For A Good Time In Cambridge This Evening (Tonight!)

Boston-area jackals:  there’s a cool event going on at MIT tonight.*  Sorry for the short notice, but they didn’t tell me until this a.m.

Anyway: PBS’s NOVA series will be broadcasting a new episode at 9 p.m. tonight.  It’s called “Einstein’s Quantum Riddle” and it will be screened in its entirety (not much pre- in this sneak preview) at MIT beginning at 7, with a discussion to follow.  Details are in the poster below.

The program focuses on an international collaboration to test whether or not quantum entanglement (violations of what is known as Bell’s inequality — an concept that states that quantum mechanics makes predictions that are incompatible with those based on a classical understanding of how events occur.

That understanding, BTW, often called local realism makes two claims: that cause and effect connections cannot occur faster than the speed of light, and that any particle being observed has a real “true” value that exists before any experiment is performed.

It gets significantly more subtle and complicated from there, and well above my pay grade to explain, (though not beyond that of several commenters here).  Most simply: ordinary experience and (more or less) all of physics before 1925 tells us that the world follows what seem like common sense rules:  things can’t happen more quickly than the top speed available to us, and it is possible to make always-consistent objective measurements of what’s going on around us.  Bell’s theorem —  again, this is a cartoon version — says that in quantum mechanics, (a theory that we know works for all kinds of reason, not least the behavior of a lot of the guts of the computer on which I type this), this kind of seemingly obvious experience doesn’t hold true.  Particles can be “entangled”:  connected in a way so that a measurement of one particle in a pair determines what will be observed of the other particle, even if they’re too far apart for one particle to “know” what the other particle has revealed, even if a signal passed between them at the speed of light.

This was exactly what Einstein and two colleagues, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen, had pointed out in a famous paper in 1935, claiming that this clash between the classical view and the quantum one meant that quantum mechanics had to be incomplete, because “no reasonable definition of reality could be expected to permit this.”

Unfortunately for Einstein and his EPR colleagues, reality is under no obligation to be reasonable.

Beginning in the seventies, experiments — actual measurements, first on a table-top scale — showed that the quantum view was correct: entanglement does occur.  It violates the local constraint of the speed of light and the requirement that every chunk of a system must have a consistent pre-existing measurement value independent of the choice of what and when to measure it.

Those early experiments were highly suggestive, but not absolutely conclusive, and so, in 2016, an international team of researchers including, on the MIT side, Alan Guth and David Kaiser, devised a way to test entanglement on a galactic scale, using light from a distant star to set a crucial parameter of the experiment.  Using a signal from a far-away source shrunk one of the key remaining loopholes in Bell’s idea.  Since then the team has used light from increasingly distant objects to perform the same role.  Because distance in space is also distance in time — the hundreds, thousands, millions or billions of years it takes any given photon to travel all that way — these new measurements push any possible violation of quantum mechanics ever closer to the origins of our universe.

Anyway, all this will be described, much more clearly (or at least with visual aids) in the film, and then expanded on by the really sharp panel that will follow.

A personal aside: this is a kind of science I truly love:  it is at once fundamental — an exploration of how reality actually works on a deep level — and, at least mostly, purely beautiful.  Bell’s theorem and quantum entanglement do have practical implications, especially for computing and cryptography.  But to a great extent, this is a case of human ingenuity performing at a very high level, producing knowledge that is an abstract form of the same kind of cultural achievement that endows us with Gothic cathedrals or a telescope in space that can reveal to us stars in the process of being born.

I’ll climb down from the pulpit now.

So, y’all — if you’ve got a couple of hours this evening — there’s a seat in a lecture theater in the heart of MIT’s campus that has your name on it.

As promised, the details…(to find the room, building 6, number 120, look for it on this interactive map):

*I can’t go, alas: a family obligation of long standing intervenes. I’d be there in spirit, except I keep the spirits in a cupboard in the kitchen.

Images:  NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI), Wide View of ‘Mystic Mountain’ (a star forming region within the CarinaNebula) 2010

William Blake, Isaac Newton, 1795.

 

 



Cincinnati Meet Up Open Thread: Steve in the ATL Edition

From commenter OhioMom:

Steve in the ATL is coming to the CVG on Monday, January 14 and Tuesday, January 15. How about welcoming him with a Cincinnati meet-up?

Steve will be in Blue Ash and Ohio Mom suggests we meet at Slatts Pub on Cooper near Kenwood because it’s relatively quiet for a bar restaurant. But any and all other suggestions welcomed. Leave your preferred day, time and location in the comments.

You all know what to do.

Open thread!








Quick Housekeeping Note Regarding This Weekend

I will be away on temporary duty from early tomorrow morning through Sunday night. I do not expect, based on the itinerary I was given today, that I’ll have any time to post, let alone comment over the next three days. So try to stay out of moderation as I won’t be here to release your comments.

For those of you who are nosey, which is pretty much all of you, I’m going up to Ft. Bragg. I was given the honor of being asked to give the keynote address at the 100th anniversary regimental dinner for the US Army Psychological Operations Regiment. (they didn’t get my bio quite right…)

Anyhow, it is also the 100th anniversary celebration weekend for US Army Civil Affairs Branch, where I was the Cultural Advisor (under Temporary Assigned Control) in 2012 and 2013. I’ll be participating in some of their events as well. And, of course, it wouldn’t be an Army event if I didn’t have some meetings! All in all, it’s going to be a busy weekend. So you all play nice and stay out of moderation!

Open thread!



REPOST: Boston Labor Day Weekend Meet Up?

Adam was kind enough to post this last week. I’m not going to be able to make it myself, but who else in the Boston area is up for a get together this weekend?

Mostly lurker, occasional commenter, Big R will be in Boston over Labor Day weekend for the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting – doing business as the largest cattle call of polisci geeks in the known universe (trust me, it’s a cattle call!!!) – and would like to meet up with the Balloon Juice greater Boston area cadre. Here’s the details he sent along:

My schedule is fairly light; I have a teaching mini-conference on 8/29, I present on 9/2, and I have a few interviews lined up here and there. If BJ readers wanted to get together for a meal and/or a drink, I would be delighted to join them. If nobody wants to meet my lurker tuchos, then my feelings won’t be hurt.

Anyone from the greater Boston area cadre interested, please sound off in the comments. And I’m sure Big R would be greatly appreciative of recommendations about where to hold the meet up. I personally stopped going to APSA years ago for personal reasons, but the last time they held it in Boston and I was in attendance (early 00s), they held the meeting at the convention center and all the conference hotels were in close proximity. So unless Big R says otherwise in the comments, that’s where he’ll be most of the time.



Vice President Biden’s Eulogy for Senator McCain

Here’s the live feed of Senator McCain’s funeral service in Arizona before his body is flown to Washington, DC to lie in state in the Capitol and a second funeral service on Saturday at the National Cathedral and his final, private funeral service and interment on Sunday at the Naval cemetery at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD.

I’ve got the live feed set to start with Vice President Biden’s eulogy, but feel free to go back or forward. Larry Fitzgerald’s eulogy, given just before VP Biden’s, was very, very nice.

Open thread!



Boston Labor Day Weekend Meet Up Part II: The Meet Upening!

Mostly lurker, occasional commenter, Big R will be in Boston over Labor Day weekend for the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting – doing business as the largest cattle call of polisci geeks in the known universe (trust me, it’s a cattle call!!!) – and would like to meet up with the Balloon Juice greater Boston area cadre. Here’s the details he sent along:

My schedule is fairly light; I have a teaching mini-conference on 8/29, I present on 9/2, and I have a few interviews lined up here and there. If BJ readers wanted to get together for a meal and/or a drink, I would be delighted to join them. If nobody wants to meet my lurker tuchos, then my feelings won’t be hurt.

Anyone from the greater Boston area cadre interested, please sound off in the comments. And I’m sure Big R would be greatly appreciative of recommendations about where to hold the meet up. I personally stopped going to APSA years ago for personal reasons, but the last time they held it in Boston and I was in attendance (early 00s), they held the meeting at the convention center and all the conference hotels were in close proximity. So unless Big R says otherwise in the comments, that’s where he’ll be most of the time.

Open thread!








Boston Labor Day Weekend Meet Up and Primary Election Eve Open Thread

We can probably use a new election eve open thread, and since I’ve been waiting till we got within three weeks or so to post this Boston Meet Up request, consider this an open thread to comment about either or neither or, as usual, anything else that strikes your fancy.

So primary returns are coming in. Balderson is currently barely ahead in OH12 with 100% of the precincts reporting by 1,766 votes. There are 3,435 provisional ballots outstanding that still have to be verified and counted. And the rules in Ohio is that provisional cannot be counted until 10 days after the election. Right now the margin is at .9 for Balderson. Ohio law requires an automatic recount if the margin is .5 or less. So the provisionals have the potential to push this to a recount. This one won’t be finalized and certified for a while. And once it is, because this is a special election, Balderson and O’Connor will be running against themselves for this seat in the regular midterm in November. Regardless, this was a huge swing in this district from Republican to Democrat, which is, itself, a positive indicator of the mood of the electorate.

In Kansas, Krish Kobach is currently trailing the incumbent Kansas governor with 57% of precincts reporting. I know a lot of folks want him to win so that the Democratic candidate can run against him as an extremist. Personally, I just want him out of office. And since, because of his legal issues and the fiasco that was the President’s special committee to investigate non-existent voter fraud, which will make it almost impossible for him to get a Federal appointment. So if Kobach loses this primary, he’s out of government, back in private practice, and a senior fellow at some anti-immigrant institute. He’ll still be able to cause trouble and be a nuisance, but he won’t be able to directly negatively impact people’s lives.

As to the Boston Meet Up. Here’s the details from mostly lurker Big R:

I’ll be in Boston for the American Political Science Association over the Labor Day weekend. My schedule is fairly light; I have a teaching mini-conference on 8/29, I present on 9/2, and I have a few interviews lined up here and there. If BJ readers wanted to get together for a meal and/or a drink, I would be delighted to join them.

So those of you in the greater Boston area, if you’re interested, please chime in in the comments about availability for a meet up over the Labor Day weekend. I’ll run this again on Sunday and next week to make sure we get some good feedback.

Open thread!