hi all theres been a recent shock of awareness of the Royen proof of gaussian correlation inequality, pop-sci publicized by Wolchover for Quanta, a big milestone… this is a nearly ½-century-open problem![a] Quanta funded by Simons institute is one of the top outlets for scientific/ mathematical writing around today. a real community resource/ treasure!
the Royen proof is not exactly my area so cant write a lot on it but do note that its a key case study in dynamics of scientific peer review, and seems like it has some parallels to the ongoing mochizuki proof analysis.[b] it took over ~1½ year for “community” to begin to grasp the correctness of this proof and Wolchover has a nice historical timeline for how others began to notice/ accept it, a mapping of the spread of awareness. it did not help that Royen was somewhat isolated and did not seem to personally contact any cohorts for peer review. he published openly but it got lost in the noise. it shows how community acceptance is sometimes far from a black/ white binary decision, esp for “big problems”.
is there any way to improve peer review? its definitely a bit of an achilles heel of the scientific process. my feeling is that there is no way to improve it very much except maybe to try to increase transparency somehow. its very similar to the problem of “fake news”. how do you measure quality in content? we live in the vast Information Age but as has long been noted, theres a big difference between Information and Wisdom, and in a way peer review is the major mechanism that is designed to separate/ discriminate the two.
hi all. science is in the news. it looks like the US public has realized fairly quickly that this is nearly an anti-science admin through the administrations rhetoric and many early anti-science decisions.[a] the public “protests/ marches” for science are unprecedented (triggering this post/ “outburst”).[b] but one might argue they are not entirely protests but in fact an advocacy. there is strong overlap with climate concern.[i]
my favorite area/ subspeciality is Computer Science a very neat blend of STEM.[d] years (decades!) ago an interviewer asked me “whats the difference between science and technology”? that was before the STEM term was invented. found it difficult to answer the question.[j] but my focus is not so narrow and recognize that CS is part of Science and there are all kinds of ripples/ shifts/ waves going on in the latter. and ofc have a lot of physics ideas/ engagement/ writing on this blog.
science & technology are fusing in our lives like never before. the boundaries blur and some new capabilities may seem nearly god-like compared to the prior human condition. but there is also always the icarus aspect of flying close to the sun with waxed feathers. or pandoras box. the greeks seemed to dream uncannily far into the future in their legends/ mythology.
science is an ideology, but one that is threatened in various ways. its like those big ideas like Democracy that require active engagement by the public and is no longer something to be assumed or taken for granted.
science has given us miraculous stuff in the US and the US has been a world leader, but it seems some of that edge is eroding. its not something that comes automatically, it requires something like a vibrant/ thriving infrastructure, even ecosystem, and that cultural/ intellectual ecosystem is threatened quite analogous to the earths. academia is a big part of it, facing some difficulties.[f]
hi all. have blogged before here (admittedly, enthusiastically, even ebulliently) on the “digital physics” concept, an enamoring idea (for some!). recently within last few weeks and last year there seems to be substantial new interest and developments even in “semimainstream” physics, and now even the mainstream media is in a semi-lather over close topics. (skeptics will ofc argue the word “semimainstream” sounds something like “semipregnant”!) its hard to keep up! there are many different angles of povs, events, personalities, etc… this post attempts to collect and summarize some of this and bang it all into a semicoherent story (as much as such a thing is possible). some old but evocative buzz/ magic words thrown around about internet expansion into multiple industries come to mind: consolodation/ convergence…
to start, these ideas are now going under the headline of the “holographic universe/ principle”[a2] or “simulated universe/ hypothesis”[a1] concepts. they are interconnected in major and/ or subtle ways.
mentioned Aaronsons recent blog[i3] on subj citing Hossenfelder [i1][i2] in a recent near-throwaway comment in the SE physics chat room “hbar”[a5] to a new accomplished user BenNiehoff (phd KU Leuven working on string theory with 9 papers on arxiv!). hes met a lot of famous physicists at conferences personally eg Susskind, Zee, Green, Schwarz, and Witten and other famous theorists. am trying to recruit him for a guest session in our elite and popular series, but thats another story!
laid out some of the basic concepts/ “pros” of the simulation hypothesis ideas incl/ eg longtime endorsement/ driven pursuit by nobel prize alumnus ‘t Hooft, which thought were not generally very controversial, but the room denizens/ regulars reacted quite adversely-bordering-on-negatively, with some really stinging retorts! guess those big fat shiny nobel prizes and the proverbial “trip to stockholm” just aint what they used to be! Ben expressed his disinclination and looks like they all smelled blood in the water & went in for the kill! 😮 😦
Ah, as usual you have no actual argument to make, I should’ve known. —ACuriousMind [a6]
vzn; do you have any mainstream views? —John Rennie [a7]
hi all. AI technology is really exploding in the last few years. the last big post/ compilation on the subj here was ~½ year ago and the links piled up in a blur since then. the main trigger for this post: the game of poker now seems to have “folded” to computer supremacy. a new paper was published on Deepstack and its highly competitive play, and Libratus is $800K up in a recent match against top experts (top players). my understanding is that there is still some weakness in multiplayer games and that the new breakthru is for 1-1 games, human vs computer, but presumably that razor-thin human edge might also melt away quickly.[a]
poker was a very good game for humans wrt our inherent/ evolved psychology. we (top humans that is) seem to have an intuitive grasp of how to bet based on the strength of cards, including the use of bluffing. it took computers until the 21st century to master this stuff. but it looks like they just passed the threshhold again. in a small surprise, it wasnt done by Deepmind but which is behind many other near-monthly, even verging on weekly breakthroughs.[c]
maybe not by total coincidence, the winning Libratus algorithm involves training a neural network to accurately estimate the search tree, quite similar to the Deepmind Go strategy that made huge headlines just a year ago. the media hasnt picked up on the poker competition as much as it did with Go… is it because cautious/ publicity shy academics have less PR instinct than google? or less budget? but maybe that “relatively low profile” will change in the weeks/ months ahead. hopefully there will be a very high profile contest that again captures widespread public interest/ imagination.
it seems the top poker competitions are typically held in Las Vegas afaik… what would it take to get the computers in that? wouldnt be cool if say Vegas (or some other high profile gambling center) decided to publicize it to attract attn/ tourism? but would the computer algorithms be competitive in the top multiplayer games? there have been increasing/ huge audiences for poker over last few years, not sure what all the factors are in in this surge (internet gambling might play a role…)
its neat to see academia still at the top of competitive research in AI. but that seems to be thinning somewhat over last few years as the massive corporations Google[b], Microsoft, Apple,[g] Facebook, Intel [f] and misc other corps [e] are snapping up AI talent like its a feverish arms race, and to some degree it is. theres also very fast/ dynamic startup/ other merger activity going on, and new research laboratories being founded.[h]
hi all. robots have been attacking people for over a decade now, they’re called drones, and the public outcry has not been too substantial. however, maybe the slumbering masses are starting to wake up to a related threat, job-killing robots.
this is a very complex topic that has been bubbling at the edges for years but 2016 finally seemed to mark the transition/ jump/ tipping point into mainstream consciousness. and theres some alarm/ panic, with headlines reflecting it.
despite this headline on this blog, despite the headlines elsewhere, it is really not a topic to be taken lightly. it has international implications. its affecting global economies. its tightly connected with the last few decades shift of globalization and neoliberalism, both of which seem these days (with Brexit/ trump upsets) maybe to be showing signs of aging and “long in the tooth”. it seems to be tied up with the future of technology, economics, and governments/ politics (eg whitehouse/ trump)![l] hence its one of those devastating crosscutting trifectas, aka “perfect storm”. its even starting to show up in intelligence agency strategic predictions/ alarm bells, and they are not pretty.[k1]