Sunday, October 3, 2010

Quantum Entanglement - Einstein's Spooky Friend

Quantum Mechanics - the most successful description of all things tiny in the universe has some very weird results and implications. One central tenet is the fact that quantum events are not "actualized" until observed or interacted with in some way or the other... pretty much saying the universe exists in all possible states at one time until observed. Wacky shit.

Einstein despised this view of the nature of the universe therefore year after year during the 1920s and 1930s, he constructed elegant thought experiments that he felt could refute the quantum view of the world. Each thought experiment was eventually refuted - usually by Neils Bohr - until a famous paper from Einstein and 2 other collaborators - the EPR (Einstein-Rosen-Podolski) Paper - hit the presses. This "perfect" paper elaborated on a theoretical experiment and a set of arguments that posited the following (in simple terms)....

If quantum mechanics theory is correct about the nature of quantum events.... then 2 particles that are sourced from the same interaction (entangled) have a curious and "spooky" property... that any subsequent observations on the entangled properties of these particles are intimately linked and correlated. In other words, no matter how far these particles move from each other - a measurement of an entangled property will "force" the other particles entangled property to be disambiguated in a correlated sense - no matter how far they were from each other in space or time. Since Einstein's theory of special relativity disallows instantaneous communication across space - then this result is quite strange.

What transpired was probably Einstein's worst nightmare. He was right in the sense that Quantum Mechanics could not be complete without allowing this "spooky" non-locality based condition to exist. John Bell, a brilliant American scientist, produced a famous inequality and major clarifications of quantum mechanics theory that provided a gateway for experimentalists to create experiments sensitive enough to test entanglement.

Experiments subsequently showed that this "spooky" condition actually did exist - and this cemented Quantum Mechanics as the strangest, spookiest and most accurate description of reality ever constructed.

Einstein, a founder and the most fervent critic of quantum mechanics, never ceases to amaze me... even as he tries to disprove theories, he helped advance and discover new components - such as entanglement.

Interesting new technologies have been derived from quantum entanglement properties, such as quantum teleportation, quantum cryptography and quantum computation but besides these groundbreaking technologies - arguably quantum entanglement's greatest legacy is the insight it provides into the nature of our universe.

Quantum Entanglement review - Stanford link
EPR Paper - PDF link

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Wolfram Alpha - Knowledge Engine

Stephen Wolfram is an interesting dude. He's the founder of Wolfram Research and the inventor of the highly regarded Mathematica software platform. His social / presentation skills leave alot to be desiered - he occasionally comes across with a bombastic condescending tone - but not intentionally in my opinion - more like the product of a nerdy adolescence where a majority of his energies went into intellectual explorations rather than the "hormonal explorations" normal adolescents are guilty of... damn selfish genes.

Overall, Mr. Wolfram has been an intellectual heavyweight in physics, computation, mathematics and the study of complexity. I've been playing around with his recently released WolframAlpha knowledge engine - pretty cool technology. Here are a couple of off the cuff searches I performed with their results.

China GDP / US GDP - This cool little query understands to perform a mathematical division between the GDPs of both countries. Notice the exponential nature of China's GDP growth curve relative to the US after 2000 !!

Apple Revenue / Microsoft Revenue - Notice the inflection point around the middle of 2003 - coincendentally (or not) iTunes launched during this time.

United States / Russia - This query was understood by the engine to provide me ratios "of interest" between the US and Russia.

Sounds simple, but any software engineer will tell you that you need a set of specifications to even begin to code a solution to the above queries - but the engine performed some of these effortlessly.

Now many queries I tried (some admittedly non-sensical) were not understood by WolframAlpha and were substituted with an assumption that many times closely resembled the base query.

For what its worth, in my opinion this is an impressive engine - having experience in AI and large scale software system design - Not sure if there's a better implementation of dynamic (query-based) knowledge delivery on a web platform outside of Google & Bing especially when you consider the computational nature of the engine.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Software Consulting, AI & Babies

Been away for awhile having babies :) Needed to pick up some new software consulting gigs so I had to put the artificial intelligence (AI) projects down for a while -- but they're on the way back.

Been watching my baby slowly achieve greater coordination in his motor control... from seemingly random movements to more forceful, directed movements from head stabilization to utilizing his arms, hands and feet to cling or climb up my chest.

Interesting little guy, with seemingly no motives but to feed, process food and "export processed food" -- hence the 8-12 diapers each 24 hour period.

Even though I haven't spent time enhancing our AI algorithms, I still try to keep in the forefront of neuro and AI research by reading books and listening to podcasts. If you're interested in neuroscience and/or artificial intelligence, I recommend you listen to "The Brain Podcast" by Dr. Ginger Campbell - I've been listening to this Podcast for a year now - an excellent trove of information can be gathered from these insightful interviews of the latest in neuroscience research.