Tuesday, February 28, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Czechia is a new donor

Paul Wolfowitz, the president of the World Bank, has just upgraded the Czech Republic from an underdeveloped country that gets assistance to a developed country that must become a donor. Is it good news or bad news for the country? ;-)

A conservative martyr

Some of the very recent commentaries of the resignation of the president of Harvard University are very interesting.

Liberals can defend themselves with KGB tactics only. The Canadians explain that political correctness has always been good for everyone unless, of course, you are Larry Summers and the guys with the PC eyes come for you. In Australia they ask: and did you think that our universities were politically correct? MIT speculates that the next president will be namby pamby who "rose quietly through the ranks". They also mention that Summers has autographed many dollar bills for admiring students. I must emphasize that it was not just students. It was also for senior professors but also junior scholars like me.

Another newspaper explains that Larry Summers has become a conservative martyr. In this article, David Horowitz concludes that Summers is a liberal but he has been doing the right things. The universities have been taken over, he says, and it is about 10% - the hardline Stalinists - who got rid of Summers. The article argues that moderates as well as some liberals realize that Horowitz is essentially right. In another text, Karl Maher hypothesizes that the events at Harvard will cause the end of political correctness. Mark Sevelis compares Summers' story with that of Herb Kohl. David McClintick who wrote the article about "Harvard in Russia" takes "credit" for the resignation in the New York Times.

Interaction-free measurements

I feel slightly dissatisfied with the way how the physics blogosphere described the recent media explosions about the so-called interaction-free measurements, especially because the blogosphere has made the question about the origin and originality of the ideas even more obscuring than the media. See news.google.com for the recent articles about quantum interrogation which is another name for these phenomena.



First of all, it is surprising that not a single of these media or blog articles mentioned the names of the physicists who actually invented quantum interrogation or interaction-free measurements. So who are they? Their names are

and the discovery was made in 1991 although the paper only appeared in a proper journal in 1993. The first experiments occured eleven years ago, in 1995, with the names of Paul Kwiat as well as Anton Zeilinger on the paper. Zeilinger, who is a leading Austrian experimenter in the field of quantum teleportation and related topics, had done some very closely related experiments already in 1994. The originally low efficiency of the interaction-free measurements was improved in 1999 in a paper by Kwiat et al., including Zeilinger.

What are these discoveries all about? Let me start with...

Zeno's paradox

The ancient philosopher thought that an arrow cannot really move because you can divide its path into infinitely many pieces, and because the total length of each piece is zero, Zeno thought that their sum must also be zero, and an inconsistency of mathematics is then a trivial corollary. Zeno was apparently unaware of the fact that "0 times infinity" can give a finite result.

He had also invented other paradoxes that are not relevant for the main point of this article - for example, in his "Achilles and the turtle" paradox, he showed that he thought that the sum of an infinitely long sequence of positive numbers (such as the geometric series in his case) had to diverge. Although these Greeks started science - the Euclidean geometry may be viewed as the oldest field of physics describing relative positions of perfectly solid bodies - truth to be said, their ignorance was often breathtaking. ;-)

Quantum Zeno effect

Let us jump by several millenia into Zeno's future. Consider a two-level system in quantum mechanics. For example, take an excited atom that is ready to decay into its ground state. Normally it takes some time T but if you keep on measuring the energy of the atom very frequently, you prevent the atom from jumping onto another level. Much like Zeno thought, if you divide the time into infinitely many pieces - and you insert measurement to each point - motion becomes impossible.

Another example is a particle that is able to tunnel through a barrier. Such a thing can occur in quantum mechanics but only if you give the particle enough freedom to be invisible for a while and re-appear on the other side. If you watch the particle permanently, the tunneling can't take place. Because of the same reason, the economy can't operate well under a Big Brother who is permanently watching i.e. in socialism.

OK, we know what the quantum Zeno's effect is about.

Interaction-free measurements

The improvement from the 1990s is that you may also want to look at a different place from the location of the particle, and you can still learn something about this location. The classic example is a light-sensitive bomb. Can you see (optically) whether the bomb is in the box while avoiding detonation? The answer is Yes, Elitzur and Vaidman argued. Click at the word "bomb" in this paragraph (don't be afraid, it will probably not explode) and you will learn how can you sometimes become sure that a bomb is able to explode without actually exploding it.

Sean Carroll has recently become famous for replacing an exploding bomb by a barking dog and the igniting photon by salami.

See this paper for a description how the Elitzur+Vaidman paper was written and why is the adjective "interaction-free" misleading (and dependent upon your interpretation of quantum mechanics) for these experiments. Lev Vaidman is by the way also one of the key players behind quantum teleportation. In 1999, the methods were improved by dividing the interference to many pieces, i.e. by using the quantum Zeno's effect mentioned above. See Kwiat's page for details.

At any rate, the ideas of Elitzur and Vaidman are primary, the infinitesimal "quantum Zeno" improvements in 1999 are an interesting addition to the original discovery, the experiments are rather straightforward, and the recent connections with quantum computing probably have more marketing than physics in it, especially because the concepts of "counterfactual computation" have also been known at least for 5 years.

A Christian graduate student could also use the same mechanism to experimentally reconstruct the events in which God initiated Jesus Christ without ever touching Mary. ;-)

If someone is convinced that the "counterfactual computation" can circumvent some problems in quantum computing and either reduce the error rate or decoherence, the most obvious way to use this insight is to build a working & large enough quantum computer. That would be really cool.

Similarity with Afshar

Incidentally, there is some remote similarity of these experiments with Afshar's experiment. Afshar also uses "negative information from scattering" because if you remember, he places the grid at the interference minima. His photons then interact with the grid much less than they would interact if the grid were placed at generic places (this is the counterpart of the bomb not exploding most of the time - or the dog not barking). Afshar then incorrectly interprets this setup as a 100% measurement of the wave properties by each photon, and he continues by saying that he can also measure 100% of the "which way" information - which verbally contradicts the complementarity principle.

I have argued that most photons in his setup cannot be argued to have measured the wave properties of light because they failed to interact and paint any interference pattern.

Monday, February 27, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Keith Baker: TRT at ATLAS

I just returned from a colloquium about the LHC. Keith Baker from Hampton seems to be a very good speaker and he gave a convincing and inspiring talk. A bigger one half of the talk was about experimental high-energy physics - with some elementary introduction about the energy scales of the Universe - and a smaller one half was about the black physicists and related policy issues. The speaker was an African American himself.

The LHC will be completed in 2007. There are two major detectors: the CMS on the French side and ATLAS on the Swiss side. Baker and his collaborators work for ATLAS, much like some people from Harvard and many other places.

While Harvard is focusing on the muons, among other things, Hampton University's main interest is TRT which stands for transition radiation tracking. (In fact, TRT seems to be the "most American" segment of the LHC.) When charged particles move from one environment to another, they emit transition radiation and its detection is a useful tool to identify the particles and figure out other things, too. Baker described how well can they distinguish electrons from pions or how they attack the question of the angular distribution and others.

He also showed some maps and graphs of the grid. Hampton has 5 computers in it which is less than the BU+Harvard group but these five computers are run primarily by students and they are important for other reasons discussed below.

Sunday, February 26, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Smart frog



What a bright animal.

Saturday, February 25, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Salman Awan: The truth is...

The truth is, The Prophet of Islam can neither be symbolized/drawn nor can be characterized in any way and anytime.

First of all I would like to pay my gratitude to Mr. Luboš Motl for giving me an opportunity to express my point of view on Danish Cartoon illustrations. Secondly, English is not my first language, however, I will try to communicate the intended message at the top of my abilities. Thirdly, most of you won't agree with what belief we Muslims and majority of the world share, but I am happy that I am into the act of Jihad through Pen.

Well, I am studying Business here in London and I am a Muslim by religion.

Firstly, I would to clear some misconceptions about Islam. Islam means "to make peace" and it struggles to maintain peace. We are no way terrorists, but all over the world we are looked upon as terrorists only because of few individuals who misunderstood the true meaning of Islam and were used by some economies for political reasons and benefits. After the 7th July, 2005 incident I have been stopped and searched 23 times at various London Underground Stations under a section, which says that I might be a terrorist. Well, that's another issue but the issue I will discuss here is concerning the height of disrespect our Prophet (PBUH) is treated with.

There is a lot happening at present in Muslim countries and wherever Muslims live. Yeah, its all emanated from Danish Cartoon Illustrations (DCI), moreover, these DCI are compelling Muslims to be defensive. Condoning or punishing such acts is a personal opinion shaped by religion, culture, values and heritage.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was the last of all messengers and Islam was completed during his life. For us, Muslims, he is the best of all human beings and we try to follow his footsteps in every walk of life to get the best of the both worlds. Concisely, he is a model of excellence, and our love for him is unlimited.

The Prophet's Distinctive Characteristics as a Reformer

1. The most Successful of Prophets
2. Universality of the Message
3. Unity of Human Race
4. Development of entire Human Race
5. Greatness in all Directions
6. Not a Product of Environment
7. Universal Peace

The Prophet's Sublime Morals

1. The Prophet, an Exemplar
2. No Work was too Low for him
3. Simplicity
4. Food
5. Dress
6. No Attraction for Comforts
7. Cleanliness
8. Love for Friends
9. Generous to Enemies
10. Equal Justice for all
11. Humility
12. Sympathy for the Poor and the Distressed
13. Hospitality
14. Gentleness
15. Faithfulness
16. Forgiveness
17. Modesty
18. Affection
19. Respect for Others
20. Courage
21. Steadfastness

He possessed all the qualities we can think of and the qualities beyond our imagination. All these attributes make us fall in love with him. The DCI aimed to depict him as violent and terrorist minded, moreover, it's an attack on his attributes and not only that every Muslim is deeply offended and insulted our religion Islam is also disgraced and disrespected. I will not forgive such callous, disdainful, condescending disregard of things dear to me, things that I love.

No one has ever dared to draw his sketch except DCI, it's because of the respect we all hold for other religions. As CNN refused to post the DCI:

"CNN has chosen to not show the cartoons out of respect for Islam."

(This comment by CNN is an act of respect)

He was so perfect that we cannot bear anyone manifesting him as a terrorist or any other character as depicted by DCI. We treat each other with respect, I have respect for your values and religion it doesn't means that you can abuse my Prophet or Allah. Cartoons are no way means of depicting such personalities. The truth is, The Prophet of Islam can neither be symbolized/drawn nor can be characterized in any way and anytime.

It's a grave mistake by the Danish Prime Minister to oversimplify it into an issue of freedom of speech and religious sensitivities; it would miss the point completely. The Danish editors cannot claim that they were only exercising freedom of expression because hiding behind that guise would misrepresent what they did, and what they did was deliberately incite. That defeats the very purpose of a freedom of expression.

What should we do? We will be intolerant of such actions. We will not pretend that you have the right to insult our religion. But, we will be intolerant without being violent. We will use this forum of speech, and expression and non-violent action, to make ourselves heard. This is not on. This will never be on. We will fight, but our fight is not violent, at least not yet. Freedom of expression is not a vice. It is a virtue. Let us not forget that. Let us not forget that it is open to us too. That we can tell them it is wrong, and we can continue telling them, until they listen to us. But just because they don't listen to us right now, does not mean we burn and we torch, and we kill. Our fight is better than that, our fight is smarter than that. It is a longer, more difficult fight. But it is the right fight. And that is what matters. That is what Muslims are supposed to be about.

Also, I will make it crystal clear that who the fight is against. It is not against a civilization. It is not against non-Muslims as a whole. It is not against American governments as a matter of default. Our fight is against, those who believe our religion is not worth being respected. We need to earn our respect. We earn it, by being patient, by showing all the good that our religion stands for. We earn it by respecting them, and by respecting theirs. That is what we do.

So far there have been some deadly protests and I stand against them.

Salman Awan
awansalman at msn.com

Friday, February 24, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Neumannová, Swedes, and taxes

I have finally received my 2005 tax refunds, both from the state level as well from the Feds. Filing as a resident has trivialized this portion of bureaucracy and I only spend about 5 hours a year or so with the forms for IRS and DOR. It used to be completely out of control when the various forms reflecting the international treaties had to be filled out - several weeks of the process of figuring out what to fill out and what to write in the forms. And I still didn't know the answer to some very basic questions like Whather I should pay any taxes or not. Despite the simplification, yes, I still think that taxes should ideally be eliminated or at least replaced by some concise flat or fair tax system.

Kateřina Neumannová got a virosis two days ago so she had to decide whether she would compete in 30 km cross country skiing - free style (skating) - at the end of her last olympic games. The final decision was yes and of course, she has won the gold medal, improving the Czech medal budget somewhat. One of her previous gold medals was right after she gave birth to her daughter Lucie. Is not she amazing?

The Czech ice-hockey players face Sweden in the semifinals at 10:30 am EST today. The Swedes want to revenge for their lost semifinals with the Czechs in the 2001 semifinals, for their unsuccessful attempt to revenge in the 2004 World Cup in Sweden in which the Swedes lost 6:1 in front of their own fans, and for their futile 2005 attempt to revenge for their failed revenges in Vienna. Well, quite a lot of stuff to revenge for. ;-) Important background: the Swedes stole a lot of books, gold, bronze statues, fountains, and other good stuff from Prague in 1648 and it seems that their conscience has not yet been cleared. :-) Unfortunately, the Swedes are going to win today 7:3. Note that I don't like the Bayesian inference so I prefer to tell you the result instead of some meaningless figures encoding the "probabilities".

However, on Saturday, the Czech team will easily beat Russia 3:0 (1:0 - 1:0 - 1:0), humiliate lonely oyster's predictions, and grab at least the bronze medals. Sweden will win the gold medals by a 3:2 victory over Finland on Sunday, leaving the Finns with the silver medals.

Values in physics

Physics is a science and the experiment is the ultimate judge of the validity of the physical theories. At the same moment, the idea that the search for the truth in physics is just a sequence of mechanical tests of theories against well-defined experimental data that reveal the truth step by step is a narrow-minded illusion.

The ideas in physics are often much more far-reaching. Their importance often exceeds the impact of philosophical or religious dogmas. In fact, some ideas in physics are so far-reaching that they determine not only the answers but the character of the very questions that are going to be asked for many decades or centuries after the original ideas or principles are revealed. Sometimes we talk about "beauty" in physics but different people often have different features of the theories in mind.

I would prefer to be slightly more specific - as specific as a philosophical essay allows one to be. Some of the main values that may determine the depth of principles and theories in physics may be described as follows:

  • uniqueness & rigidity
  • inevitability
  • self-consistency and mutual causal relations between different statements
  • ability to avoid inconsistencies, especially if consistency is not guaranteed from the beginning; equivalently: the existence of miraculous cancellations of inconsistencies
  • limited number of independent assumptions
  • ability to be relevant in a large number of situations
  • power to organize previous systems of ideas and reveal new relations between them
  • multiplicity of descriptions of the same structure that are mathematically equivalent
  • the maximal possible yet finite amount of complexity of these theories that still makes them compatible with fundamental principles

While I find it obvious that all of these features are important and contribute to the feeling that an idea or a whole framework is on the right track, each of these characteristics has its foes. In fact, there are many people who will tell you that each of these properties is in fact a disadvantage.

Thursday, February 23, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

It's Harvard's loss

As you know, it is not unusual that after summers, there are falls.

The world's media seem to agree. Look at the articles about Summers and Harvard offered by news.google.com.

The battle is on over firing

Union says it will fight to get officer's job back

Interesting news from a virtual world via Charles Marcus - a world where the good guys may actually be bad guys and where dismissals have a rational cause.

FLINT (WJRT) - (February 06) - An officer is off the streets this noon, having been fired for his actions in a high-speed chase.

That chase led to a fiery crash and the death of Fisher. [Prof. Fischer is a physicist who proposed an anti-Summers resolution.]

Police say Officer Summers was behind the wheel of a cruiser when it slammed into Fisher's cruiser in a Boston neighborhood. The department fired Summers, saying he didn't follow proper policy.

A police captain said this morning that they had issues with Summers' overall job performance. He's the only officer to face discipline for what happened that night.

An effort is already underway within the Department to get Summers back on the job.

Here's the background on the case.

Back in 2005, Freeman fled from officers after having open alcohol containers in their car. That started the high-speed chase, leading to the fatal crash.

Bentoski and Freeman reached plea deals last month with prosecutors.

Officers Fisher and Summers were part of the chase. Summers' patrol car hit Fisher's, causing the fiery crash.

As part of the lengthy investigation into Fisher's death, the department decided that Summers didn't follow proper chase policy.

Department administrators won't talk on camera. Scott, however, did give us a statement this morning. The document says the department terminated Summers based on what happened in 2005 incident and his overall job performance.

He also said this happened only after their extensive investigation.

Union leaders say they'll file a grievance against the Department and fight for Summers job.

More details here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Ice-hockey update

In the previous article about ice-hockey, another piece of evidence that the Bayesian reasoning is flawed was offered by the second anonymous "fast commenter" who has made the following prediction:

  • The Bayesian probability of [Switzerland] winning gold is definitely higher now, whereas a frequentist wouldn't be allowed to put his two cents into the debate
Indeed, I said, the frequentist approach to probability does not allow us to say much, and if it does - and if it is combined with common sense - the result will be, of course, that the probability of Switzerland getting the gold is tiny. Most likely, Switzerland would be eliminated in the quarterfinals because it used to be frequently eliminated. ;-)

Needless to say, the Bayesian inference has been proved wrong once again and I was right - despite several fascinating previous matches, Switzerland has lost to Sweden 2:6. Canada won't defend its 2002 olympic gold because it lost to Russia 0:2. Finland defeated the U.S. 4:3.

The last quarterfinal match guaranteed that exactly one Czechoslovak team would make it to the semifinals. Slovakia has won all five matches at the beginning of the olympic tournament while Czechia was only able to beat two underdogs, namely Italy and Germany. Nevertheless, it seems that the Slovak players still view the Czechs as "older brothers" who are supposed to win: Czechia remains the most likely team to beat Slovakia. So eventually the Slovaks lost 1:3.

The previous link also explains that the Czechs had to play with the goalie #3 Milan Hnilička because the goalie #1 Dominik Hašek returned home with an injury while the #2 goalie Tomáš Vokoun was identified, much like loop quantum gravity, to be inconsistent.

In the semifinals, Czechia will play Sweden and Russia will face Finland. Czechia is the only surviving team in the tournament that will defend the glory of North American ice-hockey. The previous sentence should settle the question whom the citizens of the 1st and 3rd most civilized country in the world, according to the data in the right column of this blog, should root for. ;-)

Segments vs. Summers

Update: Prof. Jim Miller will become the first serious candidate to replace Summers. In his letter to the Corporation, Miller not only correctly analyzes the events but he also promises that he will never surrender to the segments. If you like the idea, please feel more than free to write your own letter to the Corporation to support Jim Miller. ;-) I am too conservative and will probably wait for someone older - and someone who won't require an army of Schwarzeneggers as bodyguards. :-)

It has been about 20 hours since the Harvard community has learned about the resignation of the president. As you can imagine, it is sad news for me. On the other hand, as you could have noticed, all of us survived: it was actually a bittersweet day.



Figure 1: Harvard's opinion about Larry Summers on 2/21/2006. Segments excluded.

It is better that Summers has made this tough decision (almost) himself than if he were directly fired because of the desire of the segments.

Another advantage of the current situation is that Summers and his soulmates have a huge moral advantage over the segments. Virtually everyone seems to realize that the segments are the problem. It is very hard to find an article on the Internet that would support the segments. The segments are those who threaten the intellectual qualities and intellectual diversity of the oldest U.S. university as well as other schools. The segments are those who forced this exceptional president to resign. The segments should be deeply ashamed.

The Wall Street Journal discusses the differences between the creative scholars and managers on one side and the segments on the other side here. Thanks, Aaron S., for the link. Bloomberg also supports Summers and compares his job and the challenges with the challenges that the Clinton team had to face. The Crimson explains that outside FAS, the support for Summers has been strong. The donors are upset by the resignation, too. The American Thinker thinks that the Left has captured Harvard, but I think that they are wrong. Ben Shapiro calls the behavior of the segments a "travesty", a disgrace to the university, and a dramatic example of the totalitarian control that the campus left exerts on its administrators.

Hundreds of other articles can be found via news.google.com. The blogosphere has more colorful articles - such as The Crucifixion of the Truth.

Summers has not only a moral advantage but he still has four extra months in the office before he will enjoy his sabbatical. Four months is enough to finish some smaller projects and save some money by squeezing certain segments. In the case that you have not yet understood why The Reference Frame invites you to use the word "segment" as the ultimate yet politically correct insult :-), here is the crucial sentence in which Summers announced his decision:

  • I have reluctantly concluded that the rifts between me and segments of the Arts and Sciences faculty make it infeasible for me to advance the agenda of renewal that I see as crucial to Harvard's future.

This may be a lost battle for Summers but it may become a victorious war for all of us, too. Wednesday 2/21/2006 was also the day on which the self-censorship imposed on all of us by the segments becomes invalid. Summers himself is free to say what he thinks and as far as I can see, the rest of us is free, too. The segments are no longer just obnoxious inhibitors of our intellectual activity; they became someone who can actually force others to resign. They are demonstrably dangerous people and all of us should be talking about these threats seriously and without any self-censorship whatsoever.

Figure 2: Students' opinion about Larry Summers on 2/21/2006.

Locality and additivity of energy

I found most of these debates about the "doubly special relativity" kind of crazy, so let me write a few general words about locality and additivity of energy.

Every physical theory that is supposed to describe our universe or any other remotely similar universe must satisfy the law of locality, at least approximately. What does it mean? It means that if you're doing something in Washington, DC, it should not directly influence events in Boston, MA. Well, as you know, Washington, DC may influence events in Massachusetts indirectly but it takes a certain amount of time for the influence to spread.

According to special relativity, you need time "t=s/c" where "s" is the distance and "c" is the speed of light. But even if you assume that the Lorentz invariance is not exactly satisfied in your setup, it should be clear that locality will continue to hold.

The laws of nature don't admit action at a distance, and if they do, such instantaneous effects must be very subtle and indirect. Note that we are assuming that objects can exist within space without modifying the asymptotic structure of spacetime which also means that we assume that the spacetime has 3+1 dimensions or more.

What does locality mean in our formalisms that describe the real world? Classical physics may be described in terms of a classical action or a classical Hamiltonian. If you study a system that is composed from two separated subsystems that are far from each other, the action or the Hamiltonian decompose into two pieces:

  • S = S1 + S2
  • H = H1 + H2

Consequently, if you impose the condition that the action is extremized and S1 only depends on some degrees of freedom and S2 only depends on other degrees of freedom, you will see that the extremality of S is equivalent to the extremality of S1 and the extremality of S2.

Analogously, if you derive the classical equations from the Hamiltonian H, the degrees of freedom of the first subsystem will only be affected by the terms in H1 while the other degrees of freedom will only be affected by H2. The subsystems decouple. We know that such a decoupling must be possible, at least approximately for large enough separations.

What about the quantum theory? At the quantum level, the Hilbert space Hil must contain states that look like tensor products of states from Hil1 and Hil2. The wavefunctions are products of wavefunctions of the subsystems. And if we assume that the two subsystems decouple, it implies that the Hamiltonian that generates time evolution must be equal to the sum of two individual Hamiltonians.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Icecream lost

Well, unfortunately I have just lost an icecream bet against Cumrun Vafa. The president resigned in the middle of our class - and he announced his sad intent in a written speech. The Harvard Corporation needed about 0.2 seconds to evaluate Summers' resignation and "surprisingly", the resignation was accepted and a reply was immediately sent back before I returned from the class. Then I needed 2 minutes to write this text. Harvard can be very efficient, indeed.

I am partly joking. Of course that I realize that all these letters have been prepared a relatively long time ago, not today. It had to be so. The Corporation had to act responsibly and be prepared for various alternatives. And it is almost certain that the decision to resign was not purely Summers' own decision. He had to speak to the members of the board.

Summers has been - and still is - an exceptional president, visionary, manager, provocateur, and an unusually sharp thinker-in-chief. He should have had more freedom to realize his dreams. However, many of his plans have been realized and many others will be realized by another president who will inherit the oldest U.S. university. I am not too afraid about Summers' future. Harvard Corporation will have to find a new president who will replace Derek Bok, the interim president from July 1st, 2006. Good luck.

The latest events had to be equally difficult for Summers himself as the events from 2005 but they were less frustrating for most of his supporters like me because the criticism was no longer exclusively based on general political and philosophical dogmas. Various critics have invented a lot of dirt and nonsense about Summers himself. While I find most of this criticism vacuous and inappropriate, it is no longer questioning the freedom of speech and thought at Harvard.

I am sure that even though Summers has resigned, the battle for the academic freedoms was one of his victorious ones. He gave a very good example to others how they should not be afraid to stand behind their ideas and evaluate them according to the available evidence rather than according to the ideological pressure of their environment.

Superluminality sign constraints

Our friends have finished their paper about the constraints on the signs of various terms in the effective action that are required by causality, i.e. by the fact that the speed of light can't be exceeded, not even at non-trivial backgrounds.

These superluminality constraints are classically contained in the energy conditions, especially the dominant energy condition, but these Gentlemen start from a very satisfactory and fundamental principle, namely the condition of unitarity.

Doubly Special Relativity is just a change of variables

In a five-page-long highly efficient paper, Nosratollah Jafari and Ahmad Shariati show that the rules of the so-called "doubly special relativity" (DSR) to transform the energy-momentum vectors are nothing else than the ordinary rules of special relativity translated to awkward variables that parameterize the energy and the momentum.

In fact, there have been two main "subspecies" of DSR proposed in the literature, and our Iranian friends trivialize both of them. The DSR by Magueijo and Smolin is the simpler one.

Do 't Hooft and Nobbenhuis solve the CC problem?

Before 1998, we used to think that the cosmological constant (CC) was zero. Many people were designing explanations why it was exactly zero and supersymmetry was suspected to be the only plausible symmetry that can explain the vanishing result.

Since 1998, we have faced two problems - we not only have to explain why the CC is essentially zero but we must also explain why it's not quite zero but a tiny positive number instead.

One of my favorite verbal solutions of the cosmological constant problem went as follows: de Sitter space has a positive CC, anti de Sitter has a negative CC. Inevitably, de Sitter space annihilates with the anti de Sitter space and the result is a vanishing CC. :-)

The paper by 't Hooft and Nobbenhuis is serious but it shares some of the features with my old joke. They demand unusual complexified invariances of the vacuum state under "x^m goes to i.x^m" as well as "x^m goes to x^m + complex_vector^m" and argue that the only state that can survive this new policy is a state with Lambda=0. The ideology behind this reasoning is that the positivity and reality of observables such as the energy is just a consequence of the boundary conditions at infinity but fundamentally, the equations of motion have a much larger and possibly complexified group of symmetries.

Comments welcome.

Monday, February 20, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Presidents' day

On the Presidents' Day, indeed, only 19 percent of the Harvard students think that the president should go.

Kurt Westergaard and courage

Update Feb 12th 2008: A terrorists' plot to kill Kurt Westergaard was stopped and the would-be assassins were arrested.

Update Jan 1st, 2010: The Danish police had to shoot another Islamic mental cripple who wanted to kill the cartoonist in his apartment.



Google only returns 18,000 hits if you search for Kurt Westergaard but this Danish citizen is already one of the most valuable people in the world. You may ask: how do you want to quantify the value? Well, in U.S. dollars.



He drew something that has arguably become the most provocative cartoon in the history of the humankind. What was the cartoon about? An authoritative person with a turban and a timebomb in it. You might think that the drawing depicted a generic fat person. But one billion of people immediately (i.e. after 4 months) knew: it was Him! The Holy Prophet (PBUH & SAW).



It is apparently completely legal in many countries of the world to order a murder. A Pakistani cleric offers you 1 million dollars. An Indian wild killer who also happens to be a minister of an Indian province is more generous. He offers you 11.5 million dollars plus 200 pounds of gold (which costs about 1.5 million dollars, as fas I can count) for the job: you will probably have to cut Kurt's head, too. Add other bounties that are offered by similar "people" and organizations and you will see that Kurt Westergaard has probably exceeded Osama bin Laden himself whose price is only 25 million dollars.

Sunday, February 19, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Allston architect: Behnisch

In the case that you're interested in the future of Harvard, half a million of square feet near the Western Avenue in Allston will become the place where a new science center -

Saturday, February 18, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Ice-hockey: Switzerland beats Canada

The LHC is a great investment. Switzerland rules. Many ice-hockey fans thought that the Swiss were on par with Kazakhstan, Italy, Latvia, and probably below Germany. Instead, the players from the 14 TeV country rule.

The Czech ice-hockey is defending gold from the 1998 olympics in Nagano as well as gold medals from the world championships in 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2005. Yes, 1/2 of the golden medals in the last decade went to my homeland. And if you include Slovakia into my broader homeland, it will be 60% because of their gold in 2002. The only other golden country since 1996 is Sweden that won in 1998 and Canada discussed below. Nevertheless, Switzerland managed to beat the Czechs 3:2.

You may think that it's just the Czechs who perhaps don't play that well right now. If you're modest and Swiss, you may have counted the victory over Czechia as a fluke and the greatest victory in your country's history, as The New York Times point out. Sometimes it only takes one day to reveal a gigantic flaw in your calculations. ;-)

Canada, the birthplace of ice-hockey, is defending the 2002 olympic gold from Salt Lake City as well as the golden medals from the world championships in 1997, 2003, and 2004. The Swiss have beat Canada 2:0, believe me or not.

If some feminist readers think that it's just the Canadian men who failed, let me mention that the Canadian women lost to Japan 5:2.

After these two matches, you must be tempted to add Switzerland among the favorites ;-), in the same group with Slovakia, Russia, Canada, and the Czech Republic. I've already eliminated Swedes who lost 0:5 to Russia.

What can happen next? Yes, Italy can also defeat Canada - although just in soccer so far. ;-) The Italians are already reasoning that if the Swiss may have beaten the Czechs, they can do it, too. Superficially such reasoning may look rational but still, I feel that it is kind of flawed. ;-) Finland, on the other hand, beat the Czechs 4:2 after they tried to kill Jágr. Slovakia improved its top position in the group B by their victory 2:1 over the U.S.

The New York Times explains that the three losses today were very painful for the three Northern American teams - Canada, U.S., and the Czechlands.

What is the punch line of this text with many seemingly unrelated numbers in it? Of course, the punch line is that Stephen Harper should better build a huge collider. :-)

Krill, carbon, and the hockey team

As you know, the "hockey team" is a loosely connected group of climate activists that keeps on generating methodologically questionable statistical reconstructions of the past climate - reconstructions that are carefully analyzed on Steve McIntyre's blog.

Two days ago, the "hockey team" became much larger. In Edmonton, Canada, another "hockey team" went out to play ice-hockey and protest against the global warming; see here. They argued that ice-hockey is going to die because of global warming. Needless to say, the outside temperature was minus 23 Celsius degrees: it has become a rule that the alarmists nearly freeze at all of their demonstrations.. It may be useful for these guys to learn that the melting point of ice is at 0 Celsius degrees.

These folks are the Western counterparts of the wild people who protest the cartoons in the streets of the Islamic world. They are mad. They are religious fanatics. They are shootable. They are ready to sacrifice their life or at least health in the name of a crazy religious dogma that is patently false.

In the Islamic case, this dogma says that a militant religious bigot from the 7th century is indirectly in charge of this planet and should be permanently worshipped - and those who don't worship him should be beheaded. In the Western case, the dogma says that the production of carbon dioxide is a sin that brings the humankind closer to the judgement day and universal death - and those who don't hate carbon dioxide should be humiliated and removed from the mainstream society.

As you can see, the Western example is more moderate. The main reason is that the education systems in most of the Islamic world are truly miserable.

In the past, we have discussed various subtleties of the energy budget of the Earth, simple calculations of the sea level dynamics, melting of ice, autocorrelations, and similar topics. The mechanisms that confine carbon dioxide were not among the most frequently discussed questions.

It turns out that one particular species of Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) - a creature similar to shrimp - is sequestering carbon dioxide produced by 35 million cars during the same period of time. How do they do it? Krills are afraid of whales who eat them, so they parachute from the surface to the deep ocean many times a night and deposit a lot of carbon to the deep layers through their excrements. The importance of this effect seems to be much higher than thought previously.

Sequesteration of the particles on the seabed also turns out to be very different than what was assumed so far. All existing models involving these phenomena near the sea floor assumed that the journey of the particles - something that was responsible for the appearence of fossil fuels - is fast, vertical, and unimportant. It was realized this week that the journey is slow, nearly horizontal, and important. The journey may take thousands of years. All these things will have to be reinvestigated before a realistic detailed picture of the carbon cycles emerges and before trustworthy models may be constructed.

All reasonable people know that there is obviously a lot of important phenomena that science has not yet fully understood. On the other hand, it may take just a couple of years for a detailed analysis of these things because these are straightforward questions, no quantum gravity. And once we know these things, and probably before we know them in their entirety, it will become easy to design technologies that will push the carbon cycle in a desired direction if we need.

This prediction is, of course, a nightmare for the global warming religious fanatics because they would prefer to transform their global warming stories into a permanent religion and one of the most important questions of this civilization - i.e. to give this stupidity a similar status like the status of the miserable prophet mentioned above. The main logic is identical in both cases: it is the assumption that we have already found the most important thing in the world - either the prophet or global warming - and the only goal is to guarantee that the dozens of future generations will share the belief and all threats of progress will be eliminated.

Such approaches may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Indeed, the progress in the Islamic world was virtually stopped. The attempts of the left-wing climate activists to dictate how people should live not only today but even in 2100 are very similar and have a similar capacity to stop any progress.

Hon. Rona Ambrose PC

The abbreviation PC is neither "politically correct" :-) nor "personal computer". It means neither a "principal component" or a "petacoulomb". She is a privy counsellor.

The first story of this article could lead the reader to an incorrect conclusion that the citizens of Edmonton are crazy people who protest against the hypothetical death of ice-hockey caused by global warming by playing it in minus 23 degrees Celsius. That would be very unfair and kind of strange given the fact that Edmonton is in Alberta.

Let me choose another random citizen of Edmonton, namely Rona Ambrose.



She definitely thinks that the international treaties to curb the emissions are wrong. Why is her opinion so interesting? Well, it's because now she's not only the new environment minister of Canada but she has also become the #1 person to oversee the Kyoto protocol in the United Nations. That's encouraging because she is probably the first leader of the Kyoto protocol ever who realizes that the protocol is bullshit.

We see some progress in the U.N. if a male, ugly, left-wing, confused sociologist is replaced by a female, attractive, right-wing, bright political scientist. Massachusetts Hall must be cited for the comparison of the academic fields. ;-) On the other hand, when I say that Rona Ambrose is female, I should also add that the feminists disagree and consider Ms Ambrose to be an old white man.

She's not the only one among her collaborators who fails to support Kyoto. Monte Solberg, the Canadian immigration minister, is a blogger and a self-described radical environmentalist who wants to clear the air etc. (like me). But on his blog, he explains, in a very entertaining way, how the Canadian economy must be stopped but they will still be short of the targets. More precisely, Mr. Solberg has recycled some calculations of another surprisingly attractive old white man, Licia Corbella.

Friday, February 17, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Quiver Standard Models

Martijn Wijnholt presented his work with Herman Verlinde. It is an interesting and original approach to string phenomenology.

At the beginning, Martijn had to face the very same questions and objections he heard from me during the lunch on Wednesday - except that they were from Andy who essentially argued that the predictions are just predictions of one particular realization of the real world within string theory - and cannot be viewed as general predictions of string theory because we can surely find a googol of other backgrounds that predict different things.

Eventually this dissent has been silenced ;-) and Martijn could continue. Let me try to make a case for their kind of model.

Namby pamby presidents

The Crimson has increased the fraction of the articles related to the adventures of the president of Harvard.

The 2006 Woman of the Year, Halle Berry, thinks that Summers is wonderful.

The top lawyer of Harvard explains that the accusations that Summers is anything else than innocent in Shleifer's activities in Russia are bullshit.

The newspaper explains that if you know whether Summers will decide to resign by June 30th, you can make a bet.

In the main article that The Crimson published today, Steve Pinker argues that the president must defend himself, otherwise it may be an equally good idea to have a namby pamby president just like all other universities. Harvey Mansfield agrees with this sentiment and argues that the president himself should refute his miserable critics.

The term "miserable critics" is a very elegant way to express the same idea without actually using the F-word. ;-)

As you know, your humble correspondent is surrounded by many nice people, i.e. Summers supporters, but the attitude expressed by Pinker and Mansfield is a strengthening one. Another famous senior colleague of mine disagrees. He says that even when our current president acts in the most namby pamby way, he is still less namby pamby than any other president, and this itself makes him an asset. This particular colleague sees the whole set of events as a part of the culture wars (between the sciences and the humanities).

I kind of agree with both sides. I mean with both types of Summers supporters, of course, not with the miserable critics. ;-)

It would be certainly better if we had a completely peaceful atmosphere here in which various attitudes that Summers expressed would be legal not only de iure but also de facto. On the other hand, the idea of a new president is not an attractive one because it would very likely lead to the realization of dreams of the miserable critics, i.e. some kind of totalitarian system controlled by intellectually questionable organized groups of scholars.

Albion and RG flow

  • First, a different topic. Burt Ovrut has convinced me that while a slope-stable bundle in the hidden sector of their models has not been explicitly constructed, doing so is not necessary. It is pretty clear that one can always wrap fivebranes and anti-fivebranes on the appropriate cycles to cancel all anomalies and solve all conditions of string theory - and even show that the moduli of such fivebranes are stabilized. These moduli are in fact stabilized already in the absence of anti-branes, see here. SUSY will generically be broken and the cosmological constant will get a boost to become positive, in a somewhat KKLT-like way. Of course, no anthropic principle is assumed to work here. If you evaluate this data, it is fair to say that there exists a consistent background with properties studied by Ovrut et al. and their approach to focus on the visible bundle and study it separately seems justified.
On Wednesday, Albion Lawrence gave a talk about the
  • two-dimensional RG flow and closed string tachyon dynamics

based on his work with Dan Freedman and Matt Headrick. One of the general questions he wanted to answer is "What is the configuration space of [perturbative] string theory?"

The space of "on-shell" solutions is nothing else than the space of conformal field theories. What about the "off-shell" spacetime configurations in string theory? Albion started with the assumption that the off-shell configurations are all two-dimensional field theories, not necessarily conformal ones.

This led him to study the relations between RG and GR. He included an extra spacetime dimension - assuming that it has a time-like signature - and allowed all fields to depend on this new dimension. This brought him into an interesting spacetime (or just "time") effective action in which the beta function for the dilaton plays the role of the potential energy.

Whoever is interested in the details should click the only link in this text above or see Robert Helling's excited description.

Thursday, February 16, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Manliness

News: Czech President Klaus has just vetoed the registered gay partnership bill which means that his country won't become the first post-socialist country with such a legislation because the Parliament won't have enough votes to undo the veto.

As you know very well, the politically correct activist groups can't stop discussions about the nature of human beings and about the specific attributes of the sexes - even though they would obviously like to do so. Why can't they stop it? There are two reasons: freedom codified in the laws of this civilization and manliness.

What the hell is manliness? :-) Harvey Mansfield, Kenan Professor of government, described "Manliness", which is also the title of his new book that he promoted among the Harvard community, as

  • confidence in times of risk and an exercise of freedom.

He has also used the term "heroines of science" for the female scholars who have played such an important role in the last 30 years to identify the significant differences between men and women.

Are there other examples of manliness in Cambridge? Yes, Spare Change News, a homeless-run newspaper that you may buy at Harvard Square, joined the Harvard conservative bi-weekly, The Harvard Salient, and they republished the prophet cartoons.

Judith Kidd, an associate dean of Harvard College who is also known as the New Kidd on the Block, asked the kids from The Salient to be careful about "dangerous fallout". A debate started whether the threats are real or not. Well, I personally think that the danger is somewhat real and JK has good reasons to warn our conservative students.

Incidentally, TK, the editor of The Salient, has also become a rather influential editor of The Crimson - the color indicates that this important paper is mostly "liberal", to put it modestly. ;-) For example, this paper uses every opportunity to attack Bill O'Reilly.

Today's issue of The Crimson offers many other interesting stories. For example, Judith Ryan who proposed the "new" resolution about the lack of confidence in Summers (the word "new" means that the verb "continues" was added to the resolution) - a resolution that will once again divide Harvard after the FAS faculty meeting on 2/28 - answers 15 questions.

The interview is subtitled "15 questions for a whining professor" or something equivalent. In question 11, she even says that an ideal president should have exactly the same characteristics as Summers who is moreover brilliant, she says, but she can't deduce the right conclusions. At the end of the interview, she displays her lacking contact with reality when she says that probably everyone is on her side. It may be useful to learn that virtually all of physics department - and probably also a majority of other science departments - is worried and kind of disgusted by her resolution.

The Faculty Council wants to halt the FAS dean search. Not sure whether they have any official right to actually stop it - but they certainly have a great deal of unofficial ability to influence the events. And many of them have a great capacity to produce poison. An example:

  • Council member Richard F. Thomas, the chair of the Classics Department, said that conducting a search while Summers remained president would be “difficult in the extreme.”

I would put it differently. The FAS dean search will be rather difficult if the president won't find enough courage to follow the law and standard procedures to choose the dean - and if he won't find enough moral support to remove various barriers such as the thoroughly unconstructive troublemakers from the process.

Economists vs. sociologists

Today, another controversy appeared in the Boston Globe and it is about the intelligence of various fields that study the society. In a debate with the ex-dean Ellison, the president made a remark that seems absolutely obvious to The Reference Frame - namely that the economists are smarter, in average, than the political scientists who are smarter, in average, than the sociologists. In my opinion, there can't be any reasonable doubt about the first statement and the second statement is likely to be true.

The economists represent the only field in the list that tries to study the true mechanisms that are actually relevant for the society by scientific methods - methods that attempt to be as sharp and quantitative as possible. These methods should be based on actual research as opposed to philosophical preconceptions. And sometimes they even have scientific results. If you allow me to add an example, the Czech President is an economist and one of the brightest people in the nation.

The other fields are as non-quantitative as possible and they are satisfied with vague or even scientifically vacuous verbal proclamations. It's almost always the case that the scholars in these other fields become prominent because they say something that is politically convenient for sufficiently large groups of people. The selection in social sciences is political, not scientific, in nature. It is much like the question about the "popular courses" at the university. Of course that the lower intelligence and efforts a course requires, the more popular it will be. But being popular is very different from being serious science. And the president must be applauded for his effort to keep or increase the ratio of serious research as opposed to popular exercises.

Nevertheless, such observations seem to be another taboo and the atmosphere in the Academia is such that the president effectively does not enjoy the freedom to say any of these things or any other things that are based on the basic observations. He is often forced to say untrue statements. That's bad but it's not his fault.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Terence Tao - Fields medal

Terence Tao, the Mozart of math, has just won the 2006 Fields medal. Congratulations!

His honor will be announced on August 22nd, 2006, in Madrid. The other winners will be Andrei Okounkov, Wendelin Werner, and Grigory Perelman.

On the Mozart page, you will see that this medal was already predicted 3 months ago - in 2005. Among other things, he has proved that there exist arbitrarily long arithmetic sequences of prime integers (together with Ben Green in 2004). The Reference Frame is the first public source in the world where you can learn about the new winner.

Climate change on Saturn

I removed information about a certain medal that was far too preliminary.

These days, every child knows that there is a scientific consensus that every deviation of the climate from the constant function is caused by crimes of the humankind, especially by the evil capitalists, imperialists, and oil corporations.

And the Earth is not the only planet that is affected by this fact. Global warming also occurs on Mars - all but eliminating the doubts that Martians live there.

Cheney and Bayes

As you know, Dick Cheney has become the first U.S. vice-president after 201 years who has shot a person. Poor Harry Whittington, a 78-year-old Texas attorney and a supporter of the Bush-Cheney ticket, suffered a setback yesterday. As Prof. Charles M. has pointed out, the Los Angeles Times reports that

  • a hospital spokesman said the chances that "one problematic birdshot" would migrate as it has toward Whittington's heart are "one in 99.99."
What does the figure mean? Yes, it is another Bayesian probability estimate. But what the conjectured probability actually is? It is either
  • one in 100, i.e. 1 percent, expressed with a nonsensical accuracy
  • or one in 10,000 i.e. 0.01 percent (so that the complement has a 99.99% probability)
You can choose any answer you want - 1 percent or 0.01 percent - but the actual answer is that under the exact conditions of Mr. Whittington including the doctors and spokespersonnel who don't know things like math, the probability was unfortunately 100 percent...

KB913446

If you have problems with this automatic Windows Update, click here and install it manually.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Cosmological constant seesaw preprint

Michael McGuigan from Brookhaven was brave enough to supplement the ideas about the cosmological constant seesaw mechanism, apparently also discussed in Sean's blog article (although arguably in some hidden way), with dozens or hundreds of equations and interpret the cosmological constant as a squared mass term in the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. The result is here

and it is up to you to decide whether the cosmological constant problem has been solved or not.

Citizen Havel goes on vacation

My friend Tereza convinced me to see the movie

by Jan Novák, a Czech filmmaker who has lived in the U.S. since the 1960s. Unfortunately I only had two minutes to pick my bike, so I went to Boston University in one of my favorite T-shirts, a yellow T-shirt produced in Asia and sold in Czech supermarkets for $1.50. :-) She rightfully criticized me (for example, we were sitting next to Jacques Rupnik, a well-known political scientist) but I told her: wait and you will see what dress the main hero of the movie will have.

I was just guessing but you may have noticed that some of my guesses are sometimes qualified guesses. Yes, Václav Havel had exactly the same yellow T-shirt throughout most of the interviews. :-)

What was the movie about? It was mainly a collection of interviews with former Czechoslovak dissidents combined with short videosequences that were designed to reconstruct a trip that Václav Havel planned and realized in August 1985. While the movie also describes some examples of the terror of the 1950s when the people were actually executed (like in the interview with an old priest), the main story from the 1980s was very different.

One may say that it is a movie about a peaceful co-existence of the not-so-secret policemen and Václav Havel as the dissident par excellence. In August 1985, Havel decided to take his Volkswagen Golf, make a trip and visit many friends all over Czechoslovakia. Most of them if not all of them were dissidents. The Reference Frame is the only place in the world where you can also learn that Havel went with his mistress, not his late wife Olga - not even the movie mentions this subtle fact. Jan Novák has shared the secret with us.

Monday, February 13, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

LHC olympics: big success

We were informed that the LHC olympics were fabulous. Skeptics have been converted, and almost everyone will try to participate in the next rounds. Those who thought that no one would solve anything and no one would learn anything new have been proved wrong.

In the case you don't know, LHC olympics is a competition in which various teams face the challenge to determine the right model from a set of fictitious raw data from the LHC. This setup emulates the conditions that people may face as early as in 2007.

There were three boxes - in this case, all of them were supersymmetric models - that were supposed to be determined:

  • Harvard box (by Nima Arkani-Hamed)
  • Michigan box (by Gordon Kane)
  • Seattle box (by Matthew Strassler)
The teams that constructed the boxes obviously tried to solve the remaining two only. There were three more teams participating:
  • Princeton University
  • John Hopkins University
  • Cornell University
The contest was slightly unfair because Harvard's team was crowded with stellar phenomenology graduate students. This includes Philip Schuster and Natalia Toro who have created a powerful Mathematica package that everyone else was using - as well as Can Kilic, Jesse Thaler and others. There were no medals awarded but if they had to be distributed, the golden medal was not really in question because the Harvard team has used intellectual brute force to nail down both models, including parameters with a percent-like accuracy. If the medals were a part of the olympics, the two valuable medals were:
  • Gold: Harvard University grad students
  • Silver: Princeton University string theorists
Local string theorists in Europe went to see the event because their colleagues Herman Verlinde and Leonardo Rastelli of Princeton University were participating, and they did a really impressive job given the difficult initial conditions. The bronze medal, if it had to be given away, would probably be tied. Matt Strassler did a heroic job - without much help of others - and if there were a bronze medal, he would probably share the medal with the Cornell group - Patrick Meade and Matt Reece - who almost solved the Harvard box and impressed the olympic spectators, too.

Both the Washington and the Cornell group chose not to see the revelation of the Harvard model so that they can continue to work on it and hopefully nail it down.

Matt Strassler took a very rational approach but made an incorrect assumption from a subset (1/8) of the data which led to him to a wrong direction. The Princeton team presented a lot of evidence for their idea what the Washington model was - graphs that essentially matched - except that the model was not quite right. The Harvard team got it right.

The general predictions of The Reference Frame have been confirmed: when powerful companies such as the Harvard phenomenology thinking machine start to work hard, it may take about one weekend to figure out the right model from the data which was actually the case. Indeed, the Harvard team nailed both models down, including the harder Michigan box. The Harvard solution of the Michigan box was similar to Matt Strassler's solution from the last year, obtained from 40% of the data. By the way, the typical amount of data included in the boxes was about 5 inverse femtobarns which corresponds to approximately 1 year of the LHC data.

The skepticism has evaporated and many people, including the experimentalists, said that they learned a great deal of stuff from this "game". It is more or less guaranteed that many more people will participate in the next olympics. Such a contest puts the physicists in front of the "real" challenges and hidden prejudices that they may have if they think about a model they know. If you're thinking about a model that you don't yet know, the reasoning works very differently.

I think that all physicists who know how to do phenomenology should think how to create powerful local teams that will be able to compete with the Harvard phenomenologists in the near future. The teams must be sufficiently powerful - for example, Western Europe should probably create its own unified team, much like the West Coast or Asia.

LHC detects cosmic rays

The Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has detected the first cosmic rays! The detector is meant to detect muons - and also determine their center-of-mass-system (cms), of course. ;-) How is it possible? Is the LHC completed, you may ask?

Not yet. But some key parts of the muon detector as well as the Cern Control Center (CCC) are completed and running!


If you click at the report, you will also learn about Musharraf's visit to CERN on January 27th. Well, it was a couple of days before the cartoon war started. Today, two weeks after the CERN visit, Musharraf celebrates the fact that the twelve innocent drawings make every Muslim, even the "ultra-moderate" ones, behave just like the wild animals from Al-Qaeda.

Sunday, February 12, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Bouchard-Cvetič-Donagi: heterotic MSSM

You should know that He, Braun, and Ovrut (and their co-author until recently, Pantev) are not the only ones who study the heterotic supersymmetric Standard Models with non-standard embedding of the bundles.

Another group works on these technically demanding, exciting, and generally promising issues. In December, and actually before the last BHOP paper, Vincent Bouchard and Ron Donagi constructed their SU(5)-based heterotic Standard Model starting from a Calabi-Yau whose fundamental group is "Z_2".

This apparently differs from the models of Braun et al. who use a Calabi-Yau whose fundamental group is "Z_3 x Z_3". We have dedicated many articles to the models by Braun et al. especially because this fundamental group looks rather natural to me.

However, there exists a certain amount of disagreement about the details. In reality, it only looks like a different emphasis to me. While the visible bundle of the models of Braun et al. was recently shown to be stable, no demonstrably stable bundle in the right cohomology class (to obey the equations of motion for the four-form dH) has been constructed for the hidden sector.

Sexual predator gets apology

As Lurker has pointed out, the six-year old sexual predator from Brockton, Massachusetts and his parents finally get an apology from the school officials. In other words, his mother and The Reference Frame on one side and the politically correct but otherwise pretty incorrect officials reached an acceptable compromise: the school officials will apologize, change the rules, admit that they were a***oles, and so forth, and on the other hand, we will show our generosity and not destroy their school. ;-)

Other news of this kind: Kateřina Neumannová gets the first silver medal for the Czech Republic - for skiathlon.



She could get several additional medals later. The most excited fan was, of course, the President Klaus. Incidentally, next week, Klaus is widely expected to veto the bill about the registered gay partnership. He says that while the usual special rules for families are designed to help the society work and care about the children, there exists not a single reason for special rules governing gay partnership.

Meanwhile, global warming ;-) has caused another snowstorm here in New England. It is remotely comparable to the great 2005 blizzard one year ago. Since the midnight, we have received almost a foot of snow and another foot is on its way. The window in my office was not quite closed so there is some snow in my office, too. Poor Peskin-Schroeder textbook. In South Korea, they had about 7 inches of snow on Thursday which was enough to break their modest historical record. New York has its second-thickest snow after Christmas 1947 right now - update: the record has fallen - while the Washington state had a near-record snow one week ago.

Mark Srednicki: QFT textbook

Because most readers can't find every single fast comment, I find it appropriate to draw your attention to a new

by Mark Srednicki from Santa Barbara - one that will compete with the excellent books "Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell" by Anthony Zee, "The Quantum Theory of Fields" by Steven Weinberg, "An Introduction to Quantum Field Theory" by Peskin and Schroeder, and others. It has 623 pages right now and I hope that you will have fun with it and buy the published version so that Mark Srednicki can earn hard money.



University Degrees Online are not awarded to those who study the online textbooks, but knowledge can be obtained, even without a student loan.

Winter Olympics 2006

Many people watch it. I am sure that I am not the only one who can't afford it but who still wants to have some idea about the results. A few useful links:

In the right column, a few links to other blogs were added, together with a counter of national visits. This blog has about 3,000 hits by 1,500 visitors from 72 countries per day.

Saturday, February 11, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Iranian humor just like ours

Iranian humor can be very similar to ours. This picture is from an article that described Iranian official protests against the publication of the cartoons in two Czech newspapers. Click the picture to get the original source.

Friday, February 10, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Warmest in 1200 years?

Another article about the climate reconstructions - one by Briffa and Osborn - appeared in Science and has been widely quoted in the media. It is again argued that the recent warming is the longest and the current temperatures are the highest during the last 1200 years. Some journalists improve the story. They don't quite distinguish "before Christ" and "after Christ" and they eagerly inform you that the current era is the hottest one from 890BC. ;-)

Steve McIntyre explains very convincingly that the article is not new in any respect: it recycles the very same problematic proxies and the very same problematic PCA methods that have plagued very similar articles - such as Mann et al. 1998, 1999 - in the past. This team of authors apparently thinks that the more articles with the same content and the same errors they publish, the more convincing their hypotheses will be.

A troubling fact is that at the sociological level, they are right. Joseph Goebbels' wisdom that the lies become true after they are repeated 100 times unfortunately works extremely well.

Hartle-Hawking-Susskind unification

Interesting authors always attract an increased amount of attention. Stephen Hawking and Thomas Hertog have submitted a new paper

that proposes a certain unification of the Hartle-Hawking ideas about the wavefunction of the Universe with the concepts of the landscape. I have not yet analyzed the paper sufficiently deeply to describe it here but some readers may be ahead of me. So far I struggle with statements like "the histories of the Universe depend on the question we ask" and "the observations are determined by final boundary conditions".

The first statement violates my assumption that all current observations should be describable and explainable by the same set of "consistent histories", if you allow me to use the Gell-Mann-Hartle et al. interpretation of quantum mechanics. The second statement disagrees with my basic assumptions about causality.

Hijacked faculty meetings

Incidentally, later I learned that The Crimson has used the very same word "hijacked" independently of your humble correspondent.

I had neither time nor the desire to attend the FAS faculty meeting that took place on Tuesday. Indeed, the meeting has become an opportunity for various anti-president elements to ventilate their strange emotions and strange opinions and to give Summers a hard time. If one wants to get a bit frustrated, it is enough to read the report in The Crimson. The article says, among other things:

  • Capturing the sentiment of most professors who spoke at the meeting, English Department Chair James Engell appealed to Summers and Harvard’s governing bodies to recognize that the president has left the Faculty “divided, demoralized, and dispirited.”
Well, as far as I remember, it was not the president but rather various whining PC militias who have divided, demoralized, and dispirited the faculty. Some of them initiated highly controversial votes that had to end up something like 50:50; is there a better way to divide the faculty? Others - and sometimes the very same people - have threatened their colleagues for their insufficiently "politically correct" opinions which demoralized and dispirited many of their colleagues. And they have also transformed faculty meetings from rather efficient constructive (albeit arguably boring) meetings to an arena for spreading hatred and content-free criticism.

Nevertheless, I have personally been psychologically immune against these matters since July when I decided that one should not attempt to harmonize his opinions about these issues with the "politically correct majority" because they are just too far from something that could be considered as an acceptable starting point for a compromise. Also, one should never try to surrender or apologize to these people because the only conceivable result of such an approach is to strengthen their position. And the goal of many of them is nothing less than to push the whole society infinitely far in a rather weird direction. As far as I can say, the debates at the faculty meetings have been more or less hijacked by people whom I don't trust - and it is counter-productive to go into battles that are lost from the very beginning. Most well-known supporters of Summers skipped the last meeting and it is obviously good for their health.

Last night, we had a nice dinner at the Faculty Club and I was sitting next to a well-known senior biochemist who also supports Summers.

One of the new plans of the revolutionary committees is a "radical dean search plan". What does it mean? It means that in the "ideal" case they want to choose the new FAS dean themselves, with Summers having no influence whatsoever. They think about several alternatives how the new dean should be found - and neither of these alternatives is the correct one, namely that the dean should be chosen by the president. In other words, dozens of self-appointed "leaders of the people" - many of whom have little demonstrable experience and/or management skills - want to exclusively control some of the most important political decisions at this university. What do they exactly think about their qualification? Do they really think that they are better managers than Summers or that they have a better vision? Who is exactly encouraging them to think in this nonsensical way? Have they been the secretaries of treasury or the chief economists of the World Bank? And what do they think about their job description?

Unfortunately, many people indeed prefer puppets over of thinkers-in-chief, form over content, anarchy over leadership, political correctness over the truth, vacuous clichés over rational debates, and it's probably better not to think about these issues too much and avoid similar unconstructive meetings.

Prof. Andrei Shleifer

There is another line of attack against the president whose logic is completely beyond my understanding. The other "crime" that Summers apparently "committed" was that he is a personal friend with Andrei Shleifer. See a description of the affair here. Andrei Shleifer is a star economist at Harvard who was also active during privatization in Russia. He is an expert in price dynamics, market inefficiencies, corporate control, and transition to capitalism, among other things. No doubt, the emerging capitalism in the former Soviet bloc needed gifted economists, managers, experience, and capital from the West.

As far as I understand, Shleifer was caught into some of these weird regulations about the conflict-of-interest: the type of rules that if your wife drinks Danish beer, you must be very careful whether your business partners in Russia had Danish grandmothers. His problem was settled as he paid $2 million dollars of compensations, to the full satisfaction of the courts. As far as I can see right now, Shleifer himself has been cleaned. Even an attack against Shleifer himself would probably lack any legal substance these days. How can Shleifer's situation be used as a weapon of mass destruction against Summers whose "sin" is to be a friend and have a respect for another star economist is simply beyond my comprehension. It reminds me of the plans to exterminate Denmark because a few Danish cartoonists drew a cartoon.

Confidence

Unfortunately, the president will face another lack-of-confidence vote. The person who proposed the motion is from comparative literature. Indeed, if you compare her literature and the literature from last spring, she only added the word "continues" to the previous lack-of-confidence resolution. This precious contribution of her to the humankind is a sufficient recipe for another blockbuster.

Finally, I must mention that what I wrote here is not terribly controversial in the physics department. Consider Melissa Franklin, the first tenured female physicist here and consequently one of the heroes of feminism. While she denies the crucial reponsibility of feminism for the current furore and she wants to emphasize that the issues have gone well beyond the feminist interests, she seems to agree completely that the situation is mess, and a hypothetical dismissal of Lawrence Summers would probably cause a rather devastating hit for the whole Harvard University. Needless to say, we would probably agree on a whole ensemble of other issues, too.