Saturday, February 28, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

How science celebrities often hurt science

Backreaction responded to Lawrence Krauss' essay which argued that celebrity scientists such as Einstein, Feynman, Sagan, and Tyson are generally good for science and the society because they motivate young people, help to fight scientific nonsense, promote scientific literacy, and improve decision making.

Sabine Hossenfelder says that the celebrity status is just very weakly correlated with one's being a great scientist, she instinctively avoids fandoms, those celebrities do influence what scientists discuss and study, but she believes that they don't hurt, after all. In her perspective, the most serious related problem is that the vast majority of quality science gets unnoticed by the public; I agree with this comment. And she promotes science blogs as windows into the real science. Well, my reactions to this comment are mixed.

AMS opposes climate witch hunts

Left-wing media activists have been excited about finding out that Willie Soon, a climate skeptic at Harvard-Smithsonian, has earned over $1 million which included grants from the Koch Foundation. They could have asked me years ago – I would tell them.

Willie is clearly one of the top earners and the impressive figure makes him a counterpart of James Hansen (and that man's Greenpeace money). On the other hand, it is no way an obscene amount of money for research that Willie has participated in for at least 20 years. If a quick calculation helps you, note that $1,200,000 / 20 = $60,000 which is not too much for an important guy.

Of course that I consider the Koch Foundation to be a much more impartial and decent sponsor of scientific research than Greenpeace. Can the source of money affect the character of research and conclusions? You bet. But let me be more precise about my thoughts on this question.

Friday, February 27, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Obamanet is harmful

The FCC has approved some proposal to establish "net neutrality", probably treating the packets on par with electricity, gas, or feces in the sewerage system – instead of information services which is how the Internet data have been classified so far. Even though those 300+ pages should have been posted on the FCC website yesterday, I can't find it. The whole institution seems to be a complete mess.

Despite the absence of the document, lots of clueless people celebrate this "achievement". Exceptions – sensible reactions – are rare. Matt Walsh of The Blaze, an information ecosystem founded by Glenn Beck, is one of these exceptions.

The transition from the good old Internet as originally invented by Al Gore ;-) to the Obamanet is wrong for numerous reason. In particular, it may be described as

  1. a cure for a non-existent disease
  2. a partial nationalization of the industry and the ISP companies
  3. forced egalitarianism
  4. blow to innovation in technologies depending on prioritization
  5. forced price distortion
  6. contamination of the legal system by hundreds of pages of junk that may contain secret timebombs threatening every other person on the Internet
  7. transition of power from somewhat ineffective large ISP companies to an even more inefficient organization, the government
  8. risk of censorship by the government
The way how these standards were recommended and adopted is also shocking, if I reproduce the words by the former FCC chairman Michael Powell. A layman, crackpot, amateur, far left political activist, and community organizer recorded a YouTube video and FCC took this video seriously.

Thursday, February 26, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Nature is subtle

Caltech has created their new Walter Burke Institute for Theoretical Physics. It's named after Walter Burke – but it is neither the actor nor the purser nor the hurler, it's Walter Burke the trustee so no one seems to give a damn about him.

Walter Burke, the actor

That's why John Preskill's speech [URL fixed, tx] focused on a different topic, namely his three principles of creating the environment for good physics.

Assyrian history destroyed

Many events are taking place every day and many events make me – and many of you – upset. But what made me extremely angry today was this ISIS video:

The video that was embedded here violated YouTube's rules although I don't know what the exact rule is. Ask those who saw it on Thursday...
To skip the babbling by the apparatchik-bigot and to get to the drastic "action", jump to 2:40.

The animals have penetrated into Mosul, Northern Iraq, and they chose the local Nineveh Museum as their target. The museum contains lots of priceless (or at least multi-billion) statues from the neo-Assyrian empire. Well, it did contain it – up to yesterday.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Black hole microstates from gluing an exterior with its delayed twin

...and a proof of state-dependence of interior field operators...

Kyriakos Papadodimas (CERN) and Suvrat Raju (Tata) have released a five-page paper that is full of hot ambitious ideas as well as cool, almost rock-solid arguments about the "holographic code" describing the black hole interior:

Local Operators in the Eternal Black Hole
They work with the eternal Schwarzschild black hole in the \(AdS_{d+1}\) space. They describe it using the tortoise coordinate, one that I and Andy Neitzke learned to love when we studied the quasinormal modes. This coordinate makes the \(rt\)-plane look "conformal" and some world sheet methods may therefore become applicable; I would like to comment on this point of mine in more detail later.

At any rate, the eternal \(AdS\) black hole may be holographically described using two conformal field theories, \(CFT\), and an eternal black hole state is a maximally entangled state\[

\ket{\Psi} = \frac{1}{\sqrt{Z(\beta)}} \sum_E \exp(-\beta E / 2) \ket{E,E}

\] The first thing they appreciate is that one may evolve this state in time, by a Hamiltonian (i.e. one may wait), to obtain many inequivalent states \(\ket{\Psi_T}\) that seem to have indistinguishable local physics, however:\[

\ket{\Psi_T} = e^{iH_L T} \ket\Psi = e^{i H_R T} \ket \Psi

\] One either asks the object to "wait" for time \(T\) in the left \(CFT\) only; or in the right \(CFT\) only. In both cases, one gets the same result but the result depends on \(T\) nontrivially.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Ismail El Gizouli, new IPCC boss

Rajendra Pachauri has been the head of the International Panel for Climate Change for many years, having turned into a cell of organized crime.

This railway engineer and porn writer has had uncountable conflicts of interests and numerous conflicts with the law in the past but he was forced to resign because of a relative detail: his colleague who boasted voluptous heaving breasts in New Delhi sued him because she didn't like the way in which the love guru raped her. Well, it was probably her mistake, too. Everyone must have known what a dirty pr*ck this guy is, so a decent woman would keep the distance at least one mile from him.

He was replaced by Ismail El Gizouli. This vice-chairman representing Africa is famous for this December 2013 YouTube video hit. It seems to be the only publicly available web page about this Gentleman and when I was embedding it into this blog post, it had 8 views (and 2 of them counted the electronic devices of your humble correspondent). Quite a rock star!

Monday, February 23, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Giuliani vs Obama 2015

Almost eight years ago, it looked like Rudy Giuliani and Barack Obama could have been going to compete for the White House.

Let's go, Obama girls.

Finally, America's mayor didn't make it through the primaries. You know, your humble correspondent probably isn't the most canonical guy who would have picked Giuliani but I would find him highly natural in the office, anyway. He's still a symbol of the mainstream America's leader who has everything that seemed necessary in those old years when I couldn't think about a single major complaint against America – these days, I have way too many.

Yes, I also think that Giuliani was the #1 person who showed his qualities as a leader after 9/11. As a leader, history turned him into a hero. He may have lost the primaries because of his highly imperfect image as a family man (be sure that the Czech voters have much more tolerance in all these matters!) or due to something else, who knows. John McCain was a lousy candidate and he is still a lousy politician but he was what the GOP finally offered.

Hawking wins the "best male actor" Oscar

Eddie Redmayne did a great job in "TOE"

The Theory of Everything (2014) is coming to the Czech movie theaters this week. Those of us who have mastered the space and time have already seen the picture. The touching film is based on "Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen" by Jane Wilde Hawking, the famous physicist's first wife, which is a reason to expect fewer path integrals and more of the social stuff.

Even Stephen Hawking himself has pointed out that Eddie Redmayne was almost as handsome as himself (Hawking) so you shouldn't be surprised that this actor added the Oscar for the "best actor" last night, next to his Golden Globe for the "best actor" as well similar awards from SAG and BAFTA.

In this way, Redmayne almost became more famous than Hawking himself for a while. Before I would allow something like that, I would carefully test Redmayne's abilities to compute path integrals and emitted radiation within quantum field theory on curved backgrounds. Would he continue to be as great as Hawking himself?

The $15 million budget movie has earned $100+ million so far, not bad, and I must say that this success is impressive for the writer of the book, Jane Hawking herself. In some sense, you could say that the first woman who marries a young Stephen Hawking is a "random educated woman" and the random educated woman's ability to write a book that produces a $100 million box office movie seems like a coincidence. Well, I admit that the fact that she has a famous man to write about may have helped, too.

Saturday, February 21, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Many worlds: a Rozali-Carroll exchange

Sean Carroll wrote another tirade,

The Wrong Objections to the Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics
where he tries to defend some misconceptions about the "many worlds interpretation" of quantum mechanics while showing that he is totally unable and unwilling to think rationally and honestly.

After some vacuous replies to vacuous complaints by vacuous critics who love to say that physics isn't testable, he claims that the following two assumptions,
  1. The world is described by a quantum state, which is an element of a kind of vector space known as Hilbert space.
  2. The quantum state evolves through time in accordance with the Schrödinger equation, with some particular Hamiltonian.
imply that the worlds where other outcomes of quantum measurements materialized must be as "real" as our branch of this network of parallel world. This claim is self-evidently untrue. Quantum mechanics – as understood for 90 years – says that no such words "really" exist (they can't even be well-defined in any way) even though the theory respects the postulates.

So Carroll's claim is equivalent to saying that \(12\times 2 = 1917\) because \(1+1=2\) and \(2+3=5\). Sorry but this would-be "derivation" is completely wrong.

Friday, February 20, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Barry Kripke wrote a paper on light-cone-quantized string theory

In the S08E15 episode of The Big Bang Theory, Ms Wolowitz died. The characters were sad and Sheldon was the first one who said something touching. I think it was a decent way to deal with the real-world death of Carol Ann Susi who provided Ms Wolowitz with her voice.

The departure of Ms Wolowitz abruptly solved a jealousy-ignited argument between Stewart and Howard revolving around the furniture from the Wolowitz house.

Also, if you missed that, Penny learned that she's been getting tests from Amy who was comparing her intelligence to the intelligence of the chimps. Penny did pretty well, probably more so than Leonard.

Thursday, February 19, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Bridge loan to default or haircut is an oxymoron

No sane person deliberately builds bridges to nowhere

The new Greek Marxist prime minister didn't receive his bonuses for being at work on time which is why he only sent his letter, originally planned for Wednesday, on Thursday. As I described in some detail in a successful comment on LOL, what we got was a variation of Spoiled Little Joe's Letter to Baby Jesus. ;-)

Odds are 98% that you don't speak Czech. In his letter, little Joe is increasingly upset and obscene because he is not satisfied with what he found under the Christmas tree.

To summarize the letter, Tsipras wants to get a six-month "bridge loan", a kind of fellowship for himself and almost 11 million other Greeks dependent on the Greek state, before Greece and the ECB and the European lenders (and IMF?) will figure out an idea how to abolish or significantly reduce the debt and how to cut all the strings that were attached to the bailouts. During the six months, the Greek government will be allowed to continue in its insane Marxist policies, revert all pro-growth and pro-austerity reforms, stop privatization, rehire all the useless government employees, increase pensions, salaries, and so on.

That's a very amusing proposal to make the lenders happy, indeed.

A good story on proofs of inevitability of string theory

Natalie Wolchover is one of the best popular physics writers in the world, having written insightful stories especially for the Simons Foundation and the Quanta Magazine (her Bc degree in nonlinear optics from Tufts helps). Yesterday, she added

In Fake Universes, Evidence for String Theory
It is a wonderful article about the history of string theory (Veneziano-related history; thunderstorms by which God unsuccessfully tried to kill Green and Schwarz in Aspen, Colorado, which would postpone the First Superstring Revolution by a century; dualities; AdS/CFT etc.) with a modern focus on the research attempting to prove the uniqueness of string theory.

At least since the 1980s, we were saying that "string theory is the only game in town". This slogan was almost universally understood as a statement about the sociology or comparative literature. If you look at proposals for a quantum theory of gravity, aside from string theory, you won't find any that work.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Players in Greece, Ukraine get tougher

It's been five days since the latest blog post about Greece and Ukraine. Since that time, people got increasingly used to negotiations but their positions toughened, too.

The screenshot above comes from CNN. Just a few days earlier, an on-screen text in the same station talked about arms for "pro-U.S." troops in Ukraine. Now, we got a map where Crimea and Ukraine finally belong to the same country again and the country's name is Russia. Either quality control must be completely absent at CNN or these blunders are a new strategy to increase their visibility.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

ATLAS, CMS: small SUSY deviations

Both ATLAS and CMS, the two main detectors at the Large Hadron Collider, published some preprints about the search for SUSY or new SUSY-like Higgs bosons. No formidable deviation from the Standard Model was found. However...

ATLAS was looking for a CP-odd Higgs boson, \(A\), in decays to \(Zh\). It turned out that there is approximately a 2.5-sigma excess for \(m_A=220\GeV\): look in the conclusions. I won't seriously mention the below-2-sigma excess for \(m_A=260\GeV\) at all.

Monday, February 16, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

BBC friendly towards gluinos at LHC

After Two Years' Vacation, the Large Hadron Collider will be restarted next month. At least since the discovery of the Higgs boson, most of the readers of mainstream media were overwhelmed by tirades against modern particle physics – especially supersymmetry and similar things. The writers of such stories have often emulated assorted Shwolins and Shmoits in effect, if not in intent.

Gluino vampire alchemist. The doll only costs $690, below several billions needed for a chance to see the much smaller gluino at the LHC.

Well, ATLAS' new (deputy) spokeswoman Beate Heinemann of UC Berkeley (Gianotti is superseding Heuer as CERN's director general) made a difference today and several stories that she inspired at visible places have conveyed the excitement in the particle physics community and the nonzero chance that a bigger discovery than the Higgs boson may be made in 2015 – and perhaps announced at the SUSY-related conferences in August and September.

Sunday, February 15, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Anti-Jewish attacks: another reason why a strong Israel is vital

Last night, I watched Spielberg's 1993 movie Schindler's List about Oskar Schindler, a real historical figure and a German-speaking industrialist born in Svitavy, Moravia, one of the Czech lands (then Austria-Hungary), who was wealthy, an NSDAP member, and well connected, but who used all these virtues to turn his factories into shields for Jews against the Holocaust. He has saved about 1,000 lives.

Pilsen's Great Synagogue is the third largest synagogue in the world, after one in Jerusalem and another one in Budapest. Prague has had over 20 synagogues throughout the years.

It wasn't the only movie about these issues that I recently watched; the Pianist (2002) was another one. These stories about the treatment of the Jews by the Nazi society are heartbreaking. And every society making average and subpar members proud that they belong to the "right" 90% or 95% or 97% or 99% of the society annoys me, scares me, and disgusts me (yes, the number included the figures for the climate alarmists and the Occupy movement, too).

Meanwhile, in the real world, two innocent people were killed in Copenhagen yesterday: one Danish film director and one Jewish guard of the local Jewish community. The apparently Arab perpetrator, Omar El-Hussein, one inspired by the Charlie Hebdo attackers was shot dead later.

Saturday, February 14, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Deflation, austerity: good news for Germany

German GDP jumped as twin surpluses, deflation don't hurt at all

Without much ado, the German economy is behaving in the way that may serve as a role model for everyone else. Half a year ago, we would be bombarded by stories about the bad shape of the Germany economy when its GDP growth happened to be negative in a quarter.

However, the situation looks different these days even though none of the media publish any errata. In the fourth quarter, Germany's GDP added 0.7% (quarter-on-quarter, not annualized) which contributed to the 1.6% annual growth in 2014.

Germany's unemployment rate at 4.9% is among the lowest in Europe and lower than in the U.S.

The country announced $247 trade surplus in 2014. I guess that the weak euro could have helped this result. But anyway, you should compare this result with the $505 billion trade deficit of the U.S. in 2014 (which is still better than in many previous years, partly thanks to the fracking revolution). Also, Germany probably continued with its black zero small budget surpluses.

Genetics: 150 years

One of the 3 greatest pure scientific results born in the Czech lands

What do I mean by these three results?

  1. Kepler's laws (Prague 1609)
  2. Mendel's laws of genetics (Brno 1855)
  3. First derivation of the gravitational red shift from the equivalence principle (Prague 1911)
Well, the three guys were ethnic German (let's ignore the Jewish blood of the last one) but some of my ancestors would work as maids for similar folks so I am eager to take the credit.

Pulihrášek [The Pintopea], one of the modern applications of Mendel's research. This species created by Ms Natalie Chalcarzová a Mr Václav Kocián in Brno is pea crossed with lots of beer pints on the surface, with a cannon-ball, and a LED light bulb.

In 1843, the Augustinian convent in Brno, Moravia got a nice boost, the 21-year-old Silesian German student Johann Mendel. "The applicant seems ready for exact research in the natural scientific direction," the recommendation from his physics instructor in Olomouc read. After four years of incubation as a newbie, he adopted the religious name Gregor.

Friday, February 13, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Progress in Ukraine and perhaps Greece?

Merkel, Hollande, Poroshenko, and Putin signed some documents in Minsk, the Minsk 2.0 ceasefire, which should come to force on Saturday (mid)night. After some doubts, the Novorussian Armed Forces seem ready to respect it, and so should Yatsenyuk's government.

However, Dmitry Yaroš just announced that the Right Sector will keep on fighting after Saturday night, anyway. I guess that NAF will defend itself and if the Right Sector will be the only foe fighting NAF, I would bet that the Right Sector might be neutralized rather easily. We will see what will happen.

On Tuesday, I wrote a text on Greece and Ukraine. Things look somewhat rosier now, three days later. The world markets have jumped – thanks to the Minsk 2.0 agreement but also partly due to good economic news from Germany and the EU in general. (Sub-percent deflation in Germany really, really didn't hurt anyone or anything; it's a good thing.) Dow was back above 18,000 and close to the all-time record, DAX in Germany jumped above 11,000 for the first time in the history, S&P set a new record above 2,000, and NASDAQ is back to levels approaching 5,000 last seen in 2000, before the dotcom bubble burst.

Thursday, February 12, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Klaus reviews his and his family's life in communism

Two hours ago, "Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation" posted a 20-minute interview with the Czech ex-president Václav Klaus.

He offers his memories about communism and his life in that era. His parents were grateful to the Soviet Union for the liberation. At the end of his high school studies, he began to understand the political aspects of the real world. And in the 1960s, he was literally supposed to become a scholarly expert in the non-Marxist systems.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Val Fitch, co-discoverer of CP-violation: 1923-2015

Val Logsdon Fitch was born on a cattle ranch in Nebraska, a mile from the ranch where Penny came from, in 1923. His dad was badly injured thanks to a horse riding accident. Val himself went to insurance business and then became a soldier in WW2 before he joined the Manhattan Project. That's where the young man was turned to an experimental physicist.

Has the big bang theory been disproved?

It seems that most of the "science writers" have changed their job to the permanent promotion of low-quality and downright crackpot papers that are chosen not by their cleverness or according to the scientific evidence but by their "audacity to overthrow (and I really mean 'revert') all the paradigms of modern physics". As I was told later, Anthony Watts has become an inseparable component of this cesspool.

Almost on a daily basis, the readers are served wonderful stories about loons who have found something wrong with string theory or inflationary cosmology, nutcases who don't believe the Higgs boson, whackadoodles who have "disproved" the uncertainty principle or quantum mechanics or its fundamentally probabilistic character, nut jobs who have violated the rules of relativity and sent signals faster than light, and the persistent authors of a few other "widely expected paradigm shifts".

Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but a scientific revolution that would "confirm" elementary laymen's misconceptions about the contemporary science and that would simply return the picture of the world to the "previous iteration" has never occurred and most likely will never occur so the probability is virtually 100% that all these "paradigm shift" stories will always be just junk.

Just a week ago, the would-be science media were full of new stories claiming that the black holes don't exist which were inspired by a "gravity's rainbow" preprint by Ahmed Farag Ali and two co-authors. You may want to remember the Egyptian name I just mentioned. Why?

Because in recent 2 days, the news outlets have switched to a (not so) new fad: there has been no big bang!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Pro-U.S. troops in Ukraine, U.S. bailout for Greece

The following two stories share one thing: the sheer stupidity of the political opinions that became common in the U.S.

Oleg told us about this terrific screenshot from a CNN show. Obama considers arming pro-U.S. troops. I have already discussed how crazy and counterproductive it is to think about weapon deliveries to Donbass. Russia would surely respond correspondingly and not necessarily symmetrically and the escalation of the sad conflict would be the only possible outcome. But the new funny twist is that the pro-Kiev soldiers were called "pro-U.S." troops.

Much of the Internet sources that did notice this detail at all called it a "Freudian slip". But after some years in America, I actually think that many Americans genuinely can't even understand why we find it so laughable and weird. Much of this inability to laugh to this stupidity comes from the Americans' naive, Hollywood-like understanding of the good of evil; some of it arises from the complete misunderstanding of the world geography and history and, indeed, the very existence of a world outside the U.S.

Monday, February 09, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

If done right, temperature adjustments are great

Many skeptics' adjustment-phobia unmasks their anti-scientific credentials

Christopher Booker, whom I met in Nice a few years ago and whom I like, wrote the most read Earth-category article in the Telegraph over the last 3 days,

The fiddling with temperature data is the biggest science scandal ever
The title summarizes the main point of this article that presents many examples suggesting that the temperature data from the weather stations have been repeatedly retroactively adjusted.

I tend to agree that these adjustments are likely to have made the warming trend look higher – and the case for global warming more robust – than the most accurate data would manage. However, I am not quite certain about the size and relevance of this effect and I feel very uncomfortable about many climate skeptics' knee-jerk emotional reaction showing that they hate the very idea of an adjustment.

Sunday, February 08, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Greece, Ukraine, Norway, Jordan

There are lots of events related to these four countries, among others, and each of them would deserve long essays. But briefly:

ECB and Greece

The European Central Bank and the Eurogroup – the set of the finance ministers of the eurozone member states – gave two ultimatums to Greece. By Wednesday, they have to present their own alternative solution of the debt problem if they want it to be considered. By Monday which is 8 days away, they have to apply for the extension of the usual Greek-Troika procedures that have worked for years.

The new Greek government refuses to continue – it was like a cure of a drug addict, they say. Troika must evaporate and their bailout scheme must be stopped. The help used to come with lots of strings and just like assorted Šhmoits and Horgans, the Syriza folks don't like strings. So they just want a lethal amount of drugs – or money – with no strings attached, it seems. You know, it's hard to cure a drug addict (or a subsidy-addicted nation) but I assure you that the slow and difficult gradual treatment is probably better than all the alternatives – at least it reduces the probability of death.

The comrades also boast that they will face no financial problems in the short run. It really seems that Greece won't renew the troika bailout mechanisms which means, among other things, that it should finally lose all funds from the European Central Bank in 8 days. The IMF will probably cut all the funding for Greece, too. Alan Greenspan has predicted that the Grexit is unavoidable and no financial player may be crazy enough to fund Greece today. I would normally agree with Greenspan except that I am afraid that he may be underestimate many people's insanity.

Many other experts estimate that they may run out of cash sometimes between the Tuesday February 17th and March – or, if they are lucky, by the middle of the year 2015. That's why I found it sensible to embed the classic music video of "[Greece in] Europe: The Final Countdown". ;-) I expect the end of the insanely failed experiment that we've known as "Greek economics" to arrive within a month or so.

Saturday, February 07, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Cumrun Vafa: mathematical introduction to string theory

Placing dualities at the center

A few days ago, Cumrun Vafa of Harvard was invited to Brazil to speak about the mathematical aspects of string theory in an introductory way. You may guess that the place is in Brazil because the flag next to Cumrun resembles the 1-sigma and 2-sigma confidence bands in a colorful exclusion graph. The Brazilians must love particle physics to have chosen such colors. ;-)

The task facing Cumrun is of course tough because string theory depends on a big percentage of the intuition that people learn when they study physics, not just mathematics, and it's also hard because even though many quantities that appear in string theory are totally exact or well-defined, there is no known definition of string theory that would be both rigorous and universal – covering everything that string theorists investigate.

But it's still rather natural for Cumrun to present string theory from the mathematical vantage point because he surely belongs among the 50% of the string theorists who are excellent mathematicians at heart.

Friday, February 06, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Sheldon and Leonard co-author a paper on superfluid vacuum theory

In the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory, Leonard Hofstadter had an interesting idea while he was talking to Penny: the spacetime is a surface of the superfluid. The surface tension could even explain the negative pressure of the positive cosmological constant which is a constant positive contribution to the vacuum energy density (they incorrectly talk about the negative energy). Sheldon completed the maths and wrote their joint paper quickly. It was a source of pride for much of the episode.

The Troll Manifestation: an excerpt

The sitcom referred to the Quantum Diaries blog – probably because the bloggers were drinking some wine with the filmmakers (Ken Bloom actually contributed the plot of the episode) – and Leonard quoted a flattering comment on that blog written by your humble correspondent.

The Cooper-Hofstadter paper is a variation of the superfluid vacuum theory that has been around for quite some time. While the "surface of superfluid" and "surface tension" could be interesting twists, it seems a bit hard to understand what it could mean quantitatively – probably because it means nothing. Much of these theories seem to be all about words that can't be elaborated upon. Wikipedia correctly introduces the superfluid vacuum theory as one that may be a "fringe theory".

Obama administration wanted Disney to remake Frozen as an AGW agitprop

In 1844, Hans Christian Andersen wrote one of his most famous fairy-tales, The Snow Queen. You may remember it – lots of romantic, touching, supernatural characters and events culminating in a happy end. Dozens of movies, including Czechoslovak and Soviet ones, have been shot over the course of 170 years.

In 2013, the Walt Disney Studios have created another (3D) remake called Frozen. Its budget was $150 million but the movie has earned $1.3 billion. A sister and a snowman are looking for the other sister who has some magic freezing powers.

The musical video above has 410 million views – it is not too far from being competitive with a crazy fat Korean rapper and horses.

Thursday, February 05, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

String theory cleverly escapes acausality traps

String theory's forefather Gabriele Veneziano and three equally Italian co-authors submitted an interesting preprint,

Regge behavior saves String Theory from causality violations
They were intrigued by a Maldacena and 3 pals paper from July 2014 (I encourage all serious readers to get familiar with the names of the co-authors in both papers). All these folks studied the violations of causality in quantum gravity.

Causality is the obviously necessary principle saying that the cause must precede its effect. In special relativity, this principle is strengthened. Because it has to be valid in all reference frames – which are mutually related by Lorentz transformations – the cause must actually belong to the past light cone of the effect: the influence cannot spread faster than at the speed of light in the vacuum.

Maldacena et al. have designed a scattering (thought) experiment that allows the delay between the cause and effect to be negative. That's a problem, isn't it? If you can order the events so that one may say that "the past affects the future", things are OK. But once you may affect both the past and the future, it becomes unlikely that the collection of all these events can make any sense. Due to the lethal causal loops, it's unlikely that any laws of physics may be obeyed.

ECB finally treats Greek junk as junk

For more than four decades, the Greeks disrespected all the basic principles of common sense and sane economic policies. For many years, it has been clear that they have ruined their nation and devoured their future and by helping them to sustain life resembling what they knew when their living standards peaked, one is only delaying the inevitable and does it for increasing costs while making the inevitably coming hard landing even harder.

Ten days ago, Greece has elected an über-Marxist bunch of loons. For a formerly capitalist nation, this injury is incompatible with life. Tsipras and his comrades have promised to spit on everything that Samaras established (and it was far from sufficient), on their debt, on the present creditors, and on the future creditors, too. Instead, they would propose totally unacceptable "solutions". They rejected everything that made sense and everything they promised was and is insane. And they started to behave arrogantly towards all of those who allowed Greece to live as a wealthy nation for so many years and those who are and will be essential to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in Greece: especially on Germany but also on the "troika" of ECB, IMF, and the officials from Brussels.

Clearly, there is no genuine room for negotiations here. In the past, the rules have already been distorted too much and a new distortion is either unacceptable or so small that it makes no sense to spend time with it. Germany has apparently prepared a document for the weekend that demands that Syriza ditches every single promise it has made and it obeys all the agreed upon rules. One should emphasize that by adopting the communist policies, Greece isn't just crippling conditions for a future aid. It is also violating conditions for aid and bailouts that have already been decided and distributed in the past (especially in 2010 and 2012).

Tuesday, February 03, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

BICEP2+Keck: 4 new papers, improved sensitivity

Minutes ago, the BICEP2 Collaboration tweeted that it has made several new papers available via No Planck is involved here.

Keck Array (BICEP2.5) telescope.

Varoufakis' new bonds, a new chapter of fraudulent Greek accounting

Greece's Yanis Varoufakis is just another dirty Marxist. He is also a "scholar" of a sort who has co-authored a "critical" introduction to game theory and was an economist at Valve Corporation, a PC game company.

By now, he has understood that there won't be a new haircut, at least not under this name, so he proposes a new plan he calls "smart debt engineering". It's only "smart" to the extent to which the lender is completely stupid, however.

Pilsen's Škoda RegioPanter wins train tender for Nuremberg area

How half a billion dollars is earned in the "hard way"

In recent years, I gave numerous physics talks in Northern Bohemia. One of the things that impressed me about that part of the country were low-floor ultramodern trains with lots of LCD displays (where lots of things are beeping all the time) etc. named "RegioPanter". I was thinking: Wow, the Czech Railways (which have been famous for its mediocre trains) must have tons of money to buy these new Western European or Japanese trains, or whatever they came from. (None of such trains run between Pilsen and Prague.)

All the technology is above the ceiling, WiFi and electric outlets are everywhere. It consumes about 1/2 of the energy that competing trains do.

It's painful but it was just one hour ago when I learned where these "RegioPanters" came from. They are produced in my hometown of Pilsen as Škoda 7Ev. Why did I learn about it? Pilsen's Škoda Transportation has just won the second huge tender in Germany. Needless to say, to beat the competitors in the German market is a source of pride for folks in Pilsen and Czechia, too. Some ex-classmates are working in that almost purely Czech company.

Monday, February 02, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

It is both ethical and right for an experimenter to correct his mistakes

Interpretations of measurements are inevitably theory-dependent

ATLAS has measured some top-antitop asymmetry which was previously claimed to behave strangely by the Fermilab. ATLAS got zero – no anomalous effect – within the error margin.

Off-topic: an ex-co-author of mine, Robbert Dijkgraaf, kickstarted the 2015 International Year of Light by a fun 15-minute Amsterdam lecture. Hat tip: Clifford Johnson

Tommaso Dorigo of the competing CMS team didn't like the ATLAS' estimates of the error margins:

The ATLAS Top Production Asymmetry And One Thing I Do Not Like Of It.
The three most important points he is making are
  1. that it's a terrible sin for an experimenter to underestimate the error margin of his measurement
  2. to avoid this underestimate, he should actually try to estimate things as accurately as possible because some seemingly "error enhancing" or "conservative" choices may actually lower the final error margin
  3. it's dishonest for an experimenter to modify his methodology after he sees the results
I see the possible "ethical" justification of all these points but at the end, I am closer to disagreeing with two of them (1st and 3rd one). The dear reader is surely asking: Could you tell us some details?