Saturday, May 31, 2014 ... /////

Most of the generic science news sources – see e.g. PC Magazine – report on a new result by experimenters at a Kavli-named institute in Delft, a historical academic town in Holland, that just appeared in Science:

Unconditional quantum teleportation between distant solid-state quantum bits (SciMag) by Pfaff, Hensen, Hanson, and 8 more co-authors
Let me emphasize that Hansen isn't among the authors. ;-)

Their evil device...

They have made some progress in the experimental work that could be useful for quantum computers in the future – potentially but not certainly foreseeable future. Two qubits – electron spins somewhere in two pieces of a diamond that are 10 feet away – are entangled, stored as nuclear spins, guaranteed to be sufficiently long-lived, and measured to be almost perfectly entangled.

I don't follow every experimental work of this kind and I won't pretend that I do. This prevents me from safely knowing how new their work is. I hope and want to believe it is sufficiently new, indeed. Obviously, quantum computers will require us to master many more operations than this one – potentially and probably more difficult ones.

However, the words chosen in the paper and in the popularization of the result are a mixed bag.

Friday, May 30, 2014 ... /////

Measure for measure: debaters love to hate genuine quantum mechanics

Virtually all popular preachers about quantum mechanics are hopelessly deluded

If you have 100 spare minutes, you may want to watch this debate on the foundations of quantum mechanics:

Video, event web page, Preposterous Universe.
The name of the debate, Measure For Measure, is a Shakespeare's play. It may also express one idea about the measurement in quantum mechanics or another, e.g. the correct idea that the measurement and the influence on the measured system is needed to find some information – to measure in the epistemic sense (to find out).

This conversation took place last night at the NYU Sourball Center for the Perforated Ass or something like that – I am no native speaker. All the talk about physics was introduced by the überhost, Brian Greene's wife Tracy Day, who introduced the host, Brian Greene, who began with tons of jokes about quantum mechanics in the mass culture and some nice, basic, a bit vague but effectively very accurate background about the double slit experiment which was enhanced by cool animations.

Thursday, May 29, 2014 ... /////

Some physicists did get richer: Guth, Linde, Starobinsky share one of the $1 million Kavli prizes (for inflation). Other two triplets – of nanoopticians and neuroscientists – win two more millions in total. Guth and Linde didn't have functional cellphones to receive the good news. Maybe they will be able to buy one – even though Linde plans to spend this money for his breakfast. Some annoying news from North Carolina: UNC-CH fires physics professor jailed in Argentina ...see also Google News... Paul Frampton is still in Argentina but he should be released soon. The life outside the prison may be hard because Ms Carol Folt, a biologist and an academic official at UNC, just fired Paul for "misconduct and neglect of duty". They try to suggest that they "succeeded" in preventing his retirement so even though Paul is 70 and he would be normally allowed to retire and collect pension, he may be getting none. I find it the decision and the vigor with which it was made unfortunate. TRF largely avoids nudity. Although the average reader's age is 68.2 years and they would like it, there are also teenagers among the readers and they would like it, too. So it has to be regulated. One thing is that Paul has done some really stupid things for a virtual clone of his Czech American girlfriend, Ms Denisa Krajíčková aka Denise Milani, and I can't even 100% verify that he didn't know about those drugs although I do believe that Paul is really a clear soul and a naive person. There's some sense in which his arrest was unavoidable. What happens to you if you're caught with lots of drugs at the airport? Global warming vs climate change The Guardian and everyone else in the MSM write about a poll among 1,600 Americans that concluded that they're turned off by "climate change" but intrigued by "global warming". They are 13% more likely to say that "global warming is a bad thing" than in the case of "climate change", and so on. So what is the right term to use for "the thing"? LEP's, LHC's $98$, $126\GeV$ Higgses may match (N)MSSM Peter Higgs is 85 today: Congratulations! I want to mention a rather interesting paper Invisible decays of low mass Higgs bosons in supersymmetric models by Pandita and Patra. The LHC has discovered the $125-126\GeV$ Higgs boson and there seem to be no other particles around so far – a situation that may dramatically change in less than a year. Recall that supersymmetry is the most well-motivated theory that (aside from more important things) ultimately requires an extension of the Higgs sector. The simplest supersymmetric model(s) called the MSSM (Minimal Supersymmetric Standard Model) have five Higgs bosons. The NMSSM (Next-to-MSSM) has an extra Higgs-like chiral superfield $S$, a fieldized $\mu$-parameter of the MSSM. I think it's fair to say that most people expect that if there are new bosons related to the Higgs mechanism, they are heavier than the Higgs boson that has already been discovered. However, there is this interesting loophole – one may be thinking outside the box. The other Higgs bosons of the supersymmetric extensions of the Standard Model may actually be lighter than the Higgs boson that has already discovered. The immediate question is "Why hasn't such a lighter particle already been discovered?" But once you acknowledge that the decays may naturally be hard to see, it's tempting to say that the scenario in which the so-far-unknown Higgs bosons are lighter than the known one is as likely as the conventional scenario where the particles discovered in the future are heavier. Tuesday, May 27, 2014 ... ///// Constructor theory: Deutsch and Marletto are just vacuously bullšiting I can't stand pompous fools, people who are completely dumb but who like to pretend how wonderfully smart they are. So it is not hard for you to guess that I was rather upset when I was forced to read a new preprint by David Deutsch and Chiara Marletto and the associated hype in Scientific American: Constructor Theory of Information (arXiv) A New “Theory of Everything”: Reality Emerges from Cosmic Copyright Law (SciAm) If you happen to forget similar factoids, Deutsch is one of the philosophical babblers who likes to say ludicrous things about the allegedly unavoidable naive many-worlds interpretations of quantum mechanics, and so on. What is this constructor theory? It's a sequence of worthless would-be smart sentences sold as a "theory of everything" and a "unifying theory of classical and quantum physics" and "all information in them" which also "defines all forms of information" and transforms all of our knowledge to "claims that some tasks are impossible". "Where is the beef?" the ladies would surely ask in this case, too. If you try to find any content inside these texts, you will inevitably fail. There is no content. It's just a stupid game with words and a couple of mathematical symbols. Monday, May 26, 2014 ... ///// EU: National Front, UKIP, Mach, Sulík win seats Europe is a very diverse continent and it is a bit confusing to combine the seats from all the countries. But some of the "projections" of the vector of results look better than expected. You know, some decade ago, I would also be influenced by much of the "mainstream" thinking and I would consider France's National Front to be a rather extreme party. And maybe it was. I surely don't consider it extreme today and it probably isn't. ;-) Ms Le Pen got 26%, ahead of center-right UMP with 21%. Hollande's socialists only got 14%. See similar highlights at the BBC server. Even more impressively, UKIP won the EU polls in the U.K., with 29%, beating Labour at 23% and Tories at 23%. Greens better than LibDems. A fun fact from Spain: I was surprised by the numerous Spanish visits to the article Shut up and calculate, especially if you're a lousy thinker. Miguel M. kindly explained me the reason of the visits: the noted wheelchair-bound anti-quantum warrior Pablo Echenique-Robba who is the main villain of that blog post got elected (unless the remote votes change the results dramatically which is unlikely) to the European Parliament for the scholars' extreme left-wing but Euroskeptical party called Podemos (this name is used across Latin America, too). Congratulations and I wish good luck to the... scientist... to finally achieve the destruction of the European economy, the European Union, and modern physics. ;-) In Italy, center-left current PM Renzi won 40% which is in no way against the bad EU trends but on the other hand, I have no problems with that because I feel he makes Italy controllable. Comedian Beppe Grillo's maverick Five Star party got 22% and Berlusconi's party received 16%. In different countries, I may have different sympathies, and this collection of numbers looks good to me, too. Sunday, May 25, 2014 ... ///// Isla Vista massacre: when testosterone runs amok On Friday, Elliot Rodger (22) murdered six other people and himself – in an act of stabbing and frantic shooting – in Isla Vista, California. The son of the British-born Hollywood director Peter Rodger has previously announced his plans to murder many women – those who rejected him – because of his sexual frustration. I think that there are too many men who say similar things so it would be impractical to "stop" all of them. So it's disputable whether the event could have been avoided. But the feeling that it could have been is particularly annoying. Isla Vista is the town adjacent to the campus of the University of California in Santa Barbara. It only has 23,000 people – 1 / 300 thousand (thanks, Gene!) of the world population – but it just happens that I have lived there for half a year, H1 of 2001, before my PhD defense on 9/11/2001. (And I have visited UCSB approximately 3 times at other moments.) It is a coincidence that my visit in 2001 began with another memorable shooting spree in February (yes, I have better alibi in 2014). So I know the town rather well which is why I found the news more shocking than some generic reports about murders. Claims: Universe is not expanding Fred Singer sent me a link to an article in Sci-News, Universe is Not Expanding After All, Scientists Say which describes a recent U.S.-Spanish-Italian paper UV surface brightness of galaxies from the local Universe to $z\sim 5$ (arXiv) that was just published as International Journal of Modern Physics D Vol. 23, No. 6 (2014) 1450058. It is quite a bold claim but not shocking for those who have the impression based on the experience that these journals published by World Scientific are not exactly prestigious – or credible, for that matter. The sloppy design of the journal website and the absence of any $\rm\TeX$ in the paper doesn't increase its attractiveness. The latter disadvantage strengthens your suspicion that the authors write these things because they don't want to learn the Riemannian geometry, just like they don't want to learn $\rm \TeX$ or anything that requires their brain to work, for that matter. Friday, May 23, 2014 ... ///// EU elections The elections to the European Parliament – one that cannot propose laws, but where some representatives may at least talk to each other – are getting started. Here in Czechia, the polls open at 2 pm today, on Friday, and continue tomorrow when they end at 2 pm, too. After the first day (almost), the Czech turnout is 5% so it is totally plausible that the total turnout will be below 10%. Compare it with over 80% in Crimea, for example, or 75% in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. As I have already mentioned, I am planning to vote for Petr Mach's Party of Free Citizens for the first time. He got 2.5% in the latest parliamentary elections which was impressive and there are polls that suggest that he has a chance to get 5% this time. The vote isn't necessarily lost. If he gets above the threshold, and I hope it's enough, it will have one MEP, namely Mach himself. Higgs contest, top ten As you may have noticed (by looking at my reduced activity on this blog), I have spent hours with the ATLAS Higgs contest in recent two days. It's time to boast a little bit. Here is the screenshot of the current leaderboard: Click to zoom in. You see that there's someone new in the top-ten list, someone who jumped up by 179 stairs in recent two days. And his name is the same as mine! ;-) Finally, I could apply some idiosyncratic improvements to the data manipulation. To compare, Tommaso Dorigo of CMS is at the 116th place. Maybe he should try to learn some string theory if he's not too good at evaluating the data from particle physics experiments. Or better not... ;-) Wednesday, May 21, 2014 ... ///// An interview with Melissa Franklin I am a bit busy these days, also because of the Higgs challenge. As a temporary linker-not-thinker, let me share the following URL with you (thanks to David Simmons-Duffin for the hyperlink): ‘Physics was paradise’ (Harvard Gazette) It is a rather interesting interview with Melissa Franklin, an experimental particle physicist who has been the physics department chair at Harvard since 2010. I've served on several thesis committees with her which is not the only reason why I know her pretty well, of course. Tuesday, May 20, 2014 ... ///// ATLAS: find Higgs, win$7k

Particle physics meets the machine learning sport

Amateur and experienced programmers, you have a chance to win $7,000 (gold),$4,000 (silver), or $2,000 (bronze) if you succeed in a contest organized by the LHC's ATLAS Collaboration (via Tommaso Dorigo), Higgs Boson Machine Learning Challenge (kaggle.com) So far there are 180+ contestants (well, teams – a team may contain at most 4 people). Anyone who registers and sends her results by September 15th, 2014 may win, however. What is the sport about? Monday, May 19, 2014 ... ///// There are no 't Hooft's ontological bases Fred Singer informed me about a huge, 202-page-long quant-ph paper by Gerard 't Hooft (via Physics arXiv Blog) The Cellular Automaton Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. A View on the Quantum Nature of our Universe, Compulsory or Impossible? which reviews the author's more than 15-year-long struggle to show that the foundations of quantum phenomena are classical (these are not just my words, he explicitly says so; at least, I appreciate that he is not trying to mask this basic goal by thick layers of fog like other "interpreters" do). I also appreciate that 't Hooft doesn't cite any paper by himself newer than 1993 so the new long preprint is no self-citation fest as some other papers. The article was posted exactly one week before Steven Weinberg's paper on modified density matrices. One week seems to be the current timescale of producing another paper by a (more prominent than average) physics Nobel prize winner that displays the author's dissatisfaction with quantum mechanics. And in the case of 't Hooft, the dissatisfaction is really the primary point of the paper. Should you read the paper? I don't think so. I won't pretend that I have read the whole paper or that I plan to do so, either. Sunday, May 18, 2014 ... ///// Godzilla, an anti-environmentalist blockbuster Godzilla (2014) is a new U.S.-Japanese movie based on the paradigm of the Japanese monster that premiered on Friday in the U.S. Its budget is$160 million and happily enough for the people behind the team, the investment is going to be repaid sometimes next week, within less than a week. Not bad. On Friday itself, it earned $38.5 million and is likely to get$100 million over the three-day weekend.

I have not seen the movie and I have no idea whether I will like it. But what's interesting is that this is not another movie parroting the intellectually inferior a dishonest "environmentalist" ideology about the man who ruins Nature and may fix it. Quite on the contrary, the movie points out that the alarmists spreading this meme are dangerous psychopaths.

Friday, May 16, 2014 ... /////

Steven Weinberg's mutated density matrices

CLOUD: First, off-topic news. CLOUD at CERN published some new results. Previously, they showed that the sulphur acid doesn't seem to be enough to produce more clouds. Now, if the acid is combined with oxidized organic vapours from plants etc., low-lying clouds may be created and cool the planet. The cosmic rays may still modulate and matter a lot but only if the concentration of the two previous ingredients is low enough for the cosmic rays to be helpful.
Loopholes like that are probably not too interesting

Steven Weinberg posted a playful quant-ph preprint two days ago:
Quantum Mechanics Without State Vectors
The title is a bit misleading. What Weinberg mostly tries to do is to study possible symmetry transformations of density matrices that don't descend from transformations of pure states. This blog post has two comparable parts. The first one is dedicated to Weinberg's negative, knee-jerk reactions to the foundations of quantum mechanics. The second part is dedicated to his hypothetical non-pure-state-based density matrices.

Anti-quantum noise as an introduction

The beginning of the paper reflects Weinberg's personal dissatisfaction with quantum mechanics.
Two unsatisfactory features of quantum mechanics have bothered physicists for decades.
However, there are no (i.e. zero) unsatisfactory features of quantum mechanics so what has bothered the physicists were inadequacies and stubbornness of these physicists themselves, not unsatisfactory features of quantum mechanics.
The first is the difficulty of dealing with measurement.
There is no difficulty of dealing with measurement. On the contrary, measurement – or observation or perception (these two words may ignite different emotions in the reader's mind but the physical content is equivalent) – is the process whose outcomes quantum mechanics is predicting, and it is doing so probabilistically.

Thursday, May 15, 2014 ... /////

Lennart Bengtsson will probably remain a renegade, anyway

Lennart Bengtsson (*1935) is a Swedish meteorologist and modeler.

You may check that he has written lots of papers and collected lots of citations. Two weeks ago, he decided to join a dozen of other researchers in the Academic Advisory Council of The Global Warming Policy Foundation, a skeptical climate change think tank led by Lord Nigel Lawson (chairman) and by Benny Peiser (director).

After a violent reaction to his decision – see e.g. GWPF, The Times, WUWT, Hans von Storch's blog, Climate Audit, Jo Nova, Judith Curry, Spiegel, Climate Depot, CATO, National Review, Marcel Crok, Click Green, Power Line Blog, and joyful fascist jerk William Connolley and his Big Whopper Gestapo Comrade, Goebbelsian troll David Appell – he left the GWPF board.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 ... /////

BICEP2 vs Planck: nothing wrong with screen scraping

The BICEP2-Planck relationship is competitive and that's how things should be; BICEP2 claims remain robust

Two days ago, Adam Falkowski of Paris created a ministorm when he asked

Is BICEP wrong?
The idea of his was that there was a rumor that the BICEP2 folks have so seriously misinterpreted, misunderstood, understimated, and misunderestimated a sky map by the Planck Collaboration that when the bug is corrected, the significance of the BICEP2 discovery fully evaporates.

He tried to suggest that almost all the well-informed experts in this experimental enterprise converge to the opinion that most of the B-modes seen by the BICEP2 gadget is due to the polarizing dust in the Milky Way, not due to the gravitational waves from the era of cosmic inflation. Erik Verlinde tweeted that a Princeton workshop implies the same conclusion. In particular, these two physicists seem certain that Planck will refute the BICEP2 claims in their new paper to be published not later than October 2014.

I remained open-minded for half a day but once I saw the claims by Clement Pryke and John Kováč that they are not planning any revision of their papers at all, I decided that Adam's story is almost certainly just bullšit, a conspiracy theory mixing half-truths, dust, šit, and fantasy into a stinky whole – and Adam and Erik are just full of this, politely speaking, composite šit.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 ... /////

A silly contest involving a TBBT video

This is a video from an episode of The Big Bang Theory, one about the visit to the Large Hadron Collider on the Valentine's Day.

One may see a real-world famous physicist in a big chunk of this video. When I say "famous", I mean "famous" from the media as well as having over 20,000 citations according to SPIRES.

Monday, May 12, 2014 ... /////

Physics Overflow is live

Off-topic, breaking news: Jester believes that there are rumors suggesting that Planck refutes BICEP2 and many experimenters, including those in the BICEP Collaboration, are admitting that the B-modes came from the dust. Clement Pryke of BICEP refutes Adam's rumors about the planned retraction in the Science Magazine while he admits that they don't quite know the right interpretation of a key Planck map. I won't say what I guess about these claims.
Some of you may know Physics Stack Exchange where people may ask and answer physics-related questions. But you may often have the feeling that no one is trying to keep the quality of the traffic sufficiently high. Thanks to Dilaton, Dimension10 etc., a new very promising competition has emerged. It's called Physics Overflow:
You may see that the name was inspired by MathOverflow.NET.

Donetsk, Luhansk referendums have firmer democratic foundations than any EU-wide polls so far

As recently as yesterday, I was unsure whether the referendums in the Donetsk Region and the Luhansk Region would end up as the same landslide vote against the new Kiev regime as the referendum in Crimea. The ethnic Russians are stronger in Crimea, and so on. However, yesterday, I realized that the question was different in Donetsk and Luhansk. The voters were asked

Do you support the Act of State Self-rule of the Donetsk/Luhansk People's Republic?
Note that there has been no vote on the annexation by Russia yet; the grassroots or the new local politicians may be preparing the referendum on the annexation for the following weekend and I am really uncertain about the results. The support for annexation could be significantly weaker. The desire for genuine independence could be strong. On the other hand, the emerging republic(s) will probably need some military support to resist the attempts of the current Kiev regime to occupy them – the Kiev troops and tanks are being declared occupation forces today – so they may be forced to seek some close relationships with Russia whether they want it or not. Well, let me repeat: I honestly can't predict the results of the next referendum.

The people's desire to submit ballots in the referendum that took place yesterday was staggering, about 75%. See e.g. these long queues in front of the polling stations. Everyone knew that some lunatics from Kiev may begin fire against civilians, like in Krasnoarmejsk, but they went to vote, anyway. In fact, the fear of the bullets from Kiev has probably encouraged people to vote and to vote for independence from Kiev. I would probably be pushed in that direction, too, regardless of the detailed nationalist colors of the regime that would be pointing guns and tanks to civilians like me.

About 90% were in support of the independence of the Donetsk Region; 10% were against. The Luhansk Region data will be published later. They may be a bit less convincing but I do expect the independence to gain the support of a majority, too.

Sunday, May 11, 2014 ... /////

Rogozin, Romania, conflicts, and individual rights

On Saturday, Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin went to Transdniestria to celebrate the anniversary of the 1945 victory over the Nazis with the local ethnic Russians – who have the same good reasons to celebrate (congratulations to them, and thanks to the Russian and Western Second World War veterans who helped to liberate my country) and who may feel oppressed by the surrounding nations these days.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, they have established a de facto independent ethnic Russian republic which is a supernarrow strip on the border between Moldova and Ukraine. Just to be sure, Moldova is a former Soviet republic which is ethnically Romanian, more or less, and it could have been a part of Romania if the Soviet Union has never existed. Moldova is even poorer than Romania but it's trying to create ties with the EU.

When he was returning from Kishinev, the capital of Moldova, to Moscow, his plane, Rusjet Yak-42, wasn't allowed to enter the Romanian airspace. They were also accompanied by some Ukrainian interceptors Mikoyan MiG (even the Maidan regime seems unable to operate without Russian products) so Rogozin had to land in Kishinev again. The local Moldovan government has used the opportunity to confiscate some petitions in which thousands of the folks in Transdniestria demand protection from the Russian Federation. Moldovan authorities will "study these materials to check whether someone has committed a crime".

It is not clear to me where Rogozin's plane finally went – Moldova is completely surrounded by Ukraine and Romania – but I guess he was finally allowed by Romania to go to Minsk through Bulgaria etc. and then to Moscow. Or maybe he just ignored the ban and took the risk. If you understand the path, let me know.

Just to be sure, these airspace hassles occurred because Rogozin is one of the dozens of influential Russian citizens who were targeted by the EU-U.S. sanctions. He is a very active Twitter (200,000+ followers, plus 12,000 in English) and Facebook guy. He has made an innocent tweet that was destined to be widely discussed.

Saturday, May 10, 2014 ... /////

Life after death: a debate

Caltech cosmologist Sean Carroll along with Yale neurologist Steve Novella won this Intelligence Square debate on the proposition "death is not final". An IQ2 debate about global warming was discussed on this blog 7 years ago.

While the "for" motion (defended by the Harvard-affiliated neurosurgeon with his own near-death experience Eben Alexander along with medical doctor and writer Raymond Moody) was favored 37-31 before the debate, many people have changed their mind and the skeptics (believing that the death is final, after all) have won the final vote 46-31. I am pretty amazed that as many as 38% of the audience changed their opinion about the answer to this fundamental question after the 100-minute debate.

Sean Carroll has promoted the debate: before the debate, debate's afterlife.

Friday, May 09, 2014 ... /////

Two very different PR, ER-EPR papers

I thought that the acronyms are sort of funny

Two contrasting papers on the Papadodimas-Raju theory of the black hole interior and the Maldacena-Susskind ER-EPR (Einstein-Rosen/Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen) correspondence have been posted to the hep-th arXiv today:

Daniel Harlow (Princeton): Aspects of the Papadodimas-Raju [PR] Proposal for the Black Hole Interior

Kristan Jensen, Andreas Karch, Brandon Robinson (Seattle+SUNY): The holographic dual of a Hawking pair has a wormhole
(TRF guest blogger) Andreas Karch et al. takes the positive attitude that the newest picture, ER-EPR, works, while Harlow sees a serious problem with another, related yet inequivalent, picture of the black hole interior, the Papadodimas-Raju (PR) theory.

PR and ER-EPR are not quite equivalent although the acronyms may be combined to a rather nice triangle. ;-) But I think that they are ultimately compatible. Both of them are right and complementary. PR tells us something about the freedom we have when we extrapolate dynamics of quantum gravity into the black hole interior; ER-EPR teaches us about the behavior of the Hilbert space in topologically nontrivial situations with an ER bridge (not really studied by PR at all, at least so far). Harlow's paper is against PR; Andreas Karch et al. argue in favor of ER-EPR maximally positively – so positively, in fact, that they (rightfully?) demand a part of the credit for the streamlined interpretation of the ER-EPR correspondence. But even though they focus on "different theories" of the black hole interior, you may see that PR and ER-EPR are "allies" because pretty much the same point that causes so much discomfort to Daniel Harlow is also what Andreas Karch et al. – which will be referred to as Jensen et al., to respect the alphabetical order – embrace so enthusiastically!

Russia plans to annex the Moon in 2030

What is the price of the Moon?

Russia's Victory Day Parade was a bit more exciting for the Russians in 2014 because Crimea became a part of the Russian victory. However, on the same day, Russia also published some details about its space program:

Russia will begin Moon colonization in 2030 - draft space program
America may seem out of this game but we could see a conflict on the Moon, anyway, because China has promised to send its first troops to the Moon in 2025. ;-)

Unless the modern civilization destroys itself in some way – e.g. by allowing the extremists known as "environmentalists" to influence our lives – the Moon will eventually become a "possible destination". But will the human activity on the Moon ever become significant for our planet? Will the Moon ever become the source of a non-negligible portion of the world GDP?

What is the price of the Moon?

Czech trailblazing: 125 years

I am a patriot yet a realist. So I think that the Czechs are pretty much the ultimate example of an average nation when it comes to most benchmarks. There are not too many technologies or disciplines in which we are at the top. But one of them is just celebrating 125 years. My 10 years in the U.S. made me think: You're just troglodytes, Yankees! ;-)

What is it? Yes, it's the trailblazing system. By 1938, i.e. before the arrival to Nazism to Czechoslovakia, Czechoslovakia had the longest, most sophisticated, and most extensive system of 40,000 km of routes for hikers that are marked by the unified, colorful, structured, yet simple collection of symbols.

Today, it's still 40,000 km which no longer makes us the #1 in the absolute sense but we're still enjoying the highest density of the marked routes in the world.

Thursday, May 08, 2014 ... /////

Straight rod passing through curved hole

Off-topic: A week ago, The Big Bang Theory and three less important shows were banned in China where they were streamed legally and where TBBT became hugely popular. No one knows why – Chuck Lorre has speculated what the gang of commies in a dark room who have watched a few TBBT episodes didn't like. Maybe it's because Penny has "soup" written on her buttocks in Chinese characters and Mary Cooper uses the term "Kung fu letters" for these East Asian scripts. ;-) But the reason could have been more political, of course. Or commercial.
Why the hole is hyperbolic and why you shouldn't worry

The following simple video from a Valencia, Spain science museum has gotten almost 200,000 views in a few days.

Not bad. I believe that many readers, including very young ones, are not only able to reconcile themselves with the fact that the hole may be curved even though the rod is straight but they could even compute the shape of the rod. But let me say a few words, anyway.

Some of us intuitively believe that a straight rod should produce images composed of straight lines. But it isn't necessarily so. After all, many of us have already tried to use a straight rod named "a pencil" to draw circles and other undoubtedly curved curves. ;-)

Obama-era U.S. relations to other countries worse than in the Bush era

George W. Bush was hated by many Americans during his reign. While it's true that my perspective from People's Republic of Cambridge isn't representative of the U.S. and Bush's position was particularly tense in the city of Harvard and MIT, I think that to a lesser extent, it is true that many people have believed that Bush was doing everything he could to turn the rest of the world into the haters of the U.S. In particular, it was believed that the Iraq war would permanently strain the U.S. relationships with the Middle East and with countries like France, and so on.

Barack Obama's program was to turn the U.S. into a friendly country loved in the rest of the world. He has even won a Peace Nobel Prize – in 2009 – for this image of his. It has never gone beyond the image and this Peace Nobel Prize has a "chance" to become a principal player in the ignition of the Third World War. I think that Barack Obama and some people in his team want others to be doing well. Unfortunately, this desire sometimes reaches Messianic dimensions and those are very dangerous. You know, the road to hell is paved by good intentions.

When we look at the relationships between the U.S. and other countries and blocs, most of them have gotten worse.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014 ... /////

An anti-German, anti-Russian rant in The New York Times

Russophobia has never been a duty of the Westerner

On Friday, dozens of pro-Russian citizens of Ukraine were burned alive in the building of the trade unions in Odessa – a previously peaceful, highly cultural city in Southwestern Ukraine founded by Catherine the Great in 1794 – where they had to hide from aggressive pro-Maidan soccer rowdies whom they previously confronted on the street. The rowdies did everything they could to burn and kill as many people as possible.

Off-topic: this is how the Maidan regime plans to negotiate with the ethnic Russians who are citizens of Ukraine, in this case with the city of Slavjansk. I am sort of terrified even though it is 1,758 km away from my home.

It's a very sad event, especially because the current de facto government of Ukraine has done virtually nothing to save these lives and it is not doing much to investigate the events. Even the EU decided to call for an independent investigation of the deaths; even the acting Ukrainian PM Yatsenyuk agreed that their police failed miserably. Similar actions of governments against their citizens have been used as excuses for assorted U.S/NATO/U.N. interventions into numerous countries in recent years but these crimes are being deliberately covered or justified by those who have decided to support the Maidan regime whatever it costs. These people are so immoral.

But I want to spend some time with a new op-ed in The New York Times,

Why Germans Love Russia
by Clemens Wergin, a Russophobe from Germany's daily "Die Welt". He's whining that it's so bad that about one-half of the German population backs the Russian attitude to the hassle in Ukraine and invents various tricks to sling mud at these people.

Worldsheets and spacetimes: kinship and cross-pollination

There exists one idea that I have believed for 18 years to eventually become critical for the most general definition of a theory of everything, or string/M-theory, and that hasn't played an important role yet. No, I don't mean the idea of feminist biology (thanks, Honzo). Instead, the most relevant papers underlying the idea that I want to discuss only have around 100 citations at this moment which is far from the citation count appropriate for the papers sparking a new string revolution.

It's the idea that the worldsheets and worldvolumes of all sorts that appear in string theory (yes, I decided to write "worldsheets" without a space in this blog post) are actually powered by dynamical laws that obey the same general principles as the dynamical theories governing the processes in the spacetime. The worldsheet theories may look simpler and less "stringy" than the theories in the target space but it's just a quantitative feature of a subclass of solutions of the most general form of string/M-theory, not a sign of their being qualitatively different.

The important papers (for me) that have made me adopt this belief are the 1996 papers by Kutasov and Martinec about the $\NNN=2$ strings. They have only been mentioned on this blog once, in the 2006 blog post titled Evaluating extreme approaches to the theory of everything. The general idea has been pioneered in Michael Green's 1987 paper, World sheets for world sheets (I added the spaces here because it's the original title).

The EU's 20 absurdities: a poll

1. ACTA, 18%
2. Spying in cars, 13%
3. Dehydration, 11%
4. Light bulbs, 11%
5. Corporate women quotas, 8%
6. Hypocritical smoking bans, 6%
7. Strong vacuum cleaner ban, 6%
Originally posted on May 1st

Around May 24th, the citizens of EU countries will vote deputies to the European Parliament. This "parliament" isn't terribly important – for example, it is not allowed to propose any legislation (it is the only "parliament" in the world with this minor defect) but we may still think that it's important that the right people will be able to speak on that forum.

Various parties opposing the creeping European unifications are expected to make a strong showing – taking over approximately 1/3 of the Parliament. We will probably see that the Euroskeptics are far from being a uniform body, too. It's very likely that I will vote the Euro-skeptical "Party of Free Citizens [SSO]" for the first time because I am obviously much closer to it than to the older parties and I was impressed by SSO's gains during the latest national elections. Slovak economist Richard Sulik is the boss of a libertarian party that has some nonzero chances to shine in Slovakia, too.

I decided to translate his poll choosing the greatest absurdity of the European Union. Just to be sure, I think that there are much more serious processes taking place at the EU level than these 20 items. But the list of the 20 items is amusing and you may pick your winner.

Monday, May 05, 2014 ... /////

Combining Boltzmann brains with additional psychotic explosions

Sean Carroll has no clue about physics and is helping to bury the good name of 2 graduate students

Sean Carroll can sometimes give popular talks about physics, science, and atheism and most of the content is more or less OK. He wrote an OK textbook general relativity. However, when it comes to things sold as his original research, he has been a borderline crackpot for years. I think it's obvious that after his and two graduate students' latest salvo,

De Sitter Space Without Quantum Fluctuations,
it's time to permanently erase the adjective "borderline". I had to divide the reading of those texts to 5 sessions because the breathtaking ignorance and stupidity described in the paper has driven my adrenaline level above the healthy levels five times.

Recall that last summer, Boddy and Carroll argued that we have to be grateful for the unstable Higgs field (in the real world, the Higgs field cannot be unstable because it's an inconsistency) because the instability will soon destroy our world and that's a good thing because in an eternally existing approximately de Sitter world, "we" would inevitably have to become "Boltzmann Brains", thermal fluctuations that resemble the human brain, allow it to feel the same thing, and that inevitably occur after an exponentially long time.

Your humble correspondent and Jacques Distler would explain why this reasoning completely violates the rules of the probability calculus – Bayesian probability, frequentist probability, or any other well-known approach to probability – as well as causality and basic common sense, too.

We can see that we are not Boltzmann Brains and there exists no rational argument implying that "we" would have to "be" Boltzmann Brains just because there are infinitely many of them in an infinite spacetime. Claiming that "we" have to be generic in this sense is just a hypothesis, one that must be tested and one that may be easily falsified (within a split second). Our observations of our present and the past – and ourselves – clearly cannot depend on some future events happening in our Universe (like the number of "Boltzmann Brains" in a future region of the spacetime), anyway, because such an influence would be acausal.

Saturday, May 03, 2014 ... /////

Tracing the source of catchy melodies

Thirty years ago, in the mid 1980s, I would be spending some time with my Commodore 64 – writing some programs in BASIC or the 6510 machine code or playing some games. Or some combinations of those things.

This composition will be one of the main topics of this blog post.

With a few exceptions, the games I possessed were copied from the pirates but what you would expect, especially behind the Iron Curtain. Commodore 64 had the wonderful "sound card", the SID chip with 3 sound generators and more. I still remember some POKE's and PEEK's needed to make this gadget work. The music sounded much better than the one-bit music from Sinclair ZX Spectrum, for example. (Compare the nearly professional C64 music with the Manic Miner sounds from Spectrum which are really horrible in comparison. If you cared: The in-game music is "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Edvard Grieg's music to Henrik Ibsen's 1867 play "Peer Gynt". The music that plays during the title screen is an arrangement of "The Blue Danube" by Johann Strauss II.)

Some of the games' musical themes were wonderful. And a curious person wants to know more about good compositions. Sometimes, especially when the composer was a young living man, the author would be written down. But it wasn't always the case. Today, we could use Shazam [iOS], the app that (reversely) identifies the music according to the audio it hears. But there was no Shazam 30 years ago so the source of some music remained a mystery.

Friday, May 02, 2014 ... /////

Laws of physics cannot be hacked

Hackers of physics do not beat Nature; they only fool people

Shaun Maguire, a PhD student who blogs together with John Preskill, spent his childhood hacking computers. It is natural for him to do the same thing to Nature:

Hacking nature: loopholes in the laws of physics
A source of the (especially young) people's excitement about physics is their desire to beat the old laws of Nature and to hack into systems around us. To get unlimited moves in the Candy Crush Saga. To make a compromise with a vendor machine: to acquire the chocolate while paying no money. To be able to subscribe to an ObamaCare website. To surpass the speed of light and to beat the uncertainty principle.

Warp drive cannot work, as I will mention again.

It's a part of the human nature to think that the previous limitations can be circumvented. Our ancestors couldn't get to the Moon; we can. So some people think that if our ancestors couldn't surpass the speed of light, then yes, we can. Or at least, our descendants will be able to. In technology, the slogan "yes, we can" captures a large part of the major advances. But the progress in physics doesn't really uniformly march in this "yes, we can" direction.

Quite on the contrary: most of the progress in modern fundamental physics may be summarized by the slogan "no, you really cannot". You cannot do things that were once thought to be possible. You cannot surpass the speed of light, special relativity tells us, even though Newton thought it was perfectly OK. You cannot concentrate some mass (or entropy) to a smaller volume than the corresponding Schwarzschild radius, general relativity claims, although it was thought to be possible before Einstein.

You cannot measure the position and the velocity more accurately than $\Delta x\cdot \Delta p=\hbar /2$ although classical physicists would think that you could. You cannot observe things without affecting them, Heisenberg realized. You cannot perform a mathematical operation without producing some amount of entropy, statistical mechanics implies. You cannot probe geometry at the sub-Planckian distances, quantum gravity teaches us. And so on, and so on. You cannot do many things that used to seem doable.

Most of the progress is going in the opposite direction than the practical "yes, we can" problem solvers seem to assume. Every major revolution in physics is actually connected with some new bans and in most contexts, Nature boasts waterproof law enforcement mechanisms. And because progress in science is really about the falsification of previous theories or ideas, theories that would claim "yes, we can", and because the falsification is irreversible, the finding that "no, you really cannot" do certain fundamental things is here with us to stay.

Thursday, May 01, 2014 ... /////

Six string pheno papers

It's the first of May: time to read the Czech children's most memorized poem, Karel Hynek Mácha's romantic 1836 poem "Máj". Try the translation by Edith Pargeter or James Naughton or the translation to some other languages (including some audios).
May Day turned out to be a busy day on the arXiv, especially when it comes to papers on string (and string-inspired) phenomenology. I will briefly mention six papers, including three articles on string inflation.

First, Savas Dimopoulos, Kiel Howe, and John March-Russell of Stanford-Oxford (a perfect rhyme, indeed) wrote about
Maximally Natural Supersymmetry
which argues that models involving both SUSY and one large, multi-${\rm TeV}$ dimension are realistic. Somewhat similarly to Hořava-Witten heterotic M-theory models, there is a $S^1/\ZZ_2\times \ZZ_2$ compactification. The two $\ZZ_2$ groups break the theory from $\NNN=2$ to $\NNN=1$ SUSY in two different, mutually incompatible ways, so that no SUSY is left in the effective theory. Alternatively, you may say that there's no good $\NNN=1$ 4D effective field theory because the Kaluza-Klein scale coincides with the SUSY breaking scale: the breaking is effectively of the Scherk-Schwarz type, by antiperiodic boundary conditions for the fermions.

The model proposes light $650\GeV$ top squarks, $2\TeV$ gluinos, and a new massive $U(1)'$ gauge boson $Z'$ – all of these should be accessible to the LHC13 or LHC14 run that will begin next year. Despite the large fifth dimension, they say that they produce strong enough gravitational waves for BICEP2 if the dimension is small during inflation. I have a problem with the sudden growth of the dimensions (i.e. with the usage of different sizes of extra dimensions for different epochs) but maybe it is just a psychological prejudice.