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New Scientist attacks quantum physics

Well, I can't hide that I really hate the magazine called New Scientist.

Ninety-five percent of their articles about the disciplines I care about - and about science per se - are emotional attacks by breathtakingly deluded pompous imbeciles against the scientific principles and scientific achievements that I hold dear - that I consider the pillars of the human knowledge and progress.

Nude Socialist has already dedicated a whole issue to attacks on "climate deniers". It systematically promotes crackpots in high-energy physics (and their dumb speculations and misconceptions) and tries to put them on the same level - if not a higher level - with the world's top physicists (and the key findings of physics).

Attacks against string theory haven't been revolutionary enough for these new "scientists" so they picked all of quantum physics as their new target today. Two minutes ago, they released the following article:

Is quantum theory weird enough for the real world?
It's a classic article by anti-quantum zealots who simply refuse to accept, on purely dogmatic grounds, that the postulates of quantum mechanics could be a fundamental part of the reality.




Already the subtitle has increased my adrenaline level by a factor of pi:
Our most successful theory of nature is bewilderingly remote from reality. But fixing that may require a weirder theory still
How it can be "bewilderingly remote from reality" if it is our most successful theory of Nature? It just doesn't make sense. A theory's proximity to reality is defined by its ability to successfully and accurately reproduce and predict the information about the relevant class of phenomena and objects. So it is just a logical contradiction for a successful theory of Nature to be "remote from reality".

Moreover, as long as one is doing science, there is no justification for attempts to "fix" a theory that agrees with all the observations and works perfectly consistently at the mathematical level, too.

They quote some people with strange Slavic names I've never heard of who are repeating the misconception from the subtitle in some truly "new", bizarre ways. For example, a Časlav Brukner says:
We do not have a source for the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics. We do not have a nice physically plausible set of principles from which to derive it.
There are no known, more fundamental principles from which the quantum postulates can be derived simply because the postulates of quantum mechanics are among the most fundamental insights we have about the reality. And they're perfectly "physically plausible". In fact, they're not plausible just a priori. They have been verified and validated by some of the most accurate experiments ever made by living forms on this planet.

If someone doesn't find them "physically plausible", obviously, he confuses physics with his own philosophical bigotry. What they really want to say is that the principles of quantum mechanics are not ideologically plausible for anti-quantum bigots with tiny brains and huge mouths. But that's something completely different from a "physical plausibility".

The author of the Nude Socialist article, a Richard Webb, improves the statement by the Časlav Brukner in the following way:
Quantum physics might be quantum - but as far as we can tell it isn't physics.
Holy cattle. A few years ago, it was "just" string theory that was said - by a coalition of Swolins, Smoits, and their mindless fans - not to be physics. But that's no longer enough for the pompous fools of this world who are thriving because almost no one has enough courage to give these arrogant scumbags a proper thrashing.

In 2010, even quantum physics fails to be physics!

This is just completely insane. Quantum physics is not only physics but, as we have known for 80 years, it is all of physics. Physics is a science about the fundamental phenomena in the real world and all phenomena in the real world are quantum phenomena because the whole world follows the postulates of quantum mechanics. So any classical or otherwise non-quantum physics is bound to be nothing else than an approximation to quantum physics - as long as it is valid at all.

Following the very same template that would be used against string theory a few years ago, Richard Webb paints a picture where quantum physics doesn't belong to physics of Tycho Brahe and others. The final paragraph says:
Not so with quantum theory. Although it was initially inspired by an idea rooted in the real world - that energy came in small packets called quanta - by the time luminaries such as Erwin Schrödinger and Werner Heisenberg had finished its mathematical formulation, the theory had acquired a life of its own (see chart).
Wow. So it's a sin for a theory to acquire a "life of its own". And because it differs from the phenomena that were studied by Tycho Brahe, it surely has to be separated from the real world, right? Incredible.

These dozens of paragraphs full of lies and irrationality is the only justification that Richard Webb offers to support some not-exactly-specified but surely "revolutionary" ideas by the crackpots with the Slavic names. If you want to know what is their better theory, you will hear about fantastic theories - except that it's also known that they prohibit physical systems from evolving (among other bugs that are not quoted).

Well, that's a pretty serious problem for a theory that would like to replace quantum physics, isn't it? But in the world of the Nude Socialist hype, such a failure doesn't matter. More precisely, it is a virtue. The dirtier trash you write down (and you are), the better image of you will be created by the crackpot would-be science journalists.

Several painful paragraphs about the inability of these crackpot theories to reproduce basic properties of the real world follow. When it kind of becomes clear that quantum mechanics hasn't been "replaced" by scientific tools, Richard Webb has an excellent idea how to change the rules of the game:
There is another possibility: observation might actually be leading us astray.
Exactly.

Observations are thoseevil quantum deniers that deny the true reality that has nothing to do with observations! The right new criterion to judge a physics theory is not to compare its predictions with observations but to see what Nude Socialist writes about it. After all, it has been writing pure garbage about science for many years. It has no problem to print a long and vitriolic diatribe claiming that a theory ceases to be scientific - and becomes detached from the reality - if it actually cares about the observations.

The reality is very different. At one day, we may find a deeper layer of principles that will imply the postulates of quantum mechanics as we know them today - that will put them into a more comprehensive picture. But it's virtually impossible for these postulates to ever be distorted; they are almost certainly exact.

In particular, the world of science - as long as it will be science - will never return back to the classical deterministic confines. Nude Socialists may continue to whine about the imperialist quantum mechanics that controls the world of physics even though it's so evil. And they may brainwash thousands of readers who are not able to use their own brains. But that's the only thing that they can do against the laws of Nature.

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reader ThePeSla said...

Lubos,

In the back of my mind I keep thinking that there is something after all in the various formulations of quantum physics that impedes our understanding of the deep truth of string theories.

I am not sure that the fact of the matter is that physics is somewhere between our notions of determinism and indeterminism.

Your recent comments on some of the more frontier or fringe articles are very informative and seems to me to have all the ingredients to either solve some of this or understand the issues.

I find it remarkable how often our posts share the same concerns even before they are shared- or for that matter what is in the popular news magazines of the day.

The PeSla


reader clazy said...

New Scientist is the Daily Mirror of science journalism.


reader clazy said...

New Scientist is the Daily Mirror (UK) of science journalism.