE’S the problem. In any test of entanglement, the researcher must select the settings on each of the detectors of the experimental apparatus (choosing to measure, for example, a particle’s spin along one direction or another). The setting-independence loophole suggests that, though the researcher appears to be free to select any setting for the detectors, it is possible that he is not completely free: Some unnoticed causal mechanism in the past may have fixed the detectors’ settings in advance, or nudged the likelihood that one setting would be chosen over another.
  Bizarre as it may sound, even a minuscule amount of such coordination of the detectors’ settings would enable certain alternative theories to mimic the famous predictions from quantum theory. In such a case, entanglement would be merely a chimera.
  How to close this loophole? Well, obviously, we aren’t going to try to prove that humans have free will. But we can try something else. In our proposed experiment, the detector setting that is selected (say, measuring a particle’s spin along this direction rather than that one) would be determined not by us — but by an observed property of some of the oldest light in the universe (say, whether light from distant quasars arrives at Earth at an even- or odd-numbered microsecond). These sources of light are so far away from us and from one another that they would not have been able to receive a single light signal from one another, or from the position of the Earth, before the moment, billions of years ago, when they emitted the light that we detect here on Earth today.
  That is, we would guarantee that any strange “nudging” or conspiracy among the detector settings — if it does exist — would have to have occurred all the way back at the Hot Big Bang itself, nearly 14 billion years ago.
  If, as we expect, the usual predictions from quantum theory are borne out in this experiment, we will have constrained various alternative theories as much as physically possible in our universe. If not, that would point toward a profoundly new physics.
  Either way, the experiment promises to be exciting — a fitting way, we hope, to mark Bell’s paper’s 50th anniversary."

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  Isn't that all just crazy?  Talk about thinking outside the box!  It tells me that with ALL that we know, there is SO MUCH that we don't know!
  Next time, I want to talk about, not 3 dimensions, but 10 and even 11 dimensions!


If anybody says he can think about quantum physics without getting giddy, that only shows he has not understood the first thing about them.  - Niels Bohr

*Deep Thoughts......2/1/2011


Saturday, October 24, 2015

My Life's Itinerary.....So Far - Part 15

Image result for moving  On July 22, 1992, the family piled into our two cars, one towing a U-Haul trailer, we left Grantsville, Utah and headed to Boise, Idaho.  It just so happened today was my daughter's 14th birthday and I thought it would be fun to surprise her with a little birthday party put on by a McDonald's during the trip.  I called ahead to arrange it and under the guise of  making a pit stop to eat, we went into said McDonald's.  I have to say my daughter WAS NOT IMPRESSED.  In fact she was mortified that I did this ghastly thing.  We laugh about it now, but I think she will never forget it.
Image result for mcdonald's birthday  One of the owners of the company that I worked for, graciously let us use their home while we found a place to live.  They were away so it was a great idea.  It was my hope to make a favorable impression with the home office and the owners but my boys had dashed those hopes.  They were horsing around in the home we were using and managed to make a large hole (10" diameter) in the wall.  Naturally, I was furious.  Fortunately, the owner was not upset, at least didn't appear to be.  I offered to get it fixed but was told not to worry and that they would take care of it.  So we survived that crisis.
  In a few days, we found a house to rent.  An irrigation canal ran behind it.  The cute part was having ducks wandering around the neighborhood.  The not cute part was dealing with rodents.
Image result for moving  One advantage of having most of our belongings back in Vermont in our unsold home, was not having to move it when we came to Boise.  The disadvantage was having to purchase items that were duplicates of things we already owned but not available.
  So we got down to a routine.  Eventually our Vermont home did sell.  I flew out to close the deal and supervise the moving company.  The family was happy to get the rest of our belongings and things return to normal or as close to it as possible with five teenagers in the house.