## Saturday, February 06, 2016 ... /////

### LIGO wows: black holes heavy as 36+29 merge to 62 Suns + 3 Suns of gravitational waves

Confidence 5.1 sigma, ringdown to a Kerr black hole seen, too

For those of us who "knew" that there would be an announcement of a LIGO discovery involving a black hole merger, was there a reason to watch the Thursday February 11th 10:40 am press conference in D.C.? You bet. As recently as 10 hours ago, we still didn't know some numbers and details that were going to thrill us despite the previous knowledge.

Whenever I was asked why I am still very excited even though it's obvious to me that gravitational waves exist, I forgot to say one important thing. By the detection of the waves, we're not testing just the existence of the waves. We're testing the predictions of general relativity for the unbelievable extreme processes involving black holes, their orbital motion, and their merger. Clearly, I do believe that GR makes the right predictions for all this stuff but even Einstein, the father of GR, refused to believe in the very existence of black holes. Lots of new effects "beating" GR could have taken place, he thought. But he was wrong. There's nothing there – and pure gravity unavoidably becomes the master.

Is there some excitement left for Thursday?

In this case, Clifford Burgess and the Science Magazine have really spoiled much of the Thursday party. But if it's your first encounter with the data, you may experience the shock and awe now.

## Friday, February 05, 2016 ... /////

### LIGO's D-Day: Thursday, D.C., 10:40 local time

According to a conglomerate of the information from three exclusive sources, the LIGO collaboration is preparing the press conference for Thursday, February 11th, and it will take place on 10:40 am, Eastern Coast Time, in the U.S. Capital.

Geekwire (and Alan Boyle) has mentioned our poll where people have been voting for a few days.

### Google CZ doodle celebrates a woman we've never heard of

Františka Plamínková was a brave democrat, kindergarten advocate, and a rank-and-file politician, too

Half an hour ago when I opened Google for the first time today, I was greeted by this "doodle" (modified logo) that contained the portrait of a woman I couldn't recognize. "Who's that?" I asked myself. And I immediately answered: "It must be some feminist and the U.S. company would love such people to be popular here." Indeed.

One click is enough to get a bigger picture and find something about Františka Plamínková. (The first name is the female counterpart of Francis, the surname is the feminime adjective derived from a Little Flame. She was born 141 years ago.) Honestly, I was not familiar with the name or at least, I didn't realize that I was. At the end, she doesn't even seem to have a page on the English Wikipedia – something that thousands of Czechs do have. This already says a lot about the "non-mainstream" status of the folks at Google within the Czech society.

## Thursday, February 04, 2016 ... /////

### Does the Moon cause more rain?

The Telegraph (via Stack Exchange) promotes a provoking paper

Rainfall variations induced by the lunar gravitational atmospheric tide and their implications for the relationship between tropical rainfall and humidity (PDF)
by Kohyama and Wallace (University of Washington) in Geophysical Research Letters.

Their claim may be summarized by a slogan of mine: since it's sunny because of the Sun, it must be rainy because of the... Moon. ;-)

## Wednesday, February 03, 2016 ... /////

### Why string theory, by Joseph Conlon

I have received a free copy of "Why String Theory" by Joseph Conlon, a young Oxford string theorist who has done successful specialized work related either to the moduli stabilization of the flux vacua, or to the axions in string theory. (He's been behind the website whystringtheory.com, too.)

The 250-page-long paperback looks modern and tries to be more technical than popular books but less technical than string theory textbooks. Unfortunately, I often feel that "more technical than a popular book" mostly means that the book uses some kind of an intellectual jargon – but the nontrivial physics ideas aren't actually described more accurately than in the popular books.

## Tuesday, February 02, 2016 ... /////

### Lída Baarová, Goebbels' only true love: film

We went to see the new Czech movie, "Lída Baarová" ("Devil's Mistress" in the U.K.), about the most famous Czech actress before the war (along with Adina Mandlová) and Joseph Goebbels' mistress.

At the end of the trailer, the old Baarová (not really her...) says: I have loved a criminal. But that isn't a crime by itself, is it?

It's a romantic film that also says quite something about one of the faces of the Czech nation, the face that was highly compatible with the German Nazism. Spoilers are all over the place.

### Five Czechs kidnapped by Lebanese government, freed

Czech justice chose to befriend Lebanon, piss on the U.S.

In July 2015, five Czechs were kidnapped in Lebanon. With some help of Google Translate, I quickly decoded their identities. When a bug/typo is fixed, it was attorney Jan Švarc, translator Adam Homsi (the only exotic name among the five), regional (South Bohemian) TV makers/hosts Miroslav Dobeš and Pavel Kofroň, and military reporter Martin Psík whose name I first misindentified as Merlin Pešek etc. Mr Psík was arguably the main "ace" that was believed to be most valuable for the Czech government.

## Monday, February 01, 2016 ... /////

### Confidence in LIGO rumors: a poll

I am sort of interested how much people believe in rumors, in this case rumors that LIGO is going to announce the discovery of gravitational waves (see a PhD comics explanation of those). You may have read about the rumors on this blog and elsewhere. My most important source of the rumors is a person at a major enough physics place.

I've heard about the date, 11th February (next Thursday), from her or him, too (exclusive communication). Some cosmologists have reported cancellations of LIGO members' events on that day, too.

### Did the FBI assassinate an Arizona-based writer and rancher?

The Oregon sit-in has led to the first casualty. When the ranchers were driving somewhere, police stopped them. The ranchers' de facto spokesman LaVoy Finicum (who lives in Arizona) raised his hands (as the FBI video shows) but after some unclear movements, he was shot dead.

Cliven Bundy and others say that it was an assassination of a man who has surrendered. A person claims to be an eye witness of this murder.

18-year-old Victoria Sharp who was there claims that 100 or so shots were fired by the FBI (not three, as the FBI claims) and the FBI is lying about tons of other things, too. However, another driver claims that Finicum was preparing to shoot at the police.

## Saturday, January 30, 2016 ... /////

### Transparency, public arguments: a wrong recipe for arXiv rejections

OneDrive: off-topic: tomorrow, Microsoft will reduce the free 15 GB space by 10 GB and abolish the free 15 GB camera roll space. Old users may click here and after two more clicks, they will avoid this reduction if they act on Sunday!
Crackpot blog Backreaction and its flavor appendix called Nature believe that it was wrong for the arXiv.org website of scientific preprints (100k papers a year, 1.1 million in total) to reject two submissions by students of quantum information who attempted to rebrand themselves as general relativists and argue that you can't ever fall into a black hole.

Thankfully, Ms Hossenfelder and others agree that the papers were wrong. But they still protest against the fact that the papers were rejected. Or to say the least, there should have been some "transparency" in the rejection – in other words, some details about the decision which should be followed by some arguments in the public.

I totally disagree with those comments.

### I sympathize with Weinberg's classroom gun ban

Americans, especially the conservative ones, are proud about the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution that guarantees the right to keep and bear arms. Many TRF commenters consider this right very important and I won't make them too happy now.

A picture I took in 2005

A new law has stressed the right to carry weapons at university campuses. Locally, institutions could have declared exceptions and ban weapons. But the University of Texas decided not to have such exceptions. And even thought Austin isn't "really" Texas, the laws apply there, too. So something had to happen:

Nobel Laureate Becomes Reluctant Anti-Gun Leader (Texas Tribune)
See also The Star Telegram and Google News. Steven Weinberg (82) who teaches astrophysics in the spring semester has simply declared that he won't allow guns in his classroom.

### Bizarre White House claims about Putin's billions

Update: funnily enough, hours after I posted this blog post, a U.S. journalist at RT used the same adjective bizarre for these attacks.

On Monday, the BBC aired a documentary in which Adam Szubin, a near-top official of the U.S. Treasury Department, called Putin a picture of corruption. Some claims about Putin's paying billions to relatives and friends were mentioned, along with suggestions that Putin – while officially getting the same salary I was getting as junior faculty – might be the wealthiest person in the world or close to it.

Fine. There has always been some corruption in Russia. One may speculate that it still exists. Szubin may have heard some detailed information that supports such conspiracy theories. And individual people may be expected to be much more attracted to conspiracy theories than others. However, there was a shocking development on Thursday. John Earnest, a spokesman of Obama's, said

that the Treasury’s assessment best reflects the administration view.
By that time, I didn't even know that Szubin's speculations were "the Treasury's assessment". And now, they're probably the official statement of the United States of America.

I had to laugh out loud – and read thrice – when I saw this stuff for the first time. Was that supposed to be a statement by Obama? Is it his childish way to ignite the Third World War? Even if there were reasons for such beliefs, what's the purpose of similar proclamations emitted by the White House? Are these comments supposed to be associated with Hillary and make her look tougher?

Needless to say, Lavrov and others have protested the accusations.

## Friday, January 29, 2016 ... /////

### Munich: Kane vs Gross

Kane's attitude is the more scientific one

Yesterday, I mentioned Gordon Kane's paper based on his talk in Munich. Today, I noticed that

lots of the talk videos are available
on their website. The available speakers include Rovelli, Dawid, Pigliucci, Dardashti, Kragh, Achinstein, Schäffer, Smeenk, Kane, Quevedo, Wüthrich, Mukhanov, Ellis, Castellani, Lüst, Hossenfelder, Thebault, and Dvali while others may be added soon.

### Japan joins the negative rates club

Nothing wrong about negative benchmark rates

Haruhiko Kuroda, the boss of Bank of Japan, has shocked the markets and lowered the benchmark interest rate to minus 0.1 percent, with the commitment to do anything (including further moves below zero) to tear the deflationary expectations away from people's minds. Kuroda has joined Mario Draghi of ECB who has already dragged some rates beneath zero.

Most of us – including your humble correspondent – have the intrinsic feeling that negative interest rates (and even zero or low positive rates) are "sick". But if we are a little bit more careful and rational about "what is sick" about the negative values, I think that we must conclude that certain rates may be healthy when they're below zero.

## Thursday, January 28, 2016 ... /////

### Gordon Kane's ideas at Dawid's testability workshop

An occasional TRF guest blogger Gordon Kane of Michigan has posted an edited, written version of his talk at the Munich workshop on the "testability of string theory etc." that was organized by Richard Dawid:

The 18-page PDF file is much more technical than other contributions but you find tons of easily comprehensible ideas in the paper, too.

The paper argues that the qualitative character of testability of string theory is exactly the same as it has been for all respectable theories in the history of physics. And it uses the predictions for particle physics from M-theory on $G_2$ holonomy manifolds as a detailed example of all these claims. It's impressive how this framework has been developed to say something about all aspects of physics – including the nature of dark matter, patterns of superpartner masses, solution to the CP-problem, and many others.

Gordon Kane admits that like others, this scenario has no solution for the cosmological constant problem – why the CC is so small – so he assumes that this problem is solved by something that is "orthogonal" to the mechanisms deciding about the rest of particle physics.

## Wednesday, January 27, 2016 ... /////

### Oxford claims on conspiracy theories are partly sensible, partly junk

RT and hundreds of other sources talk about the work by an Oxford physics postdoc, David Grimes:

On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs (PLOS, PDF)
The basic claim of the work is something I complete share – and Grimes could have very well gotten it from this blog, e.g. some considerations here including "So I would think that a famous man probably has a smaller chance to organize something that remains completely secret than an ordinary man." The claim is
Conspiracy theories need to assume that lots of people are able to keep secret for a long time but that ain't so.
I think that this is really the main correct mechanism that shows why many true conspiracy theories are implausible. It is the most effective single tool to disfavor conspiracy theories – but it's by far from being the only tool or the tool relevant in all situations. In most cases, you simply have to look at the specific details of a particular conspiracy theory and its "mainstream alternatives".

### There is no gravitational rainbow

Sabine Hossenfelder tries to promote some bizarre would-be research of her pseudoscientific friends, in this case about the "gravitational rainbow". She credits Smolin and Magueijo (2003) with this flawed concept even though those guys only tried to plagiarize Smoot-Steinhardt 1993, Accioly+Blas 2001, Accioly 2002, and others. Thankfully, nothing valuable was stolen here.

Poland in "Entropa", Czech sculptor David Černý's provocative portrait of the EU.

The event that made her write about this junk again was the recent publication of a Lewandowski+2 (2014) article in a journal. All the differences between the papers are irrelevant. All these people have been playing with the idea that quantum gravity "forces" the speed of light to be energy-dependent or, equivalently, the metric tensor must depend on the frequency of the quanta, just like in real-world materials (such as glass) which produce dispersion (and therefore rainbows).

## Tuesday, January 26, 2016 ... /////

### Bibi Wilhailm: a time to flee from Islamofascists in Germany?

A week ago, Bili Wilhailm – a young German woman who will be 17 soon – posted a 20-minute video monologue on Facebook about the problems associated with the increasing body of illegal Muslim immigrants in Germany.

The translation is about 95% accurate.

I think that a large part of her attractiveness is her sexy brain: she makes more sense than "Fatima Merkel" and her administration combined. Her thinking sounds unusually mature to me. Bibi is afraid of walking on the street (incidentally, check this partial Cologne NYE spreadsheet, the latest number of complaints is 1049, however), she's been a witness of some scary events involving the Muslims. She wants to preserve her freedom to walk outside and wear her T-shirts.

### Al Gore: Earth will become a total frying pan today

Today, it's the 26th of January, 2016. Because the mankind hasn't done any "drastic action" to reduce CO2 emissions (which indeed continued to rise at a moderate 2%-per-year pace in recent years, except for the moderate 2014-to-2015 decrease), the Armageddon is coming later today.

At least it's the case according to an amateur scientist who has served as a vice president of a major Western power, a man named Al Gore.

On the January 26th, 2006 issue of the Washington Post, we have learned about the results of Al Gore's research. The article said, among other things,

But he [Al Gore] is also a very serious guy who believes humans may have only 10 years left to save the planet from turning into a total frying pan.
The deadline just happens to be today.