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Tags quantum quackery , quantum entanglement , lionel milgrom , homeopathy

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Old 25th June 2007, 05:00 AM   #1
Mojo
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"Quantum" homoeopathy: physicists required

If any physicists with expertise in QM have a little spare time, could they comment on this paper by Lionel Milgrom: Journeys in The Country of The Blind: Entanglement Theory and The Effects of Blinding on Trials of Homeopathy and Homeopathic Provings?

There have been a couple of comments posted, but Milgrom is complaining that nobody has "bothered to tackle the primary source literature in any meaningful fashion".
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Old 25th June 2007, 05:10 AM   #2
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"Because it's a pile of fairy-like twaddle, and beneath contempt. I wouldn't want to soil my reputation by appearing in print anywhere near it." would probably be the reason why no-one has.
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Old 25th June 2007, 03:22 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Zep View Post
"Because it's a pile of fairy-like twaddle, and beneath contempt. I wouldn't want to soil my reputation by appearing in print anywhere near it." would probably be the reason why no-one has.
That is no doubt, a significant problem. An extension of that problem is how quickly Milgrom can dive into unsupported claims about QM, compared to how long it would take to explain the facts to those of us who are clueless about QM. (I barely survived an introductory course in chemistry grad school, many years ago.)

There are probably two more reasons we don't hear from Q Mechanics:

QM is so far from healthcare (even the real stuff) that Milgrom is not noticed by many physicists.

Second, it is sufficient to say there is no support for Milgrom's assumption that homeopathy works.

Still, I also wish a theoretician would take-on Milgrom.
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Old 25th June 2007, 03:41 PM   #4
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That article is too long. I don't want to spend hours analyzing something that's obviously complete rubbish from start to finish. Their claim that double-blind homeopathy experiments will fail because of entanglement between a patient, a moron and some fake medicine, is so ridiculous it's not even wrong.
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Old 25th June 2007, 04:24 PM   #5
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Barely scanned the paper; in essence he is saying that homeopathy is not amenable to double blind testing as it would interfere with the necessary quantum entanglement (whatever that is) between patient, drug, and practitioner. As he has not advanced an alternative method of testing the efficacy of homeopathic preparations, he is arguing in effect that homeopathy is unfalsifiable - surely he can see a problem with that argument?
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Old 25th June 2007, 04:28 PM   #6
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In other words homeopathy won't work if you are skeptical about it - skepticism being well known to cause superposition collapse.
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Old 25th June 2007, 04:44 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Fredrik View Post
That article is too long. I don't want to spend hours analyzing something that's obviously complete rubbish from start to finish. Their claim that double-blind homeopathy experiments will fail because of entanglement between a patient, a moron and some fake medicine, is so ridiculous it's not even wrong.
That's what I said. If some Q Mechanic would look at Milgrom's first paper (10 pages) and critique it in broad strokes (Homeopathy (2002) 91, 239–248) that would help. I found it as a free PDF a few years ago; but it seems one must pay for it now- I can e-mail it to any interested person (PM me).
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Old 25th June 2007, 06:04 PM   #8
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Ah, quantum mechanics, what has the idiot done to you?

So, he basically claims that homeopathic treatment is, at least to some approximation, an entanglement of two possible states

1. The remedy is effective, the 'doctor' is helpful, and the patient gets better
2. The remedy is ineffective, the doctor is unhelpful, and the patient gets worse.

These three terms are separate basis states of the patient, doctor and remedy, meaning if we look at any of them individually, we'd see they each have two states. As per basic QM, a total state is a combination of each of these (you can imagine them like vector components if you don't know QM).

This is a "maximally entangled state", or to be correct, the probability of either of these total states is 0.5. While not corresponding to reality, at least the math is not wrong.

Then we get to equation 4. He concludes that a double-blind study eliminates the effect of the doctor, so the doctor's helpful and unhelpful state becomes zero. This is wrong. We can either ignore the doctor, literally erasing his state from the equation, so we have

1. The remedy is effective, and the patient gets better
2. The remedy is ineffective, and the patient gets worse.

or we leave the doctor in a 50/50 split between being helpful and not helpful. The doctor can't be zero, he has to be something. A wavefunction of zero isn't normalizable, meaning it's not a possible state. It would be literally impossible to do a double blind study, like an electron going to an energy level lower than the ground energy.

However, in this state, there is an equal probability of the patient improving or not, so he is correct that on average, we should expect no result. Of course, he's forgets that this is an average, so each patient either gets better or worse, and they are measured individually. Really, his equation is says that double-blind studies are helpful by removing the effect of the doctor.

Of course, he makes other errors. For example, he assumes his "assessment operator" (capital Pi) produces even results. For example, if the patient |P> gets better, the assessment gives
<P+|PI|P+> = +health
or if the patient gets worse
<P-|PI|P-> = -health

so that for an even split between P+ and P-
<P+/-|PI|P+/-> = 0

Which he doesn't state, has no reason to conclude, and as anyone who has ever thought about medicine realizes, is so completely stupid it's a wonder he can put on his pants in one try.

The rest follows in a similar manner, alternating between copying from an undergrad QM textbook and replacing the variables, and using the physics so poorly it's not even wrong.
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Old 25th June 2007, 06:18 PM   #9
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Simple.

Quantum entanglement doesn't apply to the macroscopic world.
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Old 26th June 2007, 12:21 AM   #10
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I'm on it, I have an eLetter in beta testing. (I'm the one who wrote that blog, by the way. Hello.)
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Old 26th June 2007, 03:28 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by JJM View Post
That's what I said. If some Q Mechanic would look at Milgrom's first paper (10 pages) and critique it in broad strokes (Homeopathy (2002) 91, 239–248) that would help. I found it as a free PDF a few years ago; but it seems one must pay for it now- I can e-mail it to any interested person (PM me).
I saved it at the time, and I can post the url of where I put it, if that's not illegal. (Cough, cough.)

I sent it to some physicist friends and asked for comment. The first thing I got back was an email just saying "Dagenham East". (Three stops past Barking, for the uninitiated.) As BSM remarked, he must have got to Upminster by now!

Later, I got some more detailed criticism, mainly concentrating on the fact that Weak Quantum Theory dispenses with Planck's constant, which in effect pretty much dispenses with any contact with reality. Given that Planck's constant is one of the fundamental universal constants of nature, and fundamental to real quantum theory, any theory that dispenses with it doesn't have much hope of explaining anything. In effect, what Walach and his mates are saying is, just suppose Planck's constant didn't exist, or was any number I wanted it to be, preferably a very large number, maybe homoeopathy could be sort of quantum. But given the fact that Planck's constant does exist, and its magnitude is known quite precisely, and that it is a very small number indeed, such speculation has no basis in fact.

OK, that's what I got from the physicists I spoke to, and it's proved moderately useful in not sounding like a total goofus when homoeopaths declare that Milgrom has experimentally proved that homoeopathy works by quantum physics. I'm not sure how correct it is though, or how well it really addresses all the points Milgrom is trying to make.

A section of a letter where I tried to dismiss the whole farrago as succinctly as possible:
Quote:
.... the latest proposal is to explain the discrepancy between the clinical anecdotes and the well-controlled trials by invoking an effect of the intent or understanding of the practitioner. It is not sufficient just to turn on this light switch, one has to know that the light is supposed to come on and intend that it should come on. The latest ploy is to dress this up as some sort of 'quantum' effect, and indeed the entirely self-referencing concept of 'weak quantum theory' (Atmanspacher et al., 2002) seems to have been invented by a group of homoeopaths to support this viewpoint. This may give them something to talk about during the long winter evenings, but a theory which summarily ditches Planck's constant (one of the three fundamental universal constants of nature, which appears in many important equations of quantum mechanics) probably doesn't have much of a future in real science.
The danger of course is that one may make the debunking so abstruse that any point is lost.

By the way, welcome, shpalman!

Rolfe.
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Old 26th June 2007, 03:46 AM   #12
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The conclusion sums it up.

Quote:
In this paper, I have attempted …. could… …., it may be
possible …..Although …... could However, it remains to be seen.
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Old 26th June 2007, 05:01 AM   #13
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He goes through great lengths to mathematically illustrate (not define) this collapse of the wave function. Aside from brushing over the tenants of homeopathy itself QM as used by him has major empirical problems. He even describes an interpretation of the "Delayed Choice Experiment". There are many reasons this is a Non Sequitur.

1) He's assuming QM and the interpretation of QM are one and the same. In fact QM and its' interpretation are entirely separate issues.

2) He's assuming that the Copenhagen Interpretation (CI) is the only available interpretation. In fact it is the only interpretation that could so loosely be used to make such an argument. The Many Worlds Hypothesis wouldn't work for him because with or without blinding you still have the same odds of a given outcome. The Transactional Interpretation wouldn't work because the wavefunction never collapses in the first place.

3) The formalism of QM was used to illustrate an interpretation in such a way as to imply a proof of the interpretation. Yet empirical data such as the Afshar Experiment was completely ignored. Theory: Race X consistently scores badly on test Y. Interpretation: Race X is dumb. It is logically absurd.

4) The tenets of homeopathy is too absurd to even bother with a refutation.
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Old 26th June 2007, 05:51 AM   #14
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To simplify Milgrom's effort to its essence: If we had some ham, we could have some ham and eggs, if we had some eggs.
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Old 26th June 2007, 06:10 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Zep View Post
To simplify Milgrom's effort to its essence: If we had some ham, we could have some ham and eggs, if we had some eggs.
That's about it except nobody has ever seen the eggs and nobody is quiet sure what ham is.
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Old 26th June 2007, 06:16 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by my_wan View Post
The Transactional Interpretation wouldn't work because the wavefunction never collapses in the first place.
Could I query this? I thought I read in one of his maundering papers that it was the Transactional Interpretation that he was actually using.

Oh yes, the summary at the start of his first paper.
Quote:
A metaphor for homeopathy is developed in which the potentised medicine, the patient, and the practitioner are seen as forming a non-local therapeutically ‘entangled’ triad, qualitatively described in terms of the transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics. Homeopathy (2002) 91, 239–248.
Keywords: non-locality; entanglement; transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics; PPR entanglement

Rolfe.

PS. I think BSM's version of this was "If my Auntie had balls she'd be my uncle. But she hasn't."
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Old 26th June 2007, 06:34 AM   #17
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Or perhaps in Milgromese: If QM can be totally misconstrued, then QM explains how homeopathy works, if you ignore all the skeptics and believe that homeopathy works.
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Old 26th June 2007, 06:35 AM   #18
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To put all these in layman's terms:

If frogs had wings, they wouldn't bust thier a$$ when they hopped.
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Old 26th June 2007, 06:38 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Could I query this? I thought I read in one of his maundering papers that it was the Transactional Interpretation that he was actually using.

Oh yes, the summary at the start of his first paper.



Rolfe.

PS. I think BSM's version of this was "If my Auntie had balls she'd be my uncle. But she hasn't."
Ok I just used the web link;
http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/4/1/7
I'll go over it and give a review.
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Old 26th June 2007, 06:48 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Dilb View Post
...not even wrong.
Oh, so he is moving towards formulating his ideas in terms of String Theory.
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Old 26th June 2007, 07:44 AM   #21
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I've submitted my eLetter - let's see if it appears.
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Old 26th June 2007, 08:24 AM   #22
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http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/4/1/7 never mentioned "transactional". One instance was in the references.

Review of http://vetpath.co.uk/voodoo/milgrom1.pdf
Starting with invalid assertions;
Quote:
If Bell’s inequality is violated, then non-locality has to be accepted.
This assertion (without reference) assumes a priori an assumption of the Copenhagen Interpretation (CI). That being that subatomic particles don't have definite properties until they are measured. So he is using an assumption of CI to interpret an experiment designed to falsify CI and claiming it is the only conclusion to be drawn from the assumption of nonlocality. Given that entangled particles must be generated by the same emitter if you drop this assumption of literal interpretation in CI there is nothing to say that this property did not exist throughout the experiment. Frisbees thrown in opposite directions will be correlated but no nonlocal claim can be made of them. EPR did fail to falsify CI as intended but it is only by retaining the assumptions of CI that EPR can claim to prove nonlocality. What fallacy would you call it when you say it was the first empirically consistent interpretation therefore the correct one (even though it appears it may no longer be empirically valid).

I'm pointing out the implicit use of CI because he goes on to say;
Quote:
The transactional interpretation

This is the interpretation that will be used throughout the rest of this paper. To summarize, the beauty of it is that it takes the ’bull’ of non-locality firmly by the horns.. [/snip]
Here by drawing this connection between nonlocal, as used in the transactional interpretation (TI), he is implying that he can retain the above implied assumptions of CI. What he never mentions is the other logical effects of TI. Primarily TI invalidates the same (indeterminate) assumption of CI that was used in combination EPR to prove nonlocality in the first place. It is replaced by an a priori assumption of lonlocality. The nonlocality of TI is of a different character than that of CI/EPR because it specifically rules out indeterminacy. Without this indeterminacy there is no case for experimental blinds having any effect on experimental outcomes. The indeterminacy of CI is not even related to the Uncertainty Principle. As an anology would you assume that water molecules flowing down a creek that diverted around a rock before it got to the rock had nonlocal knowledge of that rock? In a sense you could say it did.

So here by obfuscation he has claimed consistency with TI by implying a connection with CI that TI specifically refutes. This is likely the reason he uses TI in his original paper but disregards mention in later discussions. He felt that implying the tenuous relationship he could later concentrate on those implications that suited him.
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Old 26th June 2007, 08:32 AM   #23
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I can continue my critique to show that his mechanism not only depends on the CI but a sectarian interpretation of CI.
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Old 26th June 2007, 09:43 AM   #24
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My Wan, I have to say that I understood not one word of that. But thank you anyway, from the bottom of my heart!

Rolfe.
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Old 26th June 2007, 10:14 AM   #25
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Give me till later tonight and I will try to make it clearer without presuming prior knowledge about QM or the various interpretations. If there are any specific questions you can post them in the meantime.

Right now my frogs are hungry and in need of a better encolosure...
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Old 26th June 2007, 10:47 AM   #26
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The paper is empty verbal trash. If Milgrom (or anyone) wants to come to my office (Huxley 6M74, his institution) and have me explain why I'd be happy to do so. First I'll be asking him to compute correlation functions of basic observables on a few simple entangled states I write down to ensure he actually knows rudimentary QM.
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Old 26th June 2007, 06:16 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by Lothian View Post
The conclusion sums it up.
Let me see if I undertand this correctly. The whole point of this writer's diarrhea is to use Quantum mechanics to explain why homeopathy doesn't work? I already knew that it did not work!
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Old 26th June 2007, 06:57 PM   #28
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Oh, the pain! I decided to check the references about the new formulation of quantum mechanics that provides a framework for macro entanglement. Not only was it complete gobbledygook with no real math or connection to actual (experimental) quantum mechanics, it lead me to a rather large body of similar literature by multiple authors. It's painful to think that there are that many people out there producing literary masturbation around a few half understood concepts from quantum mechanics. These things are truly painful to read.
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Old 26th June 2007, 08:21 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by MichelQC View Post
Let me see if I undertand this correctly. The whole point of this writer's diarrhea is to use Quantum mechanics to explain why homeopathy doesn't work? I already knew that it did not work!
No, he's arguing that the reason why attempts to prove that homeopathy works always fail, isn't that homepathy doesnt work, but instead a quantum mechanical effect that he claims is only present when the experiment is double-blinded to prevent the experimenter from cheating.
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Old 27th June 2007, 12:22 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by TonyL View Post
Oh, the pain! I decided to check the references about the new formulation of quantum mechanics that provides a framework for macro entanglement... These things are truly painful to read.
That's why it took me so long to get around to writing my eLetter - trying to read that stupid Weak Quantum Theory paper. In the end I found a thread on here (t=24036) started by "zombified" which made me feel better.
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Old 27th June 2007, 06:23 AM   #31
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[post deleted as not being suitable for the young and impressionable!]
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Old 27th June 2007, 07:16 AM   #32
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He says that QM should only apply to microscopic particles.
He then uses it on macroscopic objects.
He says that what he is presenting is a metaphore.
He then goes ahead and draws conclusions from it anyway, ignoring that he was starting out with a metaphore.
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Old 28th June 2007, 03:57 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by shpalman View Post
That's why it took me so long to get around to writing my eLetter - trying to read that stupid Weak Quantum Theory paper. In the end I found a thread on here (t=24036) started by "zombified" which made me feel better.
Milgrom is winning so long as he's apparently unchallenged by anyone who actually knows what they're talking about in the QM field. Now we can all see why nobody really wants to touch that nonsense with the proverbial barge pole, but it's a genuine problem. His witterings about running it past a Nobel Prizewinner who says it's all kosher don't help either.

I have several homoeopaths who repond to any challenge by simply stating that Dr. [Rolfe] is trapped in an outdated Newtonian paradigm, and doesn't understand how the seminal work of the great Dr. Milgrom has proved that homoeopathy works by the principles of quantum physics.

What we really need is a neat article, reasonably comprehensible to the medical reader, on the subject of why Milgrom hasn't proved diddly-squat. Something we can refer people to every time this preposterous claim is made. Something a bit like those blog entries but written in a calm and dispassionate style without the ridicule and sarcasm the subject so eminently deserves.

Any volunteers?

Rolfe.
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Old 28th June 2007, 04:03 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
What we really need is a neat article, reasonably comprehensible to the medical reader, on the subject of why Milgrom hasn't proved diddly-squat. Something we can refer people to every time this preposterous claim is made. Something a bit like those blog entries but written in a calm and dispassionate style without the ridicule and sarcasm the subject so eminently deserves.

Any volunteers?

Rolfe.
No way Jose - although I see the need, its not my passion (and I always have several actual research papers to write up).

Two of my colleagues authored a paper which has some relevance, and which may help you in these arguments:

http://arxiv.org/abs/0705.1232

If you know enough that you wanted to write an article and were worried about getting it correct, then I would certainly be prepared to go through it and help check it etc.
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Old 28th June 2007, 06:19 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
His witterings about running it past a Nobel Prizewinner who says it's all kosher don't help either.

I've been wondering who this could be. Here's a Nobel prizewinner who seems keen on the idea of using "quantum" to explain how non-existent phenomena work.
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Old 28th June 2007, 08:49 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by Tez View Post
Two of my colleagues authored a paper which has some relevance, and which may help you in these arguments:

arXiv:0705.1232v2
Excellent, thanks for that. At last something sane for me to read.
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Old 28th June 2007, 08:59 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by Mojo View Post
I've been wondering who this could be. Here's a Nobel prizewinner who seems keen on the idea of using "quantum" to explain how non-existent phenomena work.
i presume your link is Josephson since its to cambridge.

He's a complete disaster. I dont care what the hell he does with his idiotic ideas, but he still takes regular unsuspecting physics students, who then need to be rescued after a year...
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Old 28th June 2007, 12:33 PM   #38
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
Milgrom is winning so long as he's apparently unchallenged by anyone who actually knows what they're talking about in the QM field.
...
I have several homoeopaths who repond to any challenge by simply stating that Dr. [Rolfe] is trapped in an outdated Newtonian paradigm, and doesn't understand how the seminal work of the great Dr. Milgrom has proved that homoeopathy works by the principles of quantum physics.

What we really need is a neat article, reasonably comprehensible to the medical reader, on the subject of why Milgrom hasn't proved diddly-squat.
I don't know if I can agree with this. I believe that anyone who is ignorant enough to believe that Milgrom has proved something, is determined to stay ignorant, and wouldn't care if a physicist published a reply in a refereed journal.

Also, how do you refute something that isn't even wrong? His claim is a lot like saying that magnetism is the reason the tooth fairy lives on the moon.

A physicist who writes something about it can of course say "This guy isn't making any sense, and he has proved nothing except that he doesn't understand quantum mechanics". But would anyone publish that?

What else can be added to the article? Perhaps a detailed analysis of exactly how Milgrom has misunderstood quantum mechanics, but then the article wouldn't be about science. It would just be an article about one man's delusions, and would a science journal publish that?

And who would this physicist write the article for? If it contains technical arguments, it will only be understood by those who could tell that Milgrom is delusional simply by reading his abstract.
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Old 28th June 2007, 01:56 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Fredrik View Post
I don't know if I can agree with this. I believe that anyone who is ignorant enough to believe that Milgrom has proved something, is determined to stay ignorant, and wouldn't care if a physicist published a reply in a refereed journal.
That isn't the point.

When debating homoeopaths in professional journals, or in "even-handed" debating forums, they repeatedly trot out the "you're so stupid you don't understand quantum physics, and how the great Dr. Milgrom of Imperial College has proved, by his ground-breaking research, that homoeopathy works by quantum mechanics" line.

This is difficult to bat away in an easy stroke, because not only does one have to point out that Milgrom has done no "research" whatsoever - all his papers are just speculative words without a single datum point - one has to try to show that one understands where Milgrom is wrong (or at least off the radar screen of sanity) as regards QM. The problem is that the neutral or uninformed listener thinks this stuff is impressive.

If it was possible to say, "now look here Mr. Gregory, are you not aware of the seminal paper of Professor Shpalman's, where he has conclusively shown that dear Lionel doesn't know QM from a hole in the head and what's more can't spell either," it would make life so much easier.

Rolfe.
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Old 28th June 2007, 03:05 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
That isn't the point.

When debating homoeopaths in professional journals, or in "even-handed" debating forums, they repeatedly trot out the "you're so stupid you don't understand quantum physics, and how the great Dr. Milgrom of Imperial College has proved, by his ground-breaking research, that homoeopathy works by quantum mechanics" line.
While the "heroic" Milgrom says that it's only a metaphor.

Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
This is difficult to bat away in an easy stroke, because not only does one have to point out that Milgrom has done no "research" whatsoever - all his papers are just speculative words without a single datum point - one has to try to show that one understands where Milgrom is wrong (or at least off the radar screen of sanity) as regards QM. The problem is that the neutral or uninformed listener thinks this stuff is impressive.
And a scientist like me is likely to go in cautiously trying to work out what's meaningful and what's nonsense, and what would be meaningful if it had been expressed better, and what's a garbling of a couple of unrelated concepts... and it doesn't come across as being very convincing sometimes.

Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
If it was possible to say, "now look here Mr. Gregory, are you not aware of the seminal paper of Professor Shpalman's, where he has conclusively shown that dear Lionel doesn't know QM from a hole in the head and what's more can't spell either," it would make life so much easier.

Rolfe.
Well that's only Doctor Shpalman, and I'm still waiting for my eLetter to appear. The problem is deciding on what level to criticise Milgrom, and being careful to note that some of what he writes down is (presumably) copied out of books so isn't entirely wrong, even if it's misunderstood and misapplied horrendously. The stuff about the gyroscope in PPR Part 7 (Forschende Komplementärmedizin 11 (4) 212-223 (2004)) for example - the equations seem to be ok but he doesn't quite understand what they would be describing if they meant anything.

Up until a couple of weeks ago I'd never heard of Lionel Milgrom and the horrible things he's done to quantum mechanics, so at least spreading awareness of this towards other scientists is a good thing.
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