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Anton Kapustin: Quantum geometry, a reunion of math and physics

I think that this 79-page presentation by Caltech's Anton Kapustin is both insightful and entertaining.

If you are looking for the "previous slide" button, you may achieve this action simply by clicking 78 times. Click once for the "next slide".

If you have any problems with the embedded Flash version of the talk [click for full screen] above, download Anton's PowerPoint file which you may display using a Microsoft Office viewer or an OpenOffice or a LibreOffice or a Chrome extension or Google Docs or in many other ways.

Spoilers are below.

Anton describes the relationship between mathematics and physics, mathematicians and physicists, and so on. He focuses on the noncommutative character of algebras of observables in quantum mechanics. No mathematician really believed the Feynman's path integral and no physicist was interested in the mathematics by people like Grothendieck.

However, some smart opportunists in the middle – for example, Maxim Kontsevich – were able to derive interesting results (from mathematicians' viewpoint) using the path integral methods applied to the Poisson manifolds. And it wasn't just some lame undergraduate Feynman path integral that was needed. It was the stringy path integral that may be formulated using an associative product.

Hat tip: John Preskill, Twitter

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snail feedback (92) :

reader Swine flu said...

"But the "abstain" vote that was imposed on all EU member states is actually enough to take my breath away, too."

Imposed? Any chance there was some other reason they all abstained? I just don't remember France, to pick one example, being all that shy about criticizing the US in the past. Why the sudden silence from them?

In any, case, I always found it interesting that the US approach to freedom of speech differs from the European one in that all sorts of disgusting people cannot be criminally prosecuted for saying disgusting things. The belief is that by trying to shut down any mention of ugly ideas, only leads to ugly things gaining strength. The European approach is to criminalize offensive speech. The problem is that this leads to criminalizing offensive speech of all sorts, not just one that glorifies nazism. Didn't Belgium pass a law criminalizing speech that is offensive to women? And Muslim states have tried to push for a UN resolution criminalizing speech offensive to religion. Do we want to go there. Where does one draw the line between banning the glorification of nazism and banning all politically incorrect speech, as defined by the ruling elites?

reader Shannon said...

No I don't. Why doesn't YouTube remove it then?

reader Werdna said...

Lubos, demonstrations are covered under our First Amendment in the US as well, under Freedom of Assembly. The only requirement is that demonstrations be peaceful.

reader Werdna said...

I share wfoster's concern over the sponsors of this resolution. That raises suspicion. However, if I were in charge of the US, I would have accompanied any no vote with some form of clarification that on principle, I would not vote with North Korea, regardless of what the vote was on.

reader cynholt said...

It is tragically beyond question that the movement to equate political Zionism with the religion of Judaism is a pernicious and dangerous attempt to brainwash gullible Jews in diaspora communities around the world, but particularly so in the US.

The reality of the US Congress being manipulated by the Zionist lobby is an attack on democracy that is certainly not endorsed by world Jewry, many of whom are angry that a political lobby can falsely claim to act in their name.
Political Zionism, which the Likud party espouses, should be banned and its lobby in America should be declared a de facto foreign agent. Mr Netanyahu does not and never has represented world Jewry. He represents less than 50% of the Israeli electorate, which itself is a minority of world Jewry. His claims are not only absurd but dangerous.

reader QsaTheory said...

I was trying to explain to you that your statement is as political as Shannon's and others. Their context was that All countries act in self interest Regardless of moral issues.

And your statement was just as much political, since it is from point of view. For if I bring a Cuban or N.Korean he will say things about the US, like it has no right to talk about human rights since its inception was based on trampling on others rights, that's for a start and I don't need to go on, till the present day wars(continuous).

So all of these are political statements and this is a political discussion.

And please spare us the "HATE" the Jew. it is getting tiring, old and useless argument. The Jews are tiny minority that lived in the west and the east for 2000 years and even if a minority would have hated them so much they would have not existed.

reader Shannon said...

Wfoster, You don't represent the worldwide jewish community. Real jews are good, you are bad.

reader Tony said...

Great! I always hoped for mathematicians to take path integrals seriously and help physicists. Path integral formulation was a stroke of a genius and, even if it appears impossible to define a path integral measure in many cases, they almost certainly represent something in Nature that is real.

reader Shannon said...

Picture: Einstein was a real fashion icône, wasn't he Luboš :-D

reader Dilaton said...

Ha, this talk is very nice fun indeed, thanks for posting :-)

reader Shannon said...

In Wfoster's little brain there are two types of people on the planet: the jews and the antisemits.

reader RAF III said...

wfoster - If I take you fishing will you tell me how to get three on the line with no bait?
And don't worry, it's only when the crazy drums stop beating that one should be concerned.

reader Tony said...

Kerry and Obama toning down destructive propaganda war? Hello! They started it in the first place.

reader Shannon said...

And you are putting Israel in the same yes-voting as your list of "who's who of repressive states, anti free market and most corrupt regimes"? :-)

reader Shannon said...

You were the first one to do it in your first post, section 1)... Without realising it.

reader kashyap vasavada said...

Interesting article. I wonder if there is a branch of Math where even the associativity is broken. I suppose for physics associativity is absolutely necessary. Is that so?

reader wfoster said...

Did the Israeli government sponsor this resolution? The answer is, no. There was no reason to mention Israel, just as there was no reason to mention by name the other states voting in the affirmative. I am not the one here who is obsessed with Israel as some magical, evil power.

reader RAF III said...

What a fish finds appetizing will probably not appeal to the (accidental) fisherman. He would probably not consider it edible even if he thought of it as food.

reader wfoster said...

Notwithstanding all this nonsense, the fact is that Mr. Motl posted commentary about his disappointment with the USA, Canada and the EU for not voting for a UN 3rd Committee resolution. Before I even commented, the anti-Israel obsessive club takes the opportunity to turn the discussion to anti-Israel non sequiturs. Those are the plain facts. One should not waste any time on this idiocy.

reader John Archer said...

The ordinary triple vector product is non-associative. Will that do until the philosophers get here? :)

reader Tony said...

Cross product of three vectors is not associative. But that's about it in standard math that I know.

reader NikFromNYC said...

Very useful in helping define the claim that the uncertainty principle is fundamental reality rather than merely just the limits of measurement.

reader John Archer said...

Ah! Nice to see you again, Gottfried!

Best wishes,


reader RAF III said...

Octonions,for one.

reader Sage Basil said...

interesting Lie algebras are nonassociative. These include the algebra of the rotation group of 3-space, a.k.a. the cross product algebra, and go up from there.

reader Joseph said...

As the one you consider being a day, week, month or even a year behind I found it very interesting ;)) thanks Lubos

reader kashyap vasavada said...

@John Archer, Tony, RAF III and Sage Basil:
Thanks for your comments. It was dumb of me to forget vector triple product from high school physics and math. But now I am even more intrigued why people insist on associativity (may be they shouldn't!!). Now it is coming back to me what I had heard from one of my colleagues that non associativity is a problem for Octonians in physics. Sage Basil: Apparently Lee groups do not have problem!

reader Tony said...

Well, let me try, I may say samething dumb through. We can't add three numbers in one operation. We add two, then add another couple and so on. Thus, without associativity, we would have to agree on the order of operations, otherwise we wouldn't be able to compare the results. And then, we also have to interpret the meaning of different results, that we arrive at, depending on the order of operations. So associativity is a good thing. We should lose it only when there is a good reason to get different results.

reader John Archer said...

Dear Luboš,

In my view the resolution itself is an incitement to racial hatred: I really really really do fcuking hate the UN now.

I recognise no law in Britain other than that sanctioned by the British People*. So the UN—and the EU for that matter—can all burn in hell. If I could assist in sending them there I would.

While I very much agree with the thrust of your take on the conflict in the Ukraine and its causes (as far as I understand them), whatever happens in that country I regard as none of my business and none of my country's business. (The EU has no business there either. It has no business anywhere.)

Likewise no alien, or alien organisation, has any business interfering, or attempting to interfere, in our domestic law or any other aspect of our polity. This is non-negotiable. My concern over these issues trumps anything happening anywhere else in the world. I wish all the people in Ukraine well, and I hope they can sort their problems out, but whatever happens I will not countenance their problems impinging on us in this way.

Actually, it was real strain reading that document, so angry did it make me. Others here have outlined some of the reasons and I could add quite a few more but I'll pass on them and forego the inevitable rant.

We have never lived under Naziism or full-blown communism here in Britain, unlike much of continental Europe, and although one can use one's imagination as to what it was like, experience of the actual thing will be profoundly different. I can only assume this accounts for my surprise at your support for this resolution as it struck my as wholly out of character. That's no criticism by the way, but an just observation which I think tells me better about the strength of your feeling on this issue. And that's fair enough. If I stood in your shoes I could well feel the same.

Luboš, I just hope we can agree to differ on this one and leave it at that. I'm certainly happy to.

I didn't want to write this but I felt my silence would be a lie.

* For the avoidance of doubt, this does NOT include unwanted (unmandated) immigrants and their progeny resident here, but it especially does not include those post-1948 waves of mass immigration emanating from the third world, the subcontinent in particular. The British People have never had deal with them to let them in, and those who did do so are guilty of high treason. Full-scale repatriation is needed to right this wrong. It's the civilised way to do it — it's how the British presence in india was handled following its independence in 1947. That UN resolution ... [expletives deleted]

reader Tony said...

Never thought about this last point

reader John Archer said...

I have a theory about that: on the contrary, Einstein was the epitome of sartorial elegance.

However, in general all his photographs were taken on dress-down Fridays. For the rest of the week he wore a pinstripe suit, a bowler hat, highly polished brogues and a silk cravat. With scented silk underwear and gents' Threadgold's Thoroughgrip Garterettes to match (to impress his many lunchbreak shagettesses).

He also kept a light, crumpled, ill-fitting suit in his brief case for the unexpected or emergency photo op.

Now falsify that! :)

reader Tony said...

I am also bothered to no end upon remembering that subtraction is not associative. Duh.

reader John Archer said...

I would have given you an uptick for the joke but it's no laughing matter.

Have this instead: ✓

reader John Archer said...

You can make it associative though, said Humpty Dumpty. Just rewrite the subtraction operator as the addition of the additive inverse. E.g. A-д = A + (-д)


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Werdna, if you start to vote in this opposite way and become "anti-ONE", then it's rather likely for you to quickly become worse than him (than "ONE"). It's really dumb to vote in this way - almost universally. One ceases to think independently.

reader Shannon said...

"115 countries including BRIC, Israel, Argentina voted Yes." Read again.

reader Shannon said...

"Un rien l'habille, la classe quoi !" ;-)

reader Luboš Motl said...

OK, Shannon, but a country's being among 115 other countries (and listed as the 5th, after 4 more important countries, in a blog post that explicitly mentions dozens of countries) doesn't single it out as a preferred topic for discussions, does it?

reader Shannon said...

All is relative, I suppose.

reader RAF III said...

I chose to joke rather than to deal fruitlessly with crackpots. Such people, who cannot be reasoned with, deserve all the ridicule we can muster.
Most of my jokes are made for my own amusement and I'm pleased that you appreciated that one.

reader br said...

" And then, we also have to interpret the meaning of different results, that we arrive at, depending on the order of operations."
so maybe that's what time is - nature using associative maths.

reader Shannon said...

Your silence is *always* despicable, rude and mean in here John. ;-)

reader Werdna said...

Lubos, you misunderstand my intent. It is not that I believe not(opinionofPDRK)==True, always in all cases. If that was the case I would not feel the need to append any clarification to the vote that would therefore express my opinion well enough. The point of this voting pattern is symbolic. It's to give a middle finger to North Korea.

These votes are always symbolic on the part of the US, anyway, as no agreement with any parties in the UN can bind the US in policy outside of a treaty explicitly ratified by the US Senate.

reader Dream Chaser said...

Lubos, I find it highly hypocritical that you often speak of freedom and against the authoritarian left in your blogs, but then support their totalitarian initiatives to restrict freedom of expression and outlaw "hate speech". At least be consistent.

I dont like nazis, stalinists, islamists or SJWs... but I support their right to free expression 100%. If USA got one thing right, its their free speech legislation. UN should keep hands off our freedom!

reader Leo Vuyk said...

Perhaps it is even interesting to consider real 3D string designs for Quantum knots, representing the Quark and Lepton families.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Dream Chaser, there's no discussion of any "speech" in the resolution. It's a resolution against the growth of hateful *acts*.

reader Leo Vuyk said...

for more see: 3D string based alternative particle model.

reader RAF III said...

Lubos - Sorry, but 'hate speech' is specifically mentioned in points 11) and 21) and strong prohibitions against it are strongly implied in points 10), 29a) and 32). Similar things can be found in the various declarations, covenants, conventions, and reports referenced by the resolution.
In the U.S. freedom of speech means freedom from government intervention, not from private institutions. The two should not be conflated.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear RAF, both points 11) and 21) talk about hate speech only in the context of the racially motivated violence.

Whenever these two things - speech and violence - are connected, they must be treated as connected which means that the hate speech is a contribution to the violence. Similarly with the other points.

At any rate, the idea that there is a freedom of speech in the U.S. to talk about the racially sensitive things is a ludicrous lie. Go to any private or state university or to the IRS and try to scream something against the negroes or something - you will be taught whether there is any difference between private or government institutions.

reader Dream Chaser said...

>But even if there weren't the case, I don't need to be "consistent" in
the sense you suggest. Tolerance about promoting Nazism is *something
else* than tolerance about promoting the fact that women are worse in
mathematics in average, for example - because the two claims are
different, too.

I what way are they fundamentally different? And are you sure that those in power agree with you there and would respect the difference when enforcing the legislation? Dont forget that the aim of these efforts to restrict free speech is not just to combat literal nazis - its to combat "hate speech" as defined by the leftists and SJWs.

>You don't really have any greater freedom of speech in the U.S. than in most other countries - including Russia.

FYI, I am not American, but central European like you (Slovakia) ;)

Whether the US is less free is certainly debatable, I would say that overall the US is still better when it comes to freedom of speech. But the relevant thing is that whatever the state is now, it would certainly be far worse off it it adopted European restrictive free speech legislation - the ONE thing keeping various authoritatian leftist groups in the US at bay is the fact that speech they disagree with is Constitutionally protected. It is a very important safeguard, and you are advocating to dismantle it.

I know your motivations, but you must realize that "hate speech" legislation that you support wont be used to fight against the nazi supporters of the Kiev Junta - simply because those in power dont think they are nazis and support Kiev! However it will be used to silence opposition to Islamization, mass immigration, moderate nationalists etc... as is already the case in western Europe.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Dream Chaser, a way in which the two things fundamentally differ is that one of them is true and the other is not. ;-)

Another difference is that one of them encourages people to organize resources efficiently and think rationally and harm no one,while the other one is used as a path to indefensibly murder 6 million people from an ethnic group.

You may say that such verdicts depend on some people's opinions, in this case mine. But legislation *always* depends on the people's opinions. For example, there are laws that it's not kosher to have sex with girls younger than X years, and X is determined from people's opinions of what's the right value of X. There is nothing objective about it and the numbers may differ and do differ in different cultures. But because of some evaluation of the people's opinions, the freedom to have consensual sex is liquidated - in almost every country - if one of the partners is below X.

I have found our anti-Nazi laws to be the right thing for decades. You know, we have quite some experience with ignoring this dynamics. Most of the 20th century was spent in totalitarian regimes. For example, around 2000, I was rather intensely fighting against a guy who earned tons of money by publishing Mein Kampf in Czech - which was banned. It was illegal and it's always bad if someone earns money by something that's illegal - and if something is made attractive mainly because it's banned. And I just hated the general direction where the defenders of this freedom wanted to direct the society. They would be saying it's important for everyone to read Hitler's texts etc. Sorry, I totally disagree with that. I think that people who read similar stuff are morally and intellectually limited idiots and assholes - just like the generic people in Germany who loved it - and cultivated enough people simply get their wisdom and important lessons from other authors.

America has avoided the aforementioned "mostly totalitarian" fate but I am pretty sure that the reasons behind that are completely different than you think.

reader RAF III said...

Lubos - You are mistaken. Point 11) reads 'Calls upon states to improve national legislation aimed at the prevention of hate speech and incitement to violence against vulnerable groups'; point 21) reads 'Encourages States to adopt and strengthen measures to improve diversity within law enforcement agencies and impose sanctions against those within the public service found guilty of racially motivated violence or of using hate speech'.
Point 11) refers only to speech. No violence need occur. Who decides,and how, what is or was incitement?
Point 21) also requires no connection of speech to violence. The 'or' is crucial.

Finally, Harvard is not the U.S.! Your diatribe is simply false with respect to the country as a whole. The bills you cite are largely irrelevant to freedom of speech, though there are some which might not withstand judicial scrutiny.

What you object to is custom, or culture - not law, though I would agree that there are far too many useless and counterproductive laws on the books. I consider the distinction between government and private institutions to be extremely important - it should be maintained and strengthened.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear RAF, again, if the atmosphere in a nation is that something is ultimately banned everywhere in practice, e.g. in all conceivable occupations with above-the-average salary, then it is an important limitation in the nation and whether the government formally allows the freedom - that can't be realized in practice - seems unimportant to me.

If you are strengthening this distinction - which has no consequences for the freedom in the real world - you are only strengthening your hypocrisy. It would be easy for the Nazi government to say that it's 100% tolerating the Jews and their rights - after some organizations would exterminate them. A freedom only makes sense if it has a credible chance to be used in practice. If someone else prevents the freedom from materializing, boasting that the freedom exists de iure is pure propaganda.

To be specific about the obvious example: if the political balance in a country is such that it is enough for 10% of the employees to be combative feminists who will seriously threaten the very job of everyone who dares to point out that their ideology is a pile of crap, and if the percentage of the combative feminists in the nation is 20%, and if there are even laws that don't allow me to hire men or non-feminists only, then it is statistically guaranteed that the feminists will destroy the freedom of speech in pretty much every company or school etc. above Y employees where Y is rather small.

The only way to fight this nationwide mess is to actually adopt laws that fight against these feminists - as people who are suppressing human rights. There exists no passive way to cure a nation from the mess.

The very same thing I mentioned for feminists applies to anti-Semites and others, too. If there is a certain percentage of a nation that threatens the basic rights of the Jews by creating certain campaigns and atmosphere, the only way to protect the Jews is to protect them explicitly. Of course that it always has to employ some restriction of the rights of the anti-Semites, too. All the laws are about balancing the freedoms of one side against the freedom of the other side. The freedom of the Jews to live even next year is more important than the freedom of a self-confident anti-Semite to scream that Jews belong somewhere or that Israel has no right to exist, or all this anti-Semitic crap, which is a reason why one may need to restrict the freedom to scream anti-Semitic slogans if he wants to defend the freedom of the Jews to live.

reader Dream Chaser said...

>One could distinguish the freedoms in the two contexts but what's
important is that the freedom to say such things in the U.S. doesn't
exist in either.

This is simply false. There is a reason why most racist or ultra-libertarian "anything goes" websites (stormfront, reddit, 4chan, 8 chan..) are legally based in the US and not in Czech Republic or Russia or western Europe. Its precisely because US lacks hate speech laws which would get these websites shut down in other countries.

The same with Westboro Baptist Church.

reader Dream Chaser said...

>You may say that such verdicts depend on some people's opinions, in this
case mine. But legislation *always* depends on the people's opinions.

This is not an argument for your view, but against it. Its why I am libertarian leaning. Generally, the less restrictive laws, the better. I think that benefits of any law must GREATLY outweight its downsides (actual or future potential) for it to be a justified law. And I simply dont see how restricting speech falls into this category, its questionable benefits are far outweighted by the potential for abuse - the descent into nazism or islamism will hardly be prevented by restricting speech. There are much more effective solution (education in the first case + restricting immigration in the second).

reader Luboš Motl said...

Why should ultra-libertarian people have any problems?

Concerning the racist websites, do you really think that having few nutcases who live somewhere in secret corners of the U.S. and post extreme racist rants on their servers is the ultimate pride and goal of the freedom of speech?

The reason why freedom of speech is a good thing - when it is a good thing - is that it should allow ideas, ideally creative, wise, and constructive ideas of intelligent and ethical enough people, to compete for the description of the truth and plans of the society and its important enough branches.

Webmasters of the racist websites are irrelevant fringe nutcases who don't matter, so whether they have the freedom to run their server from a U.S. ranch or a Tunisian beach is an irrelevant technicality and the answer isn't important for the key question which nation actually enjoys the freedom of speech.

What is the truly relevant sign of the lacking freedom of speech is that the university presidents etc. are not allowed to voiced rather ordinary things that dozens of percent - if not a majority - of the Americans agree with. *This* is the problem, and what's the exact location of the laws that de facto prevent them from having an opinion is a technicality.

Irrelevant extreme nutcases who are hiding behind a server don't matter which is why it is not a big deal whether they may be doing their irrelevant things. You have all these things upside down.

reader RAF III said...

I'm sure this was meant for Lubos.

reader OneStringToRuleThemAll said...

Thank you Lubos for this article, it again shows the double standards and hypocrisy of the USA.

reader RAF III said...

Lubos - I can only ask you to take it on trust (my experience of the U.S. is far greater than yours), but I can assure you that your characterization of the country as a whole is simply false.
I find your argument somewhat incoherent and even reminiscent of the policies you despise. If I were to rewrite - "If there is a certain percentage of a nation that threatens the basic rights of the Jews by creating certain campaigns and atmosphere, the only way to protect the Jews is to protect them explicitly." as "If there is a certain percentage of a campus that threatens the basic rights of women by creating certain campaigns and atmosphere, the only way to protect women is to protect them explicitly." the words could have come from the mouth of a rabid academic feminist (male or female). Are you calling for 'masculinist' laws so that you can hire men and non-feminists only? Will they ban feminists from the workplace? What makes you think that such laws won't be abused as well? Passing laws usually creates more problems than it solves. Even if such laws are passed, should public and government sentiment remain the same the freedom you seek will remain elusive. Your own example of a hypothetical nazi law would support this.
There is no need to restrict rights or balance freedoms. Such rhetoric usually precedes a violation of rights (Someone has said - if it involves anyone doing anything but leaving you alone it's not a right) The best way to defend Jews, or anyone else, is with a real, convincing threat of violence.
I wrote earlier that this is a matter of custom, or culture, and I think that this is the proper choice of battlefield. The distinction betwen government and culture does have important consequences in the real world. Losing that distinction will only result in the government taking sides on questions of temporarily important issues which have no basis in any legal principle (at least in the U.S.), and establishing precedents with many unwanted consequences.
I am not advocating passivity of any kind in these matters. I would encourage lawsuits across the board against the pernicious effects of this p.c. nonsense (this is already happening) along with vocal public opposition and ridicule (which is also beginning).
In short - changing the culture will work, changing the law will not.

reader Phelps said...

The US vote had nothing to do with Ukraine, and everything to do with the right to free speech and free assembly. We're not going to criminalize Thoughtcrime, no matter how Orwellian you might decide you want to be.

If this was about Ukraine, why did the US vote against the first resolution on 18 Dec 2013 on Nazi Thoughtcrime, barely a month after the Euromaiden protests even began, long before the US supported anything?

reader Phelps said...

Paragraph 29 should strike fear in the hearts of all free men:

"Shall declare an offence punishable by law all dissemination of ideas".

That's the operative part. The "based on" is just window dressing, because once the state has that door opened, anything is "based on" whatever the current regime wants it to be based on.

reader biff33 said...


Freedom of speech means the government, even a democratic majority, may not attempt to control anyone's mind; it may never use its power of coercion for the purpose of influencing what people think. Freedom of speech means ideas -- right ones or wrong ones, good ones or evil ones -- are legally protected from government control. American hate crimes laws violate freedom of speech and are unconstitutional. (The U. S. Supreme Court is wrong, not for the first time.)

Private retaliation against speech is an entirely different matter, unrelated to the principle of freedom of speech. Private parties can withhold values from you, like a job, or a place at a university, but they cannot put you in prison -- a crucial distinction.

If you don't support freedom of speech for racists, you don't believe in freedom of speech at all. Freedom of speech does not mean we vote on which ideas may be expressed. It means all ideas may be expressed. Your view is that people need the permission of the majority to express their ideas -- any ideas. That is not freedom of speech, it is the total rejection of freedom of speech. In logic, no middle ground is possible on this issue.

If you want speech to be subject to majority control, you are hoping the majority will always agree with your choice of what ideas to ban. What makes you expect that? And if certain ideas are banned, they cannot be discussed, so the decision to ban them cannot be reëvaluated and, if necessary, reversed.

You argue that ideas cause actions, and if those actions should be banned, the ideas causing them should be banned, also. No. People have free will; nothing compels them to break the law; it's their choice. If they know the consequences of their action, such as a prison sentence, nothing compels them to ignore those consequences. Freedom of speech depends crucially on drawing a very bright line between thoughts and actions. Controlling people's actions by controlling their ideas means the end of all freedom. You cannot claim to be a supporter of freedom if you claim the right to control people's ideas.

reader Rehbock said...

The US vote is on the pretext of free speech probably. U.S. doesn't always abide it's laws and so free speech is here sometimes stepped upon unconstitutionally. But. really books and speech should not be banned based on content by any government, ever. Mein Kampf is offensive but making it illegal is more so. Speech is an act but a protected one. We are free to speak or not. Speech can be silence and it can be non verbal. Our freedom doesn't mean we are not responsible for that speech and just because we are using words doesn't mean we cannot violate laws in using them . So I cannot shout fire in a crowded theatre without consequences but no one can prevent me from advocating that society should allow shouting fire in crowded theaters .
Many do not feel free to speak in many circumstances as a consequence of the effect on
friends, family, peers, employment, community, Chuch and cultural restraints.
That however does not involve banning books or government coercion respecting speech.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Biff, you may build your understanding of the law on the assumption that "the Supreme Court is wrong on what is legal" but that only highlights your detachment from reality.

You may be "more right" in some sense but what's important is that the Supreme Court has a bigger power so its opinion on what is legal is more important than yours. Even more importantly, the system of the "absolute" freedom of expression that you envision is incompatible with the laws of physics, too. Such freedoms inevitably conflict with each other on a daily basis and it must be decided whose freedom is more important.

Prison is something else than a punishment by a private subject but it may be the more pleasant and less severe, too. Different subjects, private or public, may have different tools to punish an individual and all these things matter and the law must have an opinion which of these acts are legal and which of them are not.

I have never said that I wanted to outlaw the free speech because a majority doesn't like free speech. Whether it is a majority is debatable and it was a tiny minority in Germany 75 years ago. The reason why I want certain hate speech to be banned is that it is not separable from a broader activity - violent one etc. - that is indisputably criminal. I want this to be outlawed whatever the fucking majority thinks. Please don't misrepresent my views.

reader Dream Chaser said...

>The reason why I want certain hate speech to be banned is that it is not
separable from a broader activity - violent one etc. - that is
indisputably criminal.

Of course it is easily separable. There is a big difference between words and violent actions.

reader Luboš Motl said...

There is a difference but in way too many relevant cases, there is a very important causal relationship between them, too! That's how they are connected.

I am not saying that there is no way to "disentangle" them. I am saying that it is unethical and unfair to disentangle them. If X tells someone else, Y, to murder Z, so that X will pay W dollars to Y afterwards, X has in some sense committed "speech", while Y did the acts. Still, X really organized the murder and he is not innocent.

In the same way,people who would spread the Nazi propaganda and anti-Semitic plans in Germany are undoubtedly co-responsible for the Holocaust and other things, aren't they?

reader HelianUnbound said...

I don't think this is about the Ukraine, Lubos. It's just another attempt to outlaw any resistance to the flooding of Europe and North America with Moslems and other culturally alien elements; basically just another ham-handed effort to stuff multi-culturalism down our throats. I'm actually surprised that the U.S. and Canada had enough sense to vote against this transparent attempt to anesthetize us while we cheerfully commit suicide. People like Geert Wilders will now officially become "Nazis." It's naïve to believe this is just about "Nazi actions." "Nazi speech" can easily be construed as a provocation to "action," or "action" itself, for that matter.

reader Luboš Motl said...

OK, I don't believe this interpretation. Very effective anti-immigration policy may be done without racial or nationalistic justifications.

reader HelianUnbound said...

Yes, no doubt it "may be done." It just hasn't been done so far. Forget the long, bitter and finally successful struggle against annihilation by direct military attack and occupation. Bring on the era of reversing that victory and "co-existing" ourselves to death, or perhaps our "effective immigration policies" will merely have the more benign outcome of preparing the way for the next round of civil wars. Resistance is futile. After all, now anyone who dares to object is a "Nazi!"

reader Phelps said...

The problem is, for the left, no matter how you are doing your anti-immigration policy, it is inherently racist and nationalistic.

It doesn't matter what YOU think you reasons are, they are going to TELL you what your reasons were.

reader Luboš Motl said...

They can tell me whatever they want. It doesn't mean that I will give a damn.

There is nothing wrong about anti-immigration policy. The soil and "underlying layer" of a country isn't privately owned. It's collectively owned by a group of people or corporation we usually call a nation, and this group of people is naturally able and willing to protect its "carpet" in a similar way as families protect their living rooms from most homeless people who could move there from the street.

This common-sense fact in no way requires one to look at the race of the potential guest. On the other hand, there is no reason *not* to take some characteristics of the potential guest into account, either.

reader John Archer said...

Oh I appreciated it all right, RAF III! Tsk.

I should mention, however, that following the usual protracted consultations with the voices in my head, and with their invaluable assistance (thanks, chaps), I carefully reviewed my entirely capricious policy on uptick donations, with the result that I now wish to formally notify you that for once I firmly resolved to make no change.

And then I changed my mind. :)

You can keep the other one too. Merry Christmas! :)

Good joke — with big bonus points for lots of acid!

reader Phelps said...

"They can tell me whatever they want. It doesn't mean that I will give a damn."

That's an entirely incoherent argument when the declaration demands that states START THROWING PEOPLE IN JAIL FOR WHAT THEY THINK.

reader QsaTheory said...

Dear Lubos,

after researching some of the topics here I was lead to some concepts in the compactification issues as in the following

and I was wondering if these concepts(especially intersection theory) can have a relation or be combined with

Matrix string theory, contact terms,

and superstring field theory


reader Luboš Motl said...

That's bullšit. States may only jail people for violations of the law. Anti-immigration policies obviously don't violate the law - they are a part of the law. If some leftist friend of yours is telling you something else, recommend him a good psychiatrist, and you may go with him, too.

reader Phelps said...

It's NOT bullshit. Read the declaration:

"Shall declare an offence punishable by law all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, and incitement to racial discrimination,"

That means that they want to be able to put you in jail just for SUGGESTING that anti-immigration laws are a good idea.

These people are NOT your friend. Don't get sucked into the idea that because they put Combatting Nazism in the title that it isn't a fascist screed. Look at what they ACTUALLY WRITE.

reader Luboš Motl said...

I have already explained that anti immigration laws shouldn't be based on racial superiority and don't have to be based on racial superiority. And I do think that laws based on racial superiority should be unconstitutional and movements trying to change this principle should be outlawed.

So quite obviously, those people are closer to being my friends than you suggest, right? On the other hand, this totally pathetic exchange puts our friendship in doubt. Could we please stop this?

reader RAF III said...

A Merry Christmas to you and yours.

reader HelianUnbound said...

No one has made even the slightest suggestion that immigration laws should be based on racial superiority. That, however, is a typical canard used to vilify those who suggest that it's reasonable to have and enforce any immigration laws at all. It will now inevitably be used to legitimize the accusation that they are "haters" and "Nazis" as well. No thanks! Put me down in favor of freedom of speech, and against "hate speech" laws enforced by the likes of the current rulers of North Korea and Cuba.

reader Phelps said...

And as I have explained, any time you try to pass ANY anti-immigration law, no matter WHAT your reasons are, they are going to INSIST that your reasons are racial and demand that you be jailed. The end.

That is exactly what I am talking about for all of this. Once the state has the power to decide that some speech is illegal, ALL speech is illegal, because they can interpret speech however they like.

"Of course Lubos the Racist insists that his racist law isn't racist, but we know that he doesn't want these immigrants because of his racist racism. Guilty."

reader John Archer said...

I'm beginning to think the terms 'racism' and 'racist' (BTW whatever happened to 'racialism' and 'racialist'?) are no longer appropriate, helpful or ... WAIT FOR IT! ... acceptable. AARRRGGHHH! Oh how I detest those prissy poncey moronic control-freak holier-than-thou wurds. In fact I find them and their hideous antonyms highly offensive. AARRRGGHHH! There they go again!

I do so wish there were some way to load them up with Semtex so that they exploded in the faces of those attempting to deploy them, with detonation on utterance of the first syllable to save the rest of us from hearing the remainder. Meanwhile perhaps all decent people will form a coalition to sponsor a UN resolution to have them banned.

But I digress. Back to 'racism' etc.

Never mind race, whatever that is, instead I think it's far more useful simply to think in terms of us and them (because we all know who us is, and, conversely, them are). To be clear, of course I do not mean that in the sense of "us and them" but rather in the sense of "us versus them" or better yet, of "us against them" — them of course being 'the other', as interminably sainted by the leftard/pomos and 'other' shit-hole denizens.

Great! Well, I'm a keen usist because I am very much for us. I'm also a very keen themist too, because I'm very much against them, some more so than others, but especially so against all varieties of the heavily 'other' other, and particularly any of the latter who've crawled their way into Britain. (Also it's handy having two words meaning pretty much the same thing as it assists in avoiding a repetitive style when constructing fine prose.)

Of course, there's nothing wrong in any respect with this preference for one's own kind over the alien. In fact it's perfectly natural — wholesome indeed. After all, it's what Darwins' Winners are all about.

But wait! On second thoughts, it doesn't really matter then what one calls it — it's just a name. In which case racism is as good a term as any other. And just as there's no need to be proud one has two legs (assuming one has two), there's no need to be proud to be a racist either. One should simply thank God one has the good sense to be one, unlike a lot of white people these days whose mentality closely resembles that of sheep, and a truly stupid sheep at that. (They all want to be the filling in a multi-culti kebab.)

In short, I've changed my mind. There's nothing wrong with racism, racial discrimination and being a racist — indeed it's very healthy for people's peoplehood.

Moreover, it's obvious now that we need to promote these things with a vengeance, and deliver those cancerous anti-racists unto oblivion!

Let the cry be heard throughout the land: "Prepare the wood chippers!"

reader Luboš Motl said...

I have no idea what you're talking about. America, Czechia, and any country has some anti-immigration laws, pretty tough ones, as far as I can say - although Obama is just trying to deconstruct them.

They are not based on "racial superiority" and only irrelevant loons are screaming this sort of strawman bullšit.

reader RAF III said...

John - Sure, it's easy for you - you have a ready made cohort at hand! But what about all of us misanthropic curmudgeons who just want to be left alone? We hate everyone! We'll only come to your aid grudgingly, and with barely concealed disdain for the stupidity that got you into such a fix. Racism is so limiting. We don't hide among a crowd chanting 'We are Us, United!'. We stand on our own two feet and tell *everyone* to 'Fuck Off!!".
Become a 'Me-ist', John! I sense that you are well on the way, but it's time to take the final step. You can do it! You may still
be able to find the ME FIRST self actualization seminars (they may well be online by now).
Do it John! Take the plunge! But don't bother telling me about it. It would just piss me off.
And remember -
'A favor undone is like time in the bank.' - Nina Van Horn

reader Dream Chaser said...

They are, sadly, not irrelevant. Modern SJW Left, which believes that Culturism and Islamophobia is Racism is the new status quo. You are not going to interpret those hate speech laws, they are.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Maybe where you live. My condolences. I live in a country where there is more or less consensus among the public and all mainstream politicians that immigration is a very sensitive thing, one must be very careful about the growth of minorities that could radically worsen the atmosphere in the country, and people freely and calmly oppose various things such as the construction of Muslim schools and similar things.

It's the Czechs who are interpreting the Czech laws about similar matters. However, sometimes our very laws are irrelevant because we don't enjoy the full sovereignty anymore. But this problem can't be changed by a discussion with the folks in the EU. The EU isn't a democracy or meritocracy. We still have a potential freedom to leave the EU if things get serious.

reader biff33 said...

You wrote:

"There is nothing wrong about anti-immigration policy. The soil and "underlying layer" of a country isn't privately owned. It's collectively owned by a group of people or corporation we usually call a nation, and this group of people is naturally able and willing to protect its "carpet" in a similar way as families protect their living rooms from most homeless people who could move there from the street."

So I am not misrepresenting your views.

reader MikeNov said...

I think a no vote is well justified. However, it is primarily the US and EU that would push for such a resolution in the first place.

Enacting of hate crimes laws, restricting free speech, too many extremist political parties, the list of Left agenda items in that resolution is very high, interspersed among the 'must fight the Nazis'.

reader MikeNov said...

They are calling for implementing the convention for the elimination of all racial discrimination. CEDAW has similar negative implications for implementing the Left feminist agenda.

reader Leo Vuyk said...

see also: Quantum
Geometry as simple Math for a 3-Dimensional Particle system according to
Quantum FFF Theory.

reader NM said...

I'm not an expert on Ukraine or international politics in any way, but, living in Russia, I clearly see that stalinism IS being restored in our country. What is worse, it is being restored on the state level. Of course, it's 2014, not 1930s, so it takes longer. You may call it totalitarism or communism, but to see it happening is frightening. And it keeps me from condemning the countries that voted against this resolution.

reader kashyap vasavada said...

@Sage Basil: This question is 2 weeks too late for this blog.But I hope you will see this. I would like to get a reference or slightly more detailed explanation of non associative Lie algebra. To my understanding the more common algebras related to SU(N) groups are associative. Also a colleague of mine insists that groups which have non associative elements are not called groups by mathematicians , but rather fields or some thing else i.e associativity is a basic requirement of groups. I would like to clarify this point.

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