Scott Aaronson, expertise, engineering, and the Bell inequality
A thought-provoking blog post by Scott Aaronson provokes more thought than I bargained for....
Scott Aaronson has a rare combination of genius and communication skill: He does first rate research on computational complexity and follows the implications of that work in fields as disparate as drug research and evolutionary theory, AND writes about some of the most complex technical topics in a clear and accessible style, invoking math only when absolutely necessary (and usually you can just close your eyes and skip those parts).
It so happens that on my birthday (thanks, Scott!) he published a great article about Bell inequality violations. The article is great for several reasons.
One, it describes the whole problem clearly, describes previous weaknesses with related experiments, and covers exactly why more recent experiments were so very, very clever.
Two, it suggests that we are in for some wicked advancements in engineering in this space.
Three, it contains that great line, "as well as I understand them". This isn't false humility, this is one of the brightest theorists working today admitting that the subject he writing about, while so close to his areas of expertise, is that far from his expertise.
Fourth, the article - and point #3 - go a long way to supporting a point I've been trying to express well for a long time, and will inevitably fail to so express once again: The distances between each of common knowledge, learned knowledge, advanced knowledge, and truly leading edge knowledge are each so vast that most of us simply cannot comprehend how ignorant we are, despite our best efforts. Even experts in any particular field rapidly reach common levels of ignorance as they move outside their fields.
Fifth, and last, true scientists recognize that and rarely if ever "speak from authority", but revert to humility and to applying the basic, repeatable tools of their trade, critical thinking, empirical research, and questioning, questioning, questioning.