Saturday, May 21, 2016

Four Meetings

Nick Herbert and Rudy Rucker: Boulder Creek, CA
These days I'm pretty much of a hermit living with my cat Onyx at the Boulder Creek Quantum Tantra Ashram, going into town a couple times a week for food and spending much too much time indoors browsing the Internet. Occasionally however I enjoy meeting offline with real people.

A few days ago my friend, science-fiction writer Rudy Rucker, dropped by for his traditional yearly pilgrimage to Reality House West and brought bread and cheese for lunch. Rudy is best known for his Ware Tetralogy, a high bizarro-density drama of near-future Earth. Rudy is also a publisher (Transreal Books, Los Gatos) and the editor of Flurb, an on-line anthology of high-weirdness sci-fi stories by Rudy and his pals. He also paints pictures in a primitive style suggestive of Grandma Moses on mescaline and is an accomplished photographer.

After the usual jokes about my Dogpatch lifestyle, Rudy and I exchanged gossip and he shared the excitement about his latest project Million Mile Road Trip in which Dark Matter is made of consciousness and is called "smeal". Consciousness is one of our favorite topics and we engaged in the usual speculations typical of humans at this stage of ignorance about the way the world really works. As he departed, Rudy gifted me with Transreal Cyberpunk, a recent collection of sci-fi "buddy stories" written in collaboration with his buddy Bruce Sterling, a similarly daring explorer of edge-science themes.

Gabriel Guerrer and Nick Herbert: Boulder Creek, CA
A week after lunch with Rucker, I was visited by Gabriel Guerrer, a physicist from South America (Sao Paulo, Brazil) who is also interested in the topic of consciousness. Gabriel had worked for a year at CERN investigating the properties of B-mesons -- a peculiar member of the particle zoo that violates time-reversal invariance, a puzzling glitch in the deep nature of things. Gabriel had worked both in high-energy physics and in high-finance but is now situated at the University of Sao Paulo's Center for Anomalous Psychology attempting to replicate Dean Radin's elegant experiment measuring the effect of human intention on a laser-sourced double-slit interference pattern.

We met at my German-born friend Reno de Caro's house where we were joined by Bruce Damer and Allan Lundell (Dr Future) who participated in a conversation centered around the life experiences that led Gabriel (and the rest of us as well) to take an interest in the risky off-beat territory of consciousness research. I was pleased to see that someone so smart, enthusiastic and qualified as Gabriel was carrying on the torch. A good time was had by all. And Reno captured most of our conversation on video.

Patricia Burchat and Nick Herbert: Stanford Physics Department
About this same time last year, Reno de Caro, who is interested in the history of WW II, decided to travel to the Hoover Institute at Stanford which houses one of the world's largest collections of original documents on World Wars I and II. I decided to tag along on Reno's trip to the German-language archives both as a tour guide and as a returning alumnus of the Stanford Physics Department (graduate class of 1967). Stanford is very picturesque, a reflection of its eccentric founders. Reno brought his camera and captured some beautiful scenes, including candid pictures of excited young men and women dressed in suits and gowns to celebrate their graduation from this prestigious institution.

While Reno was busily copying microfilmed pages of the Joseph Goebbels Diaries onto a thumb drive, I ambled over to Stanford's physics and engineering sector which seemed to have quadrupled in size since I left its hallowed halls. I decided to stop in the physics office to inquire who was around during graduation break and immediately ran into Patricia Burchat, whom I recognized from alumni publications as a former head of the physics department. Jackpot! We talked about the changes in the department and what we both found exciting in the field. Before we parted, I mentioned the old grad student Christmas Party tradition of spoofing the professors and the field of physics with corny, insider-joke skits. Burchat replied that this tradition was still going on. And that she was often one of the organizers of these amateur theatrics. I told her about Les Blatt, a fellow grad student, who, if he had not majored in physics, might have made a name for himself writing Broadway musicals. I mentioned that I still possessed the script from Les's clever parody of My Fair Lady and would send her a copy when I returned to Boulder Creek.

Like Gabriel Guerrer, Patricia Burchat had spent time investigating the kinky behavior of B-mesons, not at CERN but at the BaBar B-meson factory powered by the Stanford Linear Accelerator. Burchat was a prime mover of the BaBar collaboration which published hundreds of scientific papers on the behavior of B-mesons and anti-B-mesons -- symbolized by B-bar, an upper case "B" with a line on top, hence the whimsical name for the project and its association with Babar the French elephant who naturally became the mascot of this giant particle physics collaboration. Patricia is presently associated with the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in Chile which, when completed in 2023, will take high-resolution photographs of the entire sky every three nights for at least 10 years. One of the primary goals of this full-frame sky video is to discern the effect of invisible Dark Matter on the matter we can actually see.

Blas Cabrera and Nick Herbert: Stanford Physics Department
On a second occasion when Reno was copying documents at the Hoover Institute, I took him and his camera on a tour of campus hot spots ending up again at the Stanford Physics Department. Once there I discovered that my old grad student office was now occupied by Blas Cabrera who is famous for designing a detector of magnetic monopoles that picked up a single signal of the right magnitude on St. Valentine's Day 1982. But Cabrera's detector and others like it were never able to repeat this momentous event, leading physicists to conclude that if monopoles really exist they are very rare in this part of the Universe.

In my former office I discussed with the new occupant changes in the department that had taken place since the sixties while Reno took pictures of our conversation. I was especially curious about the giant black-and-white diagrams posted in the hall outside Cabrera's office. They looked like some kind of labyrinth or the esoteric badges of a mysterious secret society. Turns out that they are the detector design drawings for the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS). As Cabrera explained to me how these sophisticated detectors were expected to respond to Dark Matter (an explanation I could barely follow), I asked him if these giant charts represented the actual size of the Dark Matter detectors. "No," he replied. The actual detectors are only about 3 inches in diameter" "And made out of Germanium."

I found it a bit odd that the two physicists with whom I spent the most time at Stanford were both involved in experimental searches for Dark Matter: Patricia Burchat in the foothills of the Andes in Chile; and Blas Cabrera thousands of feet underground in an abandoned iron mine in Canada.

Monday, May 9, 2016


Ragnar Lothbrok from Vikings (History Channel)


It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed,
and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought,
and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: 
the deep moans round with many voices.

Come, my friends,
Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven,
that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

--Alfred Lord Tennyson 

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Demetrios Kalamidas, creator of the TKO superluminal signaling scheme.

Page 1 of Kalamidas's TKO FTL proposal

Page 5 of Kalamidas's TKO FTL proposal

A few days ago I received 6 or 7 hand-written notes from Demetrios Kalamidas outlining a new faster-than-light (FTL) signaling scheme that he had devised. Three years ago, Kalamidas had proposed (and even published in a major optics journal!) an FTL scheme which was so devilishly clever that it occupied the time of several smart physicists before his scheme (which I irreverently called KISS for Kalamidas's Instant Signaling Scheme) was finally wrestled to the ground and definitively defeated.

Not one to give up so easily, Kalamidas has now come up with another FTL scheme (which I christened TKO, for The Kalamidas Option). "Refute this one, Nick," he challenged.

Well, before I could refute TKO, I had to understand it. So I made a little sketch, which Kalamidas agreed captured the gist of his new scheme.

Kalamidas's TKO Superluminal Signaling Scheme

In the TKO scheme a single photon |1> is divided by a beam splitter into two equal paths |a> and |b> and recombined at ALICE's beam splitter into two other paths |c> and |d>. This simple photon divide-and-recombine scheme is called a Mach-Zehnder (MZ) interferometer which has found numerous uses in the field of optical physics. Before the |b> photon enters her beam recombiner, ALICE has the option to add a phase Q to the |b> beam, altho in the TKO scheme ALICE does not exercise this option.

In BOB's |a> beam is placed a photon up-conversion crystal (symbolized by the blue circle labeled XTL which, with 100% efficiency, converts two incident photons to one photon with twice the energy. This double-energy photon (which Kalamidas calls OMEGA) exits the scene along path |H>.

In the simple MZ configuration the up-conversion crystal XTL is never triggered, since there is never more than one photon |a> in BOB's beam.

But then BOB adds a second pulsed source of light |G> that is timed to strike the XTL at the same time as each of the |a> photons. If |G> were a simple pulsed source of single photons |1>, then this XTL would remove every |a> photon from BOB's beam by transforming |1> + |a> into an OMEGA. No |a> photons would ever be sent to ALICE who would receive only |b> photons. No interference (between photon path |a> and path |b> would ever occur. The resulting situation would be utterly boring.

So instead of letting |G> be a boring source of single photons, Kalamidas makes |G> a more interesting source of "Gray Light" which is a coherent superposition of the zero-photon vacuum state |0> and the single photon state |1>:

|G> = X |0> + Y |1>         EQ 1

where X^2 + Y^2 = 1

So now whenever the Gray Light contains a single photon |1> (which happens with probability Y^2), this photon combines with BOB's photon |a> and is removed from the |B> beam by the up-converting XTL in the form of a doubled-frequency OMEGA photon.

Whenever the Gray Light contains the zero-photon vacuum state |0> which happens with probability X^2, then photon |a> remains unmolested and travels to ALICE's beam combiner where it's mixed with ALICE's photon |b>.

Given this physical setup, how does ALICE send a signal to BOB?  In Kalamidas's scheme, ALICE has two options which I call YES and NO. In the YES option she sets her beam combiner to 50/50 and maximally mixes photons |a> and |b> into her outputs |c> and |d>.

Choosing the NO option, ALICE removes her beam combiner (or equivalently sets its transparency to 100%) so the |a> and |b> photons do not mix. Photon |a> goes directly into counter |c> and photon |b> goes directly into counter |d>.

ALICE's choice amounts to a decision whether to mix photons |a> and |b> (YES) or not to mix the photons (NO). If BOB observes any difference in his results when ALICE switches between YES and NO, then this difference can be used to send a signal faster than light.

If BOB's experience is always the same, then no signaling occurs.

I looked at TKO and came up with an immediate refutation.

Let's suppose that the Gray Light is equally divided into NOTHING (the vacuum state |0>) and SOMETHING (the one-photon state |1>). This means that half the time there is a Gray-Light photon hitting the crystal and half the time there is not.

1. Whenever there is not a Gray Light photon, BOB will see nothing = 50% of the time.

2. Whenever there is a Gray Light photon but no |a> photon, BOB will see 1 photon. This happens 25% of the time since the photon takes path |b> 1/2 the time and Gray light emits a photon 1/2 the time: 1/2 x 1/2 = 1/4 = 25%

3. By the same reasoning whenever there is a Gray Light photon that meets an |a> photon, BOB will see nothing, because the Gray Light photon will be converted into an OMEGA.

By adding up all possibilities we see that 50% of the time BOB sees NOTHING, 25% of the time he sees an OMEGA and 25% of the time he sees ONE PHOTON.

Furthermore this 50/25/25 behavior is completely independent of any action on ALICE's part. Therefore no signaling ever takes place. 

I considered this refutation particularly simple and obvious. So I sent my result to Kalamidas.

"No, no, no, no, Nick! You did not even look at what I have written (his seven pages of hand-inscribed notes). Your calculation is much too simple. IT IGNORES ALL THE PHASES!"


"Yes, Nick, phases." BOB does not just get either SOMETHING or NOTHING at his detectors, He gets SOMETHING and NOTHING between which there exists a definite phase relationship. And that phase relationship depends on ALICE's choice of YES and NO."

"Phases, Demetri? Phases between SOMETHING and NOTHING?"

"Yes, Nick, phases between SOMETHING and NOTHING. That's what makes Gray Light so special. Gray Light's not a mere incoherent mixture of SOMETHING and NOTHING. Gray Light is a coherent superposition (like Schrodinger's Cat) -- a superposition of two possibilities that are linked by a definite phase relationship, a relationship between two objects that only makes sense in quantum mechanics. "

"Yeah, buddy. I know about phases. Phases are the meat and potatoes of every quantum calculation. But in my way of thinking, phases only exist between actual possibilities of something happening. How can NOTHING possibly possess a phase?"

"It can, it does. And that fact is the secret ingredient of my TKO scheme. Check it out, dude. If you include phases in your calculation for what BOB sees (including the phase of the vacuum state |0>) you'll discover (just like I did) that BOB sees something when ALICE makes her YES choice and BOB sees something different when ALICE makes her NO choice. I don't have to tell you, Nick, that if my result is correct, then FTL signaling is a done deed, hence signaling backwards in time, hence breakdown in causality and hence AN END TO THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT!"

"Ummph! I gotta sit down and think a bit about whether NOTHING can possess a phase. Let me get back to you, man."

So Nick gets out his optics books and several cups of coffee and generates a little essay called: "Can NOTHING have a phase? And he decides YES. So the Kalamidas TKO proposal must be taken seriously.

Paying attention to vacuum phases, Nick calculates what BOB will see for ALICE's two choices of 1. inserting a beam splitter -- a choice I call YES. and 2. taking out her beam splitter and observing the |a> and |b> photons separately -- a choice I've called NO.

And here are the results: here is what BOB sees when ALICE makes her two choices:

YES ===> [ |G(1)> ] + 1/2 Y [ |1> ] + sY [ |0>           EQ 2

NO ===> s [ |G(2)> ] + sX [ |0> ] + sY [ |0> ]               EQ 3

where |G(1)> and |G(2)> are two different kinds of Gray Light given by:

|G(1)> = X |0> + Y/2 |1>  and |G (2)> = X |0> + Y|1>    EQ 4

where the square brackets [ ...  ] indicate a quantity that has "lost its phase" and must be added incoherently. Inside the square bracket, phases still must be taken into account. I have found this unconventional square bracket notation useful in dealing with entangled systems which routinely destroy the phases of entangled sub-systems while preserving the phases of the system as a whole

These results express the quantum amplitudes that appear in BOB's observation channel |B>. To obtain probabilities these amplitudes must be squared. But squaring these raw amplitudes will destroy the phase relations and merely reproduce the results that Nick obtained earlier -- if phases are not important then BOB's results don't depend on ALICE's two choices so no signaling can occur.

But BOB is not restricted to merely passively observing the output of his |B> channel. Instead he has the option to deploy a phase-sensitive detector at |B> that might be able, in principle, to detect the two different forms of Gray Light that appear in EQ 2 and EQ 3. Such a detector might be realized by optical homodyne experiments -- subtle kinds of experiment that have produced such peculiar phenomena as the famous "squeezed vacuum state". Both Demetrios and I begin to look into the homodyne literature for some clue as to how BOB might effectively carry out a phase sensitive measurement.

Our literature search went nowhere. Homodyne experiments seemed designed for tasks far removed from our concerns. At this point Kalamidas and I were stuck. Our search for a REAL MACHINE that could measure the phase between NOTHING and SOMETHING had come up empty handed.

But then came the crucial breakthrough. We both realized this: "We don't got to show you no steenking measuring device". At this early stage the TKO proposal is only a thought experiment, which meant that Demetrios and I had unrestricted access to the vast warehouses of the ACME thought experiment Super Store. The fabled ACME warehouse contains all conceivable measuring devices provided only that they don't violate the laws of physics. The ACME shelves, for instance, are empty of perpetual motion devices and quantum-state Xerox machines. Who supplied that box-on-a-spring which could weigh a single photon, that Einstein used in his famous debate with Bohr? ACME, of course. Or its European equivalent.

Before we raid the ACME shelves, let's take a closer look at BOB's two results. On the surface his YES and NO results look completely different, with the exception of the last zero-photon event sY [ |0> ] which occurs only when an OMEGA is created. This OMEGA term is common to both of ALICE's choices. On the other hand the fact that BOB's two remaining terms seem distinctly different (the same result Kalamidas obtained on page 5 of his hand-written manuscript) gives us hope that, equipped with a 100% sensitive phase-discriminating device, BOB might be able to detect a difference between ALICE's YES and ALICE's NO choices. Hence, given an appropriate device from the ACME store, the TKO proposal might actually work as an FTL signaling machine. Such was our optimistic expectation.

So this is what I ordered from ACME -- a device (called GL (MAX) that splits reality into two orthogonal kinds of Gray Light which I call |S> and |D>:

|S> = s ( |0> + |1> )     And |D> = s ( |0> - |1> )      EQ 5
where s = 1/SQRT (2)

The detector GL (MAX) is maximally sensitive to the phase angle between NOTHING |0> and SOMETHING |1>. If this phase angle is positive, the photon ends up in detector |S>. If this phase angle is negative, the photon ends up in detector |D>. In the general case where the phase angle (and amplitude) can be anything, the photon has a definite (and calculatable) probability of ending up either in detector |S> or detector |D>. How the detector GL (MAX) might be physically realized is not our concern. If there were a way to make tons of money from this kind of photon phase detection, a detector of the type GL (MAX) would soon be realized.

Lacking a plausible real way to measure photon phases, Kalamidas and I resort to the ACME thought-experiment warehouse. The price is certainly right: this "ACME Miracle Detector" costs absolutely nothing.

The first thing to notice about the ACME Miracle Detector is that BOB's basis states NOTHING |0> and SOMETHING |1> can be conveniently expressed in terms of AMD states |S> and |D> as:

|0> = s ( |S> + |D> )      |1> = s ( |S> - |D> )                EQ 6

These two expressions will be especially useful for expressing EQ 2 and EQ 3 in terms of phase-sensitive quantum states |S> and |D>. And also useful for calculating the probabilities of the responses of our two orthogonal miracle-detector results <S|S> and <D|D>

Expressing EQ 2 and EQ 3 in terms of the miracle detector bases |S> and |D>, we easily obtain:

YES => s { [ (X + 1/2 Y) |S> + (X - 1/2 Y) |D>]  + 1/2 Y [ |S> - |D> ]}
+ 1/2 Y [|S> - |D>]

NO => s^2 { [(X +Y) |S> + (X-Y) |D>] + X [ |S> + |D>]}
+ 1/2 Y [ |S> - |D> ]

EQ 7 & EQ 8

where the square brackets [... ] indicate no external phase -- inside the brackets, amplitudes do coherently combine, but each bracketed quantity as a whole must be added incoherently to each of its bracketed fellows.

EQ 7 & EQ 8 represent the quantum amplitudes at BOB's |S> and |D> phase-sensitive detectors for each of ALICE's choices.

To determine the quantum probabilities at BOB's |S> and |D> phase-sensitive detectors, we calculate the absolute squares of EQ 7 & EQ 8.

YES PROB ==> 1/2 {(X^2 + XY + Y^2) <S|S>
+ (X^2 - XY + Y^2) <D|D> }

NO PROB ==> 1/2 {(X^2 + XY + Y^2) <S|S>
 + (X^2 - XY + Y^2) <D|D> }

EQ 9 & EQ 10

The final result is that both of these probabilities are exactly the same for all values of the Gray Light parameters X and Y. Thus what happens at BOB's |B> channel, even if BOB is able to deploy perfect miracle phase-sensitive detectors from ACME,  is completely independent of ALICE's actions. ALICE can send no signal, superluminal or otherwise, to BOB.  The exact equality of EQ 9 and EQ 10 means that the TKO proposal totally fails. This result was initially obtained using unconventional square bracket notation, but Kalamidas has independently reached the same conclusion using a standard density matrix calculation.

Although, in common with all previous FTL schemes, the TKO proposal ultimately failed, its detailed refutation led me to places I'd never been before. Highly rewarding was the journey. Thanks much, Demetrios, for taking me along on your trip.

Omega Centauri, the sky's brightest globular cluster

Sunday, April 24, 2016

April Showers 2016

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Nichola Mallon, Bell's brother and sister plus a few fans dedicate a street in Belfast's Titanic Quarter named after John Bell's quantum entanglement theorem.


I missed April Fools Day this year. It went right by me. But April's not yet over. So here's a few foolish links to brighten your day.

1. Belfast dedicates a street to Bell's theorem. On the fiftieth anniversary of Belfast-born John Stewart Bell's famous quantum-connectedness theorem, the city of Belfast, North Ireland, pulled out the stops to celebrate their favorite son -- the first city in the world, I would guess, to name a street after a theorem in mathematics. Now which theorem do you suppose will be the next to be so honored? I'm pushing to have the dirt road in front of my house renamed "No-cloning Theorem Way."

2. Nice film here on YouTube about the life of Grigori Perelman, the Moscow mathematician who proved the Poincare' Conjecture. No street named after this conjecture yet, so far as I can tell. The film is in Russian with English subtitles and features mainly interviews with Perelman's colleagues. The reclusive genius shuns both fame and fortune and appears mainly in blurry snapshots.

3. Nice article here on a fascinating site called Philosophy of Science Portal about Corning, the American company that invented Gorilla Glass, the superstrong, transparent substance on the front of every iPhone. Corning makes good stuff: I love my little Corning Visions-series all-glass sauce pan in which I cook my breakfast sausages.

4. Can NOTHING have a phase? This is a short pdf by Nick about whether the electromagnetic vacuum state, symbolized by |0> can possess a phase angle. And if so, how to effectively produce Gray Light, which is a coherent superposition of NOTHING (the vacuum state |0>) plus a single-photon Fock state |1>. Nothing to see here, ladies and gentlemen. Please move along.

5. From science impresario John Brockman's site, Korean futurist Jaeweon Cho's Feces Standard Money proposes to give a job to every human being and to develop a new basis for money.

6. Podcast #469 from Lorenzo Hagerty's Psychedelic Salon features Terence McKenna speaking at Esalen Institute on "Philosophy With the Gloves Off".  In this workshop Terence takes questions from his audience including an inquiry concerning the use of psychedelics as aphrodesiacs which Terence handles with remarkable grace and insight.

Double-slit skirt experiment

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

KHAN: A New Superluminal Signaling Scheme

Kublai Khan: character sketch for Marco Polo by Jose Lopez
KHAN: A New Superluminal Signaling Scheme

A few years ago CCNY graduate Demetrios Kalamidas proposed a clever FTL signaling scheme that was refuted both in general and in its very specifics by an international team of quantum opticians. Details here, here and here. At the heart of the Kalamidas scheme is his original method of which-path info erasure that would seem to merit closer attention. Before Kalamidas, the conventional method of erasing information about which of two paths a photon took was to confuse the observer by combining those two paths, either by directly bringing the two beams together with a positive lens or with a wedge-shaped mirror, mixing the two paths in a 4-port optical beam splitter, or overlapping the two diffraction patterns resulting from each path being sent through one of two closely-spaced double slits. The most beautiful feature of his new scheme is that Kalamidas is able to erase which-path info from two paths without actually having to combine the two paths.

FIG A.  1. Path-entangled photon possessing full which-path info; 2. Erasing which-path info using diffraction at a double slit;  3. Erasing which-path info by combing paths in a beam splitter.
 EQ 1 in FIG A displays the wave function for a typical path-entangled photon. In the same quantum way that Schrödinger's infamous cat can be both dead and alive, a single photon can travel two paths at the same time. The difference is that humans lack the ability to form quantum superpositions of cats but anyone can produce path-entangled photons by the trillions. (It happens naturally at every window pane -- if quantum physics is correct, each photon until it's actually observed exists for an instant in a superposition of both being reflected and being transmitted thru the glass: a mundane example of one photon temporarily traveling two paths at once.)

FIG A1. illustrates the case where which path the photon takes can be decided by merely placing one photon detector in each beam. Examples 2. and 3. show two ways that which-path info can be erased thru combining the two paths. In these two cases the photon can be coaxed into showing off its wave nature by "taking both paths at the same time" and "interfering with itself" with the result that large numbers of identical photons will produce a diffraction pattern or some other periodic behavior that is characteristic of waves of a certain wavelength.

Which-path info erasure leads inevitably to the possibility of forming interference patterns, so a brand-new erasure method (such as that proposed by Kalamidas) can be expected to lead to a brand-new way of forming interference patterns.

FIG B. Which-path info erasure via the Kalamidas Option
FIG B illustrates the development of the Kalamidas Option in three steps. Step 1 shows the path-entangled photon traveling unhindered along both paths. Detectors A and B unambiguously decide along which path the photon actually went and which path was untraveled. In Step 2, Kalamidas puts a 50/50 beam splitter into both path A and path B. Now there are four possible detection events corresponding to the four different detectors [A1 A2 | B1 B2]. I will use the symbol [10|00] to indicate the case where the photon triggers detector A1. And symbol [00|01] indicates that the photon has triggered detector B2. At this stage which-path info is still intact: it is always possible to infer from the detector response which path the photon took. And hence no wave phenomena will be observed.

However the fun begins at Step 3. Here at each beam splitter we introduce a new kind of light which I call "Gray Light" whose photon number is uncertain. Gray Light consists of an equal superposition of one photon |1> and zero photons |0>. Such a number-uncertain beam is not difficult to produce. Its quantum wave function is written:

Ψ = s |0> + s |1>     where s = 1/√2

This use of Gray Light is due to Nick Herbert. In his original FTL proposal, Kalamidas used weak coherent light as his photon-number-uncertain source. The math is more complicated for Kalamidas's original scheme than for Gray Light.

Even with the addition of Gray Light to the mix, photon which-path info is still largely preserved. There are two cases to consider:  Either the photon is in the path (which I call FULL) or the photon is not in the path (which I call EMPTY). 

In the case where path A path is FULL, the addition of gray light leads to FIVE different outcomes [10], [01], [11], [20] and [02]. If path A is FULL, then path B must be EMPTY and the addition of Gray Light to an EMPTY path results in THREE different outcomes for path B, namely [00], [10] and [01]. The number of different outcomes for A FULL/B EMPTY is just FIVE x THREE = 15. Similarly the number of different outcomes for B FULL/A EMPTY is also 15. But four of these outcomes (the so-called "Kalamidas Outcomes") are identical so the addition of Gray Light leads to a total of only 26 different detector outcomes rather than 30.

For most of these outcomes, which-path info is strictly preserved. For instance, outcomes of the form [11]. [20] and [02] can only occur in a FULL path. And outcome [00] can only occur in an EMPTY PATH.

The only outcomes which could have been produced by either a FULL or an EMPTY path are the FOUR Kalamidas Outcomes:

[10|10], [10|01], [01|10], [01|01]    The Four Kalamidas Outcomes

If only one photon is detected in each path, there is no way of knowing whether this was a Gray Light photon added to an EMPTY PATH or a FULL PATH unaltered by Gray Light. The rules of quantum mechanics say that if two processes can lead to the same output, then you must add the amplitudes of these two processes coherently. Coherent addition leads to interference effects. So Kalamidas's trick of adding number-uncertain light can lead to the interference of two beams of light without having to actually combine the two beams. To observe this interference we place a variable phase delay expQ in path B. 

When the input to the Kalamidas Machine is given by EQ 1, namely an equal-amplitude coherent superposition of  FULL A/ EMPTY B and FULL B/ EMPTY A beams, the probability of observing the four Kalamidas Outcomes is:

[10|10] = 1/16 (1 + cosQ)  [10|01] = 1/16 (1 - cosQ) 
[01|10] = 1/16 (1 - cosQ)  [01|01] = 1/16 (1 + cosQ)

The presence of the cosQ term is a sure sign of wave behavior: the two beams, though physically separate are interfering with each other in a periodic way. Only the four Kalamidas Outputs show this wavelike behavior; the other twenty-two outcomes (for whom which-path info is still intact) remain constant while the phase angle Q is varied, rather than oscillating like the KO terms.

If, instead of a coherent superposition, our input to the Kalamidas Machine is an incoherent superposition, then the interference terms vanish. In other words, when the single photon takes BOTH PATHS (coherent superposition), the Kalamidas outputs show waves. When the single photon takes EITHER path A OR path B (incoherent superposition), wave behavior vanishes. For incoherent superposition, the probability for the Kalamidas Outputs becomes:

[10|10] = 1/16    [10|01] = 1/16
[01|10] = 1/16    [01|01] = 1/16 

For incoherent superposition input, the Kalamidas outputs are constant. Note that the sum of the probabilities of each of these cases is 1/4, indicating that in a long experimental run, a Kalamidas output can be expected to occur 25% of the time.

The fact that the Kalamidas Machine seems able to detect the difference between a coherent and an incoherent single photon two path superposition is the inspiration for a new faster-than-light signaling scheme I call KHAN (for Kalamidas-Herbert Augmented Nearness).

FIG C. KHAN superluminal signaling scheme
To achieve FTL signaling we need a source of TWO path entangled photons, one photon going to ALICE (along two paths C and D) and one going to BOB (along two paths A and B). The entanglement is such that BOB's path A photon is always linked to ALICE's path C photon. And BOB's path B photon is always linked to ALICE's path D photon. Each pulse of light produces TWO PHOTONS -- one which goes to ALICE and one which goes to BOB. But each of these photons can take two paths at once. Not so easy to explain in words. FIG C explains it better and even includes an equation.

In the KHAN scheme ALICE is the sender and BOB the receiver. ALICE attempts to signal BOB by switching her photon from an INCOHERENT MIXTURE to a COHERENT MIXTURE of paths. Since the Kalamidas Machine responds differently to these two types of light, success would seem to be assured.

ALICE possesses a beam splitter whose transparency she can change from 100% to 50/50 transmission/reflection. When ALICE chooses Option A (100% transmission) her detectors reveal which-path info (Alice's photon takes either path C or path D): Mutual entanglement forces BOB's photon to likewise take a definite path, so the Kalamidas Machine indicates INCOHERENT SUPERPOSITION (no wavelike behavior: no dependence on phase angle Q).

On the other hand when ALICE chooses Option B (50/50 beam splitter) she erases all path information both at her site (and by mutual entanglement) at BOB's site as well. When ALICE chooses Option B, the input to the Kalamidas Machine is COHERENT PATH SUPERPOSITION, so BOB should observe wavelike behavior: periodic dependence on phase angle Q.

For ALICE's Option A: the ALICE/BOB entanglement takes the form:
Ψ (ABCD) = s ( |A0>|C0> + |B0>|D0>)  ALICE's Option A

For ALICE's Option B, the ALICE/BOB entanglement takes the form:
Ψ (ABCD) =S { (|A0> + i |B0>) |C0> + ( i |A0> + |B0>) |D0>}  ALICE's Option B
where S = √2 and s = 1/√2. For ALICE's beam splitter I have used the symmetric convention where both reflections are multiplied by i.
When you do the calculation for the KHAN scheme, there is a sense in which both of these things happen -- 1. no waves at BOB's site for ALICE's Option A and 2. waves at BOB's site for ALICE's Option B. But in spite of this marvelous seemingly instant change at a distance from no-wave to yes-wave, this process cannot be used for superluminal signaling.

INCOHERENT: When Alice chooses Option A and measures a photon in her path C, all four output of the Kalamidas Machine have the same constant probability: No wave behavior. Same when Alice measures a photon in path D.

[10|10] = 1/32    [10|01] = 1/32
[01|10] = 1/32    [01|01] = 1/32

[10|10] = 1/32    [10|01] = 1/32
[01|10] = 1/32    [01|01] = 1/32

[10|10] = 1/16    [10|01] = 1/16
[01|10] = 1/16    [01|01] = 1/16

COHERENT: When Alice chooses Option B and measures a photon in her path C, all four outputs of the Kalamidas Machine show wave behavior of the form [M + N sin Q] where M and N are constant. If we limit our observations only to the case where ALICE observes a photon in path C, then the Kalamidas Machine shows undeniable wave behavior at all four output ports.

This looks good but the worst is still to come. When Alice measures a photon in her path D, all four outputs of the Kalamidas Machine now show wave behavior of the form [M - N sin Q].

Since both these ALICE outputs (C and D) happen at random with equal probability, the total probability of the Kalamidas Outputs is 2M. All wave effects vanish.

[10|10] = 1/32 (1 + sin Q)    [10|01] = 1/32 (1 - sin Q)
[01|10] = 1/32 1 - sin Q)    [01|01] = 1/32 (1 + sin Q)

[10|10] = 1/32 (1 - sin Q)    [10|01] = 1/32 (1+ sin Q)
[01|10] = 1/32 1 + sin Q)    [01|01] = 1/32 (1 - sin Q)

[10|10] = 1/16    [10|01] = 1/16
[01|10] = 1/16    [01|01] = 1/16

We can see from this explicit calculation of the results of the KHAN scheme, that each INTERFERENCE EFFECT linked to ALICE's path C is exactly canceled by an equal and opposite ANTI-INTERFERENCE EFFECT linked to ALICE's path D. This kind of mutually canceling wave behavior is experienced over and over again by presumptive FTL signaling engineers. Wave behavior undoubtedly appears at BOB's site when ALICE erases her which-path information -- as can be verified by looking at all of BOB's outputs while triggering only on one of ALICE's outputs. But when both of ALICE'S outputs are taken into account -- as is the case in any FTL signaling scheme -- the waveness at BOB's site tied to one of Alice's outputs is EXACTLY CANCELED by the waveness tied to the other of Alice's outputs.   I have dealt with this (seemingly inevitable) phenomenon in a previous post.

So farewell to the KHAN scheme for superluminal signaling. Even though the effort failed, it was fun learning how to carry out the calculations using Kalamidas's clever new method of path erasure. Something imaginative and new like this almost never fails to excite me. Thanks, Demetrios.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Northern Hemisphere Spring 2016: Irish Tantra

William Butler Yeats (1865 - 1939): Nobel Laureate 1923

I met the Bishop on the road
And much said he and I.
"Those breasts are flat and fallen now,
Those veins must soon be dry;
Live in a heavenly mansion,
Not in some foul sty."

"Fair and foul are near of kin,
And fair needs foul," I cried.
"My friends are gone, but that's a truth
Nor grave nor bed denied,
Learned in bodily lowliness
And in the heart's pride.

A woman can be proud and stiff
When on love intent;
But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be hale or whole
That has not been rent."

---William Butler Yeats (1933)

Arago Spot: Green

Friday, March 18, 2016

St Paddy's Day 2016

with apologies to Joanie Madden

Sure, it's a holy instrument
Like everything that comes from God
You must learn to hold her reverently
Like Father Kelly's Holy Wafer
Or a patch of Irish sod.

Close your lips around her fipple
And thru her narrow airway
Blow a prayer across that tilted floor
Called "labium" when there's one of them
And "labia" when there's more.

Now the noise she makes is frightful
Like a pack o' banshees wailin'
The men are rising from their seats
And now your life depends
On the music you can coax from her
With your fancy fingerin'

Sure breathin' (and tonguin') have to be mastered
But they're just a part o' the thing
For it's how ye move yer flesh
Across the openings, laddie,
That makes the Irish whistle sing.

You may play in a grove
You may play in a pub
You may play with a maid in the spring
But playing the Irish whistle
You must mind your fingering
For it's how ye move yer flesh
Across the openings
That makes the Irish whistle sing.

Sure, it's how ye move yer flesh
Across the openings
That makes the Irish whistle sing.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Sol Entangler

Circular Diffraction: Arago's Spot
 I want to woo Her not view Her
Pet Reality until She purrs
Longing to merge with Dame Nature bodily
Yearning to mingle my substance with hers
And them content with merely observing
Are nothing but Nature's voyeurs.

The goal of quantum tantra is to discover a new way of connecting with Nature that involves both mind and quantum mechanics. An early interview by Abu Ben Nooma, author of Red-Light Bardo captures some of the spirit of this quest as does Rudy Rucker's short fiction Panpsychism Proved recently published in Nature magazine. 

While searching for that all-important clue to a quantum-tantric breakthrough, Nick has been amusing himself by writing dozens of QT-inspired poems and designing/building a handful of "Preposterous Devices" that attempt to capture some of the flavor of this new science. Since these devices possess no theoretical basis (the science they pretend to demonstrate does not yet exist), they are mere guesses, shots in the dark, desperate premonitions and hardwired petitions to my Muse to grant me fresh inspiration for quantum-tantric gadgets that will actually work and for a new vision of Nature that will change the world.

My first preposterous device was called "The METAPHASE TYPEWRITER" after the hypothetical "metaphase membrane" that separates matter and mind. The MT uses a quantum-random radioactive source and Geiger counter to drive an English-language biased text generator. The MT was conceived of as an "empty channel" that might be possessed by living beings, by discarnate entities, by angels, devils or spirits of any variety. The Metaphase Machine was operated during the 1970s in a great variety of high psychic energy situations without any noticeable success.

Metaphase Typewriter: Yellow plastic tube houses radioactive source and Geiger counter
 Later with the help of Richard Shoup, who then worked at Xerox PARC in Palo Alto, I devised the QUANTUM METAPHONE which converted the metaphase device into a quantum-driven voice box, a kind of supernatural "Siri" designed to let spooks speak. None deigned to talk to us.

Metaphase Sound Machine by Dmitry Morosov, Moscow. This project was commissioned by Future Everything (Manchester) and Laboratoria Art & Science Space (Moscow)
 Recently a few artists have been inspired by the MT to produce quantum-driven devices of their own design. Lynden Stone, working at Queensland University in Australia instigated the Metaphase Typewriter Revival Project producing a quantum text generator using modern physics hardware and computer interfaces that was exhibited in both Australia and America. Lynden's doctoral thesis explored some of the history of art inspired by modern physics which includes her lovely painting Schrödinger's Puss featured at the bottom of this post. Meanwhile, in the former Soviet Union, prolific Moscow multi-media artist Dmitry Morosov (who goes by the name "::vtol::") produced a sound and motion machine driven by quantum-random nuclear decay which ::vtol:: claims was inspired by the Metaphase Typewriter.

The biggest flaw in the metaphase class of quantum mind-matter devices (Quantum Answering Machines) seems to be the assumption that spirits can alter radioactive decay to send messages to the living. A promising direction for further QUAM research might be to seek different sources of quantum "randomness" to drive the communication channel, for instance the recent device of Shi et al at the University of Singapore that derives random numbers from fluctuations in the quantum vacuum.

Dr & Mrs Future testing the Stellerator
 Another class of preposterous device (hoping to connect minds together using quantum theory) works on the notion of linking two people's consciousnesses together by, loosely speaking, arranging for them "both to attempt to observe the same photon". This purported quantum linkage is achieved by having both participants view light whose "radius of coherence" extends across both of their retinas. This kind of device might be called a Quantum Intimacy Machine (QUIM).

The first quantum intimacy machine (called the STELLERATOR) exploits the fact that the "lateral coherence radius" of light from distant stars is huge. The star with the smallest lateral coherence radius is Betelgeuse in the Orion constellation. This star's LCR is eight feet wide; every other star in the sky has a larger value of LCR.

The value of the LCR, loosely speaking, is a measure of the width of the photon wavefunction, an indication of the extent to which a single photon can "be in two places at once" while still maintaining its integrity (oneness).

There is a sense in which light from Betelgeuse is made up of a collection of eight-foot wide pancakes of light, each representing a single photon. These photon pancakes are very thin (the longitudinal coherence length is comparable to the wavelength (a fraction of a micron)) so that these stellar discs are less like flapjacks and more like very thin crepes. And each of these single-photon crepes is hurtling down from every star in the sky at the speed of light.

The stellerator is a simple hollow tube which allows two observers to focus their attention on a single star and to compete as to who will "collapse the crepe-shaped photon wave functions" from that star. The guess/hope/conjecture is that this simple activity of constrained star gazing will link the minds of the participants in a new and notable way.

One big flaw in Stellerator theory is that the photon pancake is so large that every object inside an 8 ft radius (in the case of Betelguese) is competing for the same photon. Thus the participation of two human retinas in "collapsing the photon wave function" is minimal compared to the grass, the rocks, the dirt around you. What's needed is a coherent source made of smaller pancakes, pancakes the same size or smaller than the dark-adapted human iris (about 3 mm).

The Lunerator uses reflection to produce two coherent beams.
 Enter the LUNERATOR, a purported quantum intimacy machine that uses the Moon as a source of coherent light. The size of the coherence disk is inversely proportional to the apparent size of the heavenly body. Stars appear very small so their coherence disks are large. On the other hand, both the Moon and the Sun loom large in the sky (apparent diameter of about 1/2 a degree) so their lateral coherence radii are correspondingly small, approximately 0.1mm (about 10 times the size of a red blood corpuscle), hence able to shoot comfortably thru the iris-hole of any human being.

The Lunerator takes a stream of moonlight (which consists of tiny amoeba-sized wafers of elemental light) and, using a half-silvered mirror, splits this photon stream in two and directs each half stream to a different observer. Now according to quantum theory, each photon wafer TAKES BOTH PATHS, so each observer in theory can compete to collapse the wave function of the same photon with God-only-knows-what effect on the subjective experiences of the participants in this peculiar new way of sharing lunar light.

A brand new improvement on the Lunerator is the SOLARATOR (called by some a Sol Entangler) which is similar in many respects to the Lunerator (same lateral coherence radius, for instance) with the added advantage of higher intensity and spectral separation. (Spectral purity increases the longitudinal coherence length, thereby making the photon pancakes thicker). Instead of using a half-silvered mirror to split the beam in two, the Solarator employs a mirrored diffraction grating provided by a blank DVD disk masked down to a working diameter of a few millimeters. As with the Lunerator, the two beams (now each a pure spectral color rather than cream-colored moonlight) are sent to two observers who compete to collapse the same photon's two-part wave function.

The Solarator uses diffraction to produce two coherent beams

Solarator in action.

 When I first conceived these various photon-sharing-based quantum intimacy machines, I believed that they were each an example of quantum entanglement. But that is not the case. Each of the photon wave functions in all of these three examples is factorable, hence not entangled. The only non-locality which these devices possess is a kind noted by Einstein early in the quantum game when he noticed that light from a single atom is supposed to emit a wave function which travels to all parts of the universe where at every moment it represents the probability of a photon being observed.

But when that photon is actually observed at one single place, the probability of it being observed somewhere else instantly drops to zero, seemingly violating the relativity rule that nothing can travel faster than light. It's this kind of non-locality that's operating in these three putative quantum intimacy machines. However, hundreds of labs all over the world daily produce truly entangled photon beams which might be utilized for the next generation of truly entangled preposterous devices. For example, Nicolas Gisin and his buddies at the University of Geneva are already experimenting with ways of entangling human retinas using entangled light. Perhaps the next quantum tantra breakthrough will occur accidentally tomorrow in some optics lab in Switzerland.

[After this post was published, Lynden Stone reminded me of conceptual artist Jonathon Keats's Quantum Marriage in which a committed couple ceremonially bath themelves in TRULY ENTANGLED LIGHT produced by sunlight passing thru a non-linear crystal. Thanks, Lynden.]

We hold these truths to be self-evident --
This direct, non-symbolic experience of Nature-from-inside
That the Universe is filled with billions of invisible conscious beings
That every sentient creature lives equally near to the mystery
That deep reality is waiting for us to ask the right question.

Erwin's Puss by Lynden Stone, housed at Centre for Quantum Dynamics, Griffith University, Queensland, Australia

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Happy Valentine's Day 2016




Love every one of My Elements
Caress My Paradox
Embrace each phase-entangled photon
Hug My Molecules; kiss My Quarks.

The Universe is My Body
From every eye, the glance is Mine
Down every river flow My Fluids
In every thing resides My Mind.

I loved you inside your mother's womb
Your every atom have I kissed
I made you everything you are:
You treat Me like I don't exist.

When you open your eyes you gaze on My Body
You taste My Flesh with your lips
Every smell is My Sexual Attractant
Every touch is My Kiss.

Come open your sensors to Nature's flirtations
Come lend your step to My Dance
I'm only fourteen (billion) years old
But I'm eager and ripe for romance.

Love every one of My Elements
Caress My Paradox
Embrace each phase-entangled photon
Hug My Molecules; kiss My Quarks. 

Smiling Whale: Khola Shou Herbert