Saturday, September 20, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Antarctica is a climate denier, too

Absolute record high in sea ice area improved by a few percent

These days, the climate alarmist media are full of tirades against the penguins.

Children should only be allowed to play with the polar bears and not the penguins, we often read, because penguins are evil conservatives, anti-Gore and anti-Stalinist mavericks and contrarians paid by the Koch brothers and the dirty Big Oil. Why did the climate alarmist whackos begin to hate these cute animals (and even erase Linux from their hard disks and stop rooting for the ice-hockey team in Pittsburgh)?

If you open the Cryosphere Today and especially a graph of the absolute Southern Hemisphere sea ice area, a graph from the places where the penguins live, you will see that these days, the sea ice area is surpassing the all-time record high. Well, "all-time" only means the recent 35 years but this period of time is still longer than most people's memory.

It's apparently politically incorrect for ice to accumulate and to say "f*ck you, you f*cked up alarmist aßes". A well-behaved ice with civil awareness should melt away and scream "help to save the planet and introduce a new tax and new bans!".

Friday, September 19, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

A pro-BICEP2 paper

It's generally expected that the Planck collaboration should present their new results on the CMB polarization data within days, weeks, or a month. Will they be capable of confirming the BICEP2 discovery – or refute it by convincing data?

Ten days ago, Planck published a paper on dust modelling:

Planck intermediate results. XXIX. All-sky dust modelling with Planck, IRAS, and WISE observations
I am not able to decide whether this paper has anything to say about the discovery of the primordial gravitational waves. It could be relevant but note that the paper doesn't discuss the polarization of the radiation at all.

Perhaps more interestingly, Wesley Colley and Richard Gott released their preprint
Genus Topology and Cross-Correlation of BICEP2 and Planck 353 GHz B-Modes: Further Evidence Favoring Gravity Wave Detection
that seems to claim that the data are powerful enough to confirm some influence of the dust yet defend the notion that the primordial gravitational waves have to represent a big part of the BICEP2 observation, too.

Thursday, September 18, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

AMS in PRL: the positrons do stop increasing

...but the evidence for an actual drop remains underwhelming...

In April 2013, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02), a gadget carried by the International Space Station that looks for dark matter and other things and whose data are being evaluated by Nobel prize winner Sam Ting (MIT) and his folks, reported intriguing observations that were supposed to grow to a smoking fun proving that dark matter exists and is composed of heavy elementary particles:

AMS-02 seems to overcautiously censor solid evidence for dark matter

AMS: the steep drop is very likely there
I had various reasons for these speculative optimistic prophesies – including Sam Ting's body language. It just seemed that he knew more than he was saying and was only presenting a very small, underwhelming part of the observations.

Poroshenko in the U.S. Congress

The Americans' stupidity is staggering

I have always belonged to the top 1% of my nation and other environments (including the Harvard environment) when it came to the defense of America, Americans, their record, their views, and their values. Of course that I often had to point out some other, bigger advantages that compensate most of the Americans' complete misunderstanding of the world geography and the reality outside the U.S. borders in general.

After I completed watching this 43-minute speech of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko in front of the U.S. Congress, you will probably believe me that in my whole life so far, I have never considered the overwhelming majority of the Americans to be this breathtakingly stupid – dangerously stupid and pretty much uniformly stupid, in a very bipartisan way.

A top 2% Kaggle Higgs solution

Guest blog by Hongliang Liu (UC Riverside)

This blog is for describing my selected top submission sent to the Kaggle Higgs competition. It has the public score of 3.75+ and the private score of 3.73+ which has ranked at 26th. This solution uses a single classifier with some feature work from basic high-school physics plus a few advanced but calculable physical features.

1. The model

I choose XGBoost which is a parallel implementation of gradient boosting tree. It is a great piece of work: parallel, fast, efficient and tune-able parameters.

The parameter tuning-up is simple. I know GBM can have a good learning result by providing a small shrinkage eta value. According to a simply brute-force grid search for the parameters and the cross-validation score, I choose:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Ambulance-chasing Large Hadron Collider collisions

Guest blog by Ben Allanach on the impure fun of rapid-response physics

B.A. is a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Cambridge. He is a supersymmetry enthusiast, and is always looking for ways to interpret data using it. You can watch his TEDx talk giving some background to the LHC, supersymmetry and dark matter, or (for experts) look at the paper that this blog refers to.
“Ambulance chasing” refers to the morally dubious practice of lawyers chasing down accident victims in order to help them sue. In a physics context, when some recent data disagrees with the Standard Model of particle physics and researchers come up with an interpretation in terms of new physics, they are called ambulance chasers too. This is probably because some view the practice as a little glory-grabbing and somehow impure: you’re not solving problems purely using your mind (you’re using data as well), and even worse that that, you’ve had to be quick or other researchers might have been able produce something similar before you. It’s not that the complainers get really upset, more that they can be a bit sniffy (and others are just taking the piss in a fun way). I’ve been ambulance chasing some data just recently with collaborators, and we’ve been having a great time. These projects are short, snappy and intense. You work long hours for a short period, playing ping-pong with the draft in the final stages while you quickly write the work up as a short scientific paper.

A couple of weeks ago, the CMS experiment released an analysis of some data (TRF) that piqued our interest because it had a small disagreement with Standard Model predictions. In order to look for interesting effects, CMS sieved the data in the following way: they required either an electron and an anti-electron or a muon and an anti-muon. Electrons and muons are called `leptons’ collectively. They also required two jets (sprays of strongly interacting particles) and some apparent missing energy. We’ve known for years that maybe you could find supersymmetry with this kind of sieving. The jets and leptons could come from the production of supersymmetric particles which decay into them and a supersymmetric dark matter particle. So if you find too many of these type of collisions compared to Standard Model predictions, it could be due to supersymmetric particle production.

Global billionaire political power index

The Czech and Slovak media were somewhat excited about a fun new "index" by the U.S. sociologist Darrell West:

The global billionaire political power index
The 15 world's politically most influential dollar billionaires are said to possess these faces:

You see that the fifth one is a Slovak-born food industry mogul and Czech vice-PM Andrej Babiš, the leader of a somewhat kitschy "apolitical" Czech movement ANO (=YES).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Does only NATO, and not Russia, enjoy the right to send weapons to Ukraine?

In the last week, after a decision from the previous Friday, a ceasefire regime was established in Ukraine. People are still killing each other in the Donetsk Region but the shooting may be interpreted as "sporadic" which is why both sides of the civil war continue to officially respect the ceasefire.

While these advances towards peace are promising and all ethical people in the world should want the de-escalation of the situation to continue, some warmongers and lunatics in the EU and Washington D.C. have introduced new sanctions against Russia exactly during these promising days – sanctions against a country that they labeled the culprit of all the evil in the world. They openly said that the sanctions may depend on their satisfaction with the developments in Ukraine. This is incredible because this comment implicitly means that Russia (which is not really a party of the conflict at all, as a country) is automatically classified as the culprit of all failures in these people's lives and their friends' lives. Not even the Nazi party was treating the Jews in this simple way.

On one hand, fuzzy satellite photographs from wrong times and wrong places produced by a Google-Earth-serving photoshop company – photographs with speculative probabilistic interpretations that have already been taken down from the web – are the only "evidence" that the Russian Federation as a country is helping the anti-Kiev militias, and this seems like enough for the warmongers to cripple the international trade and to treat Russia as a criminal country. On the other hand, the standards are very different.

The defense minister in Kiev has literally boasted that his side of the civil war in Ukraine is already receiving arms shipments from NATO member states. It's exactly the same thing on the other side of the conflict – except that in this case, the deliveries are obviously real because they have been officially confirmed. However, the Western press doesn't urge everyone to cut the U.S. and other countries who are doing that from the international trade, to isolate the country, and similar things. A bit of double standards, right?

Kaggle Higgs: lessons from the critical development

Vaguely related: Mathematica Online (in the cloud) became available yesterday, see Wolfram's blog. Unfortunately, it's not quite free.
When the Kaggle Higgs contest switched from the public 100k "public" (preliminary) collisions to the official 450k "private" (final) collisions a few hours ago, your humble correspondent's team (including Christian Velkeen of CMS, with a 15% share) dropped from the 1st place to the 9th place (correction: it's 8th place now, Friday Sep 19th). This corresponds to the hypothesis that the changes of AMS will be comparable to the "full combined noise" 0.1 or so.
Fun link: See all of my/our 589 submissions' preliminary scores, final scores, filenames, and comments (with a somewhat funny and esoteric terminology). It's the last, HTML file over there; save it and open locally.
Because the "random" changes of the score were generally this high, you could say that chance decided about the winners, and the 0.045 gap between the winner and my team was our bad luck. Still, I feel that the three guys at the top – Melis, Salimans, and the marijuana guy – didn't become winners by pure chance. All of them are professional big-data programmers of a sort. It's true of everyone in the top 10 and almost everyone in the top 100, too. I am not aware of anyone who was significantly helped by some physics wisdom.

I still think it's clear that much (well, almost exactly 1/2) of my/our improvements done from the public xgboost demo – whose score actually increased from the preliminary 3.60003 to the final 3.64655 – was genuine. After all, those who only used the basic xgboost code ended up at the 357th-450th place, well below my 9th. But instead of an increase to 3.85060 as seen on the preliminary leaderboard, the actual increase was just to 3.76050. The efficiency is lousy because my methods to rate the improvements were amateurish: the preliminary AMS is much better than nothing but it isn't a good enough measure to safely beat the top players.

Sunday, September 14, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Higgs the mass killer: in defense of Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking was brought to deep financial troubles when he lost $100 against TRF guest blogger Gordon Kane after the two men have agreed on a bet that the Higgs boson would or wouldn't ever be discovered, or something like that. (I have won $500 for an analogous bet: yes, the Higgs boson has been discovered.) So evil tongues could argue that it's the reason why Hawking says that Higgs has made physics less interesting – and now why he accuses the Higgs particle of the plan to destroy the world.

Will it destroy the world?

Probably not but the threat, while small, has a totally legitimate scientific justification.

Yahoo News were among the tons of sources that have offered the disturbing prophesy by the famous physicist. Matt Strassler and especially Don Lincoln (full) wrote nice texts that try to calm the public and present Hawking's warnings as scientifically misleading.

I wouldn't be equally critical.

George Kukla (1930-2014)

A well-known Czech American climate skeptic
This happened already 3 months ago but wasn't really covered in the blogosphere...

I re-learned from Willie Soon that George Kukla died at age 84 of an apparent heart attack. His Columbia University wrote a biography of him with a somewhat insulting title.

Kukla received a Medal of Merit from Czech president Václav Klaus in 2011.

Jiří (=George) Kukla was born in Prague in 1930. His journey around the world was colorful. In the 1960s, he would manage to be an adviser to Fidel Castro. But he would also work in China, Chile, Antarctica, and Eastern Europe.

I. P. Pavlov: 165th birthday

A Russian patriot and anti-communist whom communists had to nurture

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, a pioneer of physiology, was born in Ryazan (200 km Southeast of Moscow) in September 1849. At, Karel Pacner published a fascinating chapter of his book about the geniuses of the 20th century.

Friday, September 12, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Extracurricular activities are indeed just "extra"

I am happy to report that I agree with Scott Aaronson – and obviously with Steve Pinker – that the universities should focus on the learning and scholarly work while sports and similar things should be treated as cherries on a pie.

Also, I agree with them that the standardized tests are – if you allow me to use a quote we invented along with Winston Churchill – that the standardized tests are the worst method to "rate" applicants except for all other methods that have been tried. ;-)

Thursday, September 11, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

One-half of CO2 doubling achieved

Detectable impacts on the climate are yet to be seen

When the CO2 level in the atmosphere surpassed 400 ppm a short time ago, many alarmists would celebrate this symbolic achievement. Oh, the CO2 concentration is so high! It's a signal from the heaven, a shot from the Aurora telling us to start another world revolution because our previous one, that of 1917, has already faded away and it wasn't enough for us, anyway. The number is so round, and so on. Of course, nothing new happens when the CO2 level reaches 400 ppm – it's just another number that only looks special because of an arbitrary decadic numeral system we happen to use today. The Earth has seen concentrations around 6,000 ppm as well and 4,000 ppm would be just fine for all life forms we know today. By far the closest worrisome CO2 concentration is 150 ppm in which most existing plant species stop growing (ice ages have only forced them to easily withstand 180 ppm or so).

Another numerically special value of the concentration was achieved two years ago or so but unlike 400 ppm, it wasn't hyped by anyone. The hypothetical effect of CO2 on the temperatures (well, almost certainly real effect theoretically; hypothetical from an empirical viewpoint because the effect is so incredibly weak) is often quantified – converted to numbers – when we talk about the "climate sensitivity", i.e. the increase of the global mean temperature caused by a doubling of the CO2 concentration.

The doubling defines more natural benchmark values of the concentration because it suggests that we should look at the behavior of the temperature assuming the exponential growth of CO2. That's natural because the temperature increase is approximately (very accurately) proportional to the logarithm of the CO2 concentration increase (thanks, John). Consequently, every time you double the CO2 level, the temperature increases by the same amount (ignoring non-CO2 drivers). The global mean temperature as a function of the CO2 concentration is\[

T(c) = 14.5^\circ {\rm C} + {\rm sensitivity} \times \frac{\ln (c/280\text{ ppm})}{\ln 2}

\] The temperature 14.5 degrees Celsius is the holy "optimum" global mean temperature that the climate alarmists want to see forever (yes, they will also protect our blue, not green planet from future ice ages when the temperature would otherwise drop by 8 °C as many times in the past) because it was how things probably were in 1750 although no one can really reconstruct the temperature in 1750 with a sub-degree accuracy (and even today's "global mean temperature" depends on so many technicalities that it's fair to say that it isn't defined at a sub-degree accuracy, either). The ratio of logarithms may also be written as the "base two logarithm" but I wanted to use basic functions only. Note that \(\ln 2\approx 0.69315\).

The coefficient "sensitivity" is theoretically equal to 1.2 degrees Celsius if we ignore all the feedbacks. The total figure when feedbacks (especially those related to various forms of water in the atmosphere) are included is unknown and it may be higher or lower than 1.2 degrees Celsius. One of the unjustified assumptions of the climate change ideology is that the full figure has to be higher. The higher value of the climate sensitivity you defend, the greater influence over the climate alarmist paramilitary movement you achieve. If you believe that the value of the total climate sensitivity is below an offensive threshold, you are a heretic. The offensive threshold used to be 3 degrees Celsius but the alarmists were forced to lower the threshold of heresy to 1.5-2.0 degrees Celsius because those values are obviously consistent with all the known data (and probably still overestimates).

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Should junior people be equally loud during seminars?

A man named David Chalmers wrote down some norms of the right behavior during philosophical seminars and Sean Carroll responded, in a surprisingly moderate way. The recommendations are things like

  1. be nice
  2. allow the junior people to speak more than you do
  3. the time one spends by talking during a seminar should be proportional to the product of the number of his or her X chomosomes and the number of men that he or she has sex with
and so on. Moreover, if you want to avoid a sexual harassment lawsuit, you should follow several simple rules:
  1. be handsome
  2. be attractive
  3. don't be unattractive
Well, I admit, this is not directly related to the main topic but I wanted the blog post to be self-sufficient. The funny video under the latest hyperlink shows the actual decisive factors – and hypocrisy – behind most of the similar laws.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Bohr, Heisenberg, Landau wouldn't find QBism new

David Mermin posted the text of his talk

Why QBism is not the Copenhagen interpretation and what John Bell might have thought of it (arXiv + video)
that he gave in Vienna 3 months ago. The conference was dedicated to John Bell and the 50th anniversary of his theorem. I agree with many statements that Mermin is making (and was making, in recent years) about the foundations of quantum mechanics. But that's not the case of some of the focal points in this talk.

First, I don't think that John Bell was such an important physicist that we should spend too much time with speculations what he would think about some ideas proposed after his death. Bell didn't discover quantum mechanics, he wasn't even in the top 100 ring of its co-founders and their first-generation followers, and his expectations about the fate of quantum mechanics turned out to be wrong. He didn't coin QBism and related concepts, either. Would Bell like QBism? Yes, no, who cares?

It was a conference about Bell which may (at least partially) explain why Mermin cared.

Also, the talk was meant to be nice to Fuchs and Schack, two guys behind the QBism meme, which may explain why Mermin tried to present QBism as a new idea – even though it is not a new idea – and, in fact, as an idea that the notorious critics of proper quantum mechanics such as Bell may have liked - even though Bell and others would almost certainly hate QBism, too.

But let me discuss the 14 pages of the arXiv preprint a bit more systematically.

Monday, September 08, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Vafa: supergroups, non-unitary cousins of CFT, and black hole puzzles

Cumrun Vafa has a very interesting new paper,

Non-Unitary Holography
You may start with a simple question. What happens if you replace gauge groups derived from \(U(N)\) by their supergroup counterparts, \(U(N+k|k)\)?

Well, the supergroup has more degrees of freedom – many of those have a negative norm (anticommuting but spin-one components of the "gauge bosons") and may produce negative probabilities. But Cumrun says that it doesn't affect anything you encounter at any order of the perturbative expansion in \(1/N\) i.e. in the string loop expansion. The effect of the extra \(k\) bosonic dimensions added to the original \(N\) is cancelled against the new \(k\) fermionic ones.

Scottish independence may be a non-event

Next Thursday, the Scottish voters will be asked whether Scotland should become an independent country. Some Scots support the independence efforts. Many Englishmen such as Stephen Hawking and Paul McCartney have urged the Scots to vote to preserve the union. Peter Higgs, an Englishman in Edinburgh, was undecided quite recently. The result of the referendum seems completely uncertain now – the odds are 50-50.

Lyrics of the Czech jingle that I would hear rather often as a kid, despite socialism: The Scot has skirts, pipes, and the lake where a mysterious secret has been hiding for a long time. They say that an evil monster resembling a dragon is living there. Only Matthew and Pauline know what it looks like. In fact, there are numerous monsters there, they are not evil at all, and none of them is certainly monstrous. Who wouldn't like the Ness Family and who wouldn't like to play with them? They are wonderful friends.

The United Kingdom has been a whole for many centuries and changes of the state borders are so rare that many of us tend to instinctively think that the dissolution of the U.K. would be a big deal.