Re: Von Neumann's Blunder

Omega (
Tue, 28 Jan 1997 12:45:04 -0800

John K Clark wrote:

> > I'm not sure we want to start ascribing the type of infallibility to
> > von Neumann that, ahem, certain other people ascribe to say someone
> > like Paul.
> Von Neumann had little physical intuition, and even in pure mathematics was
> not as creative as Godel or Turing, but I don't know anyone in the entire
> history of Science who had a quicker mind of made fewer mathematical mistakes.
> Von Neumann never won a Nobel Prize, but more than one Nobel Prize winner
> with a boiling water IQ ( Hans Bethe, Eugene Wigner, even Richard Feynman)
> has publicly stated that in Von Neumann's presence they felt like morons.
> This despite the fact that Von Neumann always took great pains to be kind and
> exceedingly polite. The man was so smart it was terrifying, Feynman called
> him a "monster mind".

Not having examined the proof myself, I will grant that his mistake was one
of physical intuition and not mathematics. But that still does not change
the fact that something that was accepted as gospel truth for almost 30
years was a proof that in the words of Bell: "falls apart in your hands".

> > Victor J Stenger contradicts both Bell and Mermim (and presumably
> > Hermann too) about the lack of mathematical error in von Neumann's
> > work
> Bell said it was silly and irrelevant, he did not say it had a mathematical
> error.

I remind you that Bell didn't just say it was silly, but: "It's not just
flawed, it's silly." A phrase that I think very clearly means it's silly
because it's so flawed. Ok, the flaw was one of physical intuition, we've
established that.

> >Cramer's transactional interpretation does not necessarily imply
> >non- locality so much as the fact that local causal principles
> >propagate (on the microcausal level) symmetrically bidirectionally
> >through time.
> If it's true then right now we are causing things to happen in the Vergo
> cluster of galaxies before the Earth even existed. how could you get more
> non-local than that?

Actually, the virgo cluster of galaxies from "before the Earth even existed",
to the extent that it is on our past light cone, is not in any way non-local.
Things that are separated by a zero spacetime interval are local by definition
within Einsteinian relativity. It only seems non-local because your semantic
definition of local does not agree with the one used by Einsteinian relativity
that, so far as we know, describes the reality in which we live.

I certainly agree that there are unresolved paradoxes in this stuff, but the
first order of business in penetrating these paradoxes is to jettison semantic
definitions that don't correspond to the known laws of physics.

This does not even involve QM yet. The reason QM is so mysterious is that
we have yet to fully adjust our thoughts and semantic definitions to fully
reflect the reality described by Einsteinian relativity. There are paradoxes
here, but these paradoxes are unresolved issues in Einsteinian relativity in
exactly this area. QM is actually what resolves the paradox.

More on this later.

In the Ecstatic Service of Life -- Omega