Saturday, May 30, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

A minor assault on Czech petitioners by Muslim students

Thankfully, most of the Czech written media have reported on a relatively minor incident involving Arab students that took place in the historical city of Olomouc – which I visited twice in recent years – yesterday.

This is the Upper Square (the Lower Square is nearby) with its city hall and their Astronomical Clock (not quite as pretty as the clock in Prague but still interesting). Meters away from the city hall, a group of members of "We Don't Want Islam In Czechia" NGO was collecting signatures on their petition against the EU refugee quotas.

During the last 2 weeks, the number of refugees that the European Commission wants to be given asylum in Czechia has doubled or tripled, to 3.2% of the available refugees or 1,328 folks (the percentage makes Czechia the almost canonical average EU member again) from Syria and Eritrea. With this doubling time, Czechia would be a mostly Muslim country before the Christmas – except that there would be no Christmas anymore. ;-)

Friday, May 29, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Chocolate helps weight loss, a hoax

Health and dietary science is clearly one of the softest disciplines out there but sometimes, one may still be surprised that it's softer than he has thought.

The story is the following: Exactly two months ago, media in 20 countries brought their fat readers good news. Scientists have found out that you may accelerate your weight loss if you eat chocolate with lots of cocoa on a daily basis.

The most important article for masses appeared in Der Bild, Europe's highest-circulation journal: Wer Shokolade isst, bleibt schlank! The supertitle said "Diese Studie schmeckt uns" i.e. "This study tastes well to us". It surely does, as I will discuss below.

The English-language media were somewhat underrepresented but the reports appeared in The Express, The Daily Star, The Irish Examiner, The Huffington Post, Times of India, some TV news in Texas and Australia, and others.

Because the statement sounds surprising, a sane person should ask what is the basis for the claims.

Thursday, May 28, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Relaxion, a new paradigm explaining the Higgs lightness

The Quanta Magazine published a report

A New Theory to Explain the Higgs Mass
by Natalie Wolchover that promotes a one-month-old preprint
Cosmological Relaxation of the Electroweak Scale
by Graham, Kaplan, and Rajendran. So far, the paper has 1 (conference-related) citation but has already received great appraisals e.g. from Guidice, Craig, and Dine – and less great ones e.g. from Arkani-Hamed.

The Higgs mass, \(125\GeV\) or so (and the electroweak scale), is about \(10^{16}\) times lighter than the Planck mass, the characteristic scale of quantum gravity. Where does this large number come from? The usual wisdom, with a correction I add, is that the large number may be explained by one of the three basic ideas:
  1. naturalness, with new physics (SUSY, compositeness) near the Higgs mass
  2. anthropic principle, i.e. lots of vacua with different values of the Higgs mass, mostly comparable to the Planck mass; the light Higgs vacua are chosen because they admit life like ours
  3. Dirac's large number hypothesis: similar large dimensionless numbers are actually functions of the "age of the Universe" which is also large (but not a universal constant) and therefore evolve, or have evolved, as the Universe was expanding; see TRF
Too bad that the third option is often completely denied. Well, we sort of know that similar constants haven't been evolving in recent billions of years, at least not by \(O(1)\), but it's a shame that the Graham et al. paper doesn't refer to the Dirac's 1937 paper at all because this new proposal is a hybrid of all three paradigms above, I think.

Raid on FIFA, extradition, timing are scary

Tomorrow, on Friday, FIFA – a top global soccer organization – will vote for its new president in Zürich, Switzerland.

The president who has been one since 1998, Josef Sepp Blatter of Switzerland (sometimes said to be the most powerful man of sports in the world), will face mainly Prince Ali bin Hussein of Jordan, an important aristocrat in his country, the current FIFA vice-president, and a great41 grandson of Prophet Mohammed (which I don't find remarkable given Mohammed's extensive and diverse sexual activities and the speedy growth of the exponential function).

Yesterday, on Wednesday, the Swiss police detained a group of seven officials, mostly from Latin America, because of charges that they have sold their votes deciding about the location of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, some choices of the cloth sponsors, and the 2011 presidential election.

The U.S. government is working hard to get these folks on the American soil. Two obvious questions are: Why America? And why now? I am sort of terrified by both questions.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Reviewing EPR, a "sleeping beauty" paper

Nature wrote an article with the list of top 15 "sleeping beauty" papers that were initially almost ignored but many decades later, they exploded and began to attract lots of followups.

Almost all of them are about the physics of surfaces and closely related issues in solid state physics. One exception, ranking as the #14 sleeping beauty, is the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen 1935 paper

Can quantum mechanical description of physical reality be considered complete? (4 pages, full text)
that I will critically review below. The main author came to the U.S. 2 years earlier, he was probably the primary source of the "ideas", and the two collaborators were postdocs at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton (this description of affiliations sounds just like today!).

This "sleeping beauty" woke up in 1994, i.e. 59 years after it was written. Obviously, some people would like to say that people were shallow, uncritical, and uncurious for those 59 years before some clever brave folks began to appreciate the wisdom in the paper. As you know, my summary is the opposite one. The physicists have been competent and understood that the EPR arguments weren't really right for those 59 years before the scientific community started to be flooded by folks who understood quantum mechanics at least as incorrectly as Einstein and his collaborators (without having found any results that could compare to Einstein's).

The initial letters of the authors – EPR – are currently used as a de facto synonym of "quantum entanglement" even though this paper (and Einstein's phrase "spooky action at a distance") is an alternative, fringe attack against the quantum entanglement. Einstein's and his collaborators' formulations are fresh and clear – unlike their followers' – but the paper is deeply flawed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Clifford Johnson's flawed ideas about string theory's raison d’être

String theory's founding fathers have been a heroic group of solitaires who were developing a remarkable theory whose X Factor only became self-evident to most of the competent theoretical high-energy physicists in the mid 1980s. At that time, during the First Superstring Revolution, string theory became a mainstream subject, the generally appreciated "only game in town" when it comes to the unification of gravity with the rest of fundamental physics.

A subject that becomes mainstream enters the same risk as a stable corporation that has already grown big: It absorbs too many people that are too ordinary, too opportunist, and too unaware of the reasons why they're in that subject and not another subject. It has too many "followers" which may also be a ticket to stagnation.

As a guy who came to string theory from an unfriendly environment – the post-communist Academia which was mostly hostile towards string theory because its own scientific results were basically zero, much like the scientific contributions of the critics of string theory elsewhere – I always felt the gap between the "real people" who know what they're doing and the "other people". And I had the worrying feeling that the younger generation contains way too many "other people", too many "followers". The "real people" among the younger generations have been dangerously rare for decades.

Monday, May 25, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Possible particle discoveries at LHC

Guest blog by Paul Frampton

Dear Luboš, here is my guest blog associated with my recent paper entitled

"Lepton Number Conservation, Long-Lived Quarks and Superweak Bileptonic Decays"
posted at 1504.05877 [hep-ph] which suggests that LHC seek three additional quarks but, as promised, I shall include a general overview of what new particles might show up in Run II.

As is well known, discovery of the Higgs Boson in Run I completed the content of the standard model. Run II at \(13\TeV\), later expected to reach \(14\TeV\), is just beginning and what additional particle, if any, will be discovered is surely the central issue of particle phenomenology.

Sunday, May 24, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Far-reaching features of physical theories are not sociological questions

Backreaction has reviewed a book on the "philosophy of string theory" written by a trained physicist and philosopher Richard Dawid who may appear as a guest blogger here at some point.

Many of the statements sound reasonable – perhaps because they have a kind of a boringly neutral flavor. But somewhere in the middle, a reader must be shocked by this sentence – whose content is then repeated many times:

Look at the arguments [in favor of string theory] that he raises: The No Alternatives Argument and the Unexpected Explanatory Coherence are explicitly sociological.
Oh, really?

Eurovision song contest: the ultimate kitschy PC event

Last night, about 200 million viewers in the world were watching the Eurovision Song Contest. This huge number sounds utterly incomprehensible to most Czechs. Last year, when a would-be transvestite Conchita Wurst won, the Czech TVs didn't air the contest at all. This year, people could watch it on an obscure Art Public TV channel, and 1% of the Czech population (100,000) did it.

The contest is often semi-jokingly dubbed the most successful result of the European integration and unification. And various Czech journalists compare it to the summits of the European Union. It's boring, dull, each country of Europe (including Australia) has a representative, all of them try to search for the universal common denominator of likability, almost everyone tries to be as close to the average as possible, and if someone is just a little bit further from that, he is disproportionately celebrated for his or her "courage".

And everyone seems to be dead serious about the contest. No irony or jokes can be found anywhere. Just like an EU summit.

Saturday, May 23, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Greece: parallel currency, default, solutions

Greece remains one of the main topics that markets are thinking about. Its finance minister Varoufakis promised a default on June 5th (€303 million from a 2010 IMF loan) if additional billions of euros aren't poured over the Greek black hole before that day; to feed his corrupt parasitic voters with other people's money will always be more important for him than to fulfill basic international obligations of his country.

He may be bluffing, he may be serious, we can't be sure. It sounds insane that Greece would be the first country in the world's history that would default to the IMF – in some sense, to the whole international economic community – something that no screwed dictatorial regime in Africa has managed to achieve so far. But Varoufakis and his comrades are self-described Marxists so truly insane decisions may be expected, after all.

I follow the Greek media – including those written in Greek. One thing I find remarkable is their local indication that "everything is fine" in the country. Default-related stories are actually just a small part of what they discuss. They don't think that they have a problem. This is remarkable because if the country defaults, the very fabric of the society may be torn apart. And it's only Greece that will be radically transformed.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Inconsequential, irrational, incorrect criticisms of PR, ER=EPR

Insights by Papadodimas and Raju (PR) and those by Maldacena and Susskind (ER=EPR) have advanced our understanding of quantum gravity in the following way:

We know that there is some Hilbert space of microstates, especially black hole microstates (or two black holes' microstates), for example from AdS/CFT. It may be described e.g. by using the energy eigenstate basis. This Hilbert space is fixed and our goal – they have started to fulfill – is to become masters of this Hilbert space. What does it mean?

It means to be able to embed, localize, or identify operators (or even operator algebras) on/into this Hilbert space that may be associated with particular measurements that we may do in the real world. In practice, it means to see how the bulk field operators (and the black hole or wormhole interior operators are the really hard ones) are embedded in the space of black hole microstates.

In this approach, quantum mechanics is primary because a Hilbert space pre-exists and the field operators have to "adapt" to it. This is very different from the approach in which a Hilbert space is produced out of local fields, e.g. as the Fock space. In such an approach, the spacetime would be primary and fundamental. Such an approach is probably inapplicable in quantum gravity.

Award-winning silly conformal gravity agitprop by 't Hooft

Since his well-deserved 1999 Nobel prize in physics, Gerard 't Hooft got used to a luxurious lifestyle and because the prize money have been gone for years, he decided to find a great new way to earn a few more extra bucks.

In 2005, The Templeton Foundation and Max Tegmark established a foundation called FQXi that has been distributing thousands of dollars for essays. Well over 90% of the winners have been crackpots, the kind of people from the Smolin environment, people whose feeble brains don't allow their owners to learn modern physics but who are great in hyping conspiracy theories and meaninglessly combine philosophical and physical buzzwords.

Oops. DG informed me that I conflated two different essay contest foundations, FQXi and Gravity Research Foundation. 't Hooft's essay won the latter.

When you are a warrior against the conventional top physics research who wants to earn the money in this way, you face the competition of dozens of fellow crackpots. But if you're the only one who is a Nobel prize winner at the same moment, your chances of winning the FQXi essay contest go up.

Finally, in the 2015 essay contest, Gerard 't Hooft won the first $4,000 prize. Congratulations.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Ashamed to be a Rutgers alumnus

Over 16,000 students of Rutgers have graduated. The university officials had to pick someone to give the commencement speech.

They didn't have a better idea than to pay $35,000 and invite Bill Nye, the Science Guy, and tell him to speak about his hardcore climate catastrophic conspiracy theories (yes, sure, AGW will "consume us" just like the Second World War!) – plus personal attacks on many people who understand the climate much more deeply than he does – for more than 20 minutes.

Monday, May 18, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Oliver Heaviside: 165th birthday

Oliver Heaviside was born in London on May 18th, 1850. He was short, a redhead, and a sufferer from poor hearing due to scarlet fever in his childhood. Due to the limited support from his parents and the hostility of the institutionalized science towards him, he has never received any PhD and almost no credit.

But he was the Gentleman we must thank to for many discoveries and inventions related to electromagnetism and for the modern notation he introduced.