Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nick Meets an Angel

Nick Herbert caught off guard at his lab bench
In the summer of 1960, I was living in a loft in Berkeley near Rose and Shattuck and working as a lab tech at the Berkeley Radiation Lab, minding the liquid hydrogen refrigerator for the 72-inch bubble chamber which tracked nuclear events spawned by protons from the Berkeley Bevatron--the highest-energy particle accelerator of its day, comparable to today's LHC. A few years earlier physicists at the Bevatron had discovered the antiproton  and were exploring other new high-energy hadron reactions.

I had just completed my first year of course work at Stanford, was teaching a graduate physics lab and preparing for the qualifying exams for the PhD. I was a practicing Catholic then and was reading Dante's Inferno, the Book of Job, Chesterton's Orthodoxy and planning to find a spiritual advisor at Berkeley's Newman Club. I was working swing shift at the Rad Lab which seriously disrupted my sleep schedule. I had fallen in  love with a woman named Audrey in San Francisco and was enjoying exploring the City's bounties with her and her two roommates. At that time (Summer 1960) the only mind-altering drugs I had ever experienced were legal and ethanol-based.

The bedroom in my loft had a small window with a view of San Francisco Bay. I was sitting on my bed in T-shirt and sweat pants with my back to the window getting ready for sleep one night when I suddenly heard a voice in the empty room. "Hello, Nick." I turned to the window but no one could have climbed up the sheer wall and spoken thru the panes. The voice was inside my head.

"Hello, Nick." The voice was male, a middle-aged man, spoken in a matter-of-fact way. The man, who I will call "Tony", did not identify himself and got straight to the point.

"You are reaching a crucial stage in your life, Nick, and must make a choice between two careers. Two kinds of life await you and I am asking you now to choose between them. One life will be regular, understandable and conventional; the other will be unusual, unpredictable and unconventional. Both of these lives are good lives. Now choose between them."

"How can I choose?" I told the voice in my head. "Tell me more about these lives."

"You know all you need to know," the voice replied. "Now choose."

"Tell me more, " I pleaded. "Make your choice," said the voice in my head.

And so it went for five or ten frustrating minutes. I wanted more info. He wanted me to choose.

"Alright," the voice said and vanished. I got the sense that "Tony" had other obligations that night and didn't have the time to waste with me. I was shaking all over during this encounter and my clothes were soaked with sweat. "What the hell was that?" I thought.

I did what any scientist would do. I went to the library.

I found that people hearing voices was not uncommon. More than 10% of folks have heard voices and now I was one of them. This experience gave me a sympathetic ear for people whom I met later in life who reported hearing voices too.

Being a sophisticated scientist, my first assumption was that "Tony" was a part of my subconscious and that I was simply "speaking to myself". However, the experience didn't feel that way. Tony felt like a real person, different from me, with a distinct personality. From his tone of voice and manner of speaking, "Tony" came across as a regular guy, a butcher or a bus driver, who was now working as some sort of discarnate bureaucrat. I call him an "angel" because he was a discarnate entity, but far below the level of God and the saints. If I was making "Tony" up, I was doing a great acting job. It really worked. The guy felt real.

A second argument against my making this up was the utter ordinariness of the transaction. If I possessed an unconscious need to star in some fabulous drama, why not invent some Egyptian king, wizard or holy man to talk to?  Why did I make up ordinary Tony and not Hermes Trimegistus?

I marked this experience as "unsolved" and went on with my life. But three years later I met "Tony" again.

In three years a lot had happened. I had been accepted for the PhD program, I had (uneventfully) ceased being a Catholic, I had come within inches of losing my life in a climbing accident on Mt Shasta and, thanks to some dear friends in the Stanford psychology department, I had experienced LSD--a big dose.

I was then living in Los Trancos Woods, a semi-rural area in the hills behind Stanford, and had just dropped acid for the third time. I was awaiting my sitter (in those days we always had sitters to provide "ground control") but my friend was delayed waiting for a pie to bake. So for the first part of the trip I was on my own and exploring the sensual distortions, the merging with the walls and scenery and the philosophical paradoxes that a few mikes of this mind medicine can be counted on to produce.

What I didn't count on was that in the middle of my trip, Tony showed up. "Hi, Nick, " he said. "Same choice. No new information." "OK," I said. "I'll take that strange life." (Given the context, it was obvious what path I had already chosen.) "Thanks," said Tony, noting my decision on some invisible clipboard (Sometime later religion scholar Jeffrey Kripal dubbed this experience the "clipboard angel".)  My angel vanished and though I have since had a few more episodes of voices in my head, none of them ever behaved like Tony.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Science Friday

Wisdom is often found between the covers.


1. Matter Fundamentalism:
Matter is all there is.
Behind phenomena
there is no Other
with Whom to connect.

2.  Classical Mysticism:
Every instant of our life
is an exercise in merging
with an ever-present Mystery
that today's scientists
are impotent to discern.

3. Classical Tantra:
Every glance is Her Glance
Every touch Her Touch
Every smell is Her sexual attractant
Every meeting a teaching.

4. Quantum Tantra:
For millennia we've played in the shallows
Our sciences mere baby steps
With the advent of quantum reality
Get ready to taste Nature's depths.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Nick's New Eye

Left eye lens implant 12/8/2011
Having trouble driving at night: headlight glare and 4-6 degree rainbow halos around small light sources; loss of contrast and fuzzy vision similar to dirty glasses. Black musical notes look grey. Diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes. Cataract means opacities in the lens which in advanced stages look white like water at the bottom of a waterfall. Hence the name. Modern cure for this eye disease is surgical removal of lens under local anesthetic and replacement with optically corrected clear polymer lens.

I made appointment with surgeon Harvey Fishman and after exchanging the secret Stanford handshake he told me more than I needed to know about the structure of my eye and details of the surgery. Using space-age diagnostic instruments, his staff measured lots of parameters of my eyes including corneal topography so that the replacement lens would give me perfect vision. Harvey is also the inventor of an iPhone app called EyeSnapi for taking pictures of the eye to email to your doctor.

I was very anxious about this operation because it involves being conscious while someone cuts opens your eye. Yet many people that I spoke to assured me that the operation was not unpleasant. During the operation I was conscious of a bright field of light containing three fuzzy rectangular objects and could hear and respond to voices but the operation was generally comfortable and not traumatic. In addition to the local anesthetic, nurses administer a sedative related to Valium thru an IV. The operation lasted about half an hour after which my friends Alan and Sun drove me home.

Recovery consists of administering lots of expensive eye drops four times a day and wearing a protective eye patch at night.. After a few days I have pretty good vision in both eyes but the size of the image in the operated eye is about 20% larger than the natural eye which still requires a corrective lens. My neural programming is rapidly adapting to the new eye and for most activities I can function just fine. Going down stairways is difficult--I sometimes perceive twice as many steps as normal beings. An informative account of recovery from this surgery by Charles ("Doctors make awful patients") Slonim, a cataract surgeon who experienced the operation himself, is here.

So now I am seeing the world in two ways, thru an artificial lens in my left eye and thru a natural lens in my right eye--a bit of a cyborg like Captain Picard who was captured by the Borg and transformed into Locutus, a human/Borg hybrid with artificial enhancements including an artificial eye. Thanks for my new clear vision, Doctor Fishman. Resistance (to artificial lens implants) is futile.

Captain Picard as the Borg Locutus

Friday, December 9, 2011

Ode to Ed

Ed Cramer MCs at the BC Bistro


An artist, a dreamer, a roustabout clown
a friend, a sativer, a man-about-town
a poet, a lover, a sly mischief-maker
a scholar, a shaman, a fine master baker
a lover of life and of yeast and of dough
and of things that go "squish" in the night.

You've seen the movie "Oklahoma"
It celebrates historic pride
where farmers, ranchers made there home--ah!
Well, Ed's folks were on the other side
and (if they could speak)
they'd sure want us to understand
we're squatting here tonight on Indian land.

What scent is that thru yonder window breaks?
Methinks it smells of something good that bakes
Mayhaps some freaky pizza, magic muffins, 

grainful bread
We see, smell, touch and taste the genius of Ed
True Nature's* hearty oven-tending fiend
he daily masterbakes behind the scenes.

In our Moorish Church, his holy name
is Grand Imam Omar abu Khan
Fakir of the Mountain's Teat
a friend to woman--and to "mon".
As part of his august profession
Omar's empowered to hear confession
Your guilt, your shame, your most obscene...
bring to Omar: he'll wipe you clean
With Omar, you never have to take a chance:
your sins are always pardoned in advance.

And Ed invented Captain Bathrobe
a champion in the war on drugs
who knows that downing tabs or mugs
of mind-perturbing chemistry
is part of ancient human history:
for where would we ignorant monkeys be
if you chopped off our curiosity?

To JJ's mountain lair** he oft repaired
with Craig# and Ashley##, 

our late lamented Buddhist bard
seduced by that hot flirtatious muse
of poetry to launch enormous argosies
of verse on love and death and life
and catch the scent of poet's paradise.

An artist, a dreamer, a roustabout clown
a friend, a sativer, a man-about-town
a poet, a lover, a sly mischief-maker
a scholar, a shaman, a fine master baker
a lover of life and of yeast and of dough
and of things that go "squish" in the night.

*True Nature: BC organic restaurant
**JJ's lair: J. J. Webb's Poetry Grove north of BC
##Ashley: Ashley Walker, Australian performance artist
#Craig: Craig Anderson, BC's own Arthur Rimbaud 
See Boulder Creek BistroScene

The Poet by Ed Cramer

Friday, November 11, 2011

Supernature--the Story of Esalen

Esalen Institute--a lab for exploring radical human possibilities.
I got my first glimpse of Esalen in February 1963. Stanford psychology grad student Allen Sidle and his wife told me about something hot happening in Big Sur. Together with Tom Records (who later joined a Gurdjieff group in New York) we drove south along the rugged California coast to a spot on the map labeled "Slate's Hot Springs", which boasted a cliff-side bath house, a lodge and several motel rooms.

We traveled down there to hear a Stanford religion professor talk about his mystical experience. Frederic Spiegelberg, author of many books on comparative religions, as a teacher at Stanford had deeply impressed both Dick Price and Michael Murphy, who were busy turning Slate's Hot Springs into a meditation and seminar center which they were calling "Esalen Institute".

Our little gang was privileged to witness Esalen in embryo--the place was barely six months old.

Professor Spiegelberg spoke that sunny afternoon to an audience of about 20 people, standing not in a traditional classroom but on the edge of a cliff with the Pacific Ocean as his backdrop. He told us of his trip to the ashram of Shri Aurobindo in Pondicherry, India. Aurobindo was seated in a chair in a small room with a long line of devotees at the door who one by one came forward to receive his blessing. Spiegelberg awaited his turn, stepped forward, met the Master's gaze and was suddenly "X-rayed to the core" by some psychic emanation flowing from that being in the chair. The encounter lasted no more than a few seconds in "real time" but to Spiegelberg it seemed to last forever. He spent an hour attempting to describe to us what he could remember and express of this powerful and unexpected shaktipat experience in the presence of Aurobindo. It sounded to me an awfully lot like LSD.

I returned to Esalen many times: to hear Tim Leary speak, to participate with Ed Maupin in his "Symbo Experiment" in group telepathy, to attend meetings convened by Ralph Abraham, Terence McKenna and Jeffrey Kripal, to explore with wife Betsy near-by Lime Kiln Creek and sometimes just to enjoy the baths. For several years, with Saul-Paul Sirag, I led seminars on quantum physics which are mentioned in Rice University professor Jeffrey Kripal's authoritative history Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion.

Recently Kripal and Cinema Arts film producer Scott Hulan Jones have been constructing a film version of the history of Esalen with the working title Supernature: Esalen and the Human Potential. A big portion of the movie is already "in the can", and using material from the Esalen archives, they hope to complete a rough cut by September 2012, to coincide with the celebration of Esalen's 50th birthday.

You can view here the first Supernature trailer, featuring a few of "the hippies who saved physics", as well as founder Mike Murphy, Jeffrey Kripal and other Esalen worthies. To raise money for additional filming and editing, the Supernature crew is seeking funding via Kickstart. In its nearly fifty years of existence, Esalen Institute has transformed many thousands of lives. If you have benefited in any way from Esalen, kicking in to support Supernature would be a great way to return the favor.

Scott Hulan Jones at Esalen's Big House

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Time Machine Design

Japanese Translation of Nick Herbert's Faster Than Light
Starting from the upper right, and reading downward, the characters are phonetic ta-i-mu, but the ending u goes silent, so this is "time" and is written in English (katakana).

The middle column phonetically reads ma-shi-n, or "machine" again written in English.  The bottom character is the phonetic Japanese particle -no- indicating possession.

The top character in the left column is the verb tsuku- which means "to build", and it is followed by a phonetic -ri, turning it into a noun meaning "construction".

The bottom character on the left is kata (the same word as in martial arts), meaning "form".  The composite tsukurikata means "building instructions".

So the whole thing reads time machine no tsukurikata which literally means "time machine's building instructions" -- Cool!

(translation by Alec MacCall, Santa Cruz NOAA scientist and Celtic musician). Thanks, Alec.


How could the ability to signal faster-than-light be used to construct a time machine? Here physicist/programmer Richard Baker shows what you would need to send a signal from the present to the past if your FTL signal was infinitely fast--instantaneous communication as in Ursula LeGuin's science-fiction "ansible". 

Baker starts by considering the rest frame V = 0 and drawing a Minkowski diagram with time increasing in the upward direction and one spatial dimension plotted in the sidewards direction. In this diagram, the speed-of-light limit divides spacetime into two distinct regions: 1) those events that can be causally connected to point P (which are called "time-like") and 2) those events that are causally disconnected from P--called "space-like". In Baker's diagram time-like events occur in the yellow region, which is called the "light-cone", and space-like events occur in the blue region, called the "absolute elsewhere".

If we could send an instantaneous signal from P, it would travel along the white horizontal axis (t = 0) in FIG 1, but it would not go backwards in time. To build a time machine we need to introduce a second reference frame moving to the right at velocity V with respect to the rest frame.
FIG 1 -- Spacetime diagram: Rest Frame V = 0
The fundamental premise of Einstein's theory of special relativity is that space and time look different for observers that are in relative motion. A system of equations called the Lorentz Transformations shows how to translate between the spacetime events as they appear to an observer in the rest frame (V = 0) and to an observer in the frame moving at velocity V.

FIG 2 -- V= 1/4 c Frame as seen in V = 0 Rest Frame

Assume that our moving frame is traveling at 1/4 of the speed of light. This moving frame is bounded by the same light cones but in the rest frame the moving frames time and space axes seem tilted as
shown by heavy blue lines in FIG 2. Now if the observer in the moving frame sends an instantaneous signal to the right--the direction of his frame's motion--it will always go forward in time (as seen from the rest frame). However, if the moving observer sends an instant signal in the opposite direction, it will seem (in the rest frame) to go backwards in time.

One way to remember the direction of this effect is to imagine running on an escalator. If you run UP the UP escalator, all you do is go faster. But if you run DOWN the UP escalator fast enough you can go backwards in time.

The signal goes back in time but it is traveling into the rest frame's elsewhere. To construct a time machine in the rest frame we have to bounce that signal back. This is accomplished with a second frame located at distance D traveling at velocity minus V. We do the "DOWN the UP escalator trick" in this second frame and the signal returns to the rest frame BEFORE IT WAS SENT.

Richard Baker concisely derives the time machine effect for FTL signals which travel instantly. I will follow his example (and modify his diagrams) for FTL signals of finite velocity Z where Z is greater than c--the velocity of light. I will derive the "time machine equation" for all frame velocities V and all FTL signaling velocities Z, but in FIG 3 will show the results for only one frame speed (V = 1/4 c) and three FTL speeds (Z = 2c, 4c and 8c).

FIG 3 -- FTL signals (Z = 2c, 4c, 8c) in the 1/4 c frame--viewed from the Rest Frame

Deriving the time machine equation is a schoolgirl exercise in special relativity. Lorentz transforming into the moving frame, putting in a slanted line representing a signal traveling at velocity Z, then transforming back to the rest frame, it is easy to see that the "time machine factor" F is given by the simple expression:

F = (ZV - 1)/(Z - V)

when Z and V are expressed in multiples of c, F is a dimensionless number proportional to how far back you go in time when sending an FTL signal Z a distance D from a frame traveling at velocity V. Only if F is positive do signals go backwards in time.

The "one-way time-travel equation" is: T = FD

For example if D = 1 light-year and F = 1/2 then T is 1/2 year backwards in time. Since the time machine is not complete unless we bounce the signal back, this number must be doubled.

The "time machine equation" is: T = 2FD

It is easy to see that the time machine factor will only be positive if Z > 1/V. Therefore for a pair of frames moving at V = 1/4 c, the FTL signal must be faster than 4c for the time machine to work. FIG 3 shows three values of Z. For Z = 2c, the signal goes into the future; for Z = 4c, the signal stays at t = 0, traveling neither into the past nor the future. For Z = 8c, the signal travels into the past. Only the last FTL signal is fast enough to build a time machine.

As the speed Z is made faster and faster, the time machine factor F goes to V. Thus the time machine expression T(instant) for instantaneous (ansible-class) signal speeds is:

T(instant) = 2VD

To put these numbers in perspective, we imagine building a time machine that sends an FTL signal from Earth to the Moon and back that arrives at Earth before it was sent. For our moving frames we use rotating disks whose rim velocities are V = 1/4c from which FTL signals can be sent and received at speed Z. To keep the numbers simple, we assume the Earth-Moon distance to be D = 2 light-seconds.

Time Machine operating between Earth and Moon

To operate the time machine we send the FTL signal when the disk is moving in the opposite direction to the motion of the FTL signal (using the DOWN the UP elevator effect) and we receive this signal at a detector moving at the same speed and direction as the sender. When V = 1/4c and Z = 8c, the time machine factor F is 0.129. From the time machine equation we see that the signal will/did arrive at Earth about 1/2 second before it was sent. The signal can be resent N times and progressively displaced 1/2 N second backwards in time but no further back than when the machine was first turned on.

For Z = 8c, the one-bounce time travel is 1/2 second. If the machine were operating in ansible mode (Z = infinity), the time machine factor F is equal to V which in this case is 1/4. Hence in ansible mode the one-bounce time travel interval is 4 x 1/4 = one second backwards in time.

Faster-than-light signaling devices have long been a science-fiction staple, from Ursula LeGuin's ansible to Star Trek's subspace radio. A short review of famous fictional FTL devices can be found here.

Artist's conception of Ursula LeGuin's Ansible FTL communicator

Monday, October 31, 2011

Sward Soars

Santa Cruz poet Robert Sward (photo: Alan Lundell)
Gathering this Sunday at artist/sculptor Coeleen Kiebert's garden studio overlooking the Pacific to celebrate the publication by Red Hen Press of New and Selected Poems 1957-2011 by Robert Sward. Poets and artists in great abundance. Many of the Santa Cruz cogniscenti showed up at Coeleen's including local columnist Bruce Bratton, poets Len Anderson, David Swenger, Tilly Shaw, T. Mike Walker, Joanna Martin, Robin Lysne. Stephen Kessler, Dean Cervine, Sun Lundell. Angela Blessing was there, along with Bruce Damer, Elke Maus, Ken Adams and dozens of other colorful folk I did not recognize. Encouraged by his many admirers, Sward roared and soared. The event was videoed by Alan and Sun Lundell.

Sward's wife Gloria Alford created the cover art Words, Words, Words for her husband's book. In Gloria's painting the alphabet seems to be emerging from the walls of a cave--as if humans were only just beginning to discover the uses of language.

Sward often uses humor as a wedge to pry open and examine the insoluable complexities of ordinary life. Some of his poems consist of imagined conversations with his dead father, a Chicago Jewish podiatrist turned AMORC  mystic, the subject of Sward's collection Rosicrucian in the Basement. For example:


"We walk with angels
and they are our feet."

"'Vibrating energy packets,'" he calls them. "'Bundles of soul
in a world of meat.'  Early warning system--
dry skin and brittle nails;
feeling of numbness and cold;
these are symptoms; they mean something.
I see things physicians miss."

"All you have to do is open your eyes, just open your eyes,
and you'll see: seven-eighths of everything is invisible, a spirit
inside the spirit.
The soul is rooted in the foot.
As your friend Bly says, 'The soul longs to go down';
feet know the way to the other world,
that world where people are awake.
So do me a favor: Dream me no dreams.
A dreamer is someone who's asleep."

"You know, the material world is infinite,
but boring infinite," he says, cigarette in hand,
little wings fluttering at his ankles.

"And women," he says, smacking his head,
"four times as many foot problems as men.
High heels are the culprit."

"I may be a podiatrist, but I know what I'm about:
feet. Feet don't lie,
don't cheat, don't kiss ass. Truth is,
peoples' feet are too good for them."

Robert Sward and Gloria Alford in Coeleen's garden

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Memorable Halloween

Attila the Hun
A few years ago, August O' Connor and I were invited to one of Santa Cruz's most exclusive social events--Kate Bowland's annual Halloween Party. Kate Bowland is a legend in midwife circles, has delivered more than a thousand babies, and helped make more people-friendly both home and hospital births in California. And Kate knows everyone. So her party was sure to be a "scene".

The rules were simple. Show up as some recognizable character and for the first two hours, play that character's role. Afterwards you can be yourself. Kate was dressed as her favorite childhood hero--Annie Oakley--and would cock and fire an empty BB gun into the air whenever she pleased. Her husband Steve was dressed as Mikhail Gorbachev, complete with forehead birthmark, grey suit with red star on the lapel. Steve greeted every guest with a hearty Russian bearhug: "Welcome to the party!"

Later in the kitchen, Kate told us that many of the stories about Annie Oakley that her father "read" to her as a child were most probably the products of her father's imagination. She was never able to find many of these stories in any Annie Oakley bios.

Entirely unplanned, one woman came as Jackie Kennedy and another as Marilyn Monroe. After sizing up each other across the room they got together and treated the guests to a splendid cat fight. Most of the guests agreed that this tussle of celebrities was one of the evening's high points.

I decided to engage with Atilla the Hun who was sitting in a throne-like chair royally observing the proceedings with a jaundiced eye. "Hi, Atilla," I said, "You're obviously a very powerful man. But I sense that you are in need of my help." I was wearing what looked like a corny Batman (or cat) mask with a green Celtic knot on my chest.

"Need your help? I need to kill and eat you. Who are you anyway?"

Atilla was obviously really getting into his role.

"Never mind me," I said. "See that woman over there? Let's call her over here."

I gesture to August and she slithers over to Atilla's throne. "This is Lady Luck," I say. "And I am Lord Luck. Would you accept our help? Do you agree that you need us?"

"Cancel the death threat," says Atilla. "The help of both of you I most definitely can use."

Even a barbarian warlord recognizes how important it is to have luck on your side.

Later, after the meal and the customary intoxicants, I wandered out onto Kate's deck to discover King Satan himself lying in a beach chair looking out over the lights of Santa Cruz and into the darkness of Monterey Bay. I sat next to him and shared one of my long-term fantasies--not as legendary Lord Luck but as ordinary Nick Herbert.

"Mephistopheles, I presume?"

"That's me."

"As a scientist, Meph, I've always been fascinated by the Faust legend--the notion of negotiating with the Devil himself for some deep wisdom not accessible to others. So I'm really excited to meet you and want to hear more about that famous "Faustian bargain". Do you take my soul and give me deep wisdom in exchange?"

"That soul stuff is really old-fashioned," the guy in the devil suit replied, taking another sip from his bottle of beer. "The price for deep wisdom is very different from what you've been told."

"What's the price?"

"The price for deep wisdom, Nick, is separation--separation from the life of ordinary humanity. End of interview."

I left Satan to enjoy his view of the Bay and am still contemplating his version of the Faustian bargain. He was not really Satan, after all--just an ordinary guy in a mask at Kate Bowland's party. But his answer is certainly worth thinking about.

Thanks, Kate, for a truly memorable Halloween.

On other fronts, Los Gatos sci-fi author and Renaissance man, Rudy Rucker, recently published on his blog, the simplest description of quantum tantra that I have ever read. Read Rudy's post and inform yourself about the next big quantum science/religion/medicine/recreation of the future.

Lord and Lady Luck

Sunday, October 9, 2011

How to Build Time Machine

Faster Than Light--Japanese Edition
The hottest news in physics this fall was the alleged discovery at CERN that neutrinos travel slightly faster than light. Most physicists believe this measurement is the result of some as yet undiscovered systematic error but already a handful of theoretical physicists are claiming that they have a new theory which can explain these spectacular results.

A few years ago I published a book Faster Than Light: Superluminal Loopholes in Physics that explored possibilities for exceeding Einstein's well-known universal speed limit. Note for the record: I did not anticipate superluminal neutrinos. But in that book I do make the claim that if superluminal particles exist, then it would be possible to build a time machine--that is, a device that sends signals from the future into the past, allowing us to "know the future" before it actually happens. Somewhere in that book I may have actually posted a design for such a device. Why else would the Japanese edition of this book (pictured above) be called How to Build Time Machine?

Can one actually build a time machine using superluminal particles?  Suppose such a device works by sending signals back and forth from the Moon. Both on Moon and Earth you have access to spinning disks whose edges travel at 1/2 light speed. Mounted on these disks are sender/receivers of superluminal particles that travel at twice the speed of light. For ease of calculation assume that the Earth-Moon distance is 2 light seconds.

1. How would you construct a time machine (TM) using these ingredients?

2. How far into the future would your TM reach?

3. Could such TMs be cascaded to extend their range indefinitely?

Send solutions to I will publish the most interesting Time Machine proposal on this blog and award the winner a copy of Physics on All Fours.

Warning: You may have to invent some slightly new physics to solve this problem. For instance, how does the velocity addition rule work for FTL particles? And how does one correctly interpret the
space-dependent clock shift in the Lorentz Transformations?

Gentlemen (and Ladies), start your (faster than light) engines.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sirag Numbers Enter the Canon

Saul-Paul Sirag lecturing at Esalen Institute
The Sirag Numbers, first arising in the context of "accidental commutation" in the quantum theory of angular momentum (and dedicated to Saul-Paul on his 72nd birthday), were first defined on this blog and partially "tamed" by myself and Saul-Paul Sirag.

Recently these numbers have attracted the attention of the larger mathematical community (thank you, Antti Karttunem) and are now listed in the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences as Integer Sequence A196224. The Sirag Numbers were "completely tamed" by Jack Brennan, Ray Chandler, Charles P. Greathouse and Harvey P. Dale who devised formulas which generate all Sirag numbers. Happy birthday, Saul-Paul! Now that this sequence has been officially recognized, the one thing lacking is to discover an application for Sirag Numbers in the real world.

Also in the news this week, sci-fi author Rudy Rucker paid me a visit at the Quantum Tantric Ashram where we discussed philosophy and literature in my redwood forest retreat. Over tea and stollen, Rudy presented me with copies of his book of paintings Better Worlds and his latest novel, set in Santa Cruz CA, Jim and the Flims which chronicles a throroughly Ruckeresque vision of the afterlife. Hint: the Rucker afterlife is not even close to what you've been taught in school; it more resembles some seriously twisted DMT trip.

Also this weekend Beverly Rubik, a colleague from the Consciousness Theory Group and the Esalen Seminars on the Nature of Reality, invited me to Berkeley to give a talk at her Institute for Frontier Science.

Dr Beverly Rubik, PhD

I took Beverly's invitation as an opportunity to express my latest conceptions about quantum tantra and to read from my work-in-progress Harlot Nature. The talk was well-attended by a responsive crowd which included Dana Ullman, Jim Johnson and Allison Kennedy, the co-founder of the innovative Berkeley-based psychocyberdelic magazine Mondo 2000.

Nick performing at Institute for Frontier Science

After the talk Beverly treated Allison and I to supper at P. F. Chang's Chinese Bistro in Emeryville. Walking to Chang's in the dark our group was surprised by what appeared to be a hidden portal to another reality but when entered turned out to be a time tunnel memorializing the landscape's early inhabitants. Inside the portal, a parade of black stone slabs, each etched with text and pictures, told the story of Emeryville's former human habitation, brief by geological standards. A beautiful and informative piece of public art--the city of Emeryville's Shellmound Memorial.  

Entrance to Emeryville Shellmound Memorial

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Quantum Tantra Stripped Bare

Nick Herbert aka Doctor Jabir 'abd al-Khaliq
At the invitation of Len Anderson, though the auspices of Poetry Santa Cruz, Nick Herbert appeared as Featured Poet at Poet/Speak, a monthly open reading at the downtown Santa Cruz Library. This reading happened to coincide with a Greek Street Festival sponsored by Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church across the street which added a wonderful ethnic gaiety to our readings, as poets in the upstairs library room vied to outshout the clarinets, bouzoukis and Zorba impersonators downstairs in the library parking lot.

For this reading, Nick takes on the persona of Doctor Jabir, who prophesizes in tongues the Quantum Tantric Revelation: that someday soon quantum theory will give humans a more intimate way of connecting with Nature that will supercede our present-day science and religions.

His Epistle to the Greeks is the high-water mark of Jabir's prophetic career. In this performance, Jabir enters a poetic trance and strips quantum tantra bare! Fortunately this landmark Epistle to the Greeks did not evaporate into thin air, but happened to be captured on video by Alan and Sun Lundell from Cougar Rock Ridge in Boulder Creek.

Jabir's Epistle to the Greeks represents the purest revelation to date of the Inner Truth of Quantum Tantra. Al and Sun just happened to be in the right place, at the right time, to record the quantum tantric equivalent of the Sermon on the Mount.

Friday, September 9, 2011

September Events

Nick contemplating the Sirag Numbers
First of all, I would like to thank all the peeples dat remembers my birthday this year. And thanks for the many sweet birthday gifts including the opportunity to handle an 1895 Winchester 45-70 rifle

On Sunday, Sept 18, Nick will be the Featured Reader at Poet/Speak, a monthly event hosted by Poetry Santa Cruz. Reading will occur at 2 PM at Santa Cruz Main Library Meeting Room, 224 Church St. Santa Cruz, CA. Open Mike signup. A rare chance to experience quantum tantra live.

On Tuesday, Sept 20, MIT professor David Kaiser will describe his new book "How the Hippies Saved Physics" at the University Club in San Francisco from 6 to 9 PM. Some of the "hippies" will be present for interrogation including Jack Sarfatti, Fred Allen Wolf and Russell Targ. $25 including refreshments. For more info contact Michael Sarfatti at

The Sirag numbers have been partially tamed! Mark Buchanan and Dick Shoup produced a list of SN up to 2995 from which Saul-Paul Sirag extracted several quasi-periodic interval pattern of period 32. From Saul-Paul's data, Nick Herbert constructed this morning the basic equations that all Sirag numbers must satisfy. The Herbert equations classify all Sirag numbers as Primary SNs or Secondary SNs. For the Primary SNs the Herbert equations generate true Sirag numbers. For the Secondary SNs, the Herbert algorithm generates true Sirag numbers but also false ones. However the Herbert classification is exhaustive--any true Sirag number will be generated by one of the Herbert algorithms.

The Primary Sirag numbers (SPs) fall in two classes, Even and Odd. Their defining algorithms are:

SE(n) = 12 + 32n where n = 0 -> N
SO(n) = 12 + 32n - 25 where n = 1 -> N

The Even Sirag numbers SE(n) repeat with a period of 32 beginning with the first Sirag number J*(1) =12. The Odd Sirag numbers SO(n) repeat with a period of 32 beginning with J*(3) = 19. Thus the primary Sirag numbers are represented by two superposed periodic sequences separated by the interval "7". These two equations generate true Sirag numbers but fail to generate ALL SIRAG NUMBERS. For instance J*(2) = 15 is not a member of SO(n). J*(2) is a Secondary Sirag number (SS).

The Secondary Sirag numbers (SSs) fall into four classes--SS3, SS4, SS12 and SS13. These SNs are generated by the four equations:

SS3(n) = SO(n) - 3
SS4(n) = SO(n) - 4
SS12(n) = SE(n) -12
SS13(n) = SE(n) - 13

Any Sirag numbers will be found to be described either as a SP or a SS. Thus this classification is exhaustive. The first set of equations (SPs) can be used to generate Sirag numbers; the second set (SSs) are useful only for classification--some of the numbers generated are not true Sirag numbers.

As an example of this classification scheme we can now recognize J*(2) as SS4(1). The famous Sirag number "1939" representing the year of Saul-Paul's birth turns out to be the Primary Sirag number SO(61). Does the largest computed Sirag number "2995" belong to one of these sets?

The skeptical reader may wish to check Herbert's claims by testing to see if any Sirag number refuses to be pressed into one of these six classifications.

Herbert's equations for the Sirag numbers are a generalization of Saul-Paul's discovery that the intervals between consecutive Sirag numbers are dominated by "7"s and "25"s. And that these intervals are further haphazardly divided into sub-intervals "3 + 4 = 7" and "12 + 13 = 25". And these intervals are the ONLY INTERVALS that appear. No pattern has yet been discovered in the distribution of subintervals, Hence the present lack of an algorithm that will generate all Sirag numbers.

Now shout it from the rooftops:
The Sirag Numbers are (partially) tamed!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Candy From Strangers

Rudy Rucker's shameless "webzine without a net"
FLURB tests the edges--careful!--no guard rails.
After reading Rucker & DiFilippo's Fjaerland
in FLURB12
Nick was hooked.
Inspiring fables for quantum tantrikas.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Sirag Numbers

Saul-Paul Sirag, a "hippie that saved physics"
Yesterday, I issued a challenge to my physicist friends to solve a problem that, as Jeffrey Bub informed me, does not even exist. My challenge was based on the fact that for quantum spins 1/2 and 1, the squares of the spin components J(x), J(y), J(z) commute although the spin components themselves do not. I erroneous believed that this result was TRUE FOR ALL SPINS--what I called the "Commutation Conjecture" and asked for either a proof of this conjecture or a refutation. Within a few hours Jeffrey Bub (physicist at University of Maryland) replied that this conjecture was false and that no one in the field had ever believed otherwise. Casey Blood (physicist formerly at Rutgers) also sent a refutation a few minutes later. This contest is now closed.

My so-called "challenge" was a mistake from the start, but it led to an interesting discovery--the "Sirag Numbers"--named after my colleague Saul-Paul Sirag now living in Eugene, Oregon. Conversations with Saul-Paul concerning the quantum spin operators spurred my own refutation of the "Commutation Conjecture" that invokes a brand-new set of numbers.

If we assume that the Commutation Conjecture is true--that for every spin J, the operators J(x)^2, J(y)^2, J(z)^2 commute, then these spin squares are simultaneously observable. And furthermore these three observables must add up to J(J+1).

Now define the Sirag number J* such that the spin squared components of J* no matter how selected cannot be made to sum to J(J+1). If a Sirag number exists then the Commutation Conjecture is refuted because it leads to a contradiction.

Proof that "3" is a Sirag Number (ie, that its spin components squared cannot add up to 3(3+1)

The spin components of a spin-3 system are 3, 2, 1, 0, -1, -2, -3.

The squares of these components are 9, 4, 1 and 0.

It is impossible (by inspection) for 3 of these numbers to sum to 12.

Thus 3 is a Sirag number and the Commutation Conjecture is refuted.

Several questions immediately present themselves:

1. Is the number of Sirag Numbers finite or infinite?
2. Does an algorithm exist for calculating all J*?
3. Have these numbers been discovered before?
4. Is "137" a Sirag Number?

A little research shows that "3/2" is the smallest Sirag Number and that "3", "7/2" and "12" also belong in the class of Sirag Numbers. Today the largest known Sirag Number is "12" but that record is not likely to stand for long.

[Breaking news: the Sirag Numbers have been redefined to exclude 1/2 integer values; "3" has been shown NOT to be a Sirag Number; Mark Buchanan, president of Optical Alchemy, using an ad hoc
iPad app, has declared the lowest THREE Sirag Numbers to be 12, 15 and 19.

The Sirag Number J* is now officially defined by this equation:

X^2 + Y^2 + Z^2 = J*(J* + 1)

A integer J* is a Sirag Number, if no triplet (X, Y, Z) of integers exists that satisfies this constraint.

Saul-Paul's birthday is August 31 and Nick's birthday gift to him is this set of numbers.]


[[ Sirag Number cognescenti will not fail to appreciate that the Buchanan Program, through some lucky circumstance, has revealed 1. J*(1) = 12, the first EVEN Sirag Number. 2. J*(2) = 15, the first ODD Sirag Number and 3. J*(3) = 19, the first PRIME Sirag Number. The BIG QUESTION now is: What is the value of J*(4), the fourth Sirag Number? ]]

[[[ Late Breaking News!!! On Saul-Paul's birthday, Mark Buchanan calculated ALL SIRAG NUMBERS between 0 and 1000. A partial list: 12, 15, 19, 44, 51, 63, 76, 83, 108, 112, 115, 140, 143, 147. Sad to say, Saul-Paul's favorite number 137 is not on this list, but the numbers 371 and 911 do make an appearance. ]]]

Direct from Mark Buchanan's smoking iPad: the first 92 Sirag Numbers:
12 15 19 44 51 63 76 83
108 112 115 140 143 147 172 179
204 211 236 240 243 255 268 271 275
300 307 332 339 364 368 371 396 399
403 428 435 448 460 467 492 496 499
524 527 531 556 563 575 588 595
620 624 627 652 655 659 684 691
716 723 748 752 755 780 783 787
812 819 844 851 876 880 883
908 911 915 940 947 960 972 979 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Quantum Spin Challenge

Diana Warnock spinning in Boulder Creek
The quantum theory of angular momentum is one of the most beautiful creations of the human mind. Furthermore the math of quantum spin is a closed book--all its beauty published in plain sight like the rules of the game of chess, enshrined in textbooks, this wide-open wonder is even taught to undergraduates--no more mystery, quantum spin's intrinsic beauty diluted by familiarity.

As one of its initiates, I believed I knew all the quantum rules. But I was surprised by a startling paper by Russian physicist Alexander Klyashko who, in deriving a new proof of the Kochen-Specher theorem, seemed to invoke a new rule in the quantum theory of angular momentum--a rule I had never heard of.

For physicists only:

"Everyone knows" that the spin components J(x), J(y), J(z) do not commute. Consequently, when one of these spins is measured, the other two must remain uncertain--a generalization of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle to spin systems. Heisenberg says: Only COMMUTING OBSERVABLES can be simultaneously observed.

Also "everyone knows" that if you choose one spin component, say J(z), that the SQUARE OF THE TOTAL SPIN J^2, also commutes with J(z), so both J^2 and J(z) can be simultaneously measured. In
the quantum jargon, J^2 and J(z) are said to be "good quantum numbers".

But Klyashko claims (unless I am mistaken) that there is another set of mutually commuting spin variables that is not in any textbook.

Klyachko claims that the SQUARES OF ALL SPIN COMPONENTS mutually commute.

Now it is easy to verify that this assertion (which I am attributing to Klyashko) is true for spin-1/2 and for spin-1 systems by direct calculation. But is (what I am calling) the Klyashko Assertion "Commutation Conjecture" true for all values of spin, or is it only true for a few special cases?

Using the standard spin calculus, I have tried and failed to prove "Klyachko's Assertion" the Commutation Conjecture.

[One of my teachers was Sid Drell who introduced us to the physicist's version of the mathematician's "impossibility proof". Drell's version goes like this: "I'm a really smart person. And I can't prove this. Therefore it must be impossible."]

Now since I'm really smart. And I can't prove the "Commutation Conjecture" for all spins, I conclude (using the Sid Drell criterion), that the Commutation Conjecture is false.

And I hereby issue "the quantum spin challenge" to my colleagues who are more intimate than I with the open beauty of quantum angular momentum mechanics.

1. Either prove the Commutation Conjecture for all spin values.

2. Or come up with a counter-example--a spin system whose spin components squared do not commute.

First person to successful meet the Quantum Spin Challenge and send their proof to me at quantaATcruzioDOTcom will receive a copy of "Physics on All Fours", a chapbook of quantum tantric rants illustrated by my son Khola.

Who will be first to take up this challenge?

Gentlemen (and ladies) start your (quantum spin) engines.

[Within 24 hours, Jeffrey Bub at U of Maryland informed me: 1. that Klyashko makes no such claim  (hence the name change from Klyachko's Assertion to Commutation Conjecture) and 2. demonstrated that the CC holds only for spin-1/2 and spin-1 and that furthermore this fact is well known in the field so that 3. my "Quantum Spin Challenge" arises only out of Nick Herbert's ignorance of the facts and hence 4. my Challenge is (as Jeffrey so kindly puts it) "not needed". Jeffrey wins the prize and I thank him for correcting my foolishness. I apologize to Alexander Klyachko for connecting his name with this whole sordid mess.]

Monday, August 8, 2011

QT Blog: The Origin Story

Mudhead--Hopi Kachina clown and trickster
Nick Herbert never intended to start a blog. As my blog site guru Harry Hutton remarked:
Been doing this nonsense for three years now, and where's it got me? Nowhere. It has simply widened the circle of people who think I'm a dick. That's all it has achieved.
My reluctance to enter the blogosphere was further strengthened when I discovered that the virtual real estate entitled "" was already occupied by an entity who called itself "Mudhead" after the Hopi Kachina trickster spirit. Mudhead's site specialized in paying homage to the beauty of the naked female form, following Fugs-founder Tuli Kupferberg's mantra "God is a spread shot". Each day Mudhead's site featured lots of holy pictures from the Temple of Tuli, regular dispatches from a Canadian photographer obsessed with hi-res closeups of the vertical smile, as well as hot links to other sites with similar enthusiasms. After reading my favorite physics blogs I often enjoyed dipping into this blog for a taste of Mudhead's version of quantum tantra.

But about three years ago, Mudhead's site was suddenly abandoned without explanation and its domain name tossed up for grabs for any entity who wished to take possession. 

How could I resist? Mudhead had done a fine job in establishing a beach head into the unexplored quantum tantric realm and, faced with its vacancy, I simply could not allow lesser minds to pervert this 
splendid site. That in short is this quantum tantra blog's origin myth. Thank you, Mudhead, whoever and wherever you may be. And I hope you are not disappointed with what I have chosen to do with your site.

Tuli Kupferberg: "God is a spread shot."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Quantum Physics Tells Us

Quantum wave equation -- Erwin Schrödinger (1925)

The equations harbor what look like small
migratory birds blown in on stiff winds. 
What land could they possibly
have come from?  Just look at them,
pecking randomly at the white air,
feeding on something
we don’t see.

In those moments when you think
some part of this world belongs to you,
consider what we call atoms,
for which we have no adequate metaphor,
and of which we are made.
These fellow gods
will not be ruled by anything,
even our notion of cause.  They
are elemental wildness.

—Len Anderson

Len Anderson, Physicist (UC Berkeley PhD) 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Alternative to Marriage

"I've come to New York to introduce an alternative to marriage." --Jon Keats
With five millennia of history, and a plethora of religious and civil ceremonies, marriage is a popular means of producing families. Yet matrimony isn't the only method of uniting people, nor even is it the most effective technique. Modern science suggests a far more profound alternative, one that does not operate by religious tradition or civil mandate, but rather bonds couples by a law of nature: quantum entanglement. More here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

With Usura

Mug Shot: Ezra Pound (1885-1972)
For an exceptional back-in-time experience -- to hear Ezra Pound reading his own work --- visit the University of Pennsylvania's PennSound Ezra Pound Page. Grander than the Beatles and performing without a back-up track --- EZRA POUND LIVE! --- the poet himself chants With Usura in this mp3 recording. An extraordinary man raising his solitary voice against the enslavement of men and women by economic institutions, Pound's old-fashioned words ring as soundly today as a quark explosion in the Large Hadron Collider.

Ezra Pound
Canto XLV

With usura hath no man a house of good stone
each block cut smooth and well fitting
that delight might cover their face.

hath no man a painted paradise on his church wall
harpes et luz
or where virgin receiveth message
and halo projects from incision.

seeth no man Gonzaga his heirs and his concubines
no picture is made to endure nor to live with
but it is made to sell and sell quickly.

sin against nature
is thy bread ever more stale rags
is thy bread dry as paper,
with no mountain wheat, no strong flour.

With usura the line grows thick
with usura is no clear demarcation
and no man can find site for his dwelling.
Stonecutter is kept from his stone
weaver is kept from his loom.

wool comes not to market
sheep bringeth no gain with usura
Usura is a murrain, usura
blunteth the needle in the maid’s hand
and stoppeth the spinner’s cunning.
Pietro Lombardo came not by usura
Duccio came not by usura
nor Pier della Francesca; Zuan Bellin’ not by usura
nor was La Calunnia painted.
Came not by usura Angelico; came not Ambrogio Praedis,
No church of cut stone signed: Adamo me fecit.
Not by usura Saint Trophime
Not by usura Saint Hilaire,
Usura rusteth the chisel
It rusteth the craft and the craftsman
It gnaweth the thread in the loom
None learneth to weave gold in her pattern;
Azure hath a canker by usura; cramoisi is unbroidered
Emerald findeth no Memling.

Usura slayeth the child in the womb
It stayeth the young man’s courting
It hath brought palsy to bed, lyeth
between the young bride and her bridegroom.

They have brought whores for Eleusis
Corpses are set to banquet
at behest of usura.

[And so that you don't continually misunderstand. Usury and interest are not the same thing. Usury is a charge made for the use of money regardless of production and often without regard even of the possibilities of production. I now repeat the theme in Canto LI.]

Monday, July 4, 2011

Quantum Magic Confirmed

Alexander Klyachko, the "K" in the KCBS inequality
Quantum mechanics, the most powerful theory of the material world that humans have ever possessed, comes with a heavy price--the renunciation of knowing what is really going on in the world. Use this theory, give up reality. And perhaps the most peculiar fact about the quantum reality mystery is that it's hidden in plain sight. The quantum math is clear, complete and unambiguous; we can calculate with perfect precision exactly what will happen in any experiment that we can imagine. So even though we cannot visualize what's happening "behind the scenes" of the phenomena that we observe, we can use the theory itself to constrain any model that we might wish to construct about the "reality that exists beneath the quantum facts." The results of such indirect reasoning about deep reality have been posted. The conclusion: quantum reality is "magic".

Physics is all about making measurements. But quantum theory says that for every measurement you might like to make (say position) there is a COMPLEMENTARY measurement (in this case momentum) whose accuracy is disturbed by the first measurement. The existence of complementary pairs of observables is an entirely quantum feature not present in classical physics. But for most quantum systems, one can often pick out a set of "compatible observables",  that can be measured without mutual interference. Such measurements form a kind of "classical sector" in the full quantum realm, and one might suppose that the reality underlying this classical sector could be explained using classical concepts.

The Kocken-Specker theorem, published in 1967, proves this supposition to be false. Even the classical sector of quantum physics cannot be explained by an underlying classical reality. It can only be explained by "magic". Simon Kocken tried to evoke the flavor of this "quantum magic" in his "Parable of the Over-protective Seer".

In ancient Nineveh there lived an ingenious wizard-astrologer whose beautiful daughter was besieged by many suitors. To prevent his daughter from marrying an unworthy man, the wizard devised a "suitable suitor" test. On a table in the royal interview room, the wizard placed three jewel boxes. The suitor's task was to state "FULL" or "EMPTY" and then select the two boxes that confirmed his prediction. If, for instance, the suitor said "FULL" and both his chosen boxes contained jewels, then he could claim his princess bride. Dozens of men attempted the test--with precisely the same result. Whatever pair of boxes a suitor would choose, one always contained jewels, the other turned up empty. 

Since there is no way that anyone can fairly prepare three boxes, without two of them being either full or empty, pure logic suggests that the seer used "magic"--some sort of trickery--as part of the "reality" behind his test.

Quantum theory is strange but not strange enough to build such boxes. However Simon Kochen (an American mathematician) and Ernst Specker (a Swiss mathematician)--using the same sort of reasoning that proves the fictional seer must use magic--proved that the quantum world must use a similar "magic", even in its "tame" classical sector, to produce its quantum facts.

[In technical terms, the K-S theorem proves that, even in the classical sector, where all measurements "mutually commute", no NON-CONTEXTUAL REALITY can underlie the quantum facts. In a non-contextual world what box I choose to open (what measurement I choose to make) does not affect the contents of the other boxes (does not affect the outcome of other compatible measurements.) This may sound subtle--and indeed it is. But this is REALITY that K&S are talking about--not mere phenomena. And any knowledge we might gain about reality is certainly worth paying attention to--knowledge about reality being infinitely more precious than jewels in some mad wizard's box.]

K&S's original proof was exceedingly complicated. It involved a diagram with 117 "rays". Their proof was simplified by Asher Peres to 36 rays, then to 18 rays by Adan Cabello, then to 8 rays by Rob Clifton.

Recently Vladivostok-born Alexander Klyachko entered the frey. Klyachko (a visiting math professor at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey) devised a proof of the K-S theorem using only 5 rays. Moreover he expressed his proof in the form of a testable inequality (the KCBS inequality).

If a physics experiment obeys the KCBS inequality, then you don't need "magic" to explain it.

However if a physics experiment violates the KCBS inequality, then (by reasoning of the kind that exposed the seer's trickery) the reality behind that experiment must be "magic".

Klyachko's 5-ray proof works for the smallest quantum system (a spin-1 particle) that satisfies the K-S postulates, so his demonstration will no doubt enter the record books as the most concise proof of the existence of "quantum magic". Nature is full of spin-1 particles, but to do complex experiments on such particles is devilishly difficult. Recognizing the practical difficulties of testing his KCBS inequality on actual spin-1 systems, Klyachko cleverly devised an equivalent physical system composed of two photons in the same spatial mode (the so-called "biphoton") that possess exactly the same external quantum properties as an actual spin-1 system.

Inspired by Klyachko's work, Radek Lapkiewicz and colleagues in Anton Zeilinger's lab at the University of Vienna recently prepared a similar optical analog to the spin-1 particle using the considerable resources of modern quantum optics. The LLSLRWZ collaboration tested the KCBS inequality and demonstrated that the inequality was violated. Hence reality has to be contextual. Reality cannot be modeled by ordinary classical concepts. Reality, in short, must be "magic".

In light of this blog's tantric theme and the parable of the magic jewel boxes, one is tempted to suppose that, like Simon Kochen's over-protective seer from Nineveh,  Mother Nature might be using "quantum magic" to prevent adolescent apes with plutonium from tinkering with reality's deep primordial innocence.

Some secrets may be only suitable for grownups.

The Lapkiewicz et al test of KCBS inequality in Vienna

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kubla Khan

Dr. Jabir's KUBLA KHAN: a modern version of Samuel Coleridge's celebrated Pleasure Dome poem conceived during an opium vision--Coleridge's setting it down in writing cut off abruptly by a visit from some anonymous "person from Porlock". Could Jabir in his dervish trance have recaptured in this short video a few of Coleridge's lost stanzas?

Today's the 3rd birthday of this Quantum Tantra blog. This year I added "tags"--a kind of crude table of contents--for more convenient exploration of older posts.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hippies in the Sunday Times

David Kaiser, MIT science historian, author of How the Hippies Saved Physics

Continuing praise for MIT historian David Kaiser's How the Hippies Saved Physics.

Here's the book's webpage with pictures and reviews.

The buzz for David's book began in the blogs--in my own blog, in Peter Woit's and Chad Orzel's. (Everyone is eagerly awaiting an endorsement from Lubos Motl, controversial physics blogoczar and kingmaker to the lucrative Czech science book market).

That initial buzz around David's book has now expanded to a ROAR with a review by George Johnson in this Sunday's New York Times. A book review in the Sunday Times is the literary equivalent of a private interview with the Pope.

Thank you, George.

George Johnson lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico and is the prize-winning author of The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments, an acclaimed biography of Nobel physicist Murray Gell-Mann as well as many other well-crafted pieces of science writing.

George Johnson concluded his mostly sympathetic review of Kaiser's book with the judgment that much of the work of "the hippies who saved physics" was mere "physics porn"--"titillating but with no follow through".

How could Johnson have known in his witty putdown that one of the goals of my own quantum tantra research is to discover a more intimate way of connecting with nature than merely reading the results of classical instruments?

In writing his review, George Johnson knew nothing of Lifting the Veil of a New Sensual Science, of Tantric Jihad, of Future Science, No More Safe Science, of Physicist, Heal Thyself or of Opening Night.

Unaware of Harlot Nature, Johnson was able to accurately intuit my work as a species of "physics porn".

Will future generations recognize science journalist George Johnson not only for his substantial body of science writing but also as an unconscious herald of the freshest and most unlikely revolution in modern physics?

George Johnson, author of The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments