Archive for March 2009

Lou Saben

March 29, 2009

RIP

Longtime Buffalo Bills coach Lou Saben has died at age 87 of a heart attack.

Saban left [the Patriots] for the Bills in 1962, guiding them to AFL championships in 1964 and 1965, the only titles the Bills have ever won. He quit for a job with the Broncos because of difficulties with owner Ralph Wilson.

Six years later, at the urging of Steinbrenner, Wilson rehired Saban, and he again was successful, overseeing O.J. Simpson’s record-breaking, 2,003-yard rushing season in 1973 and getting the Bills to the NFL playoffs the next season.

Lou was the cousin of former Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saben.

Villanova Tops Pitt

March 28, 2009

Not Pretty, But So Very, Very Good!

All Credit, ESPN

All Credit, ESPN

Minutes ago my Alma Mater beats their Big East rivals 78 to 76 in Boston to get to the fabled final four.

IIRC, this is the first time they’ve gotten this far since the amazing run in ’85 that is sung about to this day.

Go Wildcats!

Not Every Bills Fan Is Happy

March 25, 2009

T.O. Is Coming To Town

So laugh.  Please – laugh, especially since this is a little twisted.   Just a little.

Be Not Afraid – Still

March 22, 2009

What He Said.

Pope John Paul the Great made it his watchwords, and Archbishop Chaput says it again. Sometimes you have to speak out.

Archbishop of Denver Charles J. Chaput delivered a speech on Saturday reflecting on the significance of the November 2008 election. Warning that media “narratives” should not obscure truth, he blamed the indifference and complacency of many U.S. Catholics for the country’s failures on abortion, poverty and immigration issues.

He also advised Catholics to “master the language of popular culture” and to refuse to be afraid, saying “fear is the disease of our age.”

He did not stop there, and what Chaput said next is withering.

Noting that there was no question about President Barack Obama’s views on abortion “rights,” embryonic stem cell research and other “problematic issues,” he commented:

“Some Catholics in both political parties are deeply troubled by these issues. But too many Catholics just don’t really care. That’s the truth of it. If they cared, our political environment would be different. If 65 million Catholics really cared about their faith and cared about what it teaches, neither political party could ignore what we believe about justice for the poor, or the homeless, or immigrants, or the unborn child. If 65 million American Catholics really understood their faith, we wouldn’t need to waste each other’s time arguing about whether the legalized killing of an unborn child is somehow ‘balanced out’ or excused by three other good social policies.”

Exactly.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air points in a slightly different direction when considering the reasons that the Church speaks with such little moral authority today.

The leadership of the Catholic Church has abdicated its role in instruction and faith formation, which one can see in church life on a daily basis. In part, they willingly surrendered both in exchange for broader appeal, and in significant part undermined it with the shameful role church leaders played in covering up for pedophiles within their ranks. In order to have enough moral authority to instruct, the priests and bishops have to live their lives in a moral fashion.

He very well may be right, but Chaput is making a broader point (one I’m sure that the Capt’n understands implicitly).  If the Church is not educating properly (and if the parents aren’t making sure that their children are being educated properly), then the vacuum will be filled by the popular culture.  That’s not what I call a good thing.

Bananas

March 22, 2009

Don’t Shoot Me. I’m Only The Taxpayer

I was taught that the power of the federal government is limited.  We all were (or should have been) taught that.  I’m starting to wonder ’bout that, and so is John Hinderaker at Powerline.

I’m stupefied to find that some people are defending the constitutionality of Nancy Pelosi’s discriminatory, confiscatory and retroactive tax on people who receive bonus income from companies that got TARP money. I would have considered it a bright line rule that the government can’t identify a class of unpopular people and impose a special tax on them. What’s next? A 100% income tax on registered Republicans, retroactive to last year? If Pelosi’s bill passes muster, why not?

He provides a great example to demonstrate that this is indeed happening.

Wells Fargo didn’t want any TARP money, but the government forced it to take more than $5 billion worth, so Wells Fargo employees who receive bonuses would be subject to Pelosi’s proposed tax. Say you’re a teller at a Wells Fargo branch in Minnesota and you’re married to a lawyer who makes $250,000 this year. You get a $10,000 bonus for your good work during 2008. The government steals it all (90 percent federal plus 8.5 percent state plus, unless it’s included in the 90 percent, 3 percent Medicare). That is simply insane.

Actually, I think the word he’s fighting for at the end is “unconstitutional”.

But what do I know? I’m only the taxpayer.

Quantum Mechanics and Free Will

March 21, 2009

Speaking in Many Tongues

It’s rather stunning, sometimes, when the language used by physicists to describe what they know becomes, well, metaphysical.  What does it mean when you say that quantum particles have free will?

On the basis of three physical axioms, we prove that if the choice of a particular type of spin 1 experiment is not a function of the information accessible to the experimenters, then its outcome is equally not a function of the information accessible to the particles. We show that this result is robust, and deduce that neither hidden variable theories nor mechanisms of the GRW type for wave function collapse can be made relativistic. We also establish the consistency of our axioms and discuss the philosophical implications.

Near gobblelygook.  Except it isn’t.  That abstract will give you this link to the full article (in PDF format), which says, in essence, that if you have free will, then so does every particle in nature.  If you have the ability to make a decision that is not constrained by your past history (and all of past history), but freely chosen and spontaneous, then so do electrons (and every thing else).  Gotta be, or the universe isn’t self-consistent and can’t exist.

But wait.  What kind of decisions can an electron make, anyway?

Lemme explain.  Imagine two identical twins; we’ll call them Sally and Katherine.   Let’s move Katherine to Alpha Centauri, and proceed to ask them both a set of questions. To do this, we need two questioners, and a list of questions to be asked.  As soon as the question is asked, then the answers are reported back to the lab, examined, and then (and only then) is the next question asked.  Oh, you also have to know that the questioners can ask any question on the list in any order, and have no idea what question is being asked by the other in this round.

When the questions have to do with their common, identical past (i.e. how tall were you at age 20; what hair color at age 25, etc. – remember, their identical!), we expect agreement.  When the questions are asked in random order, then we expect a certain set of statistics that reflect this.  If they were not identical twins, then we’d expect a different set of statistics.

Some of you may recognize this as the beginning of the famous Einstein, Rosen, Podolsky thought experiment.  I’m going to take the opportunity to name-drop here, and tell you that I was a student of the late Prof. Okalowski (one of my favorite professors, ever!), who was a student of Rosen.

So far, this may all seem very mundane.

The experiment becomes interesting, though, when you begin to ask Sally and Katherine questions when only one could know the answer.  Ask Sally in Dec. of 2012 who the next president of the U.S. is, and she might very well say “Sarah Palin”, while Katherine might be expected to say “Barack Obama”.

But what if they both consistently answer the same, statistically speaking, to these kinds of questions?  Only one of them should know the answer.  We put Katherine an Alpha Centauri to make sure of that, after all, and it would be weird (indeed, physically impossible) for her to know who won before the televised results of the 2012 election even got to Alpha Centauri.

But the universe is weird.  If you use electrons that are created together (so that the quantum-mechanical spin polarization for both is related), separated far enough so that you know a signal can’t travel between them fast enough and ask the right question (Are you polarized in this direction right now?), and check the results statistically, it turns out that the electrons answer just as if they’ve talked to each other.  That experiment was done in the ’80s, so we know.  They can’t have communicated, but they must have, faster than light.  It’s very weird, and physics now considers the quantum mechanical states of these two particles to be “entangled”.

So what has this to do with free will?  If the quantum-mechanical wave function of one of those particles collapses to a definite state when the experiment is done (that is the decision about a particles spin is determined only when someone looks at it, and not a moment sooner), then we have to ask if the state of the other, quantum-mechanically entangled particle is determined by the choice made by the first particle.  That second particle may have no choice in the matter.  And in the aggregate, you have no choice in anything, either.  Everyone of your actions has been pre-determined by something else, and by history.

In their heart of hearts, nobody finds that easy to believe.  John Conway, Simon Kochen demonstrate rigorously that you’ll free will depends upon the ability of quantum mechanical particles to choose their state independent of their history.

I find it sort of neat that physics is capable of saying anything at all, wrong or right, about the topic of free will. You wouldn’t think that it could.

You May Not Agree

March 20, 2009

And I’m Not Even Sure I Do

And this comic is really, really, unfair.

But he’s got a point.
And it’s really, really. good.

Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).