Tuesday, October 11, 2022

The Holographic Universe.

Discoverer of the 



The New York Times wrote recently on the Holographic Universe, something that the truly great PBS Space Time has visited as a topic repeatedly. The interesting point is always, for me, that the information content of any three-dimensional space is limited to the number of bits that can be encoded on an imaginary surface surrounding it, and that limit is defined by the Planck length. The consequences of this are mind-bending.  

"'It's completely crazy,' [says Leonard Susskind], in reference to the holographic universe. 'You could imagine in a laboratory, in a sufficiently advanced laboratory, a large sphere — let’s say, a hollow sphere of a specially tailored material — to be made of silicon and other things, with some kind of appropriate quantum fields inscribed on it.' Then you could conduct experiments, he said: 'Tap on the sphere, interact with it, then wait for answers from the entities inside ... [o]n the other hand, you could open up that shell and you would find nothing in it,' he added. As for us entities inside: 'We don’t read the hologram, we are the hologram.'"

Wikipedia has a dense, but good article on the same subject. This also leads to the AdS/CFT correspondence, which really makes a lot more sense after watching this video from Matt O'Dowd.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Trust in the Supreme Court.

"Confidence in Institutions"
Gallup, June 1-4, 2013, 
available at http://tinyurl.com/m8dl5vg
 From Gallup this morning:

"Trust in many U.S. institutions has declined in recent years, but the loss of faith in the Supreme Court is especially notable, given the high levels of trust it has enjoyed historically."

As I wrote back in 2013, and as I have done pretty often over time, trust in government is the sine qua non of democracy. The "great deal/quite a lot" level of trust for the Supreme Court is down to 25%; this is less than banks used to be in 2013, and is within the margin of error for big business at that time. Most institutions in American life (with the exception of organized labor) have lost trust recently, but none from so high a starting place, and so precipitously. As the article's lede notes:

"This represents a 20-percentage-point drop from two years ago, including seven points since last year, and is now the lowest in Gallup's trend by six points. The judicial branch's current tarnished image contrasts with trust levels exceeding two-thirds in most years in Gallup's trend that began in 1972."

Prior posts re the United States Supreme Court:

  1. Turnout, Serrano, and the Outlier.
  2. 34 Cents of Your Property Tax Dollar Goes To Our Schools. 
  3. Brown, Budgets, Prisons, and Contempt.
  4. A Society Can Be Judged By Entering Its Prisons.
  5. Standing, Blogging, and Prop 8. 

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Hurricane Ian and Government Accountability.

Witnessing the damage from Hurricane Ian, the striking failures of local government to prepare their constituents feels all too familiar to residents of Sonoma County, few of whom forget the night of October 8, 2017. The failure of local government to inform residents in harm's way of the approaching danger sears memories years later. 
Image Courtesy National Weather Service. 
Use pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 105.

To see this replicated by Lee County, Florida in the face of Hurricane Ian reminds that information from authorities in a crisis proves often unreliable. Worse, accountability after the fact is usually prevented by a smokescreen of finger-pointing and obfuscation.

This New York Times article, however, pushed across the line from mere spin to outright absurdity. Lee County, Florida, failed to warn citizens in time of the need to evacuate, despite a detailed plan prepared in advance that noted exactly how much warning was required. In defense of the County's behavior, "the county commissioner ... said that one challenge the county faced was that the local schools had been designed to be shelters and that the school board had made the decision to keep them open on Monday." 

To be clear, the county commissioner went so far as to blame the local school board for the civil authority failing to prepare citizens from the thoroughly understood threat that precisely this type of storm approaching created. The school board that was, of course, looking to the county for the very advice necessary on whether to stay open or closed. 

As a school board trustee myself, I could only shake my head. I note once again that school boards are a convenient target, whether fairly or not, for almost everything.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Space Rendezvous.

 One of the most technically difficult and impressive acts humanity has ever achieved is the rendezvous of spacecraft in orbit. Interestingly, the American and Soviet approaches to the problem were different; while astronauts until quite recently controlled the process manually (Buzz Aldrin's Ph.D thesis concerned how to do so), since 1967 the Soyuz spacecraft have been able to do so autonomously. The Igla system, followed by Kurs, paved the way for autonomous resupply of Mir space stations at a fraction of the cost of manned spaceflight, a feat only matched by the Dragon capsules of SpaceX as recently as 2012. 

From the Economist.
This American tendency to rely upon a skilled human operator also found its way into the distinction between earlier Airbus and Boeing aircraft, with the European consortium leaning towards fly-by-wire, systems with the then-Seattle based manufacturer only following later. 

I mention this point today in light of the rapid perceived advances in AI (artificial intelligence) and ML (machine learning). Much ink has been spilled regarding recent advances in language processing and image creation (this article is a nice example from the Economist). 

But such technologies have long existed in some of the most challenging engineering spaces faced by humankind. Is the current surprise regarding AI/ML more due to the fact that it is now able to address the routine activities formerly used to sideline (if not belittle) the technology, when the practical application of the same has long since progressed past triviality to indispensability? 

Previous posts on Economist issues:

  1. Nordic Success.
  2.  @TheEconomist (Ann Wroe?) on Dr. Robert McClelland and #JFK.
  3. Further Reading.
  4. Where Newspapers Are Headed ...
  5. @TheEconomist on a hybrid #VirtualParliament.
  6. @TheEconomist on #Homelessness in @SFGov.
  7. The Life Pressed Out.
  8. Why Travel Matters.
  9. @econbartleby and @billswindell at @TheEconomist and @NorthBayNews, respectively.
  10. @AmExperiencePBS @RobertKenner-- the 1918 Pandemic.
  11. The Return of #Cash.
  12. California, where Malala Yousafzai becomes Janet Yellen.
  13. The Plutonium Standard.
  14. Beikoku and Eikoku.
  15. Secession is a bad idea, full stop.
  16. QE4.
  17. Brown, Budgets, Prisons, and Contempt.
  18. Executive Orders.
  19. #rebeccapurple.
  20. The Streets Should Fit the Trees.
  21. @TheEconomist on Alcohol and Health.
  22. What Do Bubbles Look Like, Pt. 2.
  23. "Bringing Up Baby Bilingual"
  24. Freshman Teams, Student Performance, and the Case For SVUSD's Master Plan.
  25. Dual Immersion Enhances Attention.
  26. Trust Levels of News Sources.
  27. Slouching Towards Utopia.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Slouching Towards Utopia.

Brad DeLong 
One thing I like to do from time to time, is recommend a good book. Brad DeLong has been an economics and history professor at UC Berkeley for a long time, and I have enjoyed reading his posts. He has recently put together many of his thoughts in a book, Slouching Towards Utopia, which I am reading and recommend to anyone interested in the history of the "Long 20th Century" from 1870-2010. The Economist's very positive review of the book is here.

Brad DeLong has come up on this blog before -- here's a list of the times I've mentioned him previously:

  1. Paul Krugman: "Brad, Don't Get Too Excited."
  2. QE4.
  3. Brooks and Krugman.
  4. Nothing So Dear as #cheapmoney 
  5. Le Mieux est l'ennemi du Bien.
  6. @RobertJShiller and the #EMRATIO.