Birthday greetings and felicitations

Apr. 26th, 2017 10:02 pm
onyxlynx: Festive pennants in blue & purple with word "Birthday" centered. (Birthday)
[personal profile] onyxlynx
to [personal profile] bradycardia! A day of enormous peace for you!

Anorexia And Metabolic Set Point

Apr. 27th, 2017 02:52 am
[syndicated profile] slatestarcodex_feed

Posted by Scott Alexander

[Content warning: fat, anorexia, dieting]
[Epistemic status: crazy speculation from someone who isn’t an expert in the field. Please don’t take too seriously.]

Some anorexics I talk to describe their condition as falling into two phases.

In Phase 1, they’re a model or a ballerina or something where they’re under a lot of pressure to become thin. So they go on a diet, they have trouble just like everyone else, but they stick to it and gradually get thinner. People praise them for their thinness. They win the Ballerina Of The Year award. They’re pretty happy with how things are going, and their dieting is ego syntonic – ie they agree with it and can explain the reasons they think it’s a good decision.

In Phase 2, somebody tells them, wait, this is unhealthy. Maybe they end up in the hospital. Maybe some friends stage an intervention. They admit that they have anorexia and decide to get better and gain weight. And then they can’t. The exact way that this presents varies among people. A few say they never feel hungry – as if they’re always so stuffed they couldn’t eat another bite. More often they still feel hungry, but they feel a sense of horror at their fatness, even if they rationally understand they’re really thin. This makes it very hard to regain weight.

This reminds me of the model of obesity I talked about the other day. People start overeating for social reasons (specifically, because our society is full of tasty food). Then they find they can’t stop – their body has adjusted to its higher weight as a new set point and will defend it vigorously, producing hunger pangs and food obsessions if they try to diet.

The brain system producing these effects is called the “lipostat”, and it seems to work through a control loop. Fat cells produce a hormone called leptin. The hypothalamus measures the amount of leptin, compares to its preferred set point, and based on the result generates strong urges to eat/exercise/fidget either more or less. This in turn makes the person gain or lose weight, increasing or decreasing the number of fat cells and the concentration of leptin, and completing the loop.

In (at least some cases of) obesity, constant overeating makes the hypothalamus leptin-resistant – that is, it systematically underestimates the blood level of leptin. Suppose a healthy person weighs 150 lbs, his body is on board with that, and his lipostat is set to defend a 150 lb set point. Then for some reason he becomes leptin-resistant, so that the brain is only half as good at detecting leptin as it should be. Now he will have to be 300 lbs before his brain “believes” he is the right weight and stops encouraging him to eat more. If he goes down to a “mere” 250 lbs, his brain will panic, believe he’s starving, and demand he eat more.

One point that The Hungry Brain stressed again and again is the cognitive complexity of the hunger response. For example, from Ancel Keys’ Starvation Experiment:

Over the course of their weight loss, Keys’s subjects developed a remarkable obsession with food. In addition to their inescapable, gnawing hunger, their conversations, thoughts, fantasies, and dreams revolved around food and eating – part of a phenomenon Keys called “semistarvation neurosis”. They became fascinated by recipes and cookbooks, and some even began collecting cooking utensils. Like leptin-deficient adolescents, their lives revolved around food. Also like leptin-deficient adolescents, they had very low leptin levels due to their semi-starved state.

And from studies of leptin-deficient children:

Farooqi explains that the primary reason leptin-deficient children develop obesity is that they have “an incredible drive to eat”…leptin-deficient children are nearly always hungry, and they almost always want to eat, even shortly after meals. Their appetite is so exaggerated that it’s almost impossible to put them on a diet: if their food is restricted, they find some way to eat, including retrieving stale morsels from the trash can and gnawing on fish sticks directly from the freezer. This is the desperation of starvation […] Unlike normal teenagers, those with leptin deficiency don’t have much interest in films, dating, or other teenage pursuits. They want to talk about food, about recipes. “Everything they do, think about, talk about, has to do with food” says [Dr.] Farooqi. This shows that the [leptin system] does much more than simply regulate appetite – it’s so deeply rooted in the brain that it has the ability to hijack a broad swath of brain functions, including emotions and cognition.

Once again, it’s not really clear how people’s metabolic set point drifts up, but it seems to maybe have something to do with overeating junk food.

So suppose there was an exactly opposite process. People who severely undereat find that their metabolic set point drifts down, with their hypothalamus becoming hypersensitive to leptin. Again, consider a person who would ideally weight 150 lbs. If they become twice as sensitive to leptin, their body won’t be happy unless they weigh 75 pounds. If they gain weight to be 100 pounds instead, they’ll be getting “too much” leptin, their brain will feel like they’re too fat, and their bodies will vigorously “defend against” weight gain to try to return to the distorted set point. This sounds a lot like anorexia nervosa.

Some more evidence: people with anorexia fidget like crazy. This is the conventional wisdom among generations of psychiatrists, and has been confirmed in studies – see for example Measurement Of Fidgeting In Patients With Anorexia Nervosa Using A Novel Shoe-Based Monitor, which found anorexics fidget almost twice as much as healthy controls. This seems really damning to me. Consciously deciding to fidget is hard. If you don’t believe me, try to fidget as much as possible for the next two hours (the length of the study linked above) and see how well it goes. Most people just can’t do it. On the other hand, fidgeting (renamed to the more dignified “non-exercise activity thermogenesis”) is the classic strategy that the lipostat uses to maintain unconscious control over weight:

The research of James Levine, an endocrinologist who works with the Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University, explains this puzzling phenomenon. In a carefully controlled overfeeding study, his team showed that the primary reason some people readily burn off excess calories is that they ramp up a form of calorie-burning called “non-exercise activity thermogenesis” (NEAT). NEAT is basically a fancy term for fidgeting. When certain people overeat, their brains boost calorie expenditure by making them fidget, change posture frequently, and make other small movements throughout the day. It’s an involuntary process, and Levine’s data show that it can incinerate nearly 700 calories per day.

A purely social paradigm of anorexia can’t explain the fidgeting; a biological paradigm outright predicts it.

I’m not an expert on anorexia, so for all I know lots of people have thought of this and I’m late to the party. But a quick Google search only reveals a few small leads. Heidebrand et al have studied leptin in anorexia nervosa, but only because they think it might affect symptoms. They find circulating levels are low – which makes sense given anorexics’ low BMI, and which neither confirms nor disconfirms a leptin hypersensitivity hypothesis. They also find that leptin increases more quickly when anorexics gain weight than when healthy people gain weight, which is suggestive but doesn’t prove that much.

I also found a paper, the appropriately-named Treasure (2005) which described anorexia nervosa apparently due to brain lesions. For example:

Of the seven anorexia cases associated with primary tumours in the area of brain stem and the fourth ventricle (Table 1: cases 24–30),12,25–30 two (24 and 25) presented as typical restrictive anorexia nervosa with fear of fatness; surgical removal of the tumours led to remission and sustained weight gain in both cases.

Thirteen cases of eating disorders associated with lesions in the cerebral hemispheres were identified (Table 1: 31–43).31–38 The damage was predominantly localised in the frontal and temporal lobes (six frontal, four temporal, three frontotemporal) of the right hemisphere (nine right, three left, one bilateral)…seven cases presented as “typical” anorexia nervosa with weight and shape preoccupations.

Most of these cases weren’t typical anorexia, and almost all of them involved other obviously-neurological symptoms that ordinary anorexics lack. And most of the relevant tumors were not the hypothalamus (although a similar paper by Chipkevitch finds a disproportionately high number of hypothalamic lesions). But it does prove that excessive concern about becoming fat isn’t just caused by ballet coaches and the patriarchy. It can also be induced by purely neurological mechanisms.

(and a complicating factor – most brain tumors increase intracranial pressure, which seems to increase the ability of leptin to enter the cerebrospinal fluid in ways that might cause obesity or something. There’s actually some suggestive literature that “leptin resistance” might just be serum leptin not making it into the cerebrospinal fluid, and a bunch of studies show that anorexics have proportionally much higher – and obese people proportionally much lower – CSF:serum leptin ratios. But these studies don’t explore causality and it might just be that if you’re too fat your leptin transporters get overloaded.)

I probably shouldn’t focus on leptin so much. Everybody agrees that leptin is only one part of the biology of weight gain, that other hormones are probably more important in weight loss, and that using leptin to represent the entire biological regulation of obesity is kind of a streetlight effect.

But I feel like something like this might be true. There must be some reason why the symptoms of anorexia resemble lipostat action so closely. There must be some reason why anorexics fidget so much. And there must be some reason why brain tumors can mimic some of the most striking symptoms of anorexia, like obsessive fear of becoming fat. All of these make sense only in the context of metabolic set point theory, and I hope more people start trying to link these two ideas up.

[syndicated profile] slatestarscratchpad_feed

slatestarscratchpad:

wayward-sidekick:

You know that feel when you’re debating someone and you’re like “aaAAAH I know I am being PANICKY and SHOUTY but this person’s ideas are SCARY and we must STOP THEM from spreading these beliefs because if people believe these things they might do things that hurt people I care about and aaaAAAAAH”? Yeah I’m pretty sure that’s really common and is at least half the reason internet discourse is as crappy as it is. So you do not have to be ashamed of having felt this, and it does not make you Not A Rationalist.

If we are debating stuff, and you are feeling “aaAAAH I need to be PANICKY and SHOUTY and STAY UP TIL 4AM AND SKIP MEALS TO HAVE THIS ARGUMENT because otherwise people might believe BAD things that would cause them to HURT PEOPLE”, then you can just, like, say “Hey, can we pause the debate a second? I think I might be calmer if we established stuff we agree on first. You believe in Not Hurting People, right?” and then I can reassure you that yes, just because I am (socialist / authoritarian / gender critical / uncertain about free speech) this does not mean I believe in (lining people up against the wall and shooting them / coercing people into doing stuff they don’t want to / deliberately misgendering people to be rude / punching people for saying stuff I disagree with). I promise I will not respond with any variation on “of COURSE I am against hurting people, how DARE you suggest that I am in favour of hurting people, you are so TROUBLINGLY prejudiced against my ideology”.

I would very much like this to be a norm, because then I can also get people who scare me to reassure me they are just as much against Hurting People as I am, and then we can all have fewer uncomfortable panicky feelings and wouldn’t that be A++

I have this feeling sometimes, but I’ve never been able to draw a real line.

For example, a nice person who is “gender-critical” might not deliberately misgender people to be rude, but they might still use people’s non-preferred pronouns because they honestly believe it is the correct thing to do, and I’m not sure the lack of ill intent makes it less unpleasant.

A certain socialist might not want to line people up against the wall, but they might still want to institute economic policies that will impoverish someone, destroy their livelihood, appropriate their possessions, or force them to work under a structure they would find intolerable. Or, on a more personal level, they might still want to spread norms within a certain group that rich people are bad and should be stigmatized, which a rich person might find directly threatening.

A certain anti-free speech person might not punch someone who says stuff they don’t like, but they’ve got to enforce their speech ban somehow, and I can’t imagine how that wouldn’t involve punishment. And any condemnation of certain speech carries an implicit (and sometimes explicit) request that people who make it be punished with stigma and exclusion. So I would still expect the person to want to silence me in some way, almost by definition.

The way I try to draw this line is to request people be nice until they can coordinate meanness (http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/05/02/be-nice-at-least-until-you-can-coordinate-meanness/ ) ie to assure people I’m talking to that I plan on pursuing my opinions through debate and politics rather than through targeting and directly hurting individuals on the wrong side of them. I think this is better than nothing.

But this is pretty weak protection, and I don’t think it really captures what people mean by “not planning to hurt me”. For example, I think under this formulation, telling someone they’re first up against the wall after the Revolution is okay, as long as you don’t take action before the Revolution.

And I guess that, for me personally, I don’t get panicky because I think the other person literally wants to punch me right now. I get panicky because I think the other person wants to create a society in which it’s impossible for me to live happily, and is maybe actively creating that society right now.

@keepsakewhales:

“I get panicky because I think the other person wants to create a society in which it’s impossible for me to live happily, and is maybe actively creating that society right now.” So then you understand why a lot of your readers can’t stand the SSC comments section.”

I don’t know if you’re just being snarky or what, but I hope I was able to get across my point that this isn’t the other person’s fault. There are poor people who panic at the thought of welfare programs being taken away, and there are libertarians who panic at the idea that the government can take their money without asking them. These are incompatible preferences. The idea that your panicking creates an obligation on others never to air ideas that distress you is antithetical to ever being able to debate anything.

I try hard to make my blog and comment section as friendly as possible. I try to content warn for any potential triggers my post might bring up, I ban anyone starts personal attacks or gets overly hostile, and I don’t think I’ve ever had to ban people for things like “this group deserve to be hurt” because I pretty much never see anyone saying that.

Does this completely 100% remove any material anyone might potentially dislike? No, because that’s incompatible with anyone being allowed to talk at all. I support the concept of safe spaces where people with particular incompatible preferences can go to separate spaces to make sure their preferences are respected. I’ve clearly explained the ways in which my comment section is or isn’t safe for people. Bakkot has even made a new “link without comments” button to make it easier for people who want to avoid the comment section entirely. If you have a better idea other than “no one should be allowed to say anything I disagree with” I’m happy to hear it.

[syndicated profile] slatestarscratchpad_feed

comparativelysuperlative:

I was working on constructing a Tolkien-based etymology pun, but it didn’t work because Grover Cleveland wasn’t good-looking enough.

Hmmmm…is this about how the Valar made the world bigger at the end of the Second Age in order to split Arda from Valinor?

[syndicated profile] slatestarscratchpad_feed

wayward-sidekick:

You know that feel when you’re debating someone and you’re like “aaAAAH I know I am being PANICKY and SHOUTY but this person’s ideas are SCARY and we must STOP THEM from spreading these beliefs because if people believe these things they might do things that hurt people I care about and aaaAAAAAH”? Yeah I’m pretty sure that’s really common and is at least half the reason internet discourse is as crappy as it is. So you do not have to be ashamed of having felt this, and it does not make you Not A Rationalist.

If we are debating stuff, and you are feeling “aaAAAH I need to be PANICKY and SHOUTY and STAY UP TIL 4AM AND SKIP MEALS TO HAVE THIS ARGUMENT because otherwise people might believe BAD things that would cause them to HURT PEOPLE”, then you can just, like, say “Hey, can we pause the debate a second? I think I might be calmer if we established stuff we agree on first. You believe in Not Hurting People, right?” and then I can reassure you that yes, just because I am (socialist / authoritarian / gender critical / uncertain about free speech) this does not mean I believe in (lining people up against the wall and shooting them / coercing people into doing stuff they don’t want to / deliberately misgendering people to be rude / punching people for saying stuff I disagree with). I promise I will not respond with any variation on “of COURSE I am against hurting people, how DARE you suggest that I am in favour of hurting people, you are so TROUBLINGLY prejudiced against my ideology”.

I would very much like this to be a norm, because then I can also get people who scare me to reassure me they are just as much against Hurting People as I am, and then we can all have fewer uncomfortable panicky feelings and wouldn’t that be A++

I have this feeling sometimes, but I’ve never been able to draw a real line.

For example, a nice person who is “gender-critical” might not deliberately misgender people to be rude, but they might still use people’s non-preferred pronouns because they honestly believe it is the correct thing to do, and I’m not sure the lack of ill intent makes it less unpleasant.

A certain socialist might not want to line people up against the wall, but they might still want to institute economic policies that will impoverish someone, destroy their livelihood, appropriate their possessions, or force them to work under a structure they would find intolerable. Or, on a more personal level, they might still want to spread norms within a certain group that rich people are bad and should be stigmatized, which a rich person might find directly threatening.

A certain anti-free speech person might not punch someone who says stuff they don’t like, but they’ve got to enforce their speech ban somehow, and I can’t imagine how that wouldn’t involve punishment. And any condemnation of certain speech carries an implicit (and sometimes explicit) request that people who make it be punished with stigma and exclusion. So I would still expect the person to want to silence me in some way, almost by definition.

The way I try to draw this line is to request people be nice until they can coordinate meanness (http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/05/02/be-nice-at-least-until-you-can-coordinate-meanness/ ) ie to assure people I’m talking to that I plan on pursuing my opinions through debate and politics rather than through targeting and directly hurting individuals on the wrong side of them. I think this is better than nothing.

But this is pretty weak protection, and I don’t think it really captures what people mean by “not planning to hurt me”. For example, I think under this formulation, telling someone they’re first up against the wall after the Revolution is okay, as long as you don’t take action before the Revolution.

And I guess that, for me personally, I don’t get panicky because I think the other person literally wants to punch me right now. I get panicky because I think the other person wants to create a society in which it’s impossible for me to live happily, and is maybe actively creating that society right now.

UK Conservatives and the alternatives

Apr. 26th, 2017 10:33 pm
mtbc: maze N (blue-white)
[personal profile] mtbc
Theresa May, the Prime Minister and leader of the UK's Conservative Party, seems keen on selling June's general election as an opportunity to vote in plenty of Conservative MPs such that she can have weight behind her in negotiating with the European Union the terms of the UK's departure and trade deals with other countries.

Electorally, the choice is an interesting one. The Conservatives actually give me more pause on other issues such as civil liberties and welfare funding. It's the former issue that has me keep half an eye on the Liberal Democrats except they don't seem to care a lot either given how little they mention it; in any case they have paled into insignificance since their disastrous coalition. I like how Labour seem in favor of spending on healthcare and schools rather than pursuing more privatization and tax cuts but the party is a divided shambles whose leader Jeremy Corbyn was recently even doubting the committing of British forces to NATO's deployment in the Baltic. Regular readers already know in what little esteem I hold the Scottish National Party.

I do always vote. It does however seem usual that the choice requires research and often a little nose-holding. I still have to read through the campaign materials for next month's local elections too. When I can't stomach any of the main parties I have been known to cast an encouraging vote for one of the others but quite rarely.

Skill challenges

Apr. 26th, 2017 06:32 pm
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
DnD 4e and 5e introduced the idea of skill challenges. Basically a unified framework for handling various things other than combat or parallel to combat that should involve more back and forth than a single roll, like a chase scene, or defusing a bomb.

The idea is, instead of a single "defuse bomb" roll, you need multiple things, open the panel without setting something off, find the deadman's switch, choose the right wire, cut it.

And these might be things that require a variety of skills.

4e designed a version which really rubbed me up the wrong way. It optimised for designing a scenario that could be run mechanically for different groups and present a particular level of challenge, and assumed that each challenge would be defined by "achieve N successes before X failures, using skills A, B, C or D".

I've only skimmed the rules for 5e but it seems to be somewhat more freeform. Because I thought this was a *great* idea, basically codifying something that a good GM would do automatically, but I really didn't like the way it was hard-coded, and presented to the players up-front.

Ideally, it should be obvious without specifying to the players. For the bomb, maybe each failure makes the bomb arm itself, then begin flashing, then finally explode. You don't know for sure how many steps, but you can tell things are getting critical. (And if you're aiming for fun rather than challenge, the GM can escalate or descelate the requirements according to how challenging this encounter should be compared to other ones that have happened this session.) It should be obvious which skills might apply, but they might lead to different paths -- a knowledge skill might open up an easier path to success, not count as a success/failure itself; different skills might stack or not; etc.

Or it ties into combat, each failure makes combat more difficult (it makes the platform you're standing on move dangerously or lets more enemies catch up), or you need to coordinate making skill rolls with other characters doing combat.

If you're improv'ing, that's all fairly easy to do, even though it's hard to spec in advance.

I said on twitter, skill challenges are a great idea, but I find it more fun if it's "how the GM designs the scenario" not "a mechanic the players need to be familiar with". Now I think of it, I see the same contrast with "what monsters you encounter". That easily can be pre-specified, and the players know, basically, the mechanics are "here's the monsters who exist" or "they spawn every two rounds" (as in 4e)[1], and know everyone faced a similar challenge. Or it can be improvised -- if the players faff around, the reinforcements arrive early, if they players have a lucky plan to bar a door, they can't come in, etc, etc. (as I'd like it).

[1] This makes sense from a tactical combat perspective, but I found very frustrating. Every 2 rounds skeletons climb out of a sarcophagus. No, you can't look inside. No, you can't judge how many skeletons could fit inside. No, you can't judge what sort of spell or effect is responsible (well, you can, but you can't expect it to matter). No, you can't try to block the lid. It's screaming "accept the premise and desperately avoid imagining being there". Except that if you do that, you have no way to judge "having the infinite spawning skeletons finished or will they continue" and are punished for guessing wrong. I feel like you could have 90% of the effect by saying "there's a pile of bones, a skeleton assembles itself out of them, there's still 3/4 of the pile left" or "the sundered skeleton parts begin to reassemble themselves" or "the air shimmers and a skeleton warrior sprouts from the ground".

Changeable weather

Apr. 26th, 2017 05:16 pm
mtbc: maze F (cyan-black)
[personal profile] mtbc
At the moment the weather is fairly pleasant: mild, barely a breeze, some sunshine and some clouds. Children play outdoors, including one young fellow on a large tricycle device. The weather has been significantly variable lately: on Sunday we were all out doing gardening and seeing how nice the tree blossom is. The growth on the tree is always a relief for me because it means that my pruning months earlier didn't kill part of what remained. I even dug my sandals out from a box in the garage. Then, yesterday morning there was ice on the car windshield when I was to leave for work and colleagues came in with tales of sleet and snow. It also developed great windiness, even blowing over rather more items than strong wind typically does, though at least the barbecue did not leave the deck.

One thing that I much enjoyed in central Ohio was clear seasons with predictable weather. I could plan ahead well on both a short and a longer timescale, the exceptions being excitingly extreme weather that I also appreciated. Climate change may reduce predictability but I retain hope that on returning the US I can again find somewhere with more anticipatable seasons. Nearer the coast there were a few more surprises: for instance, in Boston when we had heavy snowfall around Hallowe'en.

OMG an actual uterine replicator!

Apr. 26th, 2017 02:57 pm
ceb: (squee)
[personal profile] ceb
https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15112

In 50 years time we will look back on this as second only to the washing machine in the revolutionising-womens-lives stakes.

(IHNJ, IJLS "labour-saving device")

Interesting Links for 26-04-2017

Apr. 26th, 2017 12:00 pm
andrewducker: (Default)
[personal profile] andrewducker
sunflowerinrain: Singing at the National Railway Museum (Default)
[personal profile] sunflowerinrain
Counter-terrorism Division and Cyber Crime Division.
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Birthday greetings and felicitations

Apr. 25th, 2017 05:48 pm
onyxlynx: Festive pennants in blue & purple with word "Birthday" centered. (Birthday)
[personal profile] onyxlynx
Happy 100th to Ella Fitzgerald, singer extraordinaire.

(Selected samples.)

Liberation

Apr. 25th, 2017 08:50 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
[personal profile] liv
I made the classic mistake with Passover this year, of getting worked up and stressed about the practicalities of it instead of preparing spiritually. Actually it all went completely fine, but it wasn't until the last day of the festival, when all the organization was over, that I actually remembered to feel joy and celebration for being free.

contains religion )

Monday was just wonderful, though. That was when it really started to sink in that not only was I actually happy at being redeemed from slavery, but I am incredibly joyful and grateful to have such an excellent family. Both the ones I grew up with who are so great to celebrate Pesach with, and my family of choice who are incredibly supportive about joining in with my festivals and including me in theirs in a really respectful and non-pressurey way. We played D&D with [personal profile] jack GMing, something we've been meaning to do for ages and just not had time for, and it was really fun and relaxing.
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
Last post, I decided that what's "really there" for fundamental particles is typically a quantum thing, specifically, a probability wave of possible values a particle can have which appears to collapse into one particular place only when its interacted with.

However, this "collapse" sounds very suspicious. If two different particles emitted from the same particle decay (or something?) are known to have opposite spins, but not what those are, do you get all the usual wavelike behaviour, can each self-interfere, etc? Yes, of course. And yet, when you finally measure them, lo, the spins are still conveniently opposite.

Something that looks like collapsing to a single answer seems to happen, because when we measure them, we always do get a single answer. But that's not an event. If you measure one, does a spooky force reach out across the room to force the other to collapse at the same time? Does it collapse the value you measure, but still allow other properties of the particle to continue being multiple? That looks awfully like what happens, but it should seem wrong to start with, even before you ask "if you measure one particle, does the other know to wait until you interact with it, but store the answer you're going to find until then" and "if you measure them both a long way apart, does the collapse rush faster than the speed of light (aka backwards in time) to make sure both answers agree with each other?"

Any theory involving particles "knowing" or "waiting" or "choosing" depending on how you measure them sounds very unlike physics.

And yet, the particles go on behaving like probability waves until you measure them, and if they came from a shared source, then when you measure them, they DO agree. Just as if this spooky shit was happening. What might be going on?

Hypothesis 1

Whenever one particle collapses, a spooky force travels faster than the speed of light to the other particle, and then hangs around telling it what value it will have when it's finally measured.

This *works*, but hopefully you can see why it doesn't seem correct.

Hypothesis 2

Just like hypothesis 1, but we try to avoid thinking about it. This is not really satisfying, but it works and is a pragmatic default for many physicists. (Sort of Copenhagen interpretation?)

Hypothesis 3

Even while a particle is still smeared out across a probability of many potential positions/values, it has a hidden property which tells it how it's *going* to collapse when something interacts with it. Like, not necessarily "hidden", but basically some sort of determinism.

This is roughly Hidden variables interpretation (right?)

This would be fairly satisfactory except that it turns out it's impossible.

This is not very mysterious or controversial, but involves more simple probability than I can manage to wade through. Look up the EPR paradox or the Bell inequality. The idea is, you choose something like polarisation angle that could be measured at many different angles. You randomly choose to measure at different angles for two particles known to have opposite polarisation. There are various correlations between the probabilities when you measure the two particles at an angle to each other (the detectors neither parallel nor orthogonal). You can prove that no possible hidden value would make all those correlations true at once, but QM does and that's what's actually observed.

I can't really prove this to myself, let alone anyone else, but AFAIK no reputable physicists doubt that it's correct, only maybe what it means, so I'm willing to accept it as true.

There are still edge cases, like, people argue whether the experiments have ABSOLUTELY DEFINITELY proved this spooky collapse effect would have to go faster than the speed of light, rather than going at a possible speed (but depending what exact moment sets it off, etc). But I don't find any of that very persuasive. A spooky collapse effect which is triggered by measuring a particle and goes at the speed of light or below, while not ABSOLUTELY DEFINITELY ruled out, doesn't sound at all likely. I don't think anyone seriously expects that if they make the distance apart in those measurements a bit bigger, they'll suddenly get difference results: that's not how you expect physics to happen.

Hypothesis 4

Those weird quantum probability waves don't only exist for tiny particles, they happen just the same for everything including macroscopic objects, humans, etc, but you can't observe the effects except for tiny things (because to see interference you need something isolated from other particles, and you need to be able to detect its wavelength, which is way too small for anything bigger than a molecule).

I'm still working on understanding *why*, if that's true, it produces the effects we see. But most physicists, even ones who don't like this line of reasoning, seem to agree that it *would*.

This makes everything above non-mysterious. How does the collapse effect move around? It doesn't. Every "collapse" is just another probability thing of a scientist (and all the other macroscopic stuff) interacting with a particle and becoming two never-interacting possible scientists, one observing A, one observing B. We know both happen. We know, when we measure things light-hours apart and then compare notes, that we will be comparing notes with the version of the other scientist who observed the opposite polarisation to what we saw, while our shadow twin will be comparing notes with the other scientist's shadow twin.

The multiple non-interacting versions of the macroscopic world are called "many worlds" or "parallel universes" which admittedly makes them sound very implausible.

It seems like, this leaves some things to ponder, but resolves a very large part of the things people find mysterious. And yet, many physicists really don't like it. I need to read the bits of Scott Aaron's book about different interpretations[1], because I trust him to know more about this than me and he doesn't seem convinced.

Footnote [1]

The hypotheses above are called interpretations. I don't know if my ones exactly map onto the real ones. The name is because they all predict the same results, and yet seem quite different.

You can argue, "they're the same", but I don't quite agree. See for instance space outside our light cone -- we have no way of observing it, so the hypotheses "it's got physics just like ours but with different stuff there" and "it's all purple unicorns" are both possible, and yet, the first one seems a lot more like actual reality.

In both cases, it sort of doesn't matter, but you can imagine (a) which answer is most plausible, most useful, easiest to work with, or least ridiculous (b) if we're wrong and there IS some difference, which one would actually be found to be the one that exists.

Requiescat in Pace

Apr. 25th, 2017 09:08 am
onyxlynx: Some trees and a fountain at a cemetery (A Fine and Private Place)
[personal profile] onyxlynx
It turns out that the political situation is making for mental constipation. Which calls for some mental coffee and banana. Soon.All NY Times obituaries.
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
You should be able to select multiple pokemon from your reserves when choosing which pokemon to fight with.

When you're training a friendly gym, the default pokemon selection should avoid pokemon very slightly higher CP than the ones you're fighting that automatically reduce the prestige gained by 40%.

"Vaporeon used hydropump" should always come slightly before the special move takes effect, rather than slightly after.

If your pokemon is on 5% health and you switch to another pokemon and that one is knocked out, its default replacement should be the *next* one, not the one which will be knocked out instantly. (Is there a shortcut for "next pokemon" without going through the pokemon select screen?)

If your switch pokemon and while you're in the pokemon select screen, your previous pokemon faints or you forget which pokemon you started with, and you click frantically click a pokemon again and again trying to select it and nothing happens, it should select that pokemon even if it's the one already selected.

If you select "run away" there should be a quick gesture to do so in a single click, without needing to get to the "yes" button before your next pokemon is knocked out too.
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
This has so much I love.

An interesting space empire, full of detailed calendrical minutae, customs, etc, etc.

A mathematically gifted protagonist struggling to serve loyally as a minor officer in the infantry.

A legendary rogueish maybe-monster.

The empire is built on basically mathematically-based magic, following particular social codes (both on an "infantry formation scale" and a "society as a whole" scale) allows various exotic technologies to work that wouldn't otherwise, including more powerful weapons and other tech that enables the empire to function at all.

I had some reservations too, which may contain spoilers, so will be moved into a follow-up post. Please make any comments which contain spoilers on that post too.