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U.S. ambassador Schapiro: persona non grata in Czech president's office

BBC, WSJ (a highly tendentious anti-Zeman, anti-Czech rant), Google News

I talked to the new U.S. ambassador to Prague Andrew Schapiro (and shook his hand) in early November 2014. This Harvard Law School classmate [and fundraiser, $700k] of Obama's is a pleasant chap who claims to enjoy trips all over Czechia and whose task is to spread the – mostly counterproductive – foreign policies of the Obama administration. So I disagree with him that it's right to wage a trade war against Russia; I disagree that the U.S. should be helping NGOs (like "anti-corruption NGOs") that directly influence the internal Czech politics; and I disagree with his and Obama's idea that the Islam and the Middle-East-style terror have nothing do with each other.

OK, but it's not just about voicing opinions. It's been increasingly clear to me that the Obama administration is obsessed with the regime change, including the regime change in allied countries (such as Israel and Hungary) and that my Czech homeland has made it to the short list of the targets, too.

I do admit that I would be less angered if similar things were being done by a U.S. administration I would largely agree with. But even in that case, I would feel a strong discomfort when the U.S. government would be trying to remove the legitimately elected Czech president.

Now, don't get me wrong, current Czech president Zeman is as polarizing a figure as pretty much any visible enough president. Most of my equally old friends and most of younger people in general tend to be against him, and so is largely e.g. my father. Many others are Zeman's supporters of a sort – after all, he did get over 50 percent of the votes in the second round of the presidential elections.

Now, a particular troubling story occurred 4.5 months ago.

His opponents gathered in Prague (not only but famously) on November 17th, 2014, the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. These folks were showing "red cards" to Zeman. This witty ritual was supposed to follow the rules of soccer: a "red card" from the referee means that the player should leave the stadium (the player usually gets the red card after a "yellow card" followed by another sin).

However, one should admit that with the cards of this color, Prague looked almost indistinguishable from a communist capital such as Beijing in 1966 – see the picture above. They are quite similar, aren't they?

Despite these communist connotations, the "red cards" technology is arguably cute – it's just another moderately funny symbol of a peaceful protest. You don't need to throw eggs and tomatoes (or ring your keys) all the time. A Czech organizer could have had this idea and he could have printed the red cards for the participants. But did he?

Well, sadly, just a day after the rally, an anti-establishment news outlet named received the photograph above – click it to zoom in.

(The only high-resolution version of the photograph that I can get – from another source – strongly suggests different "sender" and "recipient" fields than claimed by so all these details are disputed. And I am sure that the picture is from Brno, not Prague. See the comments.)

The demonstrators are getting the red cards from the cardboard box in the left lower corner. If one analyzes the photograph somewhat carefully, and if one believes the claims about the analysis, he can determine both the sender and the recipient. Well, the recipient is Ms Šárka Kadlecová. LinkedIn tells you that she has worked for the ministry of foreign affairs and more recently on the U.S. embassy (as a teacher, probably a teacher of the Czech language). She's been also a member of a politically correct NGO named In Iustitia which is funded by the U.S. embassy.

If that's not enough for you, well, you may decode the address of the sender, too – the cardboard box with the red cards was sent from the U.S. embassy in Prague. Well, maybe you think it's OK but I find it troubling. Tell me whatever you want but the embassy of an allied country shouldn't be organizing street protests against a legitimately elected president.

Schapiro and Zeman before the door was closed. The third man from the right is Mr Forejt, the boss of the Prague Castle protocol (whom I first met in Washington D.C., during a lunch with the ex-president Klaus). He's doing his job well – which is why Zeman gladly inherited him from Klaus – but he is often criticized for actively inserting his not-so-skinny body to every photograph of VIPs. Apologies that my chosen picture has presented no counter-evidence to this hypothesis.

In Yanukovitch's Ukraine, much more vigorous interventions of this kind were taking place. Victoria Nuland has boasted that the U.S. has spent a whopping 5 billion dollars to undermine Yanukovitch's government. I am sure that the red cards in Prague were cheaper. But in Ukraine, these interventions "helped" to break the country apart and to start the civil war which has created thousands of casualties and destroyed a third of the Ukrainian economy (and the default is looming).

The Schönborn Palace in Prague's Lesser Town. I sadly know the building of the U.S. embassy from about 6-10 long queues when I needed a new visa or their extension of a sort.

I really don't want similar things to occur in Czechia. Ukraine isn't terribly important – whether you like it or not, it is just one highly troubled, underdeveloped, border region in the Greater Russia. But Czechia is a stable Central European country with a long Western democratic tradition. And it is my homeland. I just don't want to allow some clueless foreign jerks to undermine our (inevitably imperfect but our) democratic institutions in a similar way.

Just to be sure, even if these folks had succeeded and overthrown our president, I would probably be extremely angry but I wouldn't go to fight in a civil war. One reason is that I wouldn't be too helpful. Another reason is that your humble correspondent and most Czechs just aren't this involved and emotional. After all, we are used to foreign powers' dramatic interventions into our domestic affairs. They were mostly harmful but they were not "uniformly" harmful and the intervention by the U.S. would hopefully be much less harmful than the intervention by the Third Reich or the USSR. At least I hope so. (You should understand that for each of the foreign powers that have shaped or shapes our destiny, whether those controlled from Vienna, Berlin, Moscow, Brussels, or D.C., there are always millions of Czechs who celebrate the foreign takeover of our internal affairs so the foreign power "only" tilts the political equilibrium in a direction that wouldn't win spontaneously.) So maybe I would have sacrificed Zeman's pride, after all, and anger would be the last reaction I would actively create. But maybe others would react more violently and I would join. You never know what would happen.

At any rate, the excitement about toppling Zeman (and people's obsession with four impolite words he has used in a radio interview a few months ago) has significantly decreased in recent months. I think that it seems very unlikely that someone will topple him in coming weeks or months. It may be more likely that he will have some serious health problems – perhaps related to alcohol or something else. But Zeman must feel self-confident again. At least that's what today's interview with Zeman at the Parliamentary Letters (, partly a news server where our lawmakers communicate with each other and the public) suggests.

Schapiro has criticized Zeman for his plans to attend the Victory Parade in Moscow on May 9th (70th anniversary of the Soviet defeat of Germany). The celebration is boycotted by most but not all Western leaders (it's possible that Czechia, Greece, and Cyprus will be the only EU countries with top representatives there, and I can't even guarantee that Greece will still be an EU member; but just to be sure, Merkel will arrive to Moscow just a day later). Today, Zeman responded to Schapiro's views:

I can't imagine that the Czech ambassador to Washington D.C. would be advising to the U.S. president where he should travel. Similarly, I won't allow any ambassador to Czechia to shape the schedule of my trips abroad.

Q: Haven't you considered to invite Schapiro to the Prague Castle so that you could explain your views to Schapiro in detail?

I am afraid that after his statement, the doors to the Prague Castle are closed for Ambassador Schapiro.
It's hard to disagree. A Czech ambassador would be more likely to eat his shoes than to enumerate countries where the U.S. president is not recommended to travel.

Just to be accurate: Schapiro didn't explicitly say that Zeman "should not" visit the Victory Parade in Moscow. He has "only" tried, using Joe Biden's words, to embarrass Zeman into cancelling the trip to Moscow.

President's office at the Castle during Zeman's reign

Zeman previously said – on his Radio Frequency One show – that his trip to Russia would demonstrate "our gratitude that our country doesn't have to speak German today" and "he will pay the honor to the 150,000 Soviet troops who have paid the highest price" while liberating (90% of) Czechoslovakia. Although some politicians had certain inclinations "not to fund" Zeman's trip, the government seems to have decided to pay for Zeman's visit to the Red Square, after all.

In the interview, Zeman was describing his relationship to Easter (yes, he has already spanked his two secretaries over his knees); his expectations about Zeman's looming visit to the Holy See; his variable opinions about different (ex-)leaders of the Czech Catholic Church; his reasons to think that Islam and terrorism are linked. Zeman avoided the last question whether he considered Russia to be a destabilizing influence in Europe and instead, he said that he and the Czech government (and partly even Obama) agree that it's necessary to maintain both trade and strategic relationships (fight against terrorism etc.) with Russia.

At any rate, whether you like it or not, the "closed doors" indicate that the Czech-American relationships have deteriorated considerably. I assure you that the opinions about Russia, the Ukrainian civil war, Russia-West relations, and many other things are highly diverse and non-uniform in Central Europe but there is no other country that would witness similarly sour attitudes to the top Czech constitutional representatives. And be sure, Zeman isn't the guy who started it.

I have urged Mr Schapiro by Twitter to officially apologize for his highly inappropriate behavior which, as some Czech political analysts said, represented an elementary mistake in Diplomacy 101. Schapiro is spending Easter in the U.S. and his most recent tweet says that "he feels lucky that he has turned his cellphone off".

America seems more involved in the Ukrainian-Russian relationships and similar affairs than pretty much any Central or Eastern European country. It's weird because I am convinced that America should actually be much less involved than any country over here. So please, calm down, my American friends, and don't constantly try to shape the life in faraway countries that you obviously fail to understand.

President's spokesman Mr Jiří Ovčáček tried to downplay Mr Zeman's words. Schapiro may still visit some social events – perhaps a fancy dress party. Some time later, Schapiro responded that he believed that Zeman was one who would appreciate candor and his office's door are still wide open for our president. Whether this asymmetric response matters also depends on the beverages and ashtrays available at the U.S. embassy. ;-)

Happy Easter!

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reader maznak said...

the pic with the red cards is most likely fake and I would be very much surprised, if the U.S. Embassy, however much it might dislike Zeman, would put it's reputation on the line for such low impact PR stunt.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Maybe, maybe not. But the official source of trouble is Schapiro's monologue assertively "discouraging" Zeman from the trip to Moscow which was genuine, wasn't it?

reader Tony said...

While I agree with you 99% when it comes to politics, that is, in particular EU, Russia and Middle East, I wonder how and where do you draw the line between say Netanyahu and Shapiro?

I'm not trying to be provocative, just having a difficulty drawing the line in principle, ignoring the fact that I personally tend to agree with the first but not with the second.

reader Milan Pospech said...

If you think that only USA funds/support/cooperate Czech NGOs or that it only happens recently,you must live under the rock. FYI - Czechs also support foreign NGOs.

reader Uncle Al said...

Czechia must loudly, publicly demand a $(USD)billion/year in US military aid: rifles and ammo,
NATO 7.62x51 and civilian .308
When you care to send the very best.

to create a "democratic people's wall against Russian incursion." The 7.62x51 RFB, unlike the temperamental US military 5.56x45 M16, respects Kalashnikov short stroke piston cycling. Compact! It does not foul or jam, it fields strips in a jiffy, and near anybody can be trained to use and maintain it. How could the Wicked Black Monkey (North Korea being diplomatic) refuse?

reader maznak said...

The discouraging was maybe a bit clumsy and it was done in an interview, so I guess he was just honest about his opinion. Maybe not the best diplomatic practice but actually I think it was Zeman's "closing of the Castle doors" that escalated it into sort of diplomatic scandal. And Lubos, I am sure you will disagree strongly, but I believe that it really is not fortunate to go officially admire Russian demonstration of power, these days. It is by no means a disrespect for the fallen Red Army soldiers - they may be remembered in many different ways. There is now very little doubt (and the evidence is mounting every day) that without Russian material and personal involvement, there would be no war in Eastern Ukraine.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Tony, Netanyahu isn't an ambassador, he isn't a diplomat at all. His *job* is to explain and enforce his opinions, especially those that are important for the future of Israel. The opinion of Netanyahu about the Iranian nuclear program is really more important than the opinion of Obama.

Schapiro is a diplomat and he is a guest in the Czech Republic whose job is to nurture the American-Czech relationships and help to solve problems in these relationships if they occur.

The visit of the Czech President at a parade in a capital whose 150,000 troops died to liberate 90% of Czechoslovakia has nothing to do with the Czech-American relationships, it doesn't have anything to do with Czechia's bilateral, international, or NATO obligations at all, and neither the ambassador nor the U.S. politicians have any credentials to decide about such visits.

reader Luboš Motl said...

It was right for Zeman to escalate it into a diplomatic scandal.

reader Tony said...

Thank you for your detailed answer.
I understand it better now.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Hi, of course I followed the spreading of U.S. NGOs here and their branches since 1989. I may enumerate lots of examples.

We've viewed those things in a purely positive light - considering ourselves to be savages, a society whose almost all civilized structures have been destroyed by communism, and so on.

But at some moment, perhaps gradually, there comes a new view in which we (or at least I) don't view our nation as a bunch of inferior savages who have to be led by puppet masters or copy someone else.

We have our institutions that work according to certain rules and many (foreign-controlled) NGOs are obviously competing with the Czech constitutional institutions. That's a problem.

I am sure that no Czech NGOs whose goal is to encourage a subgroup of politicians in the U.S. and discourage another subgroup so that the U.S. politics would better reflect Czech views operates on the U.S. territory. If you know a counterexample, can you please name it?

reader MikeNov said...

Regime change is the wrong word, as this means a change of governing structure, not change of the person at the top.

However, why would Obama want to oust Zeman? He is a Socialist, isn't he? Is he supporting Israel?

If anything, Obama might seek an actual regime change, to put in a governing system that is more likely to produce the results he wants.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Yes, Zeman is also a staunch supporter of Israel and a self-described foe of the Islamic "Anticivilization". I actually am afraid that these issues may play some role in the events, too.

I say regime change because the U.S.-inspired changes are never just the replacement of individual people.

Take Ukraine. Lots of things stay the same. It's still corrupt, it's still mostly ruled by oligarchs, it's more divided than before. But it also introduces new laws that ban certain political parties, TV stations, that allow foreigners in the government, and lots of other changes that took place in Ukraine.

Similarly, the leaders of Egypt and Libya who were "encouraged to leave" by the U.S. weren't replaced just by other, comparable leaders. I think it's clear Obama openly wanted the Muslim Brotherhood and similar "popular Islamic" collective bodies to replace the strong leaders. This means not just a change of the name of the leaders but also a huge decentralization of power and extra chaos.

This may be good or bad, depending on the context or perspective, but it's surely not the case that the U.S. intervention were about individuals.

reader Niranjan Sridhar said...

US does not support some abstract ideal like socialism. US only supports private interests, no matter which party is in power. Regime changes will keep happening if it benefits the military-industrial complex. Obama==Bush. Thanks Motl for objectively admitting a slight bias. We all have them, but in the case of US, the ideological point is irrelevant electorate fodder.

reader rsala said...

I remember bringing back a whip made of twigs as a souvenir from Czechoslovakia (circa 1986) and our guide, who was from Prague, telling us how he found it somewhat awkward whipping his mother in law when he celebrated Easter with his wife's family in the countryside, but I don't remember the details of the custom. Have you blogged about it previously?

reader MikeNov said...

Being an Israel supporter may be a key issue.

In Ukraine and Libya, I think Europe has been the driving force more than Obama. He really has no reason to support a pro-Western regime over a pro-Soviet one.

reader Repel Damocles swords said...

Time for truce! Boeing PATENTED a PLASMA SHIELD, and a proper one may AVERT electro-volcanic* and other electric disasters, such as devastating geomagnetic super-storms*!!!
*Based on the diversion of atmosphere-magma stimulating cosmic rays' electricity, as we do with spacecrafts and satellites:
"Explosive volcanic eruptions triggered by cosmic rays: Volcano as a bubble chamber" - Ebisuzaki et al

*“create a SHIELD that powers up or powers down anytime NASA’s early-warning system detects unusual activity.”

reader Luboš Motl said...

Yes, I did, but right now I can only find

which is not adequate. It's a pagan tradition, the whip is partly meant to replace the male sexual organ and the whipping recognizes the target as a female and celebrates fertility.

On leap years, it's sometimes said that the tradition is reverted and women whip men.

The whipping shouldn't be just symbolic, there should be bruises, but these days, it mostly is symbolic, and it is mostly performed by small boys and girls as an innocent game.

I remember my attempts to kickstart this tradition of ours in Santa Cruz, California. Only a Croatian female friend was remotely getting it.

reader Shannon said...

Regarding the red cards that is the way the US is acting in every countries with a different political system than theirs. They send a few USians on assignment to stir up revolutions, they get the money to run an opposition newspaper, they provide students with for ex the little book on "how to eliminate a dictator", premises to organise demonstrations, money for banners etc... It is a very well broken in method now. If this doesn't work and the power in place reacts badly then they go to phase 2 etc.. etc... Czech Rep must be only in phase 1 soon moving to phase 2 ;-).
Regarding Zeman I find it scandalous that your Czech president is a drunkard. Any person to run for presidency should have banned alcohol from their diet. How can you trust him? Tss tss.

reader Shannon said...

Europe driving force in Ukraine ? No way! It is a 100% US provoked war in Ukraine.

reader Shannon said...

Lol !

reader Tuzer CZ said...

propaganda Us cards 20 procent czech people!!!!!!!!!!

reader John Archer said...

"Regarding Zeman I find it scandalous that your Czech president is a drunkard. Any person to run for presidency should have banned alcohol from their diet. How can you trust him? Tss tss."


Churchill was a something of a piss artist too. But he was the right man for the job.

I'd rather have the real Bulldog than some mangy limp-wristed peecee-addled teetotalling mutt.

Anyway, I don't regard these interferers as Americans. They seem to be the antithesis of what I understood their country to stand up for.

reader Luboš Motl said...

It is probably no coincidence that conservative Churchill is one of the main heroes to quote for a self-described leftist Zeman. ;-)

reader John Archer said...

:) Haha!

Perfectly understandable. Quite right too! :)

Of course Churchill himself was one of the 'the few'.

So many owe him so much, and some are still getting mileage out of him even now! :)

reader thejollygreenman said...

Hi Lubos,

Churchill was a very complex character who cannot be pigeonholed. His domestic policies were very liberal, he had a hand in starting the dole and the NHS, he did a lot for the working man of this country.

reader QsaTheory said...

Here are the details for you.

reader TomVonk said...

Lubos when you were a kid, you apparently knew that the U.S liberated western CS even if according to history textbooks, no such event took place.

So it is surprising for me that if you didn't accept the propaganda about the US, you accepted it regarding the 150 000 heroical soviet soldiers dying to "free" Czechoslovakia - and this one WAS in all history textbooks :)


The reality was that there was 1, yes only one, semi serious battle on the Czechoslovak territory during the whole WWII - the battle of the Dukla pass.

In this battle the Soviets pretended to be in Presov in 5 days while they advanced a few km in 1 month before giving up in November 1944.

And even this battle saw the 1st Czechoslovak Corps (Svoboda) doing the front fighting while the Soviet 38th Army supported without much conviction.

A speculation exists that pretty much like with the Warsaw uprising, Stalin was actually interested that the Slovakian uprising be crushed by the Germans so that he can take over Slovakia later with no organised government structure.

Opposing the Czechs at Dukla were Slovakians, Hungarians under German command.

There exists a quite accurate casualty counts for the 1st Czechoslovak Corps :
1 600 dead and 4 500 wounded what makes about 10 % of dead and 1/3 casualties (dead + wounded)
Considering the same ratio for the 38th Soviet Army, it gives about 9 000 dead and probably much less (there don't exist trustworthy reports about Soviet losses during the WWII).
After the lost battle of the Dukla pass, the 38th Army saw action in CS again only in the beginning of May 1945 when Germany has been capitulating anyway.
The second and last Soviet operation on the CS ground was the liberation of Prague between 6.5 - 10.5.1945 (4 days !).
When one looks at this operation then one sees that all the fighting actually took place in Germany (Dresden, Breslau, Meissen) and partly at Olomouc.
On the 8.5 Dresden was taken and (independently) Germany capitulated. The same day the US forces in W Bohemia were forbidden by the Soviets to advance even if the German were no more fighting on the US front and surrendering instead.
The commander of the German armies Schörner declared that his intent was to retreat to west in order to surrender to the US.
On the 9.5 the Soviets entered Prague. So it took them a whole day (!!) to drive from Dresden to Prague what shows that there has been no German resistance (and no casualties) along the way. As Germany had already capitulated on the 8.5, all Germans still in CS were trying to get west or South to be made prisoners by the US anyway.
From (untrustworthy) Soviet sources the whole movement finished with about 12 000 dead, most of which were lost in the initial fights in Germany and not Czechoslovakia.
Besides the whole Soviet operation has been useless from a military point of view because Germany already capitulated so that farther dying had no more sense.
Unfortunately Stalin wanted a symbolic entrance in Prague with political goals in mind and he got it.
So when one recapitulates the Soviet costs to "liberate" specifically Czechoslovakia, it amounted to around 20 000 and most of them were really stupid (Dukla was a failure, Prague made no sense) and could have been avoided without changing the outcome, e.g the surrender of the German army on CS territory.
There may be reasons why Zeman wants to go to Moscow but there were no 150 000 Soviet dead fallen for Czechoslovakia.
The millions Soviets who fell, fell for Stalin and most if not all had noit even an idea what and where Czechoslovakia was.
The rest was only communist propaganda after war.

reader Vojta said...

I wonder why you talk about red cards now, after so long time since the incident happened. Anyway, it was already proved to be hoax, read the link (czech only)
I found it funny that you mention this and completely neglect the obvious propaganda lies from russian press agencies about reception of US convoy in Czechia. Doesnt it worry you that if they lie so heavily in this then they might be lying as well about other things, for example Ukraine conflict?

reader Richard Warren said...

My conclusion is that Churchill perhaps did as much to create Hitler as to destroy him, while in the process needlessly undermining the concept of a gold standard and creating a crisis that caused inflationary policies to triumph.

reader Richard Warren said...

If only.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Come on, Tom, this is silly.

I actually don't remember the figure 150,000 from the communist schools. It is a figure I memorized much later and every source - Czech or non-Czech, communist or non-communist - agrees that it's the best estimate. Most of the 150,000 casualties were victims of the liberation of Prague, indeed. It was a major operation. See e.g.

for the very same figure in the same sentence. The page above has nothing to do with communist textbooks, or even with Czech historians.

What's your number if you accuse me of using an inaccurate figure? I think that you know very well that your attempts to create doubts about these basic historical claims are just fog driven by your uncontrollable anti-Russian racism.

reader MikeNov said...

It may be US provoked, but done at European request.

reader MikeNov said...

I am glad Schapiro did what he did. It is a step up for the Obama Administration to say something negative about the Soviet conquest of Eastern Europe.

reader QsaTheory said...

Chicken or egg! That is the question.

reader John Archer said...

Well, I don't know about that. But they're all curates' eggs, all right. Even the best need a keen eye kept on them.

Churchill wanted to keep ordinary Londoners out of the underground tube stations during the Blitz and even gated up the entrances to stop then getting in at night. Instead they were supposed to build so-called Anderson shelters—advice about as useful as the American "duck and cover" routine advised during the cold war. But fortunately a sensible mob-handed hoi polloi thought otherwise and busted the gates, effectively telling him to get fucked.

He got the message very quickly.

We need something like that now, only on a much more violent and much larger scale, because the current lot are very hard of hearing.

reader Gene Day said...

Your statement is inane, MikeNov. This is Russia, not the USSR. By drawing off the biggest part of the Wehrmacht your Soviet “enemy" saved around 250,000 American lives and I, for one, appreciate that fact.
Anyway, an ambassador’s job is diplomacy, i.e. to smooth things over, not cause trouble. I think Obama should withdraw Shapiro and apologize.

reader MikeNov said...

This is Russia, but the Red Army was USSR. The Soviet conquest of Eastern Europe is not looked upon as a bad thing by the Left.

reader Gene Day said...

As I said, Obama should immediately withdraw Shapiro. His duty is diplomacy and he is being derelict in his duty. This isn’t rocket science.

reader Gene Day said...

I agree completely. Zeman is a politician and a Czech patriot. It is his responsibility to stand up for his country’s interests and that is exactly what he did. Shapiro is a diplomat and his actions are severely constrained or, at least, should be. He has diplomatic immunity and many other privileges as an ambassador and honored guest. This is sufficient cause, in my view, for a congressional investigation and I would like to see it.

reader Tony said...

In return Czech ambassador should recommend Obama not to celebrate Thanksgiving in order to say something negative about the treatment of native Americans.

reader Tony said...

Continuing in the same spirit, our ambassador to Germany should say a thing or two, considering how many Americans they killed in WWII. Even more the one in Vietnam.

reader Smoking Frog said...

I'm puzzled by your saying that engineering students found logarithms to be the hardest mathematical concept. (Maybe engineers are not as smart as I imagine?) Just plain logarithms, not anything special about them, such as why e is what it is, or manipulating them in the calculus?

If you mean "just plain logarithms," I'm puzzled, since it seems almost obvious to me that summing the exponents of several terms gives the exponent of their product, and so forth. The only thing I found hard in "just plain" was deriving the formula for base conversion whenever I'd forgotten it. I could do it, but the trouble was that it requires reasoning "in reverse" - I can't quickly think of handy way to explain that, but maybe you know what I mean.

reader Smoking Frog said...

Lubos - You've just enlightened me for the 100th time or something. :-) I always wondered how Napier had come up with natural logarithms before there was calculus, but since I'm lazy as hell I never bothered to find out.

reader Smoking Frog said...

They *can* be "the opposite" in other areas - I've known a very few like that - but I don't think this is typical.

reader Smoking Frog said...

Another thing... Logarithms first appear in Algebra II, or at least they did in 1960 or so. How does anyone get to an engineering course without having understood logarithms years earlier?

reader Smoking Frog said...

3 SD, 4 SD, shmore SD! Whatever. He just happened to think of them. Maybe even 2 SD could do it. There's no lockstep correlation with intelligence for everything. If we were talking about Newton, I'd say OK, he probably had to have a very high IQ.

reader Not_a_frog said...

That a brilliant mathematician (or a physicist for that matter) may appear naive in other worldly matters is illustrated not only by Napier but also Lubos - just compare his physical entries with putinophilic political analyses...

reader Liam said...

Hi - I managed to find the video with the "Schlonkis" references! :D

It's from the 1983 public workshop "The Quantum Mechanical View of Reality" at the Esalen Institute in California.

The Schlonkises come in at 14:24 - a student thinks there should be one diagram that was the one that was "manifest in nature" in a given scattering experiment, and hasn't figured out that they all contribute to the amplitude and that it's not determined "in nature" that there was or wasn't a Schlonkis in the classical sense.

It's, ahem, not *quite* as funny/cool as I remembered it! You'll see I told it slightly wrong, and it's not about the "correct name" for the Schlonkis, and they soon go off the subject and don't come back to it, (well it's been many years since I watched the talk, so I guess the story got better in my head over a couple of iterations when I retold it to myself.. :-P )

It's still a cool little moment though, and I think I got the spirit of it OK! ;-)

reader MikeNov said...

I am not saying such behavior is proper diplomacy, only that for Obama it is a step up to denounce Communism. Consider, if previously the Zeman admin had been approving of treatment of native Americans, celebrating it.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Oh I see, it's just a power expansion in the schlonkis, so schlonkis is a usefully anonymous name for a propagator or a coupling constant.

Did he speak Yiddish? And Hebrew as well or not?

reader Liam said...

Yes, the student hasn't realised the different loop-order diagrams are all contributing to the final probability amplitude for the same possible observed outcome on the endpoints, (and that the contributions have to be summed as amplitudes along with their phases, allowing for cancellation etc).

He's confused about where the observables are and thinks the interiors of the different diagrams represent separate distinguishable events that should have their own real number
probabilities etc.

I tried to find if Feynman could speak Hebrew or Yiddish but I'm not sure...

In Anglo-American slang we use many Yiddish words that seem very natural to us so we're not even aware of their non-saxon origin, (I think a lot of this has to do with the cultural impact of the New York Jewish community and Hollywood in the 20th Century etc).

I just checked this page:

I only know about 10% of the words there but some of them are very common/universal - I was surprised to see even a common word such as "glitch" in there! :-)

So I guess whether Feynman spoke Yiddish and/or Hebrew, as an American Jew he would have known a boat-load of such terms anyway...

reader Luboš Motl said...

Exactly, Liam. This is the typical application of the classical physics fallacy to the path integrals - to associate classical probabilities with everything that looks like a history (it's just like associating reality with anything - including the wave function - that may exist at a given moment).

But only transitions or statements about observables may have quantifiable probabilities.

Good point. Even if he didn't speak any of those non-English languages, and I tend to think that English was really his only language, he probably had to know a collection of some fancy words that colorize English in the NYC Jewish way. ;-)

reader Liam said...

It's the core stumbling block in getting to grips with QM - accepting that given an observation, there isn't an objective "fact of the matter" in nature as to which contributing path/history was taken, which slit an electron went through, what was the objective spin prior to measurement, was there a self-interaction, a virtual pair loop (or no loop or n-loops) etc etc..

Schlonkis itself sounds rather, ahem - how shall I say... "colourful" to my ears!

In fact it sounds rather similar to another Yiddish slang word for a different kind of "thingie" that's well known in English, and could be considered rather rude:

:D :D

Whether Feynman himself was quietly enjoying any potentially humerous association, I leave for history to decide ;-)

reader Luboš Motl said...

Yiddish is very efficient. If Schlong is what we are told and long is long, then Sch... must be you know what.

Sch appears in all these words, Schmoit, Schmuck, ..., so the percentage of this organ in Yiddish speech is probably high. ;-)

Right, we've been so trained to think classically that even when people are taught to think quantum mechanically for some time, they often tend to insert the classical thinking everywhere. What was the objective history of some/all observables before the measurement, and so on?

There wasn't any objective history before the measurement. It's ultimately easy to learn this fact and get used to it and avoid the bad habits of trying to revert to the classical thinking - the problem is that many people don't want to.

reader Liam said...

Lol - oh gad I hadn't thought of the implication of looking at it as a compound term like that!! :D :D

It's possible you have an even dirtier/more devious mind than yours truly... ;-)

reader Luboš Motl said...

Thanks that while assessing me, you didn't translate my first name as Lubodick, although it would rhyme with Mobydick (Mobyš?). :-)

reader cynholt said...

It’s simply a game of hegemony-- aka “Full-Spectrum Dominance” (FSD). Russia is the only country that threatens America’s “Full-Spectrum Dominance” because it is the only threat to Nuclear Primacy, a concept that ensures FSD.

To compound this threat, Russia has, through BRICS, been attacking the pre-eminence of the American Dollar by pushing for a multipolar world in security and economics. The AIIB (Chinese Bank set up to compete with the IMF) is part and parcel of this push for a more balanced globe.

All these state-sponsored attacks on Russia in respect to Putin’s authoritarianism, laws on gays, etc. are used only for domestic consumption to ‘manufacture consent’.

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