My favorite television show is Lost. I’ve been obsessed with it for awhile and now, as if they needed to reel me in even more, they introduced a quantum consciousness sort of time travel storyline that hints at some of the things I’ve been discussing here, here, here, and here, as well as what’s been discussed over at The Observer Effect. It raises the question of whether or not superposition states consisting of two different times might possible exist and might this help explain seemingly inexplicable cases of déjà vu. While it is a radical notion for certain and I’m a serious skeptic of the paranormal, there is some precedent that, at least on the quantum level, this might be possible. In particular, the Leggett-Garg inequalities are Bell-like inequalities that provide correlations for time-separated events. In related work, I recently showed that the Cerf-Adami inequalities are a form of the second law of thermodynamics. Thus, as Ken Wharton agreed, it seems quantum mechanics violates the macroscopic form of the second law of thermodynamics. In short, while the universe appears time asymmetric on a macroscopic scale, it really is time symmetric, at least microscopically.
Archive for February, 2008
Some of my favorite drinks have some funky additives and, oddly enough, a few have ended up changing over the years as the FDA outlawed them. Here’s a look at three.
My favorite drink gets its distinctive taste (and aftertaste) from gentian root. According to Pliny the Eldar, “gentian” is an eponym of Gentius (180-168 BC), King of Illyria, who supposedly discovered its healing properties. In addition to Moxie, it appears in a number of alcoholic beverages including bitters.
Absinthe has generally been illegal in the United States and Europe until recently. The problem arose from the chemical thujone which is present in wormwood, the chief ingredient in absinthe. In the early 1990s some countries in Europe allowed it to be produced again after research showed that absinthe contains less thujone than originally thought and, in some cases, can be made authentically without at thujone present at all (while still using wormwood). Thujone-free absinthe is now manufactured in the US as well. Ernest Hemingway invented a terrific drink called “Death in the Afternoon” that was a mix of absinthe and champagne. I had a glass at lunch at the Morgan Library and Museum back in August. Mmmmm….
Since I grew up in Buffalo, which is only a few hours by car from Detroit, I grew up drinking a lot of Vernors (note the apostrophe was officially dropped years ago). Vernor’s is not exactly a ginger ale, per sé. It’s much more “gingery” than ginger ale and is often likened more to a ginger beer. In addition, it’s extremely carbonated and sometimes causes people to sneeze and cough when the drink it (it tends to tickle my nosehair). My dad is a huge fan and passed on his love of Vernors to me. From 1866 to 1991 it was sweetened with stevia. In 1991 the FDA outlawed it unless it was labeled as a dietary supplement. Vernors is now sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. Of course, it is apparently OK for Coca-Cola to go ahead and develop their own stevia-based sweetener, called Rebiana. Coke doesn’t own Vernors. Cadbury Schweppes owns Vernors and Cadbury Schweppes is a non-US Coke competitor. Anybody smell bullshit? I swear that if you want the US government – any of the three branches regardless of party affiliation – to care about you, you need to incorporate yourself and be loaded with $$$$.
Much of my thinking on certain topics is beginning to coalesce in interesting ways. I’ve been having an ongoing discussion with Ken Wharton about quantifying entanglement and time symmetry, helped along in my thinking by the very patient Rob Spekkens and Matt Leifer. Then, along comes Christopher Altman to tell me he’s actually been working on something along the lines of what I had floating around in my head (my thinking was partially spurred on by some of Kelly Neill’s posts). What have I got so far? Well, let’s take a look at the Chinese room argument again from a new perspective.
I think one of the main problems with the Chinese room argument is that it does not quantify understanding. What does it mean to understand something? Sprevak does not discuss this in his recent article. In a previous post, I argued that perhaps true AI would require quantum computers since real thinking likely involves superpositional thinking. But is that enough to provide understanding?
… and so is my wife. I’m talking about Facebook. In particular, we discovered a number of our good friends on here (who never told us they used it!) and this nifty mapping tool you can use to keep track of the places you’ve been. I, personally, think it’s an easier way to keep in touch with people than e-mail. Post on someone’s wall or your own and that’s that. Quite convenient, if you ask me.
At the behest of some of my friends, one of whom lives in Australia, I finally joined Facebook. I’ll admit I was apprehensive and felt I wasn’t perhaps the right generation, but I’ve come to discover many of my colleagues including a few who are closer to my parents’ age than mine are on there. But, now with Facebook, a blog, and SecondLife (which I’ve been on for over a year now), how am I ever going to keep track of all these people???
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about artificial intelligence and I have a hunch that what separates natural intelligence from the artificial variety is that the former includes what I might term “superpositional thinking” in that it simultaneously can consider multiple possibilities without necessarily being pre-programed to do so. As such, I think (and, again, it’s just a hunch at this point) that realistic AI will require quantum computers since, unlike classical computers, they allow for the existence of superposition states. But it’s just a hunch…
My lecture today in my Quantum Cryptography course brought together several recent threads on this blog. In particular, several interesting questions arose during the course of the lecture (I love having engaged and motivated students). The questions arose from our discussion of the BB84 protocol and the No-Cloning theorem. Essentially: 1. Do Alice and Bob need to be people or can they be machines? and 2. In what instances can Eve impersonate Bob (or Alice, for that matter)?