From the second edition of Super Cosmos in preparation Robert Laughlin’s Different Universe
“We physicists are fully aware of our own sententious tendencies and go to great lengths to keep them under control.” p.x
Robert Laughlin and Lenny Susskind are both physics professors at Stanford University and they are at odds with each other on some key fundamental issues about the nature of information loss down black holes. Susskind won a recent victory at GR 17 in Dublin (July 2004) where Stephen Hawking rolled over and admitted defeat in his twenty year debate with Susskind. On the other hand, Laughlin won the Nobel Prize in 1998 for his work on the fractional quantum Hall effect in thin films where the electrons attach to quantized magnetic vortices to form “anyons” with fractional charges, like the quarks, and a weird kind of quantum statistics like Schrodinger’s Cat both dead and alive, these anyons are neither bosons nor fermions and can morph into one or the other as control parameters like applied magnetic field are varied. The makes entirely new phases of matter including the possibility of high temperature superconductors – really high at maybe a thousand degrees Kelvin or higher. This has not been achieved in the lab although some think that the alleged alien flying saucers use this nanotechnology. The intellectual conflict between Susskind and Laughlin must make life interesting for the students like the creative tension between Feynman and Gell-Mann at Cal Tech. They had the same secretary with offices on opposite sides of her office if I remember correctly from 1968?
What are some of Laughlin’s key ideas? He comes from the tradition of P.W. Anderson’s “More is different” as a general theory of emergence of levels of physical reality beyond naïve mechanical reductionism in which the higher level is largely independent of the lower but not entirely of course. This is already in Bohm’s quantum potential landscape from which classical fields and particles get their marching orders. The quantum potential is form-dependent beyond the classical forces. The Bohm quantum potential landscape is Wheeler’s “BIT” or QUBIT to be more precise that is physical and organizational yet non-material. It is indeed the “élan vital.” The Bohm theory stops short of adaptive conscious spontaneous self-organization because it is the test particle approximation in which the classical fields and particles do not directly modify the landscape on which they roll. Indeed the same can be said for Lenny Susskind’s cosmic landscape theory. This two-way relation tolls the death knell for unitarity and signal locality. In fact, like in Carlo Suares’s “two-way” equation of Qabala shown to me by him in Paris in 1973, there is both a bottom up and a top down flow of influence in the Great Chain of Being and Becoming from possibly “spin foams” to curved space-time to the creation of quarks, leptons and gauge force bosons in the reheating of the big bang to the creation of galaxies from the stretched-out quantum gravity foam fluctuations, light atoms, molecules, stars, heavy atoms spewed out in super nova explosions, formation of planets, on to life and beyond to what to God perhaps? Don’t forget the Angels and Aliens? Or is the Mind of God always about in the quad dabbling here and there in the affairs of humankind? Does God make mistakes? Getting back to Laughlin’s ideas, here are some key quotations from his book:
“The laws of nature that we care about … emerge through collective self-organization and really do not require knowledge of their component parts to be comprehended and exploited.” p. xi
“I was having the same conversation with colleagues about Brian Greene’s ‘The Elegant Universe’ … but the subject always seemed to drift to … the pointlessness of making models of the world that were beautiful but predicted no experiments.” p. xii
Physics as Art for Art’s sake - is it one more sign of the Decline and Fall of Western Civilization under the retro-grade barbaric Islamo-fascist onslaught?
“Moreover, it was an ideological dispute: it had nothing to do with what was true and everything to do with what ‘true’ was.”
“Organization can acquire a meaning and life of it’s own and begin to transcend the parts from which it is made.” p. xiv
“The distinction between fundamental laws and the laws descending from them is a myth, as is the idea of mastery of the universe through mathematics alone.”
Dan Smith, AKA “Chicken Little” from the UFO Aviary recently came to San Francisco in January 2006 to promote his Panglossian idea right out of Voltaire’s “Candide” that we live in the “Best of All Possible Worlds” and that the “core story” in the book “Exempt from Disclosure” by former USAF spooks Robert Collins and Richard Doty (essentially we have been visited by aliens from another star system) proved “Intelligent Design” and the Apocalyptic Coming of the “Eschaton” that sounds something like being eaten by the aliens in a party arranged by Hannibal Lector playing Titus Andronicus. There would be a green tractor beam lifting all the faithful, Usama Bin Ladin & Co hopefully among them, up to the microwave ovens on board the Mother Ship. Well, Dan’s attempt to gather a following here in San Francisco, home of The Two and Jonestown in the New Age past, did not meet with success -- too many lions I suppose? What makes this story of more than passing interest is that Dan is the scion of a prominent family. His father was an aide to Ike on D Day and ran the IRS. His sister is a close friend of the President’s mother, Barbara Bush. Dan knows influential people high up in USG Intelligence. Dan is a Throop the family that donated the campus of Cal Tech. His mother gave a speech at the installation of John Baltimore as President of Cal Tech in 1999. Dan read my book “Space-Time and Beyond” in 1977 and completely flipped out as a result leaving a promising physics career at Princeton and Stanford. Indeed he had a contact with an alien named Sophia very similar to Joe Firmage’s contact that led him to form ISSO. This was unfortunate for the country because Dan was being groomed by Mumie to be President of the United States and because of me he did not make it and we got George Bush instead! J The point of this story, and there is a point believe it or not, is that when I tried my Sigmund Freud act on Dan to try to get him to see the absurdity of his position, he told me that I should read Robert Laughlin and that he was correct because he was using “logic.” In other words Dan Smith thinks he can master the secrets of reality by “logic” alone. This was not logical because Dan also spoke derisively of my use of mathematics not realizing, it seems, that Bertrand Russell deduced the foundations of Victorian mathematics from logic alone. However, Dan seems to have missed Laughlin’s
“Physical law cannot generally be anticipated by pure thought, but must be discovered experimentally, because control of nature is achieved only when nature allows this through a principle of organization.” p. xv
This omission by Dan is perhaps explained by the fact that when I gave him Lenny Susskind’s book he said he understood it all by reading only the last chapter.
Indeed, Lenny Susskind laments the lack of such a principle of organization for M-Theory formerly called string theory but extended now to a brane new world. However, Lenny seems recently to have found the Lost Chord in his cosmic landscape with eternal inflation populating its every nook and cranny giving us 10^500 parallel pocket universes, which is quite enough to explain the fine tuning of the cosmological constant out to the 119 decimal place in terms of the Weak Anthropic Principle. What of God, the Intelligent Designer? Lenny quotes Laplace to Napoleon “I have no need of that hypothesis.”