Wednesday, April 23, 2008

D-Wave’s Quantum Computing Crackpottery

A Sucker Born Every Minute

A little over a year ago, D-Wave Systems, a Canadian company based in Burnaby, British Columbia, announced to the world that it had perfected a 16-qbit working prototype of a (supposedly) quantum computer. This January, D-Wave secured $17 million worth of financing from a Dublin based investment firm called International Investment and Underwriting (IIU). Did anybody say, sucker? Did I hear anybody say, snake oil? Does IIU really stand for ‘Idiotic Investment and Underwriting’? I am being facetious, of course. It’s my way of saying that anybody who invests in quantum computing is throwing money out the window. And by anybody, I don’t mean just private investors but public institutions as well. It does not bother me so much that private investors lose their money in QC (they’re in the risk business by choice) but, when I see government agencies like NIST wasting the taxpayer’s money on silly crackpottery, that bothers me.

Zero Evidence

Quantum computing is the only “scientific” field that is not only based on zero evidence but the evidence, if it did exist, can never be observed by definition. The entire quantum computing field is based on the conjecture that certain quantum properties can have multiple states simultaneously, even though the property in question only has room for one. Worse, this property can never be observed in its superposed states because, as soon as you try to observe it, nature does some weird magic called the “collapse of the wave function” and the property instantly takes on one state or another. Amazing, isn’t it? Physicists get away with crap like this because they’ve managed to convince the lay public that it is too stupid to understand physics. This gem is straight from the so-called Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. The whole thing is so devoid of logic that Nobel Prize winner Erwin Schrödinger devised a now famous thought experiment (Schrödinger's cat) to illustrate the high strangeness, if not the outright crackpottery of quantum superposition. As Paul Feyerabend once wrote in 'Against Method', "the most stupid procedures and the most laughable results in their domain are surrounded with an aura of excellence".

Quantum Ignorance

The questions that should be on everybody’s mind are the following: Do probabilistic processes necessarily imply superposition? Should one base a field of science on a mere conjecture or interpretation? The answer is no, of course. Consider that physicists are completely ignorant of the underlying reason that quantum interactions are probabilistic. And yet, in spite of this glaring lacuna in their understanding, they want an unsuspecting public to believe that they understand enough about the subject to be certain that superposition is a fact of nature as opposed to a mere interpretation. You don’t believe me? Go ask any physics professor to explain why the decay duration of subatomic particles is probabilistic. They have no clue, really. In view of the absence of evidence and of the incompleteness and inadequacy of their understanding, what makes quantum physicists so sure that superposition is a fact of nature? The answer is that they are not sure at all. Quantum computing is a field based on ignorance, arrogance and wishful thinking.

Crackpottery in High Places

Quantum computing is what I call voodoo science, the sort of field that is sure to attract all kinds of crackpots. Consider its most visible and most ardent promoter, Oxford physicist and professor David Deutsch. Deutsch is not only a quantum computing pioneer, he is also a strong supporter of the many-world interpretation of quantum mechanics. MWI is essentially an attempt by some to explain away the obvious silliness of state superposition by positing that the states exist in multiple universes. This is like borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, however. In other words, MWI proponents merely took away one unobservable outlandish conjecture, only to replace it with another equally unobservable and outlandish conjecture. This is what I call crackpottery in high places. MWI is obviously not anything that should be called science but David Deutsch is not known for being bothered by the Star-Trek quality of his physics. He relishes it. He is also a believer in the physical possibility of time travel (source: NOVA). He believes, along with Kip Thorne and Stephen Hawking that Einstein’s general theory of relativity does not forbid time travel. What is amazing is that, in his book, The Fabric of Reality, Deutsch writes about the famed philosopher of science, Sir Karl Popper, even though Popper once called spacetime, “Einstein’s block universe in which nothing ever happens” (From: Science: Conjectures and Refutations). What Sir Karl was pointing out is the fact (ignored by most physicists but a fact regardless) that nothing can move in spacetime, which means that the spacetime of relativity forbids time travel by definition. The point that I'm driving at is that David Deutsch is a crackpot, pure and simple; and it does not surprise me a bit that time travel crackpots like him would be attracted to Trekkie fairy tales like wormholes, parallel universes and quantum computing.

Conclusion

As I promised in my last post, I was working on a short essay to explain why parallel systems should be reactive but then I got distracted by an article in MIT Technology Review about D-Wave’s exhorbitant claims and I got fired up to write about it. As seen above, I have very strong opinions about quantum computing: I think it is crackpottery at best and fraud at worst. I think that the frequent press announcements claiming progress in the field are pure BS, propaganda designed to secure government grants and attract gullible investors. I have excellent cause to believe that there is a very simple reason that quantum processes are probabilistic and it has nothing to do with superposition or any such silliness. I have written about this before. As always, I tell it like I see it. I guess it's just the rebel in me. Stay tuned.

See also:
Why Quantum Computing Is Bunk, Part I, II
Why Space (Distance) Is an Illusion

10 comments:

tbcpp said...

Well, considering that most of these quantum computing scientists have been studying this subject for years, and considering that you haven't even tried to supply facts supporting your position, and also considering multiple teams of scientists have come to the same conclusions independently supporting quantum computing; I have to say some of the terms you hurled at your opponents in this "article" would be put to a more correct use when applied to you.

Stick with what you know. I enjoy reading your views on parallel computing, but it's rather obvious that your views on physics are a bit lacking in factual support.

Louis Savain said...

it's rather obvious that your views on physics are a bit lacking in factual support.

It may be obvious to you but unless you can be more specific, your comment is no more than an ad hominem. Call me an idiot, an ignoramus or whatever but provide precise arguments to go with your criticism. Which of my views, in your opinion, are lacking in factual support?

And why should I defer to scientists just because they've been studying things for a long time? Computer scientists have been studying parallel computing for ages. They got it wrong, didn't they? Why should physicists be any different? I know expert relativists who have been studying relativity their entire adult lives and yet they were ignorant of the fact that nothing can move in spacetime, by definition. Some even refuse to accept it as fact. And yet, it is a fact.

I am making a very damaging claim against quantum computing scientists. I am saying that they are full of it. Why? Because, for one, it is a fact that they have no clue as to why the universe is probabilistic. I do. There is a rather simple reason for it and I can prove it logically.

tbcpp said...

"I know expert relativists who have been studying relativity their entire adult lives and yet they were ignorant of the fact that nothing can move in spacetime, by definition."

And what's your basis for that?

"Because, for one, it is a fact that they have no clue as to why the universe is probabilistic. I do."

Explain? And please back up this view.

"There is a rather simple reason for it and I can prove it logically."

Please do.

Louis Savain said...

Please do.

I already did. Just follow the corresponding links in the article.

tbcpp said...

Well, I looked up the links and got a better understanding of the subject by reading the articles in the links.

Thanks, after reading the articles of your opponent's views, I have to say they make a much better argument and further back up what I was already convinced of, that you have some major flaws in logic in your views of relativity.

I might continue reading this blog for your views on parallel machines, just for the fun of it, but your abrasive nature and total disregard for the views of others makes me want to just delete the bookmark to this page.

Louis Savain said...

you have some major flaws in logic in your views of relativity.

Your opinion vs. mine, of course. I think you're clueless. How about that?

your abrasive nature and total disregard for the views of others makes me want to just delete the bookmark to this page.

I'm abrasive only toward those who are abrasive toward me. If somebody calls me an idiot, I'm liable to return the favor. And I can't stand crackpottery, especially when it comes from pompous assholes from academia and is handed down to the lay public like so much infallible dogma. I take an even dimmer view on those who swallow the dogma hook, line and sinker without questioning.

My take is that what I write on my blog and my website is not meant for you. Ignore it. After all, nobody's twisting your arm to read it, right?

dashxdr said...

tbcpp is the kind of human being that makes me want to puke. Total mediocrity all the way. Only trusts "experts". Can't conceive of genius or talent.

Hang in there, Louis.

cheapskate said...

Great stuff Louis - you hit the nail on the head. Quantum computing is a joke.

Jack said...

As "cheapskate" said, "Quantum Computing is a joke." - and so is Fire and the poor dumb guy that worked at it until he got it right ;)

Alien Lover said...

It is very clear to me reading this article and the comments who has studied physics as a profession and who reads Wikipedia articles to spout key phrases.

Physics is difficult and you need roughly 2 years of math higher than university calculus and differential equations to even understand concepts of quantum computing.

Please stop filling the internets with your nonsense.