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Quanta Magazine denies black hole thermodynamics

The stupidity of these "alternative science" articles was elevated to a new level and Jim Simons is paying for all these hacks

A decade ago, the media were promoting pseudointellectuals who were "only" slinging mud at string theory, supersymmetry, and similar vital physics of the recent 40 years.

In recent three years, about 27 books were published that attack the very foundations of modern physics – the universal axioms of quantum mechanics first clearly articulated around 1925-1927. Pretty much everyone who misunderstands quantum mechanics and whom the anti-science lobby of the inkspillers could find in a cesspool was hired to write a book full of wrong and repetitive claims about quantum mechanics and all these books were intensely hyped in the "mainstream" media.

Weak Gravity Conjecture related: in the context of "all symmetries must be gauged in quantum gravity", Fichet and Saraswat hypothesize that processes violating global symmetries (or charge conservation) must always exist that are faster than those mediated by black holes. I've believed it was the case for years, I am still not certain but it is good that someone said it loudly.
Why don't they attack physics more comprehensively, you might ask? What about Jacob Bekenstein, Stephen Hawking... Why don't the crappy media also publish tirades against black hole thermodynamics discovered in the early to mid 1970s? Why don't we read articles saying that Bekenstein and Hawking were also idiots and failed physicists – and some minorities or surfer dudes have just proved it? A great question. Here you have a fresh tirade of this kind. The title reads:
Are We All Wrong About Black Holes?
First of all, the answer is Yes, all of you are wrong about black holes and everything else you say about science. But we are not wrong. By you, I mean all the inkspillers-activists who fill the media with similar incredible crap. If you haven't noticed, Ladies and Gentlemen, you are not us. These are two completely different and, in many respects, opposite groups of human beings. A scientist isn't quite synonymous to an imbecile although the intersection is non-empty due to members of the second group who successfully hijack the title from the first group.

The text above was written by Brendan Foster.



It is an interview with a surfer dude from San Diego, California. It's not an ordinary surfer dude. He placed a wooden model of the perpetual motion machine onto a table. Every day, when he comes to his office, Mr Craig Callender – sorry, I refuse to recognize his completion of the elementary school let alone academic degrees – comes to his office, he hopes that the perpetual motion machine will start spinning. That's why the state of California pays him as a professor of philosophy.



Why do they do so? Because at the end of this interview and similar articles, he claims to be sometimes important because he is like Socrates. What an intelligent and adequately humble sort of argumentation! The subtitle of Foster's interview is:
Craig Callender worries that the analogy between black holes and thermodynamics has been stretched too far
Oh, really? Why doesn't he go surfing – or visit a psychologist – to reduce his anxiety?

In the early 1970s, it could have been appropriate to talk about "an analogy". But some people, starting with Bekenstein and Hawking, understood how these things worked. So the similarity between the black hole formulae and thermodynamics aren't just analogies: they are simply correct physical equations relating thermodynamic quantities in the presence of black holes. For more than 40 years, good physicists have actually understood these matters.

First, Bekenstein appreciated – like others – that it seems strange that you may flush the toilet and send the feces into a black hole. The feces will get devoured at the singularity, "nothing" is left, and the black hole stabilizes into a perfect, hairless object with no entropy. So this is a perfect toilet that has reduced the entropy by the entropy of the feces – or anything else. The total entropy of the Universe apparently decreased.

It mustn't be allowed, by the second law of thermodynamics. The second law of thermodynamics isn't just some belief. It's a theorem that one may prove for any complete microscopic classical theory – and Ludwig Boltzmann gave us this proof in the form of the H-theorem (everyone who complains that the theorem isn't trustworthy or powerful is a crank) – and for any complete quantum mechanical theory – the quantum proof is a straightforward update of Boltzmann's proof (see e.g. a textbook by Weinberg). So the total entropy of a closed system just cannot macroscopically decrease in physics.

Bekenstein realized that the final black hole, after it has absorbed the waste, must be nonzero. In fact, it must be larger than the entropy of anything that the black hole may devour. He hypothesized that the entropy of the black hole is \(S=C\cdot A\) where \(A\) is the area of the event horizon. The exponent wasn't just a guess – he realized some "more detailed" analogies, as I will mention below. A year or so later, using the framework of "quantum field theory on a curved background", Stephen Hawking calculated the particle production on a spacetime describing the birth of a black hole. He found out that due to some acceleration and "different Hamiltonians" that are relevant at the beginning and at the end, the final object is emitting a thermal radiation. The simpler "toy model" of this particle production, the Unruh effect (with accelerating observers in a flat space), was ironically found later – Hawking had an excess of brute force that made him attack a harder problem before an easier one.

The temperature of the thermal radiation is proportional to the properly interpreted "gravitational acceleration" at the event horizon. By formulae of the type \(T\sim dE/dS\), he could determine the entropy formula for the black hole, too. He found out \(S=A/4G\) in the \(1=c=\hbar\) units which is a special form of the Bekenstein formula. But the numerical prefactor was suddenly known – and we call it the Bekenstein-Hawking entropy to appreciate the two-step contributions by both men.

In the 1990s, this entropy, including the factor of \(1/4\), was calculated by totally microscopic methods in controllable vacua with black holes in string theory. Andy Strominger and Cumrun Vafa pioneered this industry, using a black hole in a spacetime with 5 large spacetime dimensions (and 5 compactified ones, as you may deduce if you know how many dimensions our Universe has). There is no doubt among the good theorists that the black holes have the entropy and temperature that was first written down by Bekenstein and Hawking. Serious physicists are solving much finer and harder questions.

But without a glimpse of a hint of some error in these pretty much rigorous proofs and calculatations, a Socratic surfer dude "worries that the analogy between black holes and thermodynamics has been stretched too far." It's so great and important that a surfer dude "worries"!

A psychologist could ask the dude to explain some details about his "worries". Here is one answer:
Here is another way to think about the worry. Suppose a star collapses and forms an event horizon. But now another star falls past this event horizon and it collapses, so it’s inside the first. You can’t think that each one has its own little horizon that is behaving thermodynamically. It’s only the one horizon.
The surfer dude is "worried" because objects like stars and black holes live in one Universe. Just one! Isn't it too little? Don't you feel "worried" as well? In just one Universe, don't you feel some claustrophobia? Anyone who feels some claustrophobia may easily prove that Hawking was an idiot, can't she?

What are the surfer dudes smoking in California? The text doesn't contain the tiniest glimpse of a rational reason for any "worry". He is just saying that many objects exist in one Universe. That was already known to the bacteria that there were many things in one Universe. From the beginning of thermodynamics in the early 19th century, people knew that the entropy and energy were extensive quantities and only the "total values" for the whole Universe were really fundamentally important in physics and obeyed simple laws.

The first law of thermodynamics says that the total energy is conserved. The second law says that the total entropy is never going down. It's always the total value that obeys the simple law. The energy of subsystems aren't separately conserved because the systems may send energy (e.g. as heat) to each other. The partial entropies aren't necessarily increasing because e.g. fridges and organisms may lower their entropy by increasing the entropy of the environment by a greater amount. There is absolutely nothing "new" in the context of the black holes.

When two black holes are merging, it originally seems that there are two disconnected black hole interiors (regions from which one can't get to the asymptotic future along future-directed timelike paths) and two separate event horizons (surfaces of the interiors). But once we know that the black holes really merge into one, the interiors are connected into one as well, and so is their (now single) event horizon. Two black holes are merging into one – and their event horizons do the same thing.

What is so mysterious about it? The additivity and/or separability of the energy and the entropy isn't any different from their behavior during the mergers of two snowballs or anything else that exists in the world. How can such a logically incoherent "Socratic" statement be considered important – or even an observation weakening the validity of the work of Bekenstein, Hawking, and string theorists – by a sane person? It cannot.

The Quanta Magazine has never published an article about the correct explanation of these fundamental insights in physics. It seems that they only publish articles where all the statements are wrong.
Here’s another. The event horizon changes shape depending on what’s about to be thrown into it. It’s clairvoyant. Weird, but there is nothing spooky here so long as we remember that the event horizon is only defined globally. It’s not a locally observable quantity.
The event horizon actually has a much less variable shape than anything else in Nature, like the snowballs. Once a black hole in 4D gets stabilized, the shape is completely determined by the mass, charges, and the angular momentum. At any rate, how can the observation that "shapes of things change in Nature" be interpreted as a "worry" that Bekenstein and Hawking were wrong? It cannot.

The shape of the event horizon reacts to the incoming matter etc. Indeed, he immediately corrects himself because there is no clairvoyant mechanism that would spookily "react at a distance". Nothing special happens locally around the event horizon – it's just a surface whose location may be calculated from the geometry of the whole spacetime, as he correctly says (a rare example of a correct proposition, indeed). But Mr Socrates still clearly wants some people to get stuck with the incorrect idea that the growth and shaping of the event horizon proves some nonlocal phenomena – it doesn't. It seems clear to me that he is deliberately deceiving people into thinking in a certain way even though he knows that what they end up believing (e.g. clairvoyance in the black holes' growth) is wrong. But it's good for his agenda.
The picture is more counterintuitive than people usually think. To me, if the system is global, then it’s not at all like thermodynamics.
Because you – and many other surfer dudes – don't have the slightest understanding what thermodynamics is. All of important statements in thermodynamics are "global" in the exact same sense. Sometimes the extensive quantities may be divided to terms attributed to several objects, in general, they can't. For example, we can't say what percentage of the entropy of a regular object is carried by electrons and what percentage is carried by the nuclei. There is obviously nothing special about black holes from these viewpoints.

Well, except for the fact that the "location of the entropy" – which we usually associate with the horizons – is flexible. That's because away from the singularity, black holes don't involve any localized matter at all. That's why the delocalization doesn't lead to contradictions. The entropy isn't easily observable. Note that classical physics has always included an unknown additive shift \(S_0\) to the entropy – in a classical approximation, the whole black hole entropy could very well be included into this \(S_0\).

But these basic seeds of "globally delocalized information" follow from the well-known fact that black holes aren't made out of regular "atoms". At any rate, the possible "delocalization" isn't a "bad thing" in any sense and there exists no "universal law of thermodynamics" that would say that the entropy must always be perfectly localized and attributed to points. The description in terms of \(\rho_{\rm entropy}\) has worked for ordinary states of matter but the black holes clearly aren't this ordinary. But that was already known before the thermodynamic properties of black holes were studied which is why it's wrong to say that it's a "(disappointing?) result of thermodynamics". Instead, it's "input" that has implications for thermodynamics.

None of these "new features" of the black holes are contradictions with the rules or methods of thermodynamics or statistical physics. But they are very interesting (not pale or disappointing!) features and these and similar phenomena are what motivates many researchers in their attempts to find even deeper insights. But those deeper insights almost certainly cannot contradict some more general propositions that have already been demonstrated.
The second objection is: Black hole thermodynamics is really a pale shadow of thermodynamics.
Mr Socrates must suffer from schizophrenia because the Allegory of the Cave with shadows was written by Plato, not by Socrates. Well, Socrates is the name of one of the characters who speak inside this work by Plato. But the Quanta Magazine isn't the Allegory of the Cave so if you speak in it, you should speak in it as Plato, not as Socrates. Time to return to your perpetual motion machine and spin it more quickly.

What does it mean for the black hole thermodynamics to be a "pale shadow" – except that it is some incoherent, unjustified, propaganda-driven emotion and a would-be insult of either thermodynamics or black holes or both or their combination? It is complete nonsense that there is anything "shadowy" about black holes when discussed within thermodynamics, relatively to anything else in thermodynamics. The universal laws of thermodynamics work for all systems with many degrees of freedom – and the statistical physics' tools to derive them microscopically work whenever we know the microscopic theories as well – which we really know in the case of some black holes, too.

So why didn't you exploit the opportunity to realize that you are 100% clueless about physics and to shut your mouth, Mr Socrates?
If you grab a thermodynamics textbook and start replacing claims with their black hole counterparts, you will not find the analogy goes that deep.
It is exactly equally deep. It's fudging the same thermodynamics applied to a generic, fully understood object. Thermodynamics always has the same "depth" and any claim to the contrary is just a dumb sleight-of-hand addressed to complete morons because everyone else understands how ludicrous the would-be insulting statement is.
For instance, the zeroth law of thermodynamics sets up the whole theory and a notion of equilibrium — the basic idea that the features of the system aren’t changing. And it says that if one system is in equilibrium with another — A with B, and B with C — then A must be in equilibrium with C. The foundation of thermodynamics is this equilibrium relation, which sets up the meaning of temperature.
The law holds for the black holes perfectly – and in fact, it was one of the early reasons to think about the "analogy" in the first place. Even if a black hole is rotating and therefore not spherically symmetric, it has one amazing feature: the gravitational acceleration is the same at every place of the event horizon! That's true despite the fact that the other aspects of the curvature are different at different points of a non-spherical black hole! This was one of the remarkable laws in general relativity that looked just like the thermal equilibrium in thermodynamics – and a reason to think about the "analogy". All points of the event horizon seem to be in touch and it seems to be the reason why they may communicate "the same temperature/acceleration" with each other.

If you don't know this, it must be very clear even to you that you know absolutely nothing about the subject and you should have refused the participation in an interview, with the words "Apologies, I am just a surfing Socrates who runs a perpetual motion machine but I am totally ignorant about this subject so I cannot be any helpful to you". Any other response is just a case of scientific misconduct.
That’s not really right. Here we see a pale shadow of the original zeroth law.
The zeroth law for the black holes is perfectly right. A single black hole is the only setup with black holes that may be (classically) stationary and in this kind of thermal equilibrium. Two black holes aren't at equilibrium because they attract or orbit each other and will ultimately merge. That's why there's no way to predict that two different black holes would have to have the same temperature or anything like that. The behavior of two or many black holes is always a difficult enough out-of-equilibrium problem. They may orbit, emit gravitational waves, merge, or – quantum mechanically – emit the Hawking radiation from one to the other, and so on.

But there's no equilibrium in the presence of more than one black hole. This isn't some ugly feature of the black holes. The Sun and the Earth aren't really at equilibrium – that would dictate that they have the same temperature – either. Neither is the Earth itself. There is a lot of circulation etc. Sometimes, the systems are stationary and boring. More often, they are not. Black holes may fall into both groups so there is surely zero justification for any kind of a "pale shadow" slur.
Here’s another way in which the analogy falls flat. Black hole entropy is given by the black hole area. Well, area is length squared, volume is length cubed. So what do we make of all those thermodynamic relations that include volume, like Boyle’s law?
Jesus Christ. The stupidity of this comment is just breathtaking. Boyle's law isn't a general law of thermodynamics. Boyle's law is a law about the pressure of a gas. A black hole isn't gas. So Boyle's law says nothing about a black hole, just like the Bekenstein-Hawking entropy says nothing about the helium in a balloon. In fact, Boyle's law says nothing about solids and liquids, either, so the black holes aren't alone. I insist that everyone who has completed the kindergarten without any affirmative action must understand why this comment by Socrates was utterly idiotic. Whoever fails to see it should return to the kindergarten and learn how to properly poop once again.

Another flabbergasting tirade is described right afterwards.
[Several paragraphs of babbling...] I immediately saw that this [Bekenstein's ingenious attribution of the entropy to a black hole] is pretty objectionable, because it identifies entropy with uncertainty and our knowledge.
Did you see it "immediately", Mr Socrates? You must be such a fast and ingenious thinker. The only problem is that this result of your "intellectual" work is another proof of your gravely insufficient mental skills.

Before the people knew what the entropy of a black hole was, there was a big uncertainty – it could have been basically everything. But once they learned that the entropy is \(S=A/4G\) – it really happened after Hawking's calculation only, assuming we need the numerical prefactor – then the uncertainty just dropped to zero (or the magnitude of the leading corrections). There is nothing "wrong" and there is no "pale shadow" about uncertainties that are dropping in physics. The purpose of physics is to know and predict quantities that can be measured or predicted with a decreasing uncertainty – and that's exactly what happened here, too.
There’s a long debate in the foundations of statistical mechanics about whether entropy is a subjective notion or an objective notion. I’m firmly on the side of thinking it’s an objective notion.
It would indeed be shocking if Mr Socrates were on the right side, ever. While in practice, the entropy of well-defined objects of some kind are pretty much calculable and objective, the precise value of the entropy may only be calculated for a precisely specified probability distribution on the phase space – or the precise density matrix in quantum mechanics (in particular, microcanonical and grand canonical ensembles yield slightly different entropies), and because the probability distributions or density matrices describes someone's beliefs, the precise entropy is always dependent on details that must be considered subjective.

This is really a complete proof of one answer, not a "debate". Physics isn't about "debates" between clueless pseudointellectuals who talk garbage at least 99.99% of their time.

In the most general case, the entropy depends on details of some probabilities or density matrices that are subjective i.e. associated with an observer. It was always true in physics, in principle, but it's even more important in the research of black holes where various regions of the spacetime are causally disconnected. One must be careful about the assignment of the density matrix to an observer etc., because of the black hole complementarity and similar issues. It's always good to be accurate and careful. If a Socrates with a perpetuum mobile "demands" or "prefers" an answer where one doesn't have to be careful about the choice of the observer and his knowledge, it's just the Socrates' psychiatric problem and the solution to this problem shouldn't be searched for in physics departments but in psychiatry departments.

And it goes on and on and on and on. For example, to escalate the tensions a little bit (so far it must have been too peaceful), the interviewer asks:
Do you think it’s possible to patch up black hole thermodynamics, or is it all hopeless?

My mind is open, but I have to admit that I’m deeply skeptical about it.
Oh, he's so gloriously open-minded and generous. But despite this amazing open-mindedness and generosity, thermodynamics or black holes or their combination is just doomed. No one can help them, Mr Socrates has concluded. ;-) So the next task for Mr Socrates is to start the Fridays for Future in which he avoids the UCSD, sits on the sidewalk or a yacht, and demands the deniers of the "trouble with black hole thermodynamics" to be punished for their sins!

The degree of incompetency of the people who are invited by the journalists to talk about expert scientific questions has grown to utterly flabbergasting levels. Are these people really so extremely unintelligent? Maybe. Probably. Are they incapable of figuring out that they are clearly out of their depth in these topics? Possibly. But is there something else behind it, some agenda? Almost certainly. I think that similar inkspillers-activists really want to liquidate hard science as an institutionalized process in the society – so that it may be replaced with a new kind of science where the true propositions are obtained directly from oracles i.e. psychologically ill Scandinavian teenagers who skip their classes.

(Some worshiper of hers tried to post nasty comments from about 3 anonymous sockpuppet accounts just today. You can't imagine how hard the life of a blogger who dares to disagree with human trash may be.)

Otherwise, both Bekenstein and Hawking died a few years ago. I met both – and I have once talked to my Santa Barbara officemate Bekenstein for hours, and then to my Harvard guest Bekenstein for additional hours. He was calm (and a strongly believing Judaist) but Hawking... wasn't quite as calm. I am pretty sure that Hawking's adrenaline level would match mine if he managed to read this stunning junk today – and these hormones could return the original voice to Hawking who would suddenly start to yell. ;-) On one hand, Bekenstein's and Hawking's deaths were bad career moves because they made it easier for full-blown fragmented vases to spread their "alternative theories". On the other hand, maybe these "alternative thinkers" would do so, anyway, and Bekenstein and Hawking are lucky to have died in time so that they don't have to observe this ongoing collapse of the civilization in which ever stupider idiots are assigned roles that used to be reserved for the special, intelligent, and educated ones.

Dr Simons, tear down this wall and stop paying for this lunacy! If you failed to read this text, listen to your friends-physicists when they tell you Tear down this wall! Otherwise Newton and Galileo will be getting the same treatment from these "writers" before Christmas 2020.

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