Tuesday, July 07, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

America on the Greek debt path

The most worrisome aspect are the similar attitudes

Bahamas-based Viktor Kožený, the Pirate of Prague and the first Czech who owned Harvard (and who offered me to become a shadow finance minister at some point), sent me a link to an article

Athens on the Potomac
Maybe it could have been called "Washington on Cephissus" as well. But the point was that with some delay, the U.S. finances seem to follow in the Greek footsteps.

Jon Gabriel who wrote that article also created the graph above. In trillions of dollars, it shows the annual spending (green+yellow), the revenue (green), and the accumulated U.S. government debt (red). It's not hard to see that the debt has been hopelessly growing since 1980, regardless of the party that occupied the White House and the party controlling the Congress; regardless of the booms and busts; regardless of wars and peace. The growth of the debt looked linear for some time; but the slope has visibly increased during the Obama administration.

This evolution is very different e.g. from the Czech Republic. I dislike our oligarch finance minister and his politics for numerous reasons but he also does many things well enough. For example, our public debt decreased in the recent two years. Do you think that America would be able to run a budget surplus next year again? And if you admit that the U.S. has lost the ability to run surpluses, even in the very good years, don't you think that it places the sustainability of the debt in doubts?

Loopy conference about as large as the stringy one

Productivity and progress lower at least by the factor of 10-100

Two weeks ago, the Strings 2015 annual conference began in Bengalúru, India. Numerous people often suggest that string theory has alternatives that may also be the right theories of quantum gravity. At the level of science, this widely spread belief is a laymen's misconception. But one may discuss this statement at the level of sociology – look at the people who are making similar claims. These people may be counted. And they often suggest that these alternatives are being "discriminated against".

Loop quantum gravity (LQG) is often quoted as the "first competitor" of string theory. Yesterday, a biennial conference on that subject began in Erlangen, Bavaria. You may check its website; superficially, it is completely analogous to the Strings 2015 website. The similarities don't stop there. The key number announced in this blog post is that the LQG conference hosts 192 participants.

The analogous figure I counted for the Strings conference was 283 participants (although one has to admit that the conferences at "more accessible places" for the Westerners have had a slightly higher number of participants). The LQG population is about 2/3 of the ST population. What about the results?

Monday, July 06, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Europeans need to isolate the Greek Marxist tumor

I did expect the vote to produce a "No" – based on my observations of the banners on the Greek streets and Greeks who contribute their "ideas" on this blog, all of whom have been clueless trolls (the observation of the Greek nation's inferiority has been way too obvious to me) – but now it's here and we actually have to live through the increased anxiety.

After June 30th, Greece defaulted to the International Monetary Fund. On July 3rd, the EFSF (the temporary Eurozone bailout fund) – whose Greek program ended at the moment of the default – officially declared Greece bankrupt. It reserved the right to demand the immediate repayment of some €120+ billion that Greece owes to this Eurozone fund.

At the end of June, the bank run finally began, too. Capital controls had to be imposed. An ATM machine limit of €60 per day per cardholder has been enforced ever since. The Sunday July 5th referendum which asked about a no longer relevant bailout program – but was widely interpreted as the question "do you agree with some salvation by Europe that requires you to fasten the belt" – produced the No (Oxi) result. One hour after the end of the voting, it was already clear that "No" would have gathered about 60%. It was about 61.3% at the end.

Sunday, July 05, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

\({\rm SmB}_6\) seems more stringy than a plain topological insulator

Natalie Wolchover wrote an interesting Quanta Magazine article

Paradoxical Crystal Baffles Physicists
about a research direction in condensed matter physics that is important for many reasons – and the apparent links to AdS/CFT are among them. Suchitra Sebastian, a female Indian physicist, and 15 co-authors (Cambridge UK, Florida, New Mexico) just published some experimental findings in Science. She claims that the crystal of samarium hexaboride \({\rm SmB}_6\) – named after the six boring Greek Samaritans who discovered it ;-) – behaves in even stranger ways than previously believed.

This seemingly boring crystal has been known to behave as a topological insulator at low temperatures. The crystal structure is simple: create a cubic lattice out of samarium atoms. And in each cube (which may be associated with one samarium atom at the left lower front corner), place an octahedron with six boron atoms at the vertices.

Saturday, July 04, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

What is string theory? Ask Ashoke and Nima

If you have 94 spare minutes, you should watch this insightful and amusing panel discussion on "What is string theory", a public event that took place on Monday, at the end of the Strings 2015 annual conference in India.

Rajesh Gopakumar introduces the two main heroes, Milner Prize winners Ashoke Sen and Nima Arkani-Hamed.

In 863, Greek brothers made Slavs literate

Congratulations to the American readers – 50% of the TRF community. It's The Independence Day, July 4th. This day is followed by two Czech national holidays, July 5th and July 6th.

On July 6th, 1415, i.e. 600 years ago, top Czech Catholic priest, master at my Alma Mater (Charles University), and early church reformer Mister John Huss was burned at stake during the Council of Constance. The top European Catholic apparatchiks didn't like that he has loved the truth and articulately criticized them for their hypocrisy, excessive wealth, double standards during masses, and bureaucratization of the church.

Huss is also the author of the (early version of) Czech diacritical signs (as in "žluťoučký kůň šíleně úpěl ďábelské ódy" which means "a yellowish horse was terribly moaning devilish odes") which became the standard script in the Czech lands, Slovakia, and the Yugoslav nations. The judicial murder led to the Hussite Wars, an era in which the Hussites – terrorists who were his self-appointed followers – were establishing communist cities, plundering Europe, constructing "simply clever" new kind of weapons, and singing combat songs that made the Germans šit into their pants. Most Czechs are proud about the Hussite period that ended by the Hussites' 1434 defeat at the Battle of Lipany.

The Pope and the German president recently apologized for the judicial murder of this "heretic" and offered us 1/2 of the Vatican and all of East Germany as a modest compensation.

Friday, July 03, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

David Gross', Nobelists' painful AGW publicity stunt

Sixty years ago, on July 15th, 1955, Max Born, Werner Heisenberg, Hideki Yukawa, Otto Hahn, and 14 other Nobel prize winners signed the Mainau Declaration against the use of nuclear weapons. It was a decade after Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fear made sense. The superpowers had accumulated lots of nukes and their destructive character had been observed.

These days, there is another meeting of the Nobel laureates at Lindau. Nobel prize winners including David Gross performed something that cynics in Deutsche Welle call "a stab at relevance" or "a publicity stunt": the 2015 Mainau Declaration on "climate change" (see the PDF file with the declaration).

Brian Schmidt, the 2011 Nobel prize winner in physics for his (and their) experimental discovery of the dark energy, became the spokesman for this publicity stunt. David et al., don't you feel a little bit painful? Or, more precisely, too painful?

Sir Nicholas Winton won't get his Peace Nobel Prize anymore

Sir Nicholas Winton died on July 1st at age of 106+ years (respiratory problems). He has been repeatedly nominated for the Peace Nobel Prize but the committee has repeatedly chosen someone else, often someone profoundly unworthy.

The British press has nicknamed him the "British Schindler", a German guy who saved about 1,200 Jews by employing them in his factory. Winton has saved 669 Czechoslovak children, mostly Jews, by organizing (one big train in) the so-called "Kindertransport".

Thursday, July 02, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Introduction to double field theory 1/2

Guest blog by Olaf Hohm of MIT

First of all I would like to thank Luboš for giving me the opportunity to write a guest blog on double field theory (previously mentioned here).

This is a subject that in some sense is rather old, almost as old as string theory, but that has seen a remarkable revival over the last five years or so and that, as a consequence, has reached a level of maturity comparable to that of many other sub-disciplines of string theory. In spite of this, double field theory is viewed by some as a somewhat esoteric theory in which unphysical higher-dimensional spacetimes are introduced in an ad-hoc manner for no reasons other than purely aesthetic ones and that, ultimately, does not give any results that might not as well be obtained with good old-fashioned supergravity. It is the purpose of this blog post to introduce double field theory (DFT) and to explain that, on the contrary, even in its most conservative form it allows us to attack problems several decades old that were beyond reach until recently.

The Hindu: an interview with Ed Witten

A big portion of the world's string theorists gathered in Bengalúru, India last week. The local newspapers have published a couple of stories – e.g. about Ashoke Sen etc. One fresh interview in The Hindu is titled

‘Supersymmetry may show up at the new run of LHC’
Šubašrý Desikan has talked to Edward Witten who was introduced as the "world's only physicist who has won the Fields Medal".

Much like in most interviews since 2006 or so, the first question was a deeply unoriginal one about the empirical character of string theory. Witten answered that physicists are interested in string theory because of its elegance and especially because it seems to be the only way to reconcile the two pillars of the 20th century physics, quantum mechanics and general relativity.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Tsipras' surrender letter: the timing of a loser

To sell while you are crumbling is too late

Twelve hours ago, at midnight Prague Summer Time, Greece became the first country that defaulted to the IMF among the countries that were widely considered developed at the moment of the default. I have been 90% sure that this event was unavoidable at least since June 5th or so. People who claimed that the European politicians "wouldn't allow" something like that have been shown spectacularly wrong.

Some EU politicians may religiously worship the memes about the integrated Europe. But these politicians have neither the absolute power nor the bottomless wallet. They face many people – including important people – whose thinking is more realistic. Even more importantly, they face the laws of physics. The convergence of Greece towards the collision with the default was as guaranteed as the implications of the laws of gravity. People just won't pay €1.6 billion for free – and that was the only way how Tsipras and comrades wanted the money to be paid. A few cheesy clichés about Europe's unity won't make anyone throw €1.6 billion into a black hole that has been known to be black for 5 years or so.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Memories, asymptotic symmetries, and soft theorems

Last Monday, the Strings 2015 annual conference started in Bengalúru, India. Now it's over. With three exceptions, the written documents used by the speakers are posted on the page with talk titles and videos. Unfortunately, most of the videos have still not been posted; the last released ones were added 4 days ago.

(Update July 1st: thank God, the videos are available.)

There have been numerous interesting talks at the conference. Some of them are nice reviews. In order to focus on talks with a truly new original content that is sufficiently conceptual to be appropriate for a semitechnical blog, let me pick Andy Strominger's talk (PDF), not only because Andy celebrates his 60th birthday in a month.

Monday, June 29, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Puerto Rico and Greece: a comparison of two defaults

Excessive pensions and similar expenses are always the main problem

The center-left populist government of Puerto Rico just announced that the islands (one big plus many small ones) won't be able to repay their $70+ billion public debt. These announcements just happen to come at the same time when Greece is expected to go bankrupt (tomorrow in the evening). It's tempting to compare these two economies.

I think that there are some huge differences as well as some amazingly accurate similarities – both of which are being heavily underestimated. Let us look at those.

First, just to be sure, Greece is a country in Southwestern Europe (in the Balkans), very close to Asia and Africa, and it's been considered the weakest link of the European Union and the Eurozone for many years. On the other hand, Puerto Rico is an island East from Cuba that has been governed by the U.S. federal government since the 1930s but it is not officially incorporated as a state. We may say that Puerto Rico is the weakest link of the U.S. – and the U.S. dollar zone.

To summarize, these two defaulting entities have totally analogous relationships to their larger umbrella territories or currency areas. I believe that many Americans who tell the Europeans that Europe "should" bail Greece out again totally fail to realize that their relationship with Puerto Rico is totally analogous. If it's right for Europe to bailout Greece again, the U.S. government should surely bailout Puerto Rico as well, shouldn't it? One could argue that Puerto Rico is politically "closer" to the government in D.C. than Greece's solidarity distance from Berlin, Helsinki, Bratislava, or even Brussels. Puerto Rico's main leader "is" Obama in some sense – but the Greeks' main leader is neither Merkel or Hollande nor Tusk or Juncker.

Sunday, June 28, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Gay marriage: constitutional revisionism is extremely dangerous

I have nothing against gays. My co-existence with gays has been very good and dozens of witnesses exist to confirm my extraordinary tolerance, to say the least. I think that there are biological reasons for gays' inclinations and these inclinations are compatible with their life or individual health.

A part of my understanding of the human freedom implies that people may insert their organs wherever they want – as long as they don't harm the freedom and dignity of others. And in a democratic system, voters or their elected representatives may ensure tax breaks for those who insert these organs at the right places. The desired frequency and locations may be specified in the illustrations embedded in the laws.

I won't think that they are wise if they do such things but nations surely have the right to establish their internal rules according to their tastes. In general, people in Czechia are extremely tolerant about these matters. Since 2006, we had "civil unions" for gays. But on the other hand, there exist virtually no "enthusiastic advocates" of homosexualism in my country, no "warriors" arguing that the unions have to be called "marriages". We may be just too mature or phlegmatic for such simple new forms of religion. Since the age of 10, Czechs generally know how babies are created etc.

But what I find unacceptable is the rewriting of the meaning of words and the meaning of laws and constitutions designed to achieve certain political goals.

Saturday, June 27, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Referendum about survival 5 days after death?

During the night, the world has learned about a shocker. It is the first one among the "unpleasant and unexpected Greek surprises" the world may face because it was incapable of forcing Greece into formal bankruptcy at a moment chosen by the creditors – not by Syriza.

A model of Greece's behavior in coming days or weeks

Alexis Tsipras scheduled a referendum about the creditors' proposals on July 5th. If the date were different, it could be interpreted as an effort of the cowards to get rid of their duties and their responsibility. With the referendum, they could say: It's the nation who screwed itself, isn't it?

However, the problem is that the referendum is supposed to take place on July 5th. Unless Syriza 100% surrenders in about 80 hours – and it's been suggested that the actual time that remains is shorter – Greece will be in the IMF arrears since July 1st.

By the IMF rules (although not by the rules of the rating agencies), it will be in the state of bankruptcy. The European Central Bank will be forced to withdraw the support for all the Greek commercial banks. Those will collapse. The country will completely run out of hard cash. The circulation of the hard currencies will stop.

The country will be effectively out of the Eurozone whether or not the elimination will be formally announced by that time.