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Reasons to build higher-energy colliders

Sabine Hossenfelder thinks that it is a bad investment to build particle colliders that boast higher energies than their predecessors. The high precision frontier is better, she thinks. Physicists should be ashamed when they explain that a collider could access some decay channels, get a higher signal yield, or a better precision. In her opinion, to talk about supersymmetry is a downright blasphemy for them. And they are also "disappointing" if they dare to mention that the colliders have been a better investment than the wars in Afghanistan and that the World Wide Web was born at CERN.

Needless to say, she is absolutely, importantly, and fundamentally wrong about every single claim she is trying to articulate.




While talking about the arguments concerning the best investments – science vs non-science and which science – she writes:

Whether a next supercollider is worth the billions of Euro that it will eat up is a very involved question. I find it partly annoying, partly disturbing, that many of my physics colleagues regard the answer as obvious. Clearly we need a new supercollider! To measure the details of this, and the decay channels of that, to get a cleaner signal of something and a better precision for whatever. And I am sure they will come up with an argument for why Susy, our invisible friend, is still just around the corner.

To me this superficial argumentation is just another way of demonstrating they don’t care about communicating the relevance of their research. Of course they want a next collider - they make their living writing papers about that.
Her opinions are deeply troubling because she literally considers the most legitimate arguments to be blasphemies that should be suppressed if not banned. Every sentence above is outrageous but many details are staggering. For example, to defend one particular collider design by comments about decay channels is "superficial" – while monologues about experiments that avoid the term "decay channels" are not "superficial". Your understanding of the word "superficial" is clearly upside down, isn't it?

And why should one not mention supersymmetry which is the most well-motivated class of physical phenomena that may be expected when physics beyond the Standard Model is discovered? Possible signals of supersymmetry clearly represent a large part, possibly a majority, of the reasons why people want higher-energy colliders to be built. Why should this fact about the true motives of the scientists be obscured if not completely censored? I just find her suggestions stunning.




I will focus on the "science vs non-science" spending later. But the arguments involving the better accessibility of some decay channels or supersymmetry are self-evidently important for the decisions whether it's wiser to build a collider running at a higher energy than the LHC, or some high-luminosity or lepton accelerator at a lower energy (or some completely different kind of an experiment).

One simply has to know something about the decay channels and the proposed new (BSM) phenomena in the credible scientific literature – and one has to talk about these things – if he wants to offer any actual, defensible arguments on technical decisions about the planned experiments, e.g. whether it is better to ramp energy or replace hadrons by leptons. A decision about the "way to go" by someone who completely ignores the literature, SUSY, or decay channels is guaranteed to be irrational and stupid, pretty much by definition.

Now, indeed, most of the public (and even most of the Parliamentary committee that will co-decide about the investments) won't understand what the phrases "cross section" or "decay channel" mean, let alone how they influence the usability of one possible experiment or another. And indeed, the monologues by many experts who have demonstrated virtually no skills in communicating science will be useless for their listeners (and many of the experts will actually be fachidiots who don't know much beyond their overspecialized expertise – so they will be useless even for their colleagues, in the real technical decisions). But it is just counterproductive and dishonest to claim that the actual reasons to prefer one experiment over another have nothing to do with decay channels or cross sections – i.e. that a sensible investor should be deciding according to some completely different, less technical criteria.

If the politicians don't understand the justifications that use some technical terms, they won't be able to become the source of "independent yet justified" arguments in favor of one design or another. But they may still understand that some people who have achieved this or that in science claim that they have verified some good arguments why one design is better than another. If someone isn't able to understand the beef of the science, he will have to rely on less reliable, sociological criteria, but it can still be done in smarter or dumber ways.

If we talk about the particular question whether it's better to ramp up energy: Indeed, ramping up the energy, e.g. to 100 TeV, is a priori the most promising way to learn new physics. It seems very likely that if there is some new physics to be discovered in a foreseeable future, high enough energy is what the LHC lacks most (or lacked most, before the upgraded 2015 run). Precision physics won't really teach us much if the energy stays low. The inaccessible particles will remain inaccessible and if some anomalies from the Standard Model emerge, we will be ignorant about their cause, anyway. So the anomalies won't be too interesting by themselves.

Hossenfelder doesn't like if someone points out that particle colliders have been vastly better investments than wars in Afghanistan:
The most common argument that I hear in favor of the next collider is that much more money is wasted on the war in Afghanistan (if you ask an American) or rebuilding the Greek economy (if you ask a German), and I am sure similar remarks are uttered worldwide. The logic here seems to be that a lot of money is wasted anyway, so what does it matter to spend some billions on a collider. Maybe this sounds convincing if you have a PhD in high energy physics, but I don’t know who else is supposed to buy this.
Maybe you should have a PhD in particle physics, then, if you want to have a sane idea about which investment is better. And if you don't have such a degree, maybe you should better shut up because you probably don't have a clue what you are talking about. And neither has Sabine.

The point of the argument that Sabine insanely disagrees with is that the investments by big governments or the whole societies or civilizations should be compared fairly. A collider costs billions of dollars which is "a lot". But the word "a lot" is ambiguous. We must ask: "a lot relatively to what"? The investment shouldn't be compared with personal salaries or investments by individuals or families because the colliders are (so far?) not facilities that people and families privately build next to their villas. They are investments by the scientific communities of a whole nation or many nations or whole continents – or global investments. So if we decide whether the cost of the collider is really "a lot", we must compare it with other things that whole nations pay for once in a few decades. And the cost of the LHC was therefore very, very small, and any verbal trick comparing the LHC to some family budgets or anything of the sort that ends up saying that "it was too expensive" is just pure demagoguery.

The cost of the LHC stayed below $10 billion. To compare, the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq cost about $6 trillion. It's something like six hundred LHC colliders. Even if you would claim that the only benefit of the LHC is the discovery of the Higgs bosons, which is a highly oversimplified interpretation, what are the benefits of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq? The places are more messed up and more hostile than they were two decades ago.

Of course, it's partly because the wars are "primarily" supported by the people who prefer if lots of weapons are produced and sold and if the government increases its apparent importance by constantly pointing its finger on enemies abroad. They team up with tons of very stupid people who are incapable of learning anything.

Taliban (indirectly) and Al Qaeda (directly) have received lots of U.S. dollars which was being justified by their fight against the USSR. The idea that they could become dangerous by themselves was probably too complicated or abstract for those who would pay for those things. OK, everyone can err. One could perhaps say that the rise of the Taliban or Al Qaeda were unpredictable coincidences. But what about the money invested into Assad's foes in Syria which hugely helped the rise of the ISIS? Obama, instead of admitting the self-evident fact that he is a stupid asshole who has screwed the situation in Iraq and Syria like no Western politician before him blames the bad intelligence. But this is not an acceptable way to divide the responsibility in a civilized country. The intelligence guys are Obama's subordinates who can be responsible for some "details" (and their subordinates for even "finer details") – but the very question whether the most important opposition forces in Syria and Iraq that may be supported are "friends" of the U.S. is no "detail". It is arguably the #1 question of the U.S. foreign policy related to those countries and if the answer turns out to be wrong, and it clearly has, then Obama, and not just some subordinates, is the rotten apple.

If he failed to hear that there are Arabs living in those countries, would he also find a scapegoat who would be guilty instead of him? All of us, the people who have some understanding of the Middle East and the human behavior, would have emphasized for years that there existed no noteworthy opposition in Syria that would "like" the U.S. as a role model and that the support for the opposition against Assad is nothing else than the support for militant Islam. Moreover, our words shouldn't have been needed. These questions are exactly the same as the questions that have already been answered in Afghanistan. It didn't help.

I won't discuss the hundreds of billions of dollars that were thrown into the Greek black hole because 1) I have already spent too much time with (mostly off-topic) comments about politics, and 2) I would vomit if I had to think about the Greek parasites for another minute. But be sure that dozens of LHC colliders were destroyed by the anti-market political scum in Greece on every year in the previous 4 if not 40 years.

The sanctions against Russia have already created economic losses equal to many or dozens of the LHC colliders, too. Joe Biden candidly said that Europe didn't want to impose sanctions but Obama and Biden would "embarrass" Europe. Like a nasty bully or a rapist, they were harassing and intimidating the cowardly politicians on our continent and they finally achieved that both Russia and Europe would pay a heavy price. It's great that Biden admitted it but if he thinks that he hasn't created millions of new Europeans who prefer his and Obama's throat to be cut, just like most of the people in the Middle East, he is very very wrong.

And such bad investments and losses are unfortunately seen everywhere. Some $5 billion (more or less another LHC) was thrown to the "NGOs" in Ukraine whose only goal was to undermine the legitimate government in Ukraine – with the current post-coup nationalist regime, civil war, and economic and moral collapse of Ukraine (plus the increased threat of a conflict with Russia) as the only result. Can really have the staggering arrogance to deny that the LHC has been a better investment?

Sabine also opposes the observation that the World Wide Web was born at CERN, partly because of the environment that needed certain services and forms communication. She says that wars lead to the development of new technologies, too. I surely agree. One may still compare the amount of spin-off technologies that came from wars with those that came from the big experiments. Take the Internet which is legitimate because the military also needed it and contributed to the construction of the required infrastructure and some know-how. If you look fairly, you will see that the contributions to the birth of the Internet as we know it from the CERN-like big experiments and from the military were pretty much comparable – despite the fact that the military has received about 100 times more money during the same time.

Qualitatively speaking, every investment may have spin-offs and unexpected beneficial side effects. But if we are kindly allowed to speak about the "return on investment" quantitatively, it is simply indisputable that the big experiments produce much more "useful technology for peaceful times" than the military spending. And you know me enough to see that I am in no way against military spending. It is one of the basic things that countries naturally pay for because it decides about their existential questions. But just because I generally understand that the military spending has good reasons can't prevent me from seeing that the argument that big experiments produce much larger unexpected beneficial side effects is true and very powerful.

Sabine Hossenfelder also dismisses China's plans to build new colliders because these plans result "only from their desire to be competitive rather than from a careful calculation of the return on investment". This hostile remark is bizarre, too. "Being competitive" is clearly a legitimate and important goal for a country like China. In most industries etc., China is clearly an example of a country that "follows". I don't say that it is the only thing that China does – but China clearly does produce tons of clones of Western smartphones and millions of other products. So of course that the Chinese activities in science have this flavor, too. But if China builds a high energy collider, and perhaps the strongest one in the world, the country will indeed become competitive in experimental particle physics. This outcome is their return on investment, and if the collider will ever work, it will be a huge return on investment, indeed, given the fact that the expenses will probably be comparable to the negligible price of the LHC. If there exists a better way to (reliably?) discover new physics, maybe it won't be found by China but that shouldn't be surprising given their follower status.

Sabine Hossenfelder may disagree but the reason why she disagrees is that she actually hates particle physics. Many other, mostly stupid people, hate it as well and Sabine is clearly playing the role of a spokeswoman of these anti-science people. She belongs to the fifth column and wants to make these stupid people as influential as possible.

But unless the organization in the civilized societies breaks down completely, the question "which big scientific experiment is going to be funded" will be decided not by these morons that Sabine wants to become very important but by those who indeed know what a "decay channel" is and who are actually judging these questions in a scientific legitimate way. Sabine Hossenfelder unfortunately doesn't belong to this set of people. I am actually amazed how much anti-science propaganda people like Hossenfelder produce while staying in their environment.

Quite generally, far-reaching questions such as similar multi-billion investments should be decided by people who have some expertise – when it comes to really detailed questions such as "which kind of a collider" – or at least some "more enlightened souls" than the average. Ronald Reagan was such a guy which is why his administration would start the Superconducting Supercollider project. There was also a lot of opposition (obviously including, and mostly, from the G.O.P.) but these people didn't have so much influence during Reagan's tenure – they only won and killed the project during Clinton's years. But a soulmate of Reagan's, Margaret Thatcher, became a co-mother of the LHC which finally was built. A 2010 speech in the U.K. Parliament reminded us that such decisions used to be rather simple:
Margaret Thatcher was more circumspect when she wrong-footed sceptical Cabinet colleagues with her defence of public spending on the Large Hadron Collider. “Yes, but isn’t it interesting?” was enough to stifle their objections. And her interest in the work at CERN was rewarded by Tim Berners-Lee establishing the groundwork for the World Wide Web. I’ve seen the original computer server with a note from Tim attached, instructing fellow scientists not to switch it off. Our lives have truly been revolutionised by his inventiveness.
Sadly, we entered an era in which people with inferior souls – relatively to Thatcher and many others – have flooded our institutions and gained lots of the influence. They're so arrogant that they're almost planning to prohibit scientists from talking about decay channels while explaining whether one collider project is better than another.

I don't plan to proofread the text above because I am too upset what kind of "scientists" have become normal at an institution founded by Niels Bohr with the purpose of leading the global science in the same sense as the Copenhagen school led the global physics in the 1920s. Bohr is surely spinning in his grave these days.

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reader Eclectikus said...

There are some other benefits from CERN that might be considered as return of investments, and often go unnoticed:

- Developments in medicine, specifically in particle therapies (as hadron therapy), radioimmunotherapy, digital image processing...

- Developments in materials engineering, instrumentation and detectors...

- The Computer Science in general, and Big Data analysis in particular, has an advanced playground at CERN, being pioneering in grid computing and in fact owner of one of the biggest centers in this field: European Grid Infrastruscture http://www.egi.eu/

Now we can compare these benefits with the return that has produced the hundreds of billions spent on "understanding climate change" (with no significative advance, apart from laughter and tears), and the only possible conclusion is that particle accelerators are an inversion remarkably profitable.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Right, lots of things to be said. At the end, one should compute the "return on invested dollar" somewhat more quantitatively and what has been invested will still display great returns. Of course that some investments into similar things could be "too much" or "overinvestment" but we are nowhere near that point. CERN-like experiments are the #1 most special class of experiments in all of science, the ultimate frontier. Something like that will always exist as long as the civilization as we know it exists.


reader paul said...

You are not being completely fair. The increased spending in climate science and meteorology (even if you think they were not warranted by an actual catastrophe) did have many benefits, from computer science (which also has Big Data) to better detectors and satellites. You can disagree with this spending and the message some people are trying to propagate... but the real benefits of increased funding in a scientific field are still there.


reader Eclectikus said...

Well, this a quantitative aspect, Climatology is not a core scientific discipline, and under normal conditions (without political interests) never would have left a few university departments, and few marginal sections of space agencies.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Paul, true, in principle. Of course that benefits arise even if the main motivation is wrong. But try to compare those things a bit more quantitatively.


The investments to all of climate+atmospheric science in the recent 2 decades in the West were comparable to $50 million dollars which is of the same order as the costs for all theretical plus experimental particle and fundamental physics in the same period. Which of these two classes of investments led to more technological spin-offs and know-how and so on?


Face it. Climate scientists are not really at the cutting edge, so they're users of the satellites, users of the computers, they're really not pushing anything too far or moving the frontier, so this spending is a real spending, not so much a promising investment.


reader paul said...

Yes, I agree a quantitative analysis is required and I am not saying that climate sciences have more return on investments. I was only saying that it was unfair to say that their were none. I mainly say this because I use one of these benefits in many ab initio quantum simulation codes, namely the NETCDF librairies that allow "self-describing, machine-independent data formats that support the
creation, access, and sharing of array-oriented scientific data." This is developped by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). Just one example of return that as helped other fields.

I think I do not know enough of the details of these scientific endeavours to discuss their benefits... and the same is probably true of you Lubos...


reader Eclectikus said...

IMHO those advances would never stop even if Climate Change hype would never have existed (because climatology itself, meteorology, geophysics, remote sensing...). In other words, "Climate Change" has "rival fields" in supplying technology developments, but Particle Physics and HEP in general have no competency, because they are fundamental by itself.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Paul, just to be sure, your NetCDF example surely doesn't support your original thesis that the "increased funding in [fields linked to the climate hysteria] has helped". UCAR was founded as a meteorological non-profit organization in 1959, long before someone would even say "global warming" for the first time, and NetCDF was started in 1989, years before the funding for the climate-hysteria-related fields increased by more than an order of magnitude.


You haven't provided us with any evidence that the *increase* of the funding that was caused by the climate hysteria has brought anything positive to the world.


reader paul said...

Yes , I know. This was only an example that these fields do produce real benefits that are used in other fields, namely physics in this case, even if they may seem small or unknown to many. The NETCDF story remainded my a little of the internet story (tools developed to help researchers in a special field going out of there niche) but for a smaller specialized audience. Some of the money of the *increase* is going into these as well, so the original thesis of Eclectikus (their is no benefits other then laughter and tears) is not fair.

Now, I am not saying these justify the *increase* or that this is the only example one can find... I just don't know enough. I just wanted to be a little fairer because I knew of this nice application from this field.


reader BobSykes said...

While I would agree that every war since WW II was a waste, and that one was avoidable, war is not the problem here.


The great problem confronting all the democracies is the steady expansion of the welfare state, which is partly unavoidable because of aging populations. This expansion has steadily reduced the monies available for the militaries, for education, for infrastructure and for science. Science is especially easy to cut because it has no significant constituency and no obvious payoffs.


So, there will be no successor to the LHC unless a major dictatorship like China decides to undertake it. Likewise, the space programs of the West will slowly peter out.


reader Giotis said...

Check the relevant discussion around min 00:35 of the following talk by Strassler in KITP; I have the impression that Strassler is punished for similar opinions.


Anyway although I desagree with her I don't think Sabine has bad intentions; she just wants the money to be distributed to smaller experimenters (at least this is what I understand from her post).

http://online.kitp.ucsb.edu/online/joefest-c14/strassler/rm/flashtv.html


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Giotis, you probably meant 35:00 not 00:35 and after some searches, I was able to find it out - it has been discussed on this blog before:

http://motls.blogspot.com/2014/03/gross-vs-strassler-gross-is-right.html?m=1


reader Giotis said...

I totally agree to all of your points and yes the picture that the average layman has regarding the status of contemporary physics is heavily distorted by the media.


reader Tom said...

Dead on, Bob. Even worse, democracy, as universal franchise, itself exacerbates the problem because getting elected usually equates with upping the welfare payout in the attempt to buy the necessary votes.


reader Leo Vuyk said...

Sabine has a point. IMHO, the next collider results (even the new LHC) will become unnessesary by the measurement results ( expected to come next weeks) on Comet 67P of the Philea / Rosetta mission next weeks leading to new insights on dark matter black holes and H2 and ) creation .out of the Higgs field.
see: Comparison of Birkeland Alfven current circuits inside Comets ( 67P by micro BHs) and Ultra Luminous IR Galaxies ( by dual macro GABHs: Galaxy Anchor Black Holes) also found inside in Herbig Haro systems and Stellar systems, according to Quantum FFF Theory. Current circuits are originated by Dual Black Hole Charge Separation.and H2 and O (Hydroxyl) creation out of the Higgs field.(New paradigm BH)
See: http://vixra.org/abs/1402.0044


reader Luboš Motl said...

Exactly, there are simply certain activities that may improve the image and self-confidence of a nation, including Olympic sports etc. In technology, space research is still among them. In experimental science, high-energy colliders are probably still at the top, or one of a few contenders at the top.


China isn't the most original driver of the progress at the frontier - it is mostly a follower of a sort - but it is not particle physics' or colliders' fault! ;-) China is simply choosing what to invest into, when it wants to improve its prestige, by criteria that seem to be sufficiently well-established.


reader Dr Norman Page said...

I think the real question is the one Margaret Thatcher implied. Is it interesting enough to be publically financed ?. What will it cost to build a new collider with energies high enough to have a reasonable chance of producing " interesting" results. "Interesting " in this case needs to be defined not only by specialized particle physicists who would find any tiny advance interesting but by some question like "'would a reasonably intelligent and educated member of the general public find the new information enlightening."
My gut feeling is that we can't at this time build anything big enough to justify the expense. It is up to the particle physicists to convince the politicians and the general public that this is not the case.


reader Swine flu said...

Most comparisons to non-science national budget items are likely to be seen polemical rather than convincing. The relevant comparison would look at the competition for dollars/euros/whatever between different branches of science and perhaps even technology. Anderson was against the SSC, to recall just one example. A collider must be justified as a science project within overall national science and technology budgets - all other comparisons are not going to convince anybody.


reader Tom said...

Very interesting interpolation between 1944 and the present irrationalities directed at Russia. Your point about casualties on the Russian sides illuminates a great weakness of much western historiography on WWII. The fact that 94% of German division months (a division engaged in combat) occurred on the Eastern front clearly demonstrates that it was the Russian Army that destroy the military power of the Third Reich. Many modern military historians take the view that the Western democracies could never have paid the blood price that the Russians did. The world is indebted to the sacrifice of those many millions of Russian men and women.

A nit. Georgy Zhukov was more important to the Red Army than Konev.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Tom, the sacrifices of the Russians were indeed large - partly because they did a really tough job, partly because their efficiency and care for life was never that perfect.


But without the USSR, the defeat of the Third Reich would be rather unlikely - well, at least up to the nuclear bomb. With the bomb, Germany could have been perhaps defeated, anyway. But in that case, some bombs could have destroyed cities such as Prague as well and I am not sure whether I would have been happy about such an end to the war.


I didn't mean that Konev was the most important Soviet general in the whole war ever. I meant he was the key general to organize this operation. Zhukov didn't participate in it at all.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Norman, Margaret Thatcher secured the initial funding for the LHC so the meaning of her question "isn't it interesting" was clearly a rhetorical one - this is how she expressed the view that it's interesting to build a powerful machine that creates and looks at conditions never before created on Earth. I am sure that Thatcher understood the meaning of the LHC enough for that thought to be fully clear to me.


Thatcher paid for it because she was a wise prime minister and because the project was interesting. Her decision had nothing to do with near-average members of the "general public" that you chose to hype in order to make your comment absolutely incomprehensible. A near-average member of the general public may fail to see into these "difficult enough" issues such as the value of the LHC, but that's exactly why Britain and other countries have representative democracy which chooses people like Thatcher who are significantly deeper than near-average members of the general public.


Maybe, if there were referendums about these direct individual funding questions, such as the LHC, the "general public" would veto it. Maybe in Switzerland, they could never build the LHC because they have referendums about everything. Oops :-), I made this joke deliberately, of course: the CERN mostly *is* in Switzerland. ;-)


reader Dr Norman Page said...

If the collider is built with public funds it is obviously the publics business. As a practical matter politicians will not fund a new collider unless they can tell a convincing story to the people who vote for them and to the other competitors for science funding - especially at a time of financial austerity. You may well think that this state of affairs is undesirable - I might possibly agree with you- but that is the way it is and if the physics community ignores this then you wont get your new toy.


reader Gordon said...

Well, to balance Anderson, Steve Weinberg was a booster. After spending around 10 billion (I think) on construction, all the infrastructure was totally abandoned.


reader Gordon said...

Hmmm "wantkng"---a typo?
...Did you hit the "t" by mistake :)


reader Luboš Motl said...

When something is paid with the public money, it doesn't mean that its technical decisions are being decided by the general public.


The healthcare may paid from public funds (in some countries) which doesn't mean that the cancer treatment for a particular patient is being decided by the general public.


The military is being paid by the public money which doesn't mean that the attacks against other countries are being decided by polls.


The examples above are completely obvious - ludicrously obvious - but the case of the LHC is actually much more obvious.


reader Swine flu said...

One can't possibly disagree with this point. I would, however, note that Big Science projects can over time themselves evolve into an entitlement and thus become part of the welfare state. Not all of them do, but polemics isn' the way to justify a Big Science project - one has to do better than that.


reader Dr Norman Page said...

The question of how much money is available for defence or health care is actually a hot topic in elections in most countries. The question which politicians and the public decides is not the specifications of what type of collider is built but whether it is built at all.


reader Swine flu said...

My main point was that even if society could save up some money by doing fewer stupid things, there would still be competition for funds between different science and technology fields, so one can't justify a new collider with polemics alone.


reader Tom said...

Right, if WWII in Europe had stalemated until nukes were available the end result might well have been uglier that what occurred.

My reading on WWII sure impresses upon me just how tough and professional the Germany army was. The Russian disregard for casualties is fairly shocking, but I don’t think there was an alternative given the incredible resistance the Germans put up, even down to the last day of the war. (The battle south of Berlin, after Berlin fell, as German units tried to get to the Elbe makes for amazing reading.) I am struck by the almost universal contempt that captured German officers had for the US army and its tactics. About the only way the US army advanced was after artillery had reduced its front to rubble, with such style going on all the way down to the squad level. Of course, given the nature of democracy and the super abundance provided by US logistics, that was probably the natural tactical response.


reader anna v said...

I believe you are wrong, and this is the attitude that sets the rest of physics against high energy physics, competing for the same money. It is like saying that a municipality which requests funds for a new road of 10 kilometers should compete with the funds for the Euro-tunnel.


It is a basic choice for the world society, whether it wants to push the frontiers of physics or not, and cultivate poetry instead. The frontiers of physics are expensive, as space research, another frontier, is expensive. Should space research compete with solid state experiments for funds? These are meta level political decisions.


reader Luboš Motl said...

No way.


The analogy of "how much money goes to healthcare" or "military" is at most analogous to "how much money goes to all of science".


You and your stupid fellow voters will be nowhere near the ability to decide about the fate of particular collider projects.


reader Swine flu said...

I would really like to know the nature of reality to the deepest layer we can possibly figure it out, so I am easy to convince when it comes to building a new collider.

However, the notion that high energy physics is so special that it shouldn't have to compete for money with other fields of science is an entitlement mindset. One has to try very hard to explain why the reductionist quest is worth the expense.


reader anna v said...

Lubos, of course I agree with your statements. The LHC cost is of the order of magnitude of one Nimitz airplane carrier,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nimitz-class_aircraft_carrier ( which can be sunk by an attack with end of return of investment), and the cost was undertaken by a dozen countries.

What should be done though is more money on research with new technologies ( nanotechnologies) for particle accelerators which in the future may lower the cost of experiments. http://www.nanowerk.com/news2/newsid=32647.php for example example .

As for your comments on the greek debt, I hope, if we avoid getting another leftist government next year, that we will repay at least the capital lent to dig us out of the hole we dug and fell in as a nation, so all may not be lost.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Swine flu, *every* occupation paid by the government may evolve and indeed partly does evolve into entitlement, and it is absolutely unfair to single out science as a villain in some way.

As long as most of the jobs for "similar people" are in the private sector and everyone has the a priori freedom to try jobs in both sectors, it guarantees that the government-funded jobs are adjusted to the market level so they are not "excessively undemanding" or boasting "too much entitlement".


reader Uncle Al said...

It is an abysmal idea to build a bunch of colliders and have each round increment lab-frame collision energy by too little to draw a conclusion. Do it once more.


Hadron ring colliders are astoundingly inefficient. Hadron collisions distribute energy among their partons. A proper international investment


1) is a long swath of politically stable, flat, unusable land (e.g., Southwest Australia);
2) is a dedicated multi-gigawatt reactor complex for energy (sell excess);
3) is a face-to-face linear lepton collider;
4) is 1000 TeV lab frame collision energy;
5) admits 105.6583715 MeV/c^2 muons versus 0.511 Mev/c^2 electrons;
6) requires fast acceleration (short/energy). Unruh effect studies;
7) considers the two-beams' (100 - epsilon)% that does not collide.



Do it, get it over with, and admit theory has flawlessly rung out at least one defective founding postulate.


reader anna v said...

I think the euro-tunnel and the road give the answer. The applications can in no way compete. There would be no euro-tunnel if the municipalities could vote.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Gordon, LOL, your numbers are silly. The project was stopped after $2 billion have been spent.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superconducting_Super_Collider



The original budget proposal for everything was just $4.4 billion which was a big underestimate but the actual cost wouldn't have exceeded the LHC's $10 billion by a huge factor, at most a factor of two.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Agreed, there was no real alternative. The USSR just chose the most plausible strategy for its sacred war. It could afford to sacrifice a higher number of men, after all, and just wasn't able to increase the efficiency. That doesn't mean that a better leader than Stalin couldn't have done things better - but someone else could be much worse a leader, too.


Hmm, but only some of this "organizational edge" of Germany was due to their skills. Much or most of it was due to the discipline that comes with a totalitarian country.


The USSR was also a totalitarian country but much less advanced than the Western powers so the organization was poor. A democratic undeveloped country would display an even worse organization etc.


reader Dr Norman Page said...

I don't think I expressed my views of particle physics anywhere in this exchange so how you can judge them stupid is not very obvious.
I am merely suggesting that physicists will have to convince the politicians and through them in the last analysis the general public that the possible rewards in new knowledge are worth the costs of the project.
Reasonable men will differ on the answer to this question which is not immediately obvious and relates to the question you answered earlier.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Norman, convincing the politicians isn't the same thing as convincing the general public. When Thatcher was the prime minister, it's totally plausible that most of the public was hostile to similar experiments but it didn't make a difference. Thatcher could get a better perspective because 1) she had greater visions and ambitions than an average U.K. citizen, 2) she could spend much more time being shown what the physicists were up to.


Moreover, it's not really true even for politicians that they decide about these things.


reader Michael said...

Hi Lubos,


When you say that the public should not decide about research you are strictly speaking within the constraints of current tax based government systems, right? You would agree that taxation in any form is similar to theft regardless of what it funds and whether some particular project is found valuable by the more intelligent or not does not change its morally challenged grounds, right?


All government meddling in the society are backed by their monopoly to use the threat of violence, which is why - among other things - companies try to influence it to destroy their competition through laws, subsidies and special treatment. It is the reason ideologies always try to grab it and use it in their favor to suppress others. It creates people who feel entitled to get something, as if they have some built in right to it, and therefore it immediately create conflicts between groups. As you often mentions it always introduces distortions, dismantle direct feedback which is necessary for all forms of healthy evolution, transform manipulation, lying and compliance into "virtues" (ie. they give you power), and praises group think and other idiocies, while presenting mutual beneficial trade as a dangerous unstable beast.


Just because the state sometimes fund something you and I find valuable is no justification for its existence, with its distortions of reality and its hero worship of sociopaths, who dream of controlling other people (the mindset of virtually all politicians).


I have been very impressed with your critique of the events in the Ukraine, but somewhat confused that your more US critical view is relatively new. Toppling democracies and installing puppet socialist governments that suppress their population and create lots of red tape for their own population is not something new to their foreign policies. Look at the history of Guatemala for instance.


Also maybe look at Somalia, when it was under anarchy and consider all the parameters on which the country improved under the stateless conditions. Of course the "international community" found the state of anarchy so horrible that it just had to fight and support the most violent fundamentalist groups, as they were the ones willing to suppress the population once again.


Indeed generally agreed upon laws are necessary, (which they also had in Somalia), but I am convinced governments are not, and they are fundamentally an evil construct. Besides I actually do think that physics would be funded better without it. Big science projects can get money from donations, investors and tourism (people visiting and seeing the facilities). We don't need the state.


You are a free market physicist, who teach many people about the advantages of the free market, but I just feel slightly offended or confused by this hard dismissal of the public (its their resources!), although I must admit that I agree that they should not (cannot really) decide about science funding in a tax based society, however, optimally there "should" be no forced funding of anything. That is what we work towards, right?


reader Dr Norman Page said...

Looks like you may think about moving to China or Japan to be close to the action!!

http://www.nature.com/news/china-plans-super-collider-1.15603


reader Luboš Motl said...

Be sure that I am carefully following - and reporting on - all these projects planned in China and Japan

http://motls.blogspot.com/search?q=Japan+collider&m=1&by-date=true

http://motls.blogspot.com/search?q=China+collider&m=1&by-date=true



Not sure why you think that I dream about being physically close to those experiments. I do expect that the results at some level will be equally accessible to people in other countries, too.


reader Michael said...

Hi,
I reread your comment and I don't disagree. The direction of science cannot be decided by people who don't know the science, at least not if we expect it to produce good science. This is really what you were saying, and of course I agree. It was just the "hard" words that prompted me to answer.
I know you are a free market defender and hate socialist systems. It is not the first time your sharp words prompt an almost automatic misunderstanding in me.


reader Dr Norman Page said...

You say

"You may try to promote the legitimacy of the next particle collider to an issue in the elections but you will fail because 1) almost no one will care about these negligible fractions of the budget, 2) almost no one else will want to be openly proud about his stupidity manifested as the hatred against the most prestigious discipline of science, 3) scientists at the right place will ultimately circumvent the parties or countries affected by this idiotic anti-science or anti-particle-physics sentiment."
Where you can distill from this exchange that I have a
" hatred against the most prestigious discipline of science, " I cannot imagine.
That you should dream up such a weird idea suggests to me that deep down you may have some nagging uncertainty and insecurity about that proposition and your own field of research search which you then project onto any convenient target.
Relax - SUSY isn't dead yet.
If someone builds a big enough collider she might appear - or perhaps from the collider after that?


reader Swine flu said...

I don't know how the euro-tunnel was funded, but I have read about the James Webb space telescope. Its costs have ballooned way beyond the original estimate, and it appears that these added costs are putting a squeeze on other space science projects.

So, the notion that Big Science does not impact other types of science cannot always be true - different areas and types of science do compete, at times quite directly. Different Big Science projects certainly have to compete with each other, but small science can also be a loser.


reader Tom said...

I do think there is more than just totalitarian discipline to the German soldier, as both the Franco-Prussian War and WWI produced many testimonies to their overall superiority.

Stalin was clearly inept initially but did recover after the opening weeks, while the massive ineptness of Hitler as strategist was certainly a lucky thing for the Allies.


reader Dilaton said...

Wow, this is really strong toback ...
I did not expect that Sabine Hossenfelder is capable of showing the exactly same trolling anti-(in particular fundamental) physics behavior known from laypeople who have a big mouth but no clue what they are talking about ...

She must really hate particle physics, as she does not want to allow anybody (including China, India, and other upraising nations) to build a new high-enegy collider...
Maybe she is afraid that things she dislikes could be supported by new discoveries?

The new units governemental and global spendings are measured with, should officially be LHC units. This would probably open the eyes of some people such that they realize the current insanities of the US but Europe seems to be already infected too ...


reader Dilaton said...

There is noe polemics in favor of fundamental physics, you have this completely upside down.
But an ever increasing lynch mob, lead by popular campaignists whose names I dont have to write down here, are using anti-science polemics to try hard to extinct experimental and theoretical fundamental physics.Too bad that such mobs are always successful in the real world


reader Mikael said...

I would just say it the opposite way that at least China as a country has still some dreams and thinks that big efforts such as the one building a big collider are worth it. I am speechless about Sabine. Why did she decide to study fundamental physics?


reader Dilaton said...

Dear Lumo, please do not even think a out stopping this site, it is so important !


reader Swine flu said...

Dear Lubos, it is quite clear that some fraction of the overall science research budget should go to experimental particle physics. I am much more comfortable with this statement than with comparisons to aircraft carriers and war costs. Some wars are certainly stupid, but the overall military capabilities of the Western world may actually be smaller than they should be right now, so I am not prepared to join the ranks of leftists who always seek to gut military budgets in order to further bloat their beloved welfare states. (And no, I did not call you a leftist. :))

Once we settle on discussing experimental high energy physics within the context of the overall science research budget, an amount like 10 billion dollars/euros is not an impossible one, but also not a trivial one (for comparison, the total NSF budget is about 7 billion per year). The question is whether the LHC successor will still cost on the order of 10 billion dollars/euros, or whether it will be more like 50 or 100 billion. If the latter, obviously the decision to build one will become quite non-trivial.


reader Swine flu said...

By "polemics" I meant statements that one should save on wars and aircraft carriers in order to build a new collider.

As for how much money fundamental physics deserves, I am fond of fundamental physics, so I think it deserves plenty of funding, but it is also true that while the quantum revolution of 1925 unlocked the secrets at energy scales still very much relevant to technology, the current high energy frontier is not in any obvious way at energy scales that are guaranteed to be relevant to daily life any time soon. It would be way too narrow-minded for the society to close up the fundamental physics shop on that basis, but it does mean that additional efforts at convincing the public and the politicians are required.


reader QsaTheory said...

Science, Scientists, and the Science Budget

http://www.issues.org/19.4/updated/bromley.pdf


reader Gordon said...

Hmm, maybe I was thinking of the LHC...of course 2 billion then may be the equivalent to 10 billion now. As Yogi Berra said, "The future ain't what it used to be." :)


reader Luboš Motl said...

Of course that the reason why I find your comments insulting and distressful at the emotional level is that I am not 100% certain whether the political atmosphere in many countries will continue to respect the basic laws of a civilized society I described, or whether a bunch of weirdos will be selectively killing projects they have no clue about.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Michael, I am a free-market advocate but the free-market vs big-government is about how the money flows are organized, not about *what* people want to pay for.


Of course that the ultimate real material "products" or "constructions" they want to see are the very same in all systems. People obviously want to see big experiments, just like they want to see some ambitious space research. Space research is also being paid for privately but only to some price level simply because people richer than hundreds of billions who could afford to spend these larger Mars-trip-like amounts just don't exist on this planet. People still want bigger projects to exist so they are almost exclusively paid from bigger coffers than the richest people's wallets - from government money.


I could mention tons of other, potentially or really contested big projects. Like star wars. What kind of a big-umbrella defense is being planned by Pentagon isn't really decided by the electorate, either.


The case of particle physics is absolutely isomorphic. Up to some level, experiments are often paid by foundations etc. Like BICEP2 was initiated for the money from the Keck foundation. But above some level, the projects are too ambitious for any particular foundation. But that doesn't mean that people don't want to build it.


People who suggest that to be interested in science means "socialism" are deluded primitives. Science (I mean pure science here) is one of the things that (cultural etc.) people simply want to be done, it's one of the products they are buying. They are buying it in any system, any arrangement of funding. It's never all the people but those who want it, they want the spending to be nontrivial. 1% or 2% of the GDP is the average over the whole society.


People who say that funding of science is socialism are just masking their own low value or price as human beings behind capitalism - they are contaminating the good name of capitalism that has nothing to do with their primitive thinking about the values.


reader Luboš Motl said...

True, there is a lot of competition, detailed question, one can't build everything, and so on.


But this debate isn't about those. It is about the very *existence* of Big Physics that some people wanted to question.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dilaton, she brought us another bad surprise.


The "global" ambitions are particularly ironic. If these "public warriors" against the funding of the next big particle physics experiments fail to realize that such decisions aren't really to the street in the West, they should at least be capable of understanding that they have ZERO to say about decisions in other countries like China.


China isn't really a democracy so it doesn't even pretend that the public should have any say about such things. If it decides the largest collider, the likes of Hossenfelder obviously can't do anything about it. And indeed, it would place China above the Western countries in a rather important respect. Hard to imagine that our egos would suffer that for too long.


In between the lines, I feel that she and other "speakers of the public" would love to control all the big decisions done in China, a country of 1+ billion other people, too. She talks as if she were "the public" and as if this were "democracy" but in reality, such people have Hitlerian sentiments of conquering the whole world and controlling it.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Gordon, you may use other equivalences (like scaling with the total GDP) but by the urban CPI consumer price index (inflation)

http://www.statista.com/graphic/1/190974/unadjusted-consumer-price-index-of-all-urban-consumers-in-the-us-since-1992.jpg



the prices went from 140 to 233 between 1992 and 2013 (and similar ratio for 1993-2014) which is the increase by the factor of 1.66.


So since the cancellation of the SSC, $2 billions became $3.3 billion, not $10 billion. Return to the Earth.


reader Alex said...

Most tactical war games consider that you need a 3 to 1 advantage if you are attacking to stand a reasonable chance of success. Tough time for the soldiers of both sides in this case.


reader Michael said...

Thanks for the reply.


Yeah funding of science isn't socialism, but the funding *can* come from those coffers, and when it does, it does lose its moral legitimacy somewhat in my book. Violence is violence regardless of what is done afterwards. But of course it is the reality we live in.


It has been a hard (and lonely, people think you are crazy) journey to realize how destructive the "welfare" state ultimately is, and it has made me see the university with different eyes too. Of course that does not mean I no longer like physics.


How many women studies, misleading philosophy studies, anthropogenic global warming studies ;-) and tons of other useless things (destructive actually) would vanish without the opportunity to influence this powerful structure with a monopoly on violence that can take resources at will? People will not pay for the same things in a free society, much crap will die out, new crap will emerge but the new crap no longer has a safety net. Real science won't die of course. In fact government schools do an amazing job at killing scientific curiosity. Curiosity, creativity, honesty and even high intelligence I would dare to claim, is the natural state of a human. It is the distortions of society that creates the fact that such people are few and far between. Carefully investigating facts is not rewarded in school, because you are not allowed to be "inconvenient." The state does not help the cause of science because it hurts the curiosity of children. And of course parents enforce it at home too.


I don't know if you read my original comment, but if you didn't, I suggested - among other things - reading about Somalia when it was under anarchy. Its quite interesting from a free market perspective.






Anyway, Thanks for keeping this blog


reader Tom said...

Right, that stat, which I have seen stated as high as 5 to 1, goes to my point about the quality of German soldiers below. In the nearly two years after Kursk, as the Russians pushed the Germans back to Berlin, they routinely needed advantages in men of 6 or 7 to 1 to as high as 10 to 1 before they could overwhelm German positions (the Bagration campaign in ’44 being a very significant exception). I know of no other similar case in military history, and this convinces me that German are (or were) very special warriors.


reader lukelea said...

If Bohr were alive he would certainly be spinning in his grave.


reader thejollygreenman said...

Hi Lubos,


What a lovely post. And thank you for this information.


Something which has brooding in the back of my mind. The initial successes of the Nazis against the Soviets took place in the present day Ukraine. The Soviets were universalists and did not discriminate against the various races and cultures in their regime/domain/empire. Therefore their records will not show how many of the initial casualties were Ukies and how many were true Russians? I detect a hardening of the Soviet resistance when the Nazis met up up with the true Russians? Am i being biased and racist or is there a grain of truth in this mere postulation?


And how do the Americans get to the international space station without Russian help?


reader Luboš Motl said...

Thanks for the compliments!


I do think that most of the Red Army was always made of Russians, even on the territory of Ukraine when Germany invaded. After all, there was lots of opposition to the USSR, the Bandera guys who would openly team up with the Nazi Germany at the beginning of the war, so Stalin couldn't rely on the "average Ukrainian people" to defend his USSR.


America to the ISS without Russia: very difficult, indeed. It may take just 3 more years, optimisticaly, when the U.S. will have its new technology to do such things. We will see. At any rate, the hostilities are bad for the space business in the years to come and maybe more.


reader Tom said...

Most military historians lay the onus for the initial collapse of the USSR’s defenses on Stalin’s insistence on massing his troops directly adjacent to the border. After the first five or six weeks of Barbarossa, the USSR began regaining its defensive footing and its resistance stiffened greatly. But the fact that so many troops were initially overrun in the first weeks, with millions of casualties, is surely Stalin’s most colossal error of generalship. (Unlike Hitler, Stalin did learn he wasn’t a great strategist and progressively loosened the reins on his marshals to great effect.)


reader American said...

I do think that the dead Soviet soldiers were 10,000-20,000 lives that the Soviet Union had sacrificed for the freedom of Czechoslovakia.

Do you really believe the Soviet government had a reverence for human life? Before one can view those dead Soviet's lives as sacrifice, one must attach a great in the value to human life. Their official Soviet religion explicitly made the human into nothing more than a useful beast of burden to work as " it " was directed ( from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. ). After all Stalin, who sent all those men into battle, was perhaps the worst murderer and sadist in history.

And beyond musings on the virtue of men who created a ruthless slave state t home, It is passing strange indeed to view the post war Iron Curtain period as years of Czech freedom. From a humanistic viewpoint, it must viewed as primarily repressive, and an affront o human dignity.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear American, no, I don't think that a human life was worth too much, and I think that even in current Russia it is worth significantly less than in the West.


But I don't think that I need that high value to feel that it was a gift. I may still judge the value of the gift according to *my* idea about the value of the human life, or some compromise value, can't I? ;-)


reader Ivan said...

"This battle may be mentioned as a part of the reason why so many Czechs
and Slovaks, including your humble correspondent, think of the Russians
as their natural allies of a sort."

Why be so shy: 40 years of communist paradise brought about by the Red Army and an opportunity to kill or expel 2.5 million Germans and plunder their property are also important.


reader American said...

Your belief that the individual Soviet soldier sacrificed himself for Czech freedom is based on what? Conjecture? A more plausible explanation for the efforts of the soldiers was that offered by Solzhenitsyn, who fought in the Red Army; political officers at the rear of the advance dealt instance death to any they deemed unenthusiastic. Certain death behind, possible death ahead meant the troops advanced out of self-interest, not necessarily a thirst for Czech freedom.

With respect to your claims re Czechoslovakia pst 1948, I have heard/read testimony from other Czechs about life in your country who - unlike you, born in 1973 - actually lived there in the time
interval you describe, and they described it as repressive and inhumane. I can not completely discount their, or your view, not bing an expert, but you can't argue there was not a huge flow of people wishing to leave the Warsaw Pact, rather an vice versa.
You are very quick o hurl accusations at me. If Czechoslovakia, in true independence, were willing partners of the Soviets, for instance as military allies with the Sovits in a state of permanent war with the US, I must say that the US never had such designs on Czechs, s we viewed them as unwilling vassals and to a great degree captive states with no real independence of action.

Btw, I use Iron Curtain in the sense Churchill did, dating from 1946


reader Luboš Motl said...

I have never claimed that the individual Soviet soldiers sacrificed for USSR. I said I was grateful to the Soviet Union as a country for having invested these efforts and lives for the freedom of my country.


I haven't discussed Czechoslovakia past 1948 at all. I discussed Czechoslovakia in the post-war democratic episode from 1945 to 1948.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Ivan, everyone who has at least some basic education knows that I have opposed communism throughout my life.


On the other hand, yes, the expulsion of the Germans was a very good thing that helped to solve the co-existence problem that simply became unbearable in the 1930s, and yes, among all positives and negatives, this is another positive for which I am grateful to the Red Army and others, too.


This has been our land for 1,000 years, the German settlers were invited some 800 years ago and it has worked OK for centuries, they did lots of good things for the place and their fellow citizens. But multi-culti societies are always a time bomb and the nationalism escalating in the 1930s simply meant that the bomb exploded and damaged the co-existence meme probably irreversibly, so it had to be solved. So thank God, the Germans lost the war - well, they were defeated - and a clear solution could have been achieved, reverting the invitations 800 years ago.


reader TomVonk said...

Dear Lubos
.
I know that some people don't want to hear any good words about the Russians etc. But I can't help myself. I do think that the dead Soviet soldiers were 10,000-20,000 lives that the Soviet Union had sacrificed for the freedom of Czechoslovakia.
Indeed my family, my friends and I belong to these people too. More generally I would say that the generations prior to 1960 or so contain many such people and the generations born between mid 40ies and 1960 contain a crushing majority of such people.
I wouldn't need to make a poll in my class let's say in 1964 to realize that many hated the Russians. After 1968 it became virtually everybody.
.
You know, even a 10 year old would consider at that time that Soviet Union and communism were perfectly isomorphic.
I have still a photograph of myself in white shirt with the red rag around my neck giving flowers to a smiling Ludvik Svoboda who was visiting our town for an anniversary of Dukla (1964) and I was selected to greet him. I became the most famous child of the town hehe :)
.
However I didn't believe one second that he was a "good guy" neither that the Russians were and I shared this opinion not only with my parents but with most of the children in the school. You can imagine how confirmed in our opinion we became only 4 years later !
Clearly the Soviets didn't die at Dukla (and elsewhere) to "liberate" anybody. They died because they were ordered so and those who were giving the orders (Stalin and the Politbureau) hadn't any "liberations" in mind - they just wanted to win the war and install their domination on places which were given to them at Yalta like they installed their domination in places which were given to them by their pact with Hitler 5 years before (Baltic states, Poland and a failed attempt on Finland). Same political objectives, different partners and different ennemies.
.
Living in Pilsen you cannot ignore that the US 3rd army liberated Pilsen when the Soviets were still fighting around Berlin, e.g 200 km far from Prague. The US army could have liberated Czechia faster and easier than the Soviets (they stood only 90 km from Prague and the southern attack is much easier than the north western one !) but .... was stopped in its tracks because the Soviets imposed that Prague had to be "liberated" by the Red Army and not by some capitalist Yankees. Obviously this made no military sense but was just politics pure.
.
Last to Gottwald and 1945-1948. It was no secret for anybody and certainly not for those who lived the "vítězný říjen" like my parents and grand parents generations that this 1948 putsch was only possible because the Soviets ordered it and supported it.
Gottwald himself didn't hide it in his famous speech in the Parliament (he was surely drunk as usual) where he said "Yes it is true, we travel to Moscow often. And do you know why ? To learn how to cut your throats. And you know what ? Our bolshevik comrades are experts at cutting throats."
Gottwald and his clique were about as independent from their Soviet masters as Heinlein was independent from his German masters.
.
I know that this hate of Russia is deeply entangled with the hate of Soviets and of the communism but whether one likes it or not, this entanglement was real and destroyed physically or spiritually too many people in our lands.
So frankly it's sad that soldiers had to die at Dukla but that's what happens during a war and there were no sacrifices or liberations involved on either side.
I wouldn't like to have German masters if I lived 1939-1945 and I didn't like to have Soviet masters after 1945 either.
Same totalitarism, different color.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Tom, congratulations to having been the top kid to meet the leader. ;-)

What you write doesn't agree with my experience. My dad is as anti-Russian as you put it. But I know lots of people of his age - approximately - who support Russia in various conflicts today, and so on. I could go into quite some detail.

Equally importantly, my generation of Husák's children is really different. We have none of these instinctive reflexes about Russia=communism, and so on, and I think it makes us wiser while approaching all these questions. Can you try to imagine how a well-informed person born after 1968 feels about these matters? 1968 is some pre-life history just like 1945 for me, and most of us. It just looks utterly stupid to cherry-pick the later events only, and I think that the 1945 actions by the Russians were more important for existential interests of my nation than the 1968 invasion.

My first memories about political issues are from late kindergarten when I was almost 6 and Ludvik Svoboda had died some months earlier, and I saw the first posters. I've never experienced him (consciously enough). The teaching about him at school was very limited - we learned much more about his being a general. Even after those decades, I can't imagine what a terribly damning thing you could find against Svoboda. He was picked as a president because he really stabilized the situation, having natural and harmless ties to USSR and respect on both sides. As far as I can say, he was a war hero with no significant personal role in enforcing totalitarianism or anything of the sort.

Stalin just wanted to win the war and influence those countries. I agree. But it was really equivalent to liberation. Every liberation has a similar extra motivation in the background.

I have never neglected the U.S. liberation of my city. If you search this blog for these issues,

http://motls.blogspot.com/search?q=Pilsen+1945&m=1&by-date=true



you will actually see that most of the texts about the liberation are primarily about the U.S. army even though the Red Army really liberated 90% of Czechoslovakia or so.


I agree that Gottwald was about as independent from Soviet commies as Henlein from Hitler. Both of those pacts had some international flavor - the German example mostly because of racial reasons, the communist pact was united more "race-free" ideologically. But I haven't ever claimed otherwise. You can't declare Gottwald and his voters not to be *Czechs*, can you? They were parts of an international political grouping with headquarters in Moscow, just like Henlein's party was a part of... with HQ in Berlin.


The individual members of Henlein's or Gottwald's parties still had duties and rights as Czechoslovak citizens. They harmed the country in comparable ways but its legal status was still different.


Most of the Sudeten Germans really did something that could be counted as treason. On the other hand, the communists did "just" some clever trick while gradually converting the system of the country to their Marxist template.


But your analogy between the Henlein-Hitler and Gottwald-Stalin relationship only *strengthens* my actual point which was that the domestic forces could have been blamed for much of this chaos in *both* cases. It looks different today but the Sudetengerman Nazi fans *were* a domestic political forces in Czechoslovakia, and so were the commies around 1948.


This is the actual reason why it's wrong to claim that the Sudetengermans were innocent after the war because all the bad things were done by Hitler, and why it's wrong to blame Moscow - or ordinary Russians, often victims of Stalin himself, or anti-communists, or whatever - for the sins of Gottwald. Do you really fail to get my point? Those things were primarily domestic political tensions and events although all players in domestic politics obviously have *some* ties to someone abroad. So do "our" political forces etc.