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Bell denial: Scott Aaronson vs Joy Christian

In March, I discussed Joy Christian's jihad against Bell's theorem.

Now you may buy a book he was allowed to publish; if you do so, you will be among a dozen of people in the world who have "invested" their assets in this way.

In the text a month ago, I explained that Bell's theorem can't really be reverted because it is, you know, a proven mathematical theorem. I have linked to my presentation of the proof and related issues.

And I have reviewed some detailed errors that have been known to me for quite some time and that were clearly articulated in a recent paper by Richard Gill. There's an obvious error in Christian's proof; he replaces \(\beta(\lambda)=\lambda\beta\) by \(\beta\) at some point which has the unfortunate effect of changing \(\lambda^2=1\) to \(\lambda\) which allowed him to cancel an "unwanted" term that doesn't cancel if you do things right.

Moreover, even if this error weren't there, his setup isn't a plausible description of the situation because some things that need to be real (both classically and quantum mechanically), such as the expectation values of the spins etc., take values in obscure algebras. So his "model" violates the assumptions of the problem – whether the clearly stated mathematical assumptions of the theorem or the assumptions that are truly needed if you want to describe the actual physical situation.

Now,

Scott Aaronson [main URL in this blog entry],
a quantum computation guy, has written a text about the Joy Christian phenomenon, too. Hundreds of thousands of virtual dollars are being shot in between the two Gentlemen.




Most of Scott's text is composed of popular, mostly ad hominem summaries; he reveals that he is in a complete agreement with your humble correspondent on this issue. However, the attacks are nothing relatively to Joy Christian's "contributions" to the thread. He claims that Richard Gill is an incompetent mathematician because it's been said to him by Joseph Doob, a mathematician who died 8 years ago and who was 94 when he did so. That's quite a powerful argument – but only from Joy Christian's viewpoint.

The most important "positive evidence" that Joy Christian offers is that he personally knows some other guys who study the foundations of quantum mechanics. That's great. I've been meeting Shelly Goldstein for 4 years at Rutgers before I became the fellow Fellow of Tom Kelly at Harvard who married his daughter. And I could continue with similar stories. My point is that those things are totally irrelevant for the validation of some particular technical claims. At the end, I don't think that Shelly's papers are right, either, although the errors are more subtle and less stupid than Joy Christian's errors.

In my blog entry written in March, I claimed that Joy Christian had only read the abstract of Richard Gill's paper, not the paper itself, even though he had published a "refutation of the paper". My conclusion was based on the fact that Joy Christian had clearly ignored every single point that Gill had made (and proved) in the paper.

You might have thought what I committed was a cruel unproven accusation or at least something that Joy Christian would surely deny. But you would be wrong! Here is Joy Christian's own explanation of the method that allowed him to decide that Gill's paper "is" wrong:
[Gill] is so incompetent that he does not even know the difference between a bi-vector and a multi-vector. Just read his abstract to see for yourself...

As for Richard Gill, he is evidently an incompetent mathematician. One only needs to read his abstract to recognize this fact. This was confirmed by Joseph Doob...
Cool. I didn't expect an experimental proof of my bold assertion to be this explicit! ;-) Needless to say, the terminology chosen for some multivectors or bivectors has nothing to do with the reasons why Joy Christian's papers are rubbish (much like seven-spheres have nothing to do with Bell's theorem). Moreover, they're really bivectors, as Gill wrote, and even this modest complaint by Joy Christian is just wrong.

The thread at Scott's blog is full of various similar ad hominem attacks and contains almost no science. But when you look at it and realize that for this repeatedly copied-and-pasted crackpot nonsense with trivial high-school errors in the algebra that tries to reject Bell's theorem, Joy Christian lives a prosperous life in which he doesn't have to work at all and he's periodically invited to Azores and other places by FQXi, the funding agency mainly for crackpots like himself, you must agree that it's kind of incredible.

I was told that when Joy Christian came to the West, he didn't speak English at all. In combination with his skin color etc., you may have guessed that the creation of this crackpot monster was another achievement of the political correctness that has run amok.

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reader gill1109 said...

The connection with Joe Doob is fascinating. Now I'm happy to be a third rater in comparison with Joseph Doob, who was a brilliant probabilist, a great pure mathematician, one of the founding fathers of martingale theory in the 50's and 60's. It's pretty clear that Doob would have had no interest whatever in my humble activities in applied statistics, even though I did have occasion to use martingale theory extensively in my research in medical statistics, as a PhD student nearly 40 years ago.

Here's my guess. Doob was at the University of Illinois. Home of Bell deniers Karl Hess (electronic engineering) and Walter Phillip (probability in Banach spaces, RIP). Hess and Phillip are/were members of the US academy of sciences and of the Austrian academy too, famous for their contributions to their respective domains. Phillip went a bit odd after having a brain tumour removed and together the two came up with a theory that Bell was wrong, because he had neglected *time*. It was published in PNAS and the news that Einstein had been right all along, and Bohr wrong, hit "Nature", the New York Times, and science supplements of decent newspapers all round the world. Unfortuantely apart from a lot of waffle which proved that Hess and Phillip did not know a thing about what they were talking about, the paper contained a huge complex "counterexample" based on an elaborately hidden mistake. Gill, Weihs, Zeilinger and Zukowski (note the Austrian connection again!) published a refutation in PNAS, and the Hess-Phillip model has been consigned to the oblivion which it always deserved.

Nowadays Karl Hess has teamed up with H.A. de Raedt in Groningen, Netherlands (http://rugth30.phys.rug.nl/dlm/) who writes cute software exploiting the detection loophole and the coincidence loophole to simulate the statistics of well known experiments such as that of Weihs et al. Something which it has been known how to do since Pearle's 1970 paper.

Hess and Phillip were certainly furious about my activities - I had used martingale theory to show that time was *not* an issue, in earlier work exposing another Bell-denier, Luigi Accardi. Their foul-mouthed reactions to us were similar to those of the usually so polite Joy Christian.

Accardi and Ohya sold their software emulating violation of CHSH in a local realist way to a Japanese telecom company eager to be the first to implement quantum cryptography but not ready to actually use quantum states for this purpose. This was based an elaborately exploitation of the detection loophole. Maybe de Raedt and his friends should get into that business too.


reader gill1109 said...

PS. I don't think Christian gets much of an income from FQXi. He lives in Oxford where he earns his living teaching Englsh to foreign students. He has an email address at Wolfson college, Oxford, presumably a left-over from his post-doc days there long ago; and a six years out of date home age at Perimeter Institute, Waterloo, Canada, from the time when he was a temporary guest there. In Oxford they think he has a PI affiliation, and vice versa.

Your comment, Lubos, about political correctness and his Asian origin is misplaced. Joy Christian is well educated (but not in maths, I'm afraid), he is well read, in some ways rather intelligent, a very likeable person... until you raise doubts about his genius.

I recommend the book "Why people believe weird things" by Michael Shermer, founder of the Sceptics Society. In particular, the most intelligent people are most able to believe the weirdest things, since they can come up with the cleverest reasons to fool themselves. Especially if they are the self confident type who think their success is due to their own qualities and that they don't need to ponder on criticism from others.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Thanks for your explanations on Doob's specialization and Joy's income, Richard!


reader MartinMusatov said...

You are right as I said explain to them any academic or scientist who is vocal about an area of science for an extended period of time, but fails to provide you with a specific reason why the research is important and has the potential to help the average person, you should be suspicious. However, if a researcher explains how their study aims to make life better for people and by this I mean all peoople, then support him. "Ring the bell, amen." "After all he was the one who said to mine beloved "What good is a bell, if there is no one there to ring it?"