Are David and dmckee the only two diamonds? When did we vote for them? Can I nominate anna v? David was being annoying today, locking and deleting stuff.

I don't mean the borderline crackpot question, we agreed on that, but after that was finished, David went back to an old answer where I wanted to preserve a discussion (see this for a previous case: Deleting comments without consensus ), and deleted the discussion: Worlds branching or diverging in Many-Worlds Interpretation? , and locked the post. This was extremely annoying, and a bit of show of power, and I don't like it.

In his favor, the erasure was probably in line with general policy on stackexchange, but I really think enforcing policy takes maturity and judgement, and should not be based on personal issues. Sometimes, when you have philosophical things, like positivism and quantum mechanics, a long discussion is the only way to see the points of view, and to appreciate the subtleties. This came up before, regarding deleting comments, and I just preserved those comments up by copying into the body of the answer up to this point. But it seems that David changed his mind on this.

I don't like it. I think it shows immature judgement, and I don't have confidence that this is a neutral application of policy, nor that it is a good idea for the site.

This was the deleted material, so you can judge for yourself:

EDIT: Short discussion on positivism

Positivism is extremely counterintuitive, and this makes a lot of people reject it. This was a discussion in the comments.

Schrodinger's Ghost: Not sure if I agree, have you read the papers? Divergent MWI explicitly states that whether I will see a X spin or Y spin has been determined since the big bang. I will not see both, only either X or Y and if it happens to be Y then thats because I was on the Y branch. In this view advocated by Saunders and Wilson we are in a separate parallel universe, there is no branching

Ron Maimon: I have not read the papers. The "determined" aspect is creating a fictious observer selection a postiori from the results of the measurements, and is only different in ontology from standard MWI. What "you" are is a computational entity, and computations don't embed in QM straightforwardly, since they require irreversible measurements, so you need a large-system limit, and decoherence. Whether you embed yourself in a branch that you back-propagate to the big-bang or that you back-propagate to the measurement is up to you, it doesn't change your perception or anyone else's.

SG: But there is obviously a objective difference. In one view, the overlap branching view, you are numerically identical, you are part of the other worlds pre-branching. In the divergent view, you are only qualitatively identical, but the atoms that make up you exist on their own, seperate from the identical ones in another branch.... So for instance quantum suicide works in branching, but not in divergence. When you die in divergence, you really die, just as in a single universe interpretation.

RM: The difference is imagined. How do you know your perception is only stuck to one branch? Why can't it jump to another? Why do you think you don't really die if you die in a branching interpretation? Why do you attach your consciousness to you only, maybe your consciousness is located in North Dakota in the basement of some guy's house. These questions need to be formulated in a positivistic way to see which ones are meaningless, and in this case, all these questions, and the question of "existence" itself, are meaningless.

SG: No, the difference is not imagined, why would it be? If you clone yourself, do you magically become the clone? No. You are the consciousness that arise from the neurons in your brain, it doesn't matter if there exist identical ones, you don't magically jump from body to body, that would require a soul, which is not physics.

RM: What if you clone by splitting your brain down the middle, and making a copy of the other half. Which way do you go? What if you clone by replacing half your neurons higgeldy-piggledy with electronic parts, and put these neurons in a new body, with different electronic parts replacing the other half? When you are cloned, you have a chance of jumping to the other body, the evidence is that if you ask the other body what happened, it would say "I jumped!" What the probability is is only determinable from the outside. This is only a "soul" to the extent that software is soul.

SG: These are all well known "conundrums" in philosophy surrounding personal identity, but even in your thought experiments there is no "jumping", you simply create 2 consciousnesses from 1 brain. We know this from split-brain experiments... I fail to see how your argument supports the idea that you could jump between branches? Imagine in our single universe there is another identical solar system with a identical planet Earth. Do we "jump" between them because there exist 2 identical people?

RM: How can you tell if there is jumping on not? In any circumstance where "jumping" is allowed, the two minds are exactly the same (if even there are two of them). This is the point--- when the two consciousnesses are the same, it is a meaningless question to ask if there are two or one.

SG: No, there is no physics that allows magical "jumping"... There are 2 worlds separate, how is this so hard to understand for you? Just because something is identical does not merge them into 1 thing wtf??

RM: The reason it is "hard to understand" is because the notion of whether there are two "consciousnesses" or only one is not physics, it's pure philosophy. What experiment could tell me if jumping were occuring or not occuring? The only cases where jumping could be occuring, the two brains are identical.

SG: Why would jumping occur? Does 2 identical photons become 1? It's not pure philosophy, if the fact is that the branches all exist premeasurement, that is a objective fact about reality. You are making the claim of magic soul jumping, so the burden of proof lies on your shoulders. First prove the soul, then prove jumping mechanism, collect a ton of nobel prizes and I'll concede.

RM: It is not the same as photons, because there is a test which will tell you when you have two photons. What test can tell you if two branches "exist" before they diverge? There is no answer, even in principle, because there is no existence-meter which flashes when it sees existing stuff. So "exist" is not a useful word. I believe in the "existence" of the soul in the same way I believe in the "existence" of firefox (the program), even though what the "firefox" on my computer is exactly is not clear, nor if there is 1 or 2 copies, especially when the OS puts a copy in cache.

SG: Yes, you are right that there is no experiment that can answer it, so we have to resort to metaphysics. If divergence is better than branching as a theory, then it's rational to assume that divergence is most likely the true representation of reality. ...But you do then accept that although we can't determine the fact, there is a fact about which is correct?

RM: No I don't accept that. There is no fact about the matter, there is no fact, there is no matter. The question is meaningless, you are asking nonsense. This is what "positivism" means. Two options are observationally identical means there is no difference between them, and it is a matter of convention which one you say when you speak.

SG: So you don't comprehend the difference between NUMERICALLY IDENTICAL worlds and QUALITATIVELY IDENTICAL ? You are the first person I've discussed this with who has not grasped this concept...

RM: I "grasp" the concept, I am telling you it is incoherent. There is no meaning to a question of pure metaphysics, you can make up whatever you like, there are no differences in observation, so by definition the two positions are identical.

RM: No. That's like saying solipsism and realism is identical because we can't do a experiment to verify which is correct... How the hell can you do science with such a mindset?

RM: Solipsism and realism are identical! Indeed this is a puzzling but true consequence of positivism. It remains to see how you can translate ethical arguments, like "I should buy life insurance" into the solipsist perspective. That this can be done is surprising and weird. This is how you do science, positivism is essential. I should admit that philosophers don't like positivism, because it moots their favorite questions, and ethicists find it hard to swallow that any ethical argument must be persuasive to a solipsist too (although this is true).

SG:I reject positivism, I thought most people abandoned that way of thinking in the 80s, wtf ? Anyways, there is no way you can claim that solipsism and realism are identical. ONE has to be true. Do you believe I am conscious?

RM: Nearly all people abandoned positivism in the 70s-80s, and this was a terrible step backwards. The positivism was still working its magic in physics, to produce holography. I believe they are identical--- I don't even know if I am conscious, or if you take my internal sense of myself to be primitive, I don't know a sure meaning to the statement that I was conscious three minutes ago. I know there was an internal computation going on in myself, I can see the effects of it, and I can see that there is an internal computation going on in you. That's enough for all purposes.

SG: I think it was a correct step and I would hate to see us step back to positivism. You are talking about computations taking place inside you and me, but then you are assuming realism. None of those concepts make sense in a solipsistic existence. You seem to have a rather radical way of interpreting the world. According to you the theory of gravity should not be preferred on any grounds (not even occam razor) to for instance a LSD induced idea of invisible gnomes pulling objects down to earth with invisible strings "because they produce the same outcome they are identical" ... I think we are done actually. In conclusion: Ron Maimon consider anything that can't be proven or disproven identical, including solipsism and realism. So the question I have posed is obviously, to him, incoherent. Hopefully someone else will respond

RM: Everyone else in physics thinks the same way. Mach was the father of positivism, and Einstein and Bohr (and everyone after with a brief interlude from 1974-1995) embraced Mach's philosophy. This idea was central to relativity, quantum mechanics, S-matrix theory/string-theory, and everything else. It is not reasonable to ask whether there are little gnomes, you can introuce the little gnomes, or not introduce them, and there is no difference observationally. If the gnomes are useful as a figure of speech, go ahead!

...: I think your position has merit, by the way, it is very difficult to fix up philosophy to be correct for positivism. You need an ethics that doesn't care whether God exists or not, that doesn't care whether other people exist or not, that gives the same answers regardless of metaphysics, and this makes strong constraints. The solution to this is the theory of superrationality, proposed by physicist turned cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter, which gives a positivistically meaningful metaphysics neutral definition of ethical behavior compatible with religious ethics.

You claim everyone in physics thinks the same way. How is it then that this question I am asking here has been asked by several physicists? Not to mention the entire debate on Quantum Interpretations, since they all yield the same result, according to you: THEY ARE IDENTICAL. So why do you adhere to Everett instead of say...transactional interpretation?

RM: "Transactional" is mathematically incoherent to date, so perhaps the right question is "Everett" vs. "Copehagen". There is very little positive difference between Everett and Copenhagen, the way I see it, exactly zero, so the two are identical, and this is the major reason interpretation of quantum mechanics is not discussed in physics anymore--- people accept that the formulations are generally identical. Bohm is different, because the mathematical structure has "little gnomes" which are the particle positions which might become physically identifiable in a new theory.

SG: Well, Bohm gives same outcome, so if you are really as dedicated to your philosophy as you claim, it too is identical. As for interpretation not discussed in physics anymore? Wrong It's discussed now more than ever.

RM: Everett's intepretation is important, however, for establishing that there is no paradox possible for large systems in using quantum mechanics as is. This is not clear in Bohr, where the outcomes of experiments are by classical variables which are not present in the microscopic theory. In Everett interpretation, these variables become the branch selectors, so they get different "little gnomes". At the end of the day, the two ideas are completely identical, although Everett is clearer psychologically for me.

... Bohm is identical as formulated, so I do consider it not new, as formulated. But Bohm is useless and obviously wrong as formulated, since it picks out a frame and a basis for Hilbert space. But a future theory could start with Bohm and modify it to make a new theory, and since the mathematical structure has gnomes, the particle positions, the modified gnomes would be different than the modified no-gnome theory. The wavefunction might become an average of particle position properties, for example.

... Everettians also has to pick a preferred basis, decoherence doesn't solve this. My main point is that you clearly recognize the differences in 2 ideas, but due to the inability to verify which is correct, you assume it's worthless to even ask. But you DO agree that divergence and branching can obviously not BOTH be true?

RM: Decoherence doesn't solve it, but it says that it is consistent to do it. A theory consists of a mathematical formalism, and a map from the formalism to experience. You can modify the formalism, and modify the map, but if the result is the same experience, it's the same theory. The divergence and branching are equivalent so they are both true, in that you can believe one or the other, but you generally don't want to use the language of one when thinking about the other, because they have incompatible language, so you shouldn't speak in the two frames simultaneously. ... It's exactly like coordinate rotation: do you agree that if the x-axis is along the north-south direction, this is different than the x-axis along the current Earth sun direction? I mean, in one case, the planets change x and in the others not. So you can use any axes, just as long as you are consistent, and two axes are equivalent. The same way: use any metaphysics, your metaphysics is your coordinate system, and the results are the same if the sense-perceptions are the same.

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    $\begingroup$ Hi Ron, I thought you and David have successfully resolved the issue you had? Such things can happen sometimes, I know this only too well ... I agree that Anna v would be a nice diamond too ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    May 8, 2012 at 20:10
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    $\begingroup$ We agreed on that stuff, but I guess the argument reminded him of our past spat regarding something else, so he went and erased a bunch of comments that I preserved by copying into the body of an answer, then locked the answer. This is complying with the letter of policy, but it was incredibly annoying. I must say, disputes considered, compared to other sites here, the diamond mods, including David, are saints with the judgement of angels. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Maimon
    May 8, 2012 at 22:38
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    $\begingroup$ I see, I usually get upset too if I think something is going wrong ... Misunderstandings, disagreements, etc from time to time can probably not be avoided even though our diamonds are quite nice. Pssst, I must say this not too loud: If I want to save comments (discussion treads) I sometimes copy them into an answer and delete it immetiately such that only I (and people with super powers) can still see it :-P. Of one of my comment-deleted answers I should still make a real visible answer LOL $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    May 8, 2012 at 22:46

2 Answers 2


All those answers are at https://physics.stackexchange.com/election

mbq is the third moderator and we were all elected in April 2011.

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    $\begingroup$ The canonical list of mods is also on the about page $\endgroup$ May 8, 2012 at 16:04
  • $\begingroup$ when's the next election. Can I nominate anna? $\endgroup$
    – Ron Maimon
    May 8, 2012 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ Elections are run yearly, as needed. Since all three moderators are active here, and y'all are by and large well-behaved, there's really no need for more. @Ron. Oh, and candidates must nominate themselves. $\endgroup$
    – Shog9
    May 8, 2012 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ Where is mbq these days anyway? S/he seems to pop in every now and then :/ (of course, the site's going fine with two mods) $\endgroup$ May 8, 2012 at 16:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Manishearth He said he was going to be on low duty factor for a while. I don't recall if he said why. $\endgroup$ May 8, 2012 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Manishearth Here! Seriously, I'm pretty occupied in the real world lately. $\endgroup$
    – user68
    May 8, 2012 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ @mbq aah, there you are :) Everyone, quick! Catch him before he runs away! $\endgroup$ May 9, 2012 at 3:08
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelMrozek's comment is outdated. The mods are here now. $\endgroup$
    – a06e
    Apr 30, 2013 at 2:35

Sometimes, when you have philosophical things, like positivism and quantum mechanics, a long discussion is the only way to see the points of view, and to appreciate the subtleties.

This is the truest thing you said in your post above.

Stack Exchange just isn't the place for it.

You might want to check out Dropbox or Simple Note for free online text storage.

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Long discussions are also suitable for chat. Not so much for comments. $\endgroup$
    – nhinkle
    May 9, 2012 at 4:13
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Your last sentence regarding Dropbox or Simple Note seems a bit condescending, because I question their relevance to having useful conversations with a variety of people, many of whom you have never met and don't know. Also, I note that Simple Note is one of those annoying web apps with a web page that tells you nothing about how it works, forcing you to get a "free account" to try it out in order to even know what exactly it does. $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Jun 6, 2013 at 15:15

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