Sunday, September 14, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Higgs the mass killer: in defense of Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking was brought to deep financial troubles when he lost $100 against TRF guest blogger Gordon Kane after the two men have agreed on a bet that the Higgs boson would or wouldn't ever be discovered, or something like that. (I have won $500 for an analogous bet: yes, the Higgs boson has been discovered.) So evil tongues could argue that it's the reason why Hawking says that Higgs has made physics less interesting – and now why he accuses the Higgs particle of the plan to destroy the world.

Will it destroy the world?

Probably not but the threat, while small, has a totally legitimate scientific justification.

Yahoo News were among the tons of sources that have offered the disturbing prophesy by the famous physicist. Matt Strassler and especially Don Lincoln (full) wrote nice texts that try to calm the public and present Hawking's warnings as scientifically misleading.

I wouldn't be equally critical.

George Kukla (1930-2014)

A well-known Czech American climate skeptic
This happened already 3 months ago but wasn't really covered in the blogosphere...

I re-learned from Willie Soon that George Kukla died at age 84 of an apparent heart attack. His Columbia University wrote a biography of him with a somewhat insulting title.

Kukla received a Medal of Merit from Czech president Václav Klaus in 2011.

Jiří (=George) Kukla was born in Prague in 1930. His journey around the world was colorful. In the 1960s, he would manage to be an adviser to Fidel Castro. But he would also work in China, Chile, Antarctica, and Eastern Europe.

I. P. Pavlov: 165th birthday

A Russian patriot and anti-communist whom communists had to nurture

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, a pioneer of physiology, was born in Ryazan (200 km Southeast of Moscow) in September 1849. At, Karel Pacner published a fascinating chapter of his book about the geniuses of the 20th century.

Friday, September 12, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Extracurricular activities are indeed just "extra"

I am happy to report that I agree with Scott Aaronson – and obviously with Steve Pinker – that the universities should focus on the learning and scholarly work while sports and similar things should be treated as cherries on a pie.

Also, I agree with them that the standardized tests are – if you allow me to use a quote we invented along with Winston Churchill – that the standardized tests are the worst method to "rate" applicants except for all other methods that have been tried. ;-)

Thursday, September 11, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

One-half of CO2 doubling achieved

Detectable impacts on the climate are yet to be seen

When the CO2 level in the atmosphere surpassed 400 ppm a short time ago, many alarmists would celebrate this symbolic achievement. Oh, the CO2 concentration is so high! It's a signal from the heaven, a shot from the Aurora telling us to start another world revolution because our previous one, that of 1917, has already faded away and it wasn't enough for us, anyway. The number is so round, and so on. Of course, nothing new happens when the CO2 level reaches 400 ppm – it's just another number that only looks special because of an arbitrary decadic numeral system we happen to use today. The Earth has seen concentrations around 6,000 ppm as well and 4,000 ppm would be just fine for all life forms we know today. By far the closest worrisome CO2 concentration is 150 ppm in which most existing plant species stop growing (ice ages have only forced them to easily withstand 180 ppm or so).

Another numerically special value of the concentration was achieved two years ago or so but unlike 400 ppm, it wasn't hyped by anyone. The hypothetical effect of CO2 on the temperatures (well, almost certainly real effect theoretically; hypothetical from an empirical viewpoint because the effect is so incredibly weak) is often quantified – converted to numbers – when we talk about the "climate sensitivity", i.e. the increase of the global mean temperature caused by a doubling of the CO2 concentration.

The doubling defines more natural benchmark values of the concentration because it suggests that we should look at the behavior of the temperature assuming the exponential growth of CO2. That's natural because the temperature increase is approximately (very accurately) proportional to the logarithm of the CO2 concentration increase (thanks, John). Consequently, every time you double the CO2 level, the temperature increases by the same amount (ignoring non-CO2 drivers). The global mean temperature as a function of the CO2 concentration is\[

T(c) = 14.5^\circ {\rm C} + {\rm sensitivity} \times \frac{\ln (c/280\text{ ppm})}{\ln 2}

\] The temperature 14.5 degrees Celsius is the holy "optimum" global mean temperature that the climate alarmists want to see forever (yes, they will also protect our blue, not green planet from future ice ages when the temperature would otherwise drop by 8 °C as many times in the past) because it was how things probably were in 1750 although no one can really reconstruct the temperature in 1750 with a sub-degree accuracy (and even today's "global mean temperature" depends on so many technicalities that it's fair to say that it isn't defined at a sub-degree accuracy, either). The ratio of logarithms may also be written as the "base two logarithm" but I wanted to use basic functions only. Note that \(\ln 2\approx 0.69315\).

The coefficient "sensitivity" is theoretically equal to 1.2 degrees Celsius if we ignore all the feedbacks. The total figure when feedbacks (especially those related to various forms of water in the atmosphere) are included is unknown and it may be higher or lower than 1.2 degrees Celsius. One of the unjustified assumptions of the climate change ideology is that the full figure has to be higher. The higher value of the climate sensitivity you defend, the greater influence over the climate alarmist paramilitary movement you achieve. If you believe that the value of the total climate sensitivity is below an offensive threshold, you are a heretic. The offensive threshold used to be 3 degrees Celsius but the alarmists were forced to lower the threshold of heresy to 1.5-2.0 degrees Celsius because those values are obviously consistent with all the known data (and probably still overestimates).

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Should junior people be equally loud during seminars?

A man named David Chalmers wrote down some norms of the right behavior during philosophical seminars and Sean Carroll responded, in a surprisingly moderate way. The recommendations are things like

  1. be nice
  2. allow the junior people to speak more than you do
  3. the time one spends by talking during a seminar should be proportional to the product of the number of his or her X chomosomes and the number of men that he or she has sex with
and so on. Moreover, if you want to avoid a sexual harassment lawsuit, you should follow several simple rules:
  1. be handsome
  2. be attractive
  3. don't be unattractive
Well, I admit, this is not directly related to the main topic but I wanted the blog post to be self-sufficient. The funny video under the latest hyperlink shows the actual decisive factors – and hypocrisy – behind most of the similar laws.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Bohr, Heisenberg, Landau wouldn't find QBism new

David Mermin posted the text of his talk

Why QBism is not the Copenhagen interpretation and what John Bell might have thought of it (arXiv + video)
that he gave in Vienna 3 months ago. The conference was dedicated to John Bell and the 50th anniversary of his theorem. I agree with many statements that Mermin is making (and was making, in recent years) about the foundations of quantum mechanics. But that's not the case of some of the focal points in this talk.

First, I don't think that John Bell was such an important physicist that we should spend too much time with speculations what he would think about some ideas proposed after his death. Bell didn't discover quantum mechanics, he wasn't even in the top 100 ring of its co-founders and their first-generation followers, and his expectations about the fate of quantum mechanics turned out to be wrong. He didn't coin QBism and related concepts, either. Would Bell like QBism? Yes, no, who cares?

It was a conference about Bell which may (at least partially) explain why Mermin cared.

Also, the talk was meant to be nice to Fuchs and Schack, two guys behind the QBism meme, which may explain why Mermin tried to present QBism as a new idea – even though it is not a new idea – and, in fact, as an idea that the notorious critics of proper quantum mechanics such as Bell may have liked - even though Bell and others would almost certainly hate QBism, too.

But let me discuss the 14 pages of the arXiv preprint a bit more systematically.

Monday, September 08, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Vafa: supergroups, non-unitary cousins of CFT, and black hole puzzles

Cumrun Vafa has a very interesting new paper,

Non-Unitary Holography
You may start with a simple question. What happens if you replace gauge groups derived from \(U(N)\) by their supergroup counterparts, \(U(N+k|k)\)?

Well, the supergroup has more degrees of freedom – many of those have a negative norm (anticommuting but spin-one components of the "gauge bosons") and may produce negative probabilities. But Cumrun says that it doesn't affect anything you encounter at any order of the perturbative expansion in \(1/N\) i.e. in the string loop expansion. The effect of the extra \(k\) bosonic dimensions added to the original \(N\) is cancelled against the new \(k\) fermionic ones.

Scottish independence may be a non-event

Next Thursday, the Scottish voters will be asked whether Scotland should become an independent country. Some Scots support the independence efforts. Many Englishmen such as Stephen Hawking and Paul McCartney have urged the Scots to vote to preserve the union. Peter Higgs, an Englishman in Edinburgh, was undecided quite recently. The result of the referendum seems completely uncertain now – the odds are 50-50.

Lyrics of the Czech jingle that I would hear rather often as a kid, despite socialism: The Scot has skirts, pipes, and the lake where a mysterious secret has been hiding for a long time. They say that an evil monster resembling a dragon is living there. Only Matthew and Pauline know what it looks like. In fact, there are numerous monsters there, they are not evil at all, and none of them is certainly monstrous. Who wouldn't like the Ness Family and who wouldn't like to play with them? They are wonderful friends.

The United Kingdom has been a whole for many centuries and changes of the state borders are so rare that many of us tend to instinctively think that the dissolution of the U.K. would be a big deal.

Saturday, September 06, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Genesis according to Kerry: you shall save the Muslim world from global warming

What an interesting combination of insanities

As you may have noticed, I am very busy these days and it will continue to be so for 9 more days because several things have overlapped. So it may be a time for easier blog posts.

When I was reading a title by Anthony Watts,

Is John Kerry mentally ill? "Scriptures Commands America To Protect Muslims From Global Warming"
I was thinking that Anthony had to misinterpret Kerry's words or heavily exaggerate, or something like that. But then I pressed "play" on this 90-second video:

In the State Department, they follow the slogan "religion matters". Moreover, all religions are really brothers and all of their scriptures, starting from Genesis, command us as follows:
You shall save the Muslim world and the blessed children of God such as the ISIS from the anthropogenic global warming.
OK, I added the ISIS but otherwise it's there. I agree with those who say that if the socialist U.S. Obamacare really works, John Kerry should be immediately assigned several psychiatrists for free.

Friday, September 05, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

President Zeman demands real evidence of a Russian invasion

It's been estimated that the Czech sanctions against Russia would cost us about $1 billion if they continued in 2015. It's a lot of money which is one reason – and the lack of any good outcomes of the sanctions so far is another – why sensible politicians are skeptical towards sanctions, much like the top Slovak politicians.

Zeman and Putin. Yes, Zeman is currently the tallest head of a country in the world.

On behalf of their countries, Czech and Slovak PMs (Sobotka and Fico) won the right not to join future EU sanctions or their parts. President Zeman said that harder sanctions could be OK but he demands a real proof that a Russian invasion into Ukraine is underway. If there won't be real evidence, Zeman will oppose the sanctions, too.

(The deputy prime minister Babiš, a former communist agent codenamed "Bureš" and a billionaire who founded an "unideological" party ANO, also tends to be against the sanctions, partly because he is a food industry mogul. The foreign minister Zaorálek, a typical hateful socialist demagogue, insists that "we are always obliged to agree with the majority of the EU". Lots of would-be right-wing politicians – currently in the opposition – are supporting the sanctions.)

Zeman was a target of a verbal assault that shows that typical participants of the NATO summit refuse to discuss these serious issues seriously.

Thursday, September 04, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Brain-to-brain communication

Science Alert and many others bring us the gospel about the research reported in PLOS in which thoughts were sent directly from one brain to another brain, using no other human organs, over the Internet. The two sides of the communication were located in France and in Spain or India.

Except for a couple of extra wires in between, the technology is really nothing else than telepathy.

They were sending binary messages (they have used "Ciao vs Hola" instead of "zero vs one", probably because they confused France with Italy LOL) and the input side has typed the words by the power of her will – by moving a ball on the screen via electromagnetic fields detected around her skull.

Correct me if I am wrong but I think that the whole Internet middle part of the experiment is pure marketing – they just sent the information over the Internet in the most ordinary way so of course that there may be thousands of miles in between. The receiving side obtained the information by "phosphenes". Electrical pulses near various parts of the skull are interpreted by the brain as flashes (I mentioned this fact 10 days ago when I talked about the Russian guy who used a collider beam instead of Botox. Bacon's cipher was used, too.

Kaggle Higgs: back to K2

The ATLAS Kaggle Higgs contest ends in less then two weeks, on September 15th or so, and I wanted to regain at least the second place among the 1,600 contestants seen in the leaderboard – because I still believe that it is unlikely for me to win a prize.

After many and many clever ideas and hundreds of attempts, my team returned to the second place where I have already been for one hour in June.

Gábor Melis is ahead of my team by 0.005. I am learning Hungarian in order to revert this gap.

Brian Cox's incompetence

Like Sean Carroll, Brian Cox pretends to be a scientist but in reality, he is confused about some very rudimentary facts about modern physics and science in general.

It's not just the lunar phases or locality or the exclusion principle that he totally misunderstands (be sure that I haven't discussed every misconception of his that has made me very angry). He actually doesn't build on science; he builds on licking the rectums of the powerful and those who are brainwashed by currently fashionable political deviations. Cox is a kitsch for the least demanding audiences.

Yesterday, The Guardian published a diatribe under the title

Brian Cox: scientists giving false sense of debate on climate change
I agree with this title. Genuine science doesn't have significant doubts about the fact that the climate panic is a pile of rubbish and it's pathetic for the media hosts and others to keep on inviting assorted alarmist loons and fraudsters whenever the topic is related to the climate or the energy policy.

But you surely know that the message that should have been conveyed by the title was upside down.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

China will build a 52-kilometer collider by 2028

Joseph S. has reminded me of this fascinating plan:

China pursues 52 km collider project (Physics World)
The world's #2 economy's biggest collider right now (one in Beijing) has 240 meters in circumference (about a quarter of a micron per capita) so they plan to improve their national record by a factor of 200+. ;-)

Poroshenko ceasefire deal is great news

Update: Today, the Czech nation was sort of "bloodily" introduced to the internal conflict in Ukraine when two Czech men were killed by the pro-Kiev troops. These two men are Ivo Stejskal, the teacher of Brno previously mentioned on this blog, and Vojtěch Hlinka, a driver of Žatec who shared the name with the legendary Czech national ice-hockey coach. It's no accident because the anti-Kiev warrior had married Hlinka's ex-wife and adopted her surname. I wonder when the defenders of the Kiev junta will go to sacrifice their comfort and lives as well, instead of sacrificing other people's money. Rest in peace.
One hour ago, Vladimir Putin called his Ukrainian friend Petro Poroshenko and they largely agreed about the procedure needed to stop the fights in Eastern Ukraine – conditions for a "permanent ceasefire" with the local militias. That's how the Ukrainian president's office interpreted the call.

The markets welcomed the news from Kiev – the Moscow index jumped by 4 percent or so. A few minutes ago, the ceasefire was officially declared by Poroshenko. However, Putin quickly denied the proposition about ceasefire from Poroshenko. Putin can't agree with a ceasefire because he wasn't a party to the conflict. It's clear that Putin has to remind everyone of this position while Poroshenko wants to say that Russia was a party to the conflict but otherwise I think that Poroshenko's claims that they have agreed what a sensible future solution could look like are correct claims.

In the video, a pundit claims that Poroshenko's announcement is just a lie, a trick to gain time to reorganize his forces that were badly beaten by the local militias in recent weeks. Let me assume that this prophesy is too pessimistic.

The anti-Kiev warriors have previously announced that they would even tolerate their membership in a Ukrainian state assuming certain political concessions.

First Czech modern capitalist theater opens in Pilsen

Even though the local social democrats were working hard to threaten the project (just because of a few percent of the budget), the new $40 million theater opened here in Pilsen last night – Smetana's Bartered Bride was the first thing that the viewers saw.

Most of the fans of arts seem to be happy with the appearance (initially designed by Portuguese architects) as well as the acoustics. That's good news because the Pilseners are a conservative bunch. Well, there are some Pilseners – like the local ice-hockey guru Marty Straka – for whom the theater is still too modern.

The white wall with the bubbles is supposed to represent a "curtain dividing the real world from the virtual one". The plays take place in that part of the building; the other, more ordinary black part of the building is for maintenance and technical purposes.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Gavin Schmidt's analogy ceasefire

...I agree with him...

Shockingly enough, the climate fearmonger Gavin Schmidt of RealClimate.ORG wrote something that I agree with:

On arguing by analogy
Climate skeptics often like to say that the climate alarmists are analogous to the defenders of Lysenkoism, phlogiston, phrenology, and eugenics, while the climate alarmists themselves love to compare themselves to Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, and maybe even Paul Ehrlich who has predicted that hundreds of millions of Americans would starve to death by the year 2000.

Schmidt's main point that I agree with is that these analogies are pretty much worthless for the debate about the substance because these analogies are only relevant for someone who already accepts the basic points about the substance. If one already knows (or at least assumes) that the climate panic is hogwash, he will know that the skeptics' favorite analogies are approximately right while the alarmists' analogies are misleading. If she still believes that the climate is dangerously changing, she will refuse the skeptics' favorite analogies and buy the alarmists' ones.

50 years of Bell's theorem: watch Zeilinger's talk

Well, I don't really count Bell's theorem among the top discoveries of physics but it was still a result that showed the irreversibility of the quantum revolution more clearly than previous arguments.

Anton Zeilinger is a wise guy (not to mention that he is the president of the Austrian Academy of Sciences) and he is just giving a talk at CERN that you may watch live:

From John Bell at CERN to Quantum Communication and Quantum Computation (video)
The screen under the link above has two parts, one with the speaker and one with the transparencies.