Monday, April 30, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Lee Smolin on religion, philosophers, and revolutionaries

On a notorious weblog run by his fellow crackpot, Lee Smolin got inspired by Lawrence Krauss' low-brow battle against philosophers and presented his opinions about the comparisons of science and religion or philosophy and the philosophers' impact on revolutions in physics.

I would like to respond to these infuriating texts.

EU subsidizes Caribbean rum

We've been told that there are hundreds of examples of the European Union projects that look comical but it's always interesting to see particular examples.

On Wednesday, April 18th, the European Union apparatchiks have approved a nice EUR 46.5 million project:

BELGIUM: Caribbean rum producers get EU subsidy
Most of the money will arrive to the pockets of Western marketing agencies that will produce advertisements promoting the Caribbean rum. Imagine that: the European Union spends money to increase the consumption of rum.

Sunday, April 29, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Was the Universe past-eternal?

Cosmic Variance and other blogs describe a clash between Lawrence Krauss, a self-described Star Trek physicist and a jerk, and some self-described modern philosophers whose names are too unimportant to occupy several bytes on TRF in the wake of the publication of Krauss' book, "A Universe from Nothing".

These articles and discussions seem almost content-free to me. My understanding is that the "modern philosophers" defend some dogma that the time has to exist eternally while the "Star Trek physicist" correctly points out that science allows for the time to begin – and be meaningless as a concept "prior" to this beginning – whether some philosophers like it or not. What the remaining 220 pages of the book and dozens of comments and blog entries are all about is beyond me.

Krauss is obviously right that the Universe may start according to some modern models of science. In some approximation to our cosmic history, it even has to start. The dogma of an eternal time has been superseded and liquidated and to re-establish it, one would need much deeper and more quantitative intellectual weapons than the sloppy arguments that the "modern philosophers" want to oversell. But whether the time is past-eternal at a more accurate level is an open question. In this sense, the war between the Star Trek physicist and the modern philosophers is unresolved.

Habermann: a movie on the Sudetenland

Last night I watched the Habermann Mill, a 2010 Czech-German-Austrian movie on the co-existence of Czechs and Germans in the Sudetenland.

Saturday, April 28, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Four largest Czech parties' webs: turned off by Anonymous

Hackers sometimes manage to attack a server at a random moment. But what happened in the Czech Republic just an hour ago seems more amazing and scary. The most intense cyber attack campaign in the Czech history began.

Tango down! Tango down! Tango down! Tango down!

Friday, April 27, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Nir Shaviv: evidence shaky for \(CO_2\) as the cause of deglaciation

The author is a top Israeli astrophysicist and cosmoclimatologist, blogging at

Does the global temperature lag \(CO_2\)? More flaws in the Shakun et al. paper in Nature.
Over the past two weeks, perhaps a dozen people asked me about the recently published paper of Shakun et al. in Nature. It allegedly demonstrates that the global temperature followed \(CO_2\) around the warming associated with the last interglacial warming, between 20 to 10 thousand years ago. (Incidentally, if you don't have a subscription to nature, take a look here). One guy even sent the story as a news item on NPR. So, having no other choice, I decided to actually read the paper and find what is it all about. Should I abandon all that I advocated over the past decade?

Anna V. on huge physics collaborations

The author is a retired Greek experimental particle physicist and a frequent TRF commenter

The story with the huge author list high energy experiments

What follows is my experience of participating in HEP experiments mainly at CERN from about 1970 until 2001 when I retired.

A member of ATLAS and a few of his collaborators attend the October 2009 ATLAS week in Barcelona. Hi-res. The 148th person from the right was added to an author list of a paper.

The first experiments I was involved in were two meter bubble chamber experiments exposed to a K- beam and an antiproton beam. The collaboration was small, four groups and twenty authors. The publications represented the work done in the thesis of the students, and all were involved in discussing the data and conclusions.

Columbia Higgs panel

Bill Zajc sent me a link to this 1-hour panel discussion about the God particle at the Columbia University. It was moderated by Amber Miller, a physicist and a science dean of Columbia's FAS. Brian Greene (string theory), Michael Tuts (LHC), Dennis Overbye (NYT), and Mariette DiChristina (SciAm) were the panelists.

Click the screenshot to play the video.

I have watched it and those people are of course good physicists or good journalists as well as good speakers and they have presented a lot of the standard comments related to the Higgs boson. But I still felt uncomfortable about some general features, the character of the content, and the tone of their comments. Some of the stuff was fine but much of it was frustrating to listen to because it wasn't morally true.

Thursday, April 26, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

I can change your mind about climate: TV

I have just watched the one-hour Australian ABC1 TV program, I can change your mind about the climate, and it's fun. You should watch it, too:

Click here and then click "play" (ABC1 website)
Veteran liberal (right-wing) politician Nick Minchin did a very good job and the young climate activist Anna Rose was as charmingly naive and believing as I expected. In fact, I was feeling sorry about her. It's clear that if she learns the truth, i.e. that there is no threat or problem linked to the climate, she will lose a favorite toy, a meaning of her life, her career.

(BTW see also a fresh insane EGU 2012 press conference with Mann, Hansen, and one more, Michael Ghill of UCLA. Thanks to Willie.)

So she was desperately trying not to learn anything for several weeks and I think she has succeeded.

Why are there spinors?

Spinors are competitors of vectors and tensors. In other words, they are representations of the orthogonal (rotational) group or the pseudoorthogonal (Lorentz) group, a space of possible objects whose defining property is the very characteristic behavior of their components under these transformations.

Spinors are important to describe any particle with the spin equal to \(j=1/2\), the smallest allowed positive amount of the intrinsic angular momentum. Because they describe the wave functions (and, correspondingly, the quantum fields) associated with electrons, neutrinos, other leptons, quarks, and perhaps other particles, they're a part of the vital mathematical toolkit servicing the well-established portion of physics.

They are also key players in concepts of cutting-edge and speculative physics including supersymmetry; and the most complicated and least understood ones among the simple representations of the orthogonal groups.

Vectors and tensors

Spinors hide a similar idea as tensors but they are not tensors. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to start with tensors.

March of the living 2012

As every April, Jewish students from Israel, North America, and other countries are brought to Poland where they march from Auschwitz to Birkenau in order to learn something about the horrors of the Holocaust.

The website of the "March Of The Living" is, a reason why this article appears here. A decade ago, March Of The Living used to be the #1 search engine hit if you were looking for Motl. The #2 hit was the Magic Online Trading League. (Like the Hamiltonian, Motl is also an operator.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Exceptional Lie groups

Twenty years ago, when I started to read various articles on particle physics, I often encountered exceptional Lie groups in various articles on grand unified theories and related topics. And I couldn't understand why they exist and what they really are. Even when I got to the college, it took half a year to find the right sources that made it clear.

There might be some people who are facing the same puzzles so let me offer an exposition that would have clarified my confusions when I was a kid. This blog entry will try to clarify the composition of all the simple compact Lie groups.

Groups, compact Lie groups

Pretty much everyone may understand the group \(SO(N)\). It is the group of symmetries of the \(N\)-dimensional unit ball\[

x_1^2 + x_2^2 + \dots x_N^2 \leq 1.

\] The coordinates \(x_1,\dots , x_N\) may be rotated into each other by orthogonal transformations.

Czechia from 2014: no subsidies for renewable energy

The Czech government is now pretty likely to survive a medium crisis ignited by the least reliable coalition party, the Public Affairs (VV).

Its former minister, Ms Kateřina Peake, was ousted from the party but she managed to establish a new version of the Public Affairs, the so-called Twin Peaks, which will hopefully collect enough votes to preserve the center-right government (102 out of 200 deputies are needed for PM Nečas to be calmed down) during the confidence vote tomorrow. She and her boys and girls may even be more reliable partners than the Public Affairs.

The alternative is scary: early elections in June would be almost certainly followed by a socialist-communist government. The number of the Czech people who recently indicated that they don't consider this scenario scary is scary by itself. ;-)

Many folks are obsessed with some episodes of corruption involving at most millions of crowns that was recently revealed (a couple of people were punished by prison terms, a disproof of the hardcore communist-style conspiracy theories contaminating much of the Czech society and claiming that corruption is unpunishable) but they don't seem to appreciate that by allowing the socialist-communist scumbags to hijack the government, we would be wasting hundreds of billions of crowns.

But let me get to the main topic. Many things about Czechia may look dimmer after 2013 – for example, Václav Klaus will leave the chair of the president at the Prague Castle in Spring 2013 – but there are also hints that 2014 doesn't have to be the end of the world.

Retractions, decreasing funding, and other crises in science

In recent days, many people wrote about various crises in science. Some of these complaints may sound similar to what I have been saying for many years but there are substantial differences, too. In The New York Review of Books, Steven Weinberg wrote about

The Crisis of Big Science
My hat tip goes to David Simmons-Duffin (twitter). Weinberg begins with Rutherford who received a £70 grant from the Royal Society in London. He hired one postdoc, one undergraduate, and they just discovered the atomic nucleus. That was a rather financially efficient setup for science. ;-)

Science got bigger, however, and Weinberg explains that it's needed. His article, somewhat incoherently, switches from the social and historical questions to properties of the Standard Model, issues in astrophysics and cosmology, and other things. Weinberg tries to be as pessimistic as possible, acknowledging that the P.R. failures surrounding the Superconducting Supercollider have influenced his mood for decades.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Svensmark: only supernova explosions and sea level dictate diversity

I tried to summarize all the findings of a very intriguing paper into the extended title.

Nigel Calder's blog

Evidence of nearby supernovae affecting life on Earth (PDF, Svensmark's actual paper in Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc.)

Press release of the Royal Astronomical Society in London

A truly convincing chart with a correlation

Google News
The higher sea level, the more genera of small organisms in the sea one may find.

Monday, April 23, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Google Drive cannot connect to the Internet

News Tuesday 6:50 pm: Google Drive has started (click)!
Please check your Internet connection...

Many users including myself get this annoying error with the Google Drive Windows application. When you hover over the tray area icon, you see "unable to connect". I found out that the cause are non-English characters in your Windows username i.e. in the c:\users\luboš path that is needed to access your documents.

Saturday, April 21, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Rachel Marsden on multiculturalism

On Friday, I watched this 25-minute video, among other things:

On Russia Today's flagship program, the CrossTalk, there were three men (which includes the host, American journalist Peter Lavelle, and Oxford's political scientist Roger Griffin, besides Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation, a British Muslim youth organization) and one woman, right-wing columnist and ex-FoxNews personality (and ex-GF of Wikipedia's Jimbo Wales) Rachel Marsden. They used the unusual trial with Anders Breivik to discuss multiculturalism.

Is the LHC's \(125~\GeV\) "Higgs boson" an extra-dimensional radion?

A bold LHC application of Randall-Sundrum models got published in PRL

Since the middle December, I thought that the \(125\,\,\GeV\) Higgs boson is a sure thing. But of course, there's always a chance I am wrong. The signals could go away. However, I will offer you a more shocking – and more likely – reason why I could have been wrong: it could actually be a sign of a different particle than the God particle, a more divine one.

Some religious readers could ask: What in the hell and the heaven may be more divine than God? The answer is that there's perhaps nothing more divine than God "in the hell and the heaven" but there could still be more divine things "out of the hell and heaven", in extra dimensions!

Friday, April 20, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Schrödinger has never met Newton

Sabine Hossenfelder believes that

Schrödinger meets Newton.

But is the story about the two physicists' encounter true?

Thursday, April 19, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Is the Avogadro constant equal to one?

Bane asked and provoked a discussion:

I was tasked with creating a presentation on Avogadro's work, and this is the first time I actually got introduced to the 'mole' and to 'Avogadro's constant'. And, to be honest, it doesn't make any mathematical sense to me.

\[ \eq{ 1\,\,{\rm mole} &= 6.022 \times 10^{23} \\
\text{Avogadro's constant} &= 6.022 \times 10^{23} \, {\rm mole}^{-1} } \]

This [w]hole field seems very redundant. There are four names for the same thing! Since when is a number considered to be a measurement unit anyway?!

Nima Arkani-Hamed on doomed spacetime

If you have 80 minutes, you may want to listen to Nima Arkani-Hamed's talk he gave in Stony Brook a week ago.

New England cottontail, others would benefit from GW

A few years ago, the media would only allow negative predictions associated with a hypothetical warming in the future. Needless to say, if there were some warming by a few degrees, most of the consequences would be positive.

A New England cottontail: cute

This simple fact gradually starts to be realized by the journalists. The Boston Globe just published this story:

Some New England species may benefit from warming
The New England wildlife officials realized that it's easier for the endangered species to survive a warmer winter with less snow. Congratulations to this novel insight! ;-)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Dark-matter-exists general: our foes have found DM at 5.7 sigma, too

Remotely related breaking news: A team of Chilean astronomers behind the ESO telescope claims that there's no dark matter in the Solar System's vicinity. If true, the direct searches such as those described in the article below should be very hard.

One more: IceCube found too few neutrinos, causing trouble to the "proton acceleration" theory of the gamma ray bursts' origin.
This blog regularly covers the newest developments in the ongoing war on existence of the dark matter. In some sense, yesterday's proposed 130 GeV gamma-ray line glimpsed by Fermi may be another salvo in the war but when I talk about the war, I mainly talk about the direct searches that try to detect the collisions of dark matter with our nuclear matter.

CDMS' bombs

In one way or another, the coalition of the willing that claims "dark matter is seen" (DMIS) has been helped by numerous experiments, especially DAMA/LIBRA, PAMELA, CoGeNT, CRESST-II, and perhaps Fermi. The "dark matter isn't seen" (DMINS) axis forms around CDMS and XENON10/100.

What is new at the battlefront?

Higgs mass and the hierarchy problem

AAB asked on Theoretical Physics Stack Exchange:

I was wondering what is the opinion about importance of the hierarchy problem in the hep community? I'm still a student and I don't really understand, why there is so much attention around this issue.

1-loop corrections to the Higgs mass are divergent - in the cut-off regularization proportional to Λ2 and therefore require large fine tuning between the parameters to make those corrections small. But this kind of problem do not appear in the dimensional regularization.

The hierarchy problem is the mystery why Higgs is so thin even though he could eat all the tasteful, virtual, GUT, heavy stuff

People like the value of Λ to be very large, with an argument that it should correspond to same energy scale at which our theory breaks down. I don't think, that we should treat the scale Λ, as some kind of a physical scale of our model cut-off, as it is just a parameter to regularize the integral. Just like the 4+ϵ dimension in the dimensional regularization is not a physical thing. Why do we apply a physical meaning to Λ? Not to mention the troubles with the Lorentz invariance.

Maybe the hierarchy problem is an argument that the cut-off regularization scheme is just not right to use?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Fermi: fifty dark matter photons at 130 GeV: a 3.3/4.6 sigma signal!

Gordon Kane has pointed out that I have missed a shocking hep-ph paper by Christoph Weniger on Friday 13th,

A Tentative Gamma-Ray Line from Dark Matter Annihilation at the Fermi Large Area Telescope (PDF)
The author from Munich is one non-member of the Fermi collaboration, a rather fresh astroparticle physics PhD. That's weniger (fewer) than the number of authors you would prefer. On the other hand, I consider the Fermi satellite to be the most reliable experiment along with the LHC and the acknowledgements indicate that while this is Christoph's work, his results have apparently been approved by some Fermi members he has talked to. Informal rumors indicate that the members of Fermi do see some line at the same place although the strength seems weaker than the strength in Weniger's pretty clever analysis which chooses target regions with complicated shapes.

Recall that the Fermi satellite has managed to prove that Leslie Winkle and Lee Smolin don't have a clue what they're talking about, aside from many other interesting results that have been discussed on this blog.

About fifty photons coming mostly from the Galactic center seem to be peaked at \(130\GeV\). The local significance is 4.6 sigma which is huge; when the look-elsewhere tax is imposed, the significance is a bit weniger (lower), about 3.3 sigma.

Do neutrino patterns hint at \(SO(10)\) grand unification?

Rabindra Mohapatra is among the phenomenologists who seem to be convinced that the detailed properties of the neutrinos, together with some previously known characteristics of charged leptons and quarks, make the grand unification, especially one based on the \(SO(10)\) gauge group, much more likely than it was before.

Grand unification in proper physics is even grander than the LHC alarmist Luis Sancho's unification theory sketched above. ;-)

This is the main conclusion you may deduce from his intriguing talk at the Perimeter Institute:

Neutrino Mass and Flavor Grand Unification: video (63 minutes), PDF (42 MB)
On Saturday night, we had a 20-year high school class reunion which was a source of nostalgia and interesting information. I wrote a skeleton for a blog entry on it but at the end, the text looked too subjective and emotional for a blog that tries to be objective and maintain a Sheldonite image so I haven't posted it yet and chances are that I will never post it.

First of all, I don't like to reveal personal things too much. Second of all, I don't really believe that people are sufficiently interested of those things and it is not my intent to transform TRF into another blog whose descriptions of what I just cooked asymptotically converge to 100% of the content.

Monday, April 16, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

David Deutsch's circular argument on the Born rule

Brian Greene's The Hidden Reality presents various kinds of "parallel universes" and "multiverses" that have appeared in physics – a large universe, an inflating universe, bubble universes, braneworlds with many branes, stringy multiverse based on the tunneling in a landscape, simulated multiverses, many worlds of quantum mechanics, and others. Some of them have really nothing to do with others but they were combined to a nice and meaningful book.

When I was translating it to Czech, I was happy about Brian's treatment of the cosmological issues – despite the fact that he is clearly more anthropic than your humble correspondent and most of his wishful thinking about the conversion of the anthropic rules into quantitative arguments in the future is clearly unrealistic (and may be excluded by pure thought even today).

However, I must admit that his discussion of the "many worlds" in quantum mechanics, which Brian considers "inevitable", along with all of his thoroughly irrational attacks against the proper Copenhagen quantum mechanics, was driving me up the wall. Of course, I just professionally decoupled from the validity of the content, avoided any temptation to comment on those things (too many things would have to be corrected), and carefully translated what the author wanted to say including all the physics blunders.

One of the papers that Brian mentioned in the book was this 1999 article by David Deutsch,

Quantum Theory of Probability and Decisions
Sean Carroll uncritically promoted this paper a few days ago. I was pleased that a large portion of the Cosmic Variance readers understood that the paper is completely nonsensical.

Himalayan glaciers grew in 1999-2008: surprise?

The IPCC had told us that the Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035.

The notorious verbal Marxist guerilla group later admitted that the figure 2035 was created by permuting digits in the figure 2350 which was casually mentioned in an interview with a random mediocre alarmist as the earliest moment when the bulk of the glaciers in the Himalayas could be melted.

However, the reality could be and probably is even less alarming than the least alarmist proclamations by any alarmist you can find on this planet.

Some MSM sources failed to hide a new paper that reconstructed the ice volume in the Himalayas between 1999 and 2008 and found a slight increase of ice which was actually quite rapid near K2, the world's mountaineers' greatest challenge and the second highest peak on Earth depicted on the image above. These particular advancing glaciers also lowered the global sea level, although just by 0.01 mm per year.

Saturday, April 14, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Was Lenin pro-science?

Sean Carroll wrote about Fang Lizhi, a Chinese cosmologist and dissident who recently died at the age of 76. Cosmic Variance wasn't the most sensible place to write such a thing because it is one of the blogs belonging to the "hardcore left-wing ideological" blogosphere.

So the readers were surely stunned and told themselves: Whoops, are you actually saying good things about this top enemy of the Communist Party of China, comrade Carroll? ;-) Most of the readers remained shocked and silent but after some time, Philip Helbig came to defend one of his heroes against the heretical attacks by Fang Lizhi:

It seems that Lenin actually read a lot of physics and spent considerable effort trying to find out the extent to which it was compatible with his philosophy (rather than vice versa).

In their joint book, Sagan notes in the preface that he let stand some of Shlovskii’s remarks to the effect that dialectical materialism requires there to be life on every planet.
Right, an amazing comrade who knew everything. ;-) He was so smart that we should base our estimates of the density of extraterrestrial civilizations on Lenin's quotes. Did he actually have a clue?

Friday, April 13, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Ozone hole and global warming: evolution of an alarm

Steven Goddard at is posting lots of old newspaper articles with scary predictions we already know to be wrong. I was intrigued by this particular one today:

NASA 1986: All Life Extinct In A Few Decades
Are the ozone hole and global warming problems related? Are they correlated? Or anticorrelated? How do the advocates of one of them react to the other?

Review of heavy scalar stringy scenarios

Bobby Samir Acharya, Gordon Kane, and Piyush Kumar have been invited to write a review for International Journal of Modern Physics A about their picture of particle physics beyond the Standard Model:

Compactified String Theories – Generic Predictions for Particle Physics (arXiv, PDF)
On 30 pages, they explain what they consider typical predictions by string/M-theory for (relatively) low-energy physics.

Gordy was kind to tell me (or to confirm my interpretation) how their notion of "genericity" differs from that of the KKLT-like anthropic advocates. One could say that Kane et al. focus on natural classes of vacua in which a majority of the elements has certain phenomenologically attractive qualitative properties and then they look for other prevailing properties of these classes.

If you see a Wolfram Mathematica animation above (click for details), it actually means that you have downloaded 5 MB from a server. The Internet got much faster, right?

The anthropic enthusiasts, on the other hand, would look at the most populous classes, whether or not they contain a significant percentage of vacua with viable characteristics. That means that they have to choose very special or "unlikely" representatives of these large classes which Kane et al. (and many of us) consider fine-tuning.

(Well, I still think that some of the hierarchies and small parameters we observe are due to some non-genericity of our vacuum which could also imply that 4D SUGRA isn't the right framework for describing some portions of particle physics, as in bottom-up local F-theory models. Gordon provided me with some partial answers to my concerns.)

At any rate, the scale of (gravity-mediated) SUSY breaking is high as in gravity mediation; gauginos may be (in the case of the non-thermal WIMP miracle) but don't strictly have to be below 1 TeV or so; sleptons and squarks are at a multi-dozens-TeV scale so out of the LHC reach; the Higgs mass around 125 GeV is predicted out of tan(beta) around 10 and you're never too far from 125 GeV, anyway. If the gauginos are light, direct production of the gluinos will dominate new physics; if they're heavy, there won't be any new physics besides the Higgs boson seen at the LHC.

Thursday, April 12, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Commodore, Atari founder Jack Tramiel: RIP

Jack Tramiel, a Polish-born Jewish American entrepreneur, died on Sunday at age of 83 (heart failure). His parents were holocaust victims. His mother survived Auschwitz while his father did not. Jacek Trzmiel [Třměl], as he was called, himself worked at a nearby work camp.

He came to the U.S. in the 1940s, worked on typewriters and then calculators before he founded Commodore International. After a dispute with stockholders, he was ousted so he actually acquired yet another company, Atari, that quickly became a pretty tough competitor for his first big company, Commodore International.

In 1983, when I was nine, the commies didn't allow me to visit my uncle in Bavaria where he had lived since the early 1980s. That was a similar story as with my other uncle who has lived in Melbourne since 1969. But my dad was allowed to see his brother and he smuggled back lots of wonderful things, including Commodore 64 above, the most famous model created by the company. When it broke five years later or so, I got another one – Commodore 64C, the white and skinnier model that was otherwise nearly identical.

Aside from some Czechoslovak computers such as PMD-85 and IQ-151 that were available at various schools and exhibitions, my C64 was pretty much the only "big" computer I could touch before I came to the college in 1992. My high school (female) IT teacher was feeling embarrassed enough when I corrected some of her mistakes during the first computer class so she made a deal with me: I hadn't seen any PC throughout my high school studies.

Rating agency for research

Pat Michaels discusses an embarrassing paper published in Nature which claims that man-made aerosol emissions are behind the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. He thinks that Nature is on the edge of losing its last droplets of credibility.

Dictating what is allowed to be researched

Another kind of silly article was printed in Nature:

Rating research risk
It's a shortened version of an August 2011 preprint; see also an August 2010 preprint on "portfolios".

Abraham Loeb, the chair of Harvard's astronomy department, proposes that a group of grad students will run a server that will rate the health of various disciplines of physics – and probably science in general – and their ratings would be used by students deciding about their fields, by granting agencies, by governments, and so on. I don't really know whether it's an April fool's joke but let me assume it is not.

It's difficult to sensibly evaluate the current state of research and it is even more difficult to predict the future. When people – for example, students who are just choosing their specialization – are trying to obtain the information about these matters, they are using a diverse variety of sources and methods to make up their mind. Some of them use more sophisticated methods, others use less sophisticated methods, many of them decide by chance and it's important that chance can have a say, too.

However, if one wants to pay attention to some authorities, it's rather likely and sensible that he or she will pick senior scientists whose job is secured (which reduces the potential for the conflict of interests) and who have made some achievements, too (which increases the chance that their recommendation is actually helpful). Loeb thinks that this is a bad algorithm because senior scientists are just like the rating agencies that gave an "AAA" rating to some unsafe papers before the financial crisis. Are they really analogous?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Roland Omnès and QM: 20 years later

In April 1992, exactly 20 years ago, Roland Omnès published his 50-page article

Consistent Interpretations of Quantum Mechanics (a Russian FTP server)
in Reviews of Modern Physics. So far, the article has accumulated 472 citations. It was the last month before our high school leaving exams – which I may remember rather well because we will have a 20-year reunion on Saturday. ;-)

Finally, I decided not to embed La Marseillaise as a sign of the author's nationality. Instead, here you have pictures from a movie with a really great music by Michel Magne. Update: Oops, if I had fully appreciated Shannon's words, there would be some Breton/Celtic video above instead of this one. ;-)

At any rate, when I came to the college in Prague in September 1992, just five months later, I got access to the libraries and articles about the interpretation of quantum mechanics had a rather high priority – probably next to the string theory articles – and it just happened that I found Omnès' review rather quickly and it was the final nail in the coffin of my doubts about our complete understanding of the foundations of quantum mechanics.

For a year or so, I may have been kind of convinced that most of the research trying to make the foundations of quantum mechanics "more imaginable" and suggesting that there was something wrong with the modernized Copenhagen interpretation was pseudoscience but it was still very useful to read Omnès' article that had articulated those facts clearly and authoritatively.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

49 ex-astronauts, NASA scientists protest against NASA's AGW alarmism

Mr Howard Wolowitz of The Big Bang Theory (CBS) designed a lavatory for the International Space Station. If you don't watch the sitcom, notice that a problem was that after some time, the device began to shoot the biomass around the station. The TBBT fans surely remember what the happy end was.

NASA became a target of laughter.

Apollo 7

It turns out that Howard's lavatory isn't the main threat for the prestige of one of America's most authoritative institutions (at least in the past), according to its former employees from the golden era of the space research.

We're being constantly told that almost all the important groups of the world's scientists endorse the global warming hysteria. A problem is that many of them don't. And I don't want to talk about string theorists or meteorologists. I want to talk about rocket scientists; former scientists working for NASA and 7 former Apollo astronauts. (paid) just printed a press release that includes a letter that a group of fourty-nine (that's quite a number) American heroes wrote to Charles Bolden, the current administrator of NASA. I received a permission to reproduce the whole press release so here it is.

Sunday, April 08, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Why I am alarmed about climate change

By Alexander Ač, Czech Globe

Thanks to Luboš Motl for providing me the place for a guest post.

Natural greenhouse effect is a well described and for a long time understood scientific phenomenon. Without greenhouse gases (GHGs), such as water vapor, CO2, CH4, O3, and some others, global average air temperature would be about 33 °C lower.

Nobody in the scientific community is denying the fact that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is solely due to burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. And finally, nobody in the serious scientific community is denying the fact that the rise in CO2 is leading to at least some climatic warming.

Freedom of speech in the U.S. is a fantasy

John Derbyshire was one of the brightest writers in National Review who focused on history, immigration, China, race, and even mathematics – including topics involving the Riemann zeta function. He is conservative and almost (or about) as pro-science (and pro-evolution) as your humble correspondent.

Three days ago, he also wrote an essay for Taki's Magazine about what the American white teenagers should be told about the co-existence with the blacks,

The Talk: Non-Black Version,
which was inspired by reports that young black kids were being told by their parents to avoid encounters and especially confrontations with the whites so that they don't end up as Trayvon Martin. Derbyshire wrote pretty much analogous things from the other side. However, his essay also contains lots of facts about the statistical differences between the whites and the blacks in the U.S. and their consequences for a rational decision-making, together with many relevant URL references.

In fact, Derbyshire loves to talk about the statistical distributions in this context so much that he became another candidate for who may be the mysterious La Griffe du Lion, at least I propose him as a candidate! ;-)

What did he write on Thursday?

Saturday, April 07, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

The royal status of 11-dimensional supergravity

A few days ago, I discussed the maximally supersymmetric gauge theory, the Darth Vader theory, which is exceptional.

I mentioned that the \(\NNN=4\) gauge theory in \(d=4\) dimensions is a beautiful, fully consistent (at the quantum level) dimensional reduction of the 10-dimensional supersymmetric gauge theory which has many hidden virtues and symmetries. All these theories have 16 supercharges.

A portrait of eleven-dimensional supergravity. As Dilaton knows, "elf" means "eleven". ;-)

There's one more royal family that is, in some sense, comparably fundamental as the family descended from the ten-dimensional supersymmetric gauge theory. This additional family of theories has 32 real supercharges and not just 16 of them.

The master theory's spacetime has \(d=11\) dimensions rather than \(d=10\). It is not renormalizable and none of its compactifications is fully consistent at the quantum level, either. These theories are only meaningful at a classical level (or in some low-energy expansion). All of these theories contain gravity and they are limits of string/M-theory which had to be the case because string/M-theory is the only consistent quantum theory of gravity.

Even though the eleven-dimensional gravity is just a low-energy limit of the full string/M-theory, it (and its compactifications) already knows quite something about the wisdom of string/M-theory in its most symmetric incarnation.

Quantum computer in a diamond

Technical: Speed up your MathJax \(\rm\LaTeX\) by a second per page, at least in Windows. Download these zipped OTF fonts, unzip them, and for each of the 22 OTF files, right-click Properties/General and "unblock". Then choose all the 22 OTF files and install them. It will display the same maths you're used from the web, but using your local copy of the fonts. (These are not STIX fonts which I consider uglier but the very same fonts you're used to.)
TGDaily and dozens of other sources inform about some progress done at the USC in California by Prof Daniel Lidar and his lab.

They claim to protect their computer's two qubits from decoherence by a nice material: diamond.

Friday, April 06, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Hansen: AGW global tax as important as slavery

James Hansen will give lectures in Scotland where he is also going to pick the Edinburgh Medal. It doesn't look like an important award but the orientation of the winners in recent years is still very annoying if you realize that the first medalist, one in 1989, was Abdus Salam. Imagine the trend if you start with Salam and end with Hansen.

Arguably the only person in the world who has earned a million of dollars out of being a small fish criminal. He's proud about it and he's selling his recidivist credentials to small cells of organized crime (particularly "environmentalist organizations") very efficiently.

The Guardian mentions the big theses behind Hansen's talk:

Nasa scientist: climate change is a moral issue on a par with slavery
The climate change propaganda is a "great moral issue on par with slavery". Nice.

Happy Easter

(and Passover)

This TV commercial by Vodafone has been aired since the Christmas, to assure everyone that they're ahead of time. The music is borrowed from Nightwork's famous song called Sweatpants, shift your balls to the right side.

I hope you will encounter a decorated egg or two and whip the girls around you.

Thursday, April 05, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Let's fix the value of Planck's constant

Carl Brannen has pointed out the following simple preprint to me:

Quantum Theory without Planck's Constant
by John Ralston of the University of Kansas.

The author shows that if we get rid of the International Prototype Kilogram i.e. if we fix the value of the Planck constant – at least I will generalize this proposal by saying that we will set it to a known constant – we may improve the accuracy of common quantities such as the electron's mass or the electron's charge by two orders of magnitude or so!

Of course, adult theoretical physicists commonly use units with \(\hbar=c=k=1\) but they rarely care about the exact numerical values of less universal constants so many of them are not familiar with the error margins and their origin. It's a very interesting collection of facts.

TRF guest blogger Gordon Kane wins Lilienfeld Prize

Gordon Kane, Distinguished University Professor of Physics at University of Michigan, wrote a text for TRF,

Learning from theory and data about our string vacuum,
in December 2011. Of course, his work on string/M-theory compactifications with heavy scalars has been repeatedly discussed on this blog.

He gave a very similar presentation four days ago,
String theory and our real world: greatly improved understanding
In that talk, he also modestly mentioned that their model predicted a 125 ± 4 GeV Higgs boson, with 127 GeV as the most likely estimated value of mass, as soon as in Summer 2011, half a year before the de facto discovery of the Higgs boson at the LHC (and at least a year before the official discovery).

But why is this new version of his presentation even more interesting than the older ones?

Wednesday, April 04, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Keith Olbermann, Al Gore, and management

Last October, I was surprised by the incredible economy of Current TV, an unknown TV station owned by Al Gore and Joel Hyatt.

A few months earlier, the station with tens of thousands of viewers hired Keith Olbermann and offered him a $50 million five-year contract. The numbers just didn't add up. It was insane for the sponsors to pay $200 per viewer. I could understand if Olbermann got a $50 thousand contract but $50 million? That's like Bill O'Reilly whose audience is larger by almost three orders of magnitude.

As you probably know from Fox News, NY Post, Olbermann's visit to David Letterman's Late Show (YouTube video, 14 minutes), and from 2,000 other sources, Keith Olbermann was finally fired at the end of March.

Update: Olbermann has sued Current TV; see the fascinating lawsuit (via Willie). Current TV has counter-sued Olbermann.
He was replaced by Eliot Spitzer, a man most famous for having been the Client Number 9 of an illegal prostitution ring (incredibly enough, he was also a New York governor). The main virtue for which Spitzer was hired is the same one as in Olbermann's case (and the case of everyone else working for Current TV): he is a distasteful, obnoxious, bitter leftwinger who is always ready to sacrifice any moral principle in order to defend left-wing ideological clichés. With Spitzer instead of Olbermann, the number of viewers dropped by another factor of four. Out of his 47,000 viewers, only 10,000 belonged to the key 25-54 demographic.

The media (e.g. NY Post) have explained that Olbermann wasn't satisfied with his smelly drivers who dared to talk to such a holy creature as Olbermann himself (and do avoid any doubts about it, all the drivers have disdained this disgusting, arrogant, and hypocritical jerk as well) so the transportation company had to be replaced 8 times or so during his one-year "tenure". He didn't come to work on Super Tuesday (a doctor told him to be silent for 5 days), the lights in the newsroom went off because Al Gore didn't pay the electricity bill, and so on and so on.

Olbermann told Letterman that he (Olbermann) is a $10 million chandelier (referring to his annual salary) that someone bought even though he didn't have a house where the chandelier should be placed. That's not good for everyone and that's not good for the chandelier, either. We have also learned from Olbermann that Al Gore wasn't interested in what was happening in the TV station and many other amazing things.

Blondes, brunettes, and the real meaning of MPH

Gordon has reminded me of this 6-million-views viral video from December 2011. A young husband, while driving, asks his young blonde wife how long does it take to drive 80 miles if you are traveling 80 miles per hour.

This is the result he recorded, while driving. Just to be sure, she was upset but their marriage is OK. Because there may be climate alarmists or string theory critics reading this blog entry, I feel obliged to say that the right answer is one hour or 60 minutes.

The video is hilarious but what does it tell us?

Tuesday, April 03, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Is nature natural?

Jon Butterworth of ATLAS asked the same question on his Guardian blog. Many other physicists will be asking the question increasingly more frequently, especially if (and as long as) the 125 GeV God particle remains the only new particle that the LHC discovers.

Things in Nature may be perfectly natural even if they don't look natural to some of us. Click the picture for more.

Can the Standard Model be the whole story?

As we've known since mid December 2011, the God particle has the mass approximately 125 GeV. However, we have known for decades that it also has a vacuum expectation value. It's the main property that allows the BEH mechanism to operate.

Czech-affiliated physicist Angela Merkel back in Prague

The world's most powerful woman, Angela Merkel, is visiting Prague today. She speaks Czech to some extent; to say the least, her skills would simplify her practical life in the Czech lands because she knows how to order beer or a hotel room. ;-) Today, she was asked what food she was served. It wasn't a steak; we received game instead, she answered in Czech.

Oops, correction: she actually said that she was served game so she couldn't say what it was because "řízek" (steak) is the only similar meet she can name in Czech. She can also order a bottle of white wine and say that "I'll slap you in your face" which may have been helpful for her interactions with Czech men 30 years ago. :-)

Klaus and Merkel in Prague today

How is it possible? Why would the world's most powerful woman learn the world's most important language more comprehensively than many devout TRF readers? Well, when she was in her mid 20s, i.e. in the late 1970s and early 1980s, she spent several years (well, nine months in total distributed over several years) at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in Prague. Her boss was Prof Rudolf Zahradník [Gardener] who would later become the President of the Czech Academy Sciences for many years during the years of modern democracy.

Prof Zahradník could only say good things about his junior collaborator and comrade from East Germany. Around 1988, several papers resulting from their collaboration were published. As far as I can say and despite the fact that the papers only have 3-6 citations or so, it's a perfectly serious branch of physics and they did research on it in a totally respectable way. (An article by Havlas, Merkel, and Zahradník is the most widely read article of the Journal of the American Chemical Society on the web altogether but that's mostly due to Merkel's current political power.) While atomic and molecular physics and biophysics and physical chemistry don't have to be the most ambitious or hierarchical disciplines of physics, they surely belong to the solid core of the discipline.

Monday, April 02, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Explosion of high-brow string/SUGRA books

Many prominent theoretical physicists have written books – or textbooks – on string/M-theory that were recently released or that will be released within a month or two (or three). You may click at the titles in the widgets to see more details.

Luis E. Ibáñez and Angel M. Uranga began to sell their book String Theory and Particle Physics: An Introduction to String Phenomenology just two weeks ago. I have already mentioned it. Be sure that the authors are among those who have the credentials to talk about the construction or isolation of realistic models or vacua in string theory, i.e. about string phenomenology.

It's very far from being the only new book about a similar topic.

La Niña conditions are over

According to the newest weekly ENSO report, the Niño region 3.4 anomaly increased to –0.2 °C, closer to zero. It's the first time since Summer 2011 when the value is strictly above the –0.5 °C threshold below which we live in the La Niña conditions, by definition.

The 2011-2012 was the second La Niña in a row after the 2010-2011 La Niña. However, the recent one was much weaker. You see that the Pacific equatorial region near South American beaches is already warmer-than-average which, in my opinion, makes the arrival of ENSO-neutral and/or El Niño conditions more likely.

Sunday, April 01, 2012 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

L.M. was a fiction

As the intelligent readers of this blog have figured out, everything that has been written in this domain since October 2004 was a work of fiction.

We're a group of 38 leading European climatologists and P.R. experts who had won a €60 million grant EU-AGW-RVHP-2004/13 from the European Commission to defeat climate deniers for good. Our strategy was simple and clever: we created several fictitious characters, including Luboš Motl, an ex-member of the Harvard faculty, in order to prove that the climate deniers are able to believe anything and everything that is ideologically convenient for them. We got inspired by the Czech story about Jára da Cimrman and by the Holy Scripture and created a character in whose existence the climate change deniers would love to believe, a penetrating mind and a martyr, too.

We hired several top high-energy physicists to emulate texts that would be written by a high-energy theorist. This game has been played for more than 7 years.

Erratic Boulder 2011

Sisyfos [Sisyphus], the Czech scientific skeptics' club, has distributed the annual "Erratic Boulder" awards for 2011. The prize acknowledges unusual contributions to the muddy thinking in the society.

Astrophysicist Dr Jiří Grygar, a leading face of Sisyfos, holds the hammer against astrologers in his hand. He gave a lecture and congratulated the winners in the Strouhal Lecture Hall (Karlov F1), a room of my Alma Mater that I know very intimately. Too bad I didn't go there, it could have been fun.