Weekly Takeaways-Halloween 2022

Updated: 5 days ago

David Mitlyng

Theme of the Week

A Modern Horror Story - Part 1 Last Halloween we presented a true-life scary tale: You wake up. Emergency and rescue radios are down. Your location app is offline and planes are grounded worldwide. You attempt to go shopping, but the credit card isn't working. The ATM is down, too. As the day progresses both cell and internet service is lost, stores and restaurants are closed, and you can't even get gas. By the next morning the power is out. The cause? GPS is down. Like any good horror story, here come's the sequel: A Modern Horror Story - Part 2 Unfortunately, this doomsday scenario seems closer than ever. Since then the Russia rolled into Ukraine and promptly started jamming GPS. They launched anti-satellite missiles and threatened to blow up GPS and commercial satellites. Local GPS outages have grounded flights at Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport, Denver International Airport, and Finland. The fear is real and governments around the world are working to prevent this. Last Week's Theme: Time as National Infrastructure

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Spooky Action at a Distance - Part 2 The famous Einstein quote "spooky action at a distance" expressed his disbelief that the apparent "non-local" action of measuring certain (entangled) quantum states was a real effect. Einstein favored the idea that hidden local variables are at work and capable of removing these non-local effects. The implication being that quantum mechanics was an incomplete description of reality that resulting from averaging over these local hidden variables. The 2022 Nobel prize in physics was awarded to scientists that are pioneers in experimentally testing the idea of local hidden variables through clever experiments utilizing entangled photons. These experiments used a mathematical relation developed by John Stewart Bell. Now known as the Bell inequality, it showed that any such hoped for local hidden variable theory could not reproduce all of the predictions of quantum mechanics. Thus, Bell's inequality said it was possible in principle to experimentally test if the actual world corresponds to the predictions of quantum mechanics or of some deeper theory that uses local, hidden variables. What seemed to be a philosophical question was now potentially an experimental one. The three newest physics laureates pioneered ways to experimentally test Bell's inequality. The results have all shown that Bell's Inequality is clearly violated, thus experimentally ruling out all physical theories using local hidden variables. The consequences of this for understanding quantum mechanics are that if we want to imagine a deeper theory that explains the outcomes of individual experiments (thus removing or explaining the fundamental randomness of quantum mechanics) then we're forced to believe in "spooky action at a distance", i.e. quantum-nonlocality. Viable alternatives to this are at least as "spooky". We can deny that quantum systems (and by extension everything​!) have properties independent of how we choose to measure them. This view implies that at least some measurements of quantum systems are acts of creation -- not merely processes to reveal preexisting information (examples are neo-Copenhagen and QBism interpretations). Our other possibility is to take the view that all possible outcomes of every quantum measurement actually do exist, but the different outcomes define (mostly independent) parallel branches of an ever-expanding universe. While we as humans can only perceive a single branch among them. This is roughly the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. Which flavor of spookiness is the "correct" way of understanding quantum mechanics? We don't yet have a way of experimentally distinguishing them. So, the quest goes on! The strange saga of Zombie Sat - Part 2 Last year we reported on the story of the infamous Galaxy 15 "Zombie Sat", a satellite that decided to stopped taking orders over a decade ago. For eight torturous months the unresponsive satellite lumbered across the GEO arc before finally rebooting. Intelsat put the satellite back in service and the zombie was re-born again. Well, in another twist in the saga, Galaxy 15 recently became a zombie once again. Rather than trying to reanimate the corpse of this satellite, this time Intelsat has decided to put it out of its misery.