Eugene Wigner

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Wigner’s Friend Receives a Death Threat

It is related that on the day that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi died, the Sages decreed a fast, and begged for divine mercy so that he would not die. And they said: Anyone who says that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi has died will be stabbed with a sword. (Talmud, tr. Ketubot 104a)   We find an interesting example of the Wigner’s Friend paradox in the Gemara quoted above. The Gemara discusses the circumstances surrounding the death of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi (Juda the Prince, knows simply as the Rebbi), one of the greatest sages of Israel, who compiled Oral Torah in the Mishnah. Why did the Sages issued a death threat to “anyone who says that Rabbi has died” promising that he “will be stabbed with a sword”? The medieval Talmudist Rabbi Bezalel Ashkenazi (1520-1592), in [...]

Wigner’s Friend Paradox

Amicus est Socrates, magister meus, sed magis est amica veritas. “Socrates is my friend but a greater friend is truth” – Plato c. 428-348 BCE. Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas. “Plato is my friend, but a greater friend is truth" – Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 350 BCE. Amicus Plato amicus Aristoteles magis amica veritas. “Plato is my friend, Aristotle is my friend, but a greater friend is truth.” – Isaac Newton, Cambridge Student Notebook, 1661 You are my friend, but what is truth? – Eugene Wigner, 1961   If Isaac Newton summed up the aphorisms of Plato and Aristotle in his student notebook, exactly 300 years later, Eugene Wigner put this notion on its head. Although taking a poetic license, I put Wigner's words above in quotation marks, I do not know if [...]

By |2019-03-18T20:23:42-04:00March 17th, 2019|Uncategorized|4 Comments

The Second Derivative — The Secrets of The Double Cave

And he [Avraham] spoke with them, saying, “…Listen to me and entreat for me to Ephron the son of Zohar. That he may give me the Machpelah (Double) Cave, which belongs to him, which is at the end of his field…" (Genesis 23:8-9) double: A house with an upper story over it. Another interpretation: because it was doubled with couples (Er. 53a) (Rashi on Genesis 23:9) In the Torah portion Chayei Sarah, Avraham purchases a Double Cave, Machpelah, as the ancestral burial plot. Almost all classical Biblical commentators interpret Machpelah (that is, "double") to mean a cave with two chambers. Rashi takes an entirely different approach and states that the cave was known for a two-story house built on top of it. So, the word Machpelah refers not to the cave itself, but to [...]

Dreams of Pharaoh—a Lesson in Symmetry

In the Torah portion Miketz, Pharaoh sees two dreams. He wakes up agitated and calls on all wise men of Egypt to interpret his dreams. Nobody is able to come up with an acceptable interpretation, so they fetch Joseph from a prison and he successfully interprets dreams of Pharaoh—there will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph proceeds to instruct Pharaoh on how to prepare for the seven years of famine. In the previous posts, Interpreting Dreams and Joseph—the Master of Time—we already explained how Joseph was able to interpret dreams in terms of units of time and why Pharaoh appointed Joseph as the Viceroy of Egypt. This story, however, is still puzzling. Perhaps it can teach us more lessons… In Talmudic and Kabbalah literature, Joseph is called [...]

Witnesses – See and be Seen

By the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall the one liable to death be put to death; he shall not be put to death by the mouth of one witness. (Devarim-Deuteronomy 17:6) I wrote about witnesses in my earlier post imaginatively called Witnesses. As Deuteronomy, restates many mitzvoth (commandments) introduced earlier, which is why it is also called Mishneh Torah – the repetition of Torah – the portion Shoftim-Judges restates the law of witnesses first introduced in in the book of Bamidbar-Numbers, portion Massei. So we shall revisit this fascinating subject. The Judgment of the Sanhedrin: "He is Guilty!" (1892 painting by Nikolai Ge) I.     An accused criminal and a Schrödinger cat Most criminals are convicted in the US bases on circumstantial evidence. Rare is the case when a jury gets to hear [...]

Two Beginnings

B’reshit bara Elokim et hashamaim v’et haaretz… In the beginning, God created heaven and earth… Alternative translation: With two beginnings God created heaven and earth… Genesis 1:1   *This is an abridged and updated version of my paper “Towards Reconciliation of Biblical and Cosmological Ages of the Universe” Presented at the Third Miami International Conference on Torah & Science in Dec. of 1999 and published in B’Or HaTorah, 13 (2002) p. 19. Contemporary science places the age of the universe in the thirteen to fourteen billion years range, or 13.787 ± 0.02, [1] to be precise.  This age is derived from both theoretical models as well as experimental data.  (For an overview of theoretical and experimental approaches to dating the universe and our planet Earth see my original paper TOWARDS RECONCILIATION OF BIBLICAL AND [...]

On the Nature of Time and the Age of the Universe

Presented at the International Torah and Science Conference in Miami International University on December 18, 2005 Alexander Poltorak   Introduction. This is the third in a series of articles, in which I attempt to sketch various approaches to reconciling a cosmological age of the universe currently estimated at 13.75 billion years with the Jewish tradition setting this age at less than six thousand years (5770 as of the day of this writing, to be exact). The first article [1] tackled this problem from the point of view of Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics suggesting that there were two distinct forms of existence—physical and proto-physical—and that the first conscious observers, Adam and Eve, collapsed the universal wavefunction, bringing the world from amorphous proto-physical existence into tangible physical existence.  This approach leads to two distinct [...]

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