Tuesday, November 25, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

PRL: life in 90% of galaxies is killed by GRBs

Science Magazine describes a provoking paper by Piran (HUJI Jerusalem) and Jimenez (U. Barcelona, Harvard) accepted for publication to prestigious Physical Review Letters two weeks ago:

Complex life may be possible in only 10% of all galaxies (Science)

On the role of GRBs on life extinction in the Universe (arXiv, PRL)
The basic claim is rather simple.

This extraterrestrial citizen works with Alza.cz and Alza.sk and spreads tablets and other things all over our homelands. The negative feedback suggests that the Czechoslovak folks may suffer from green xenophobia, after all.

The extraterrestrial ethnic minorities face another problem: (long) gamma-ray bursts, likely to be close to centers of small enough galaxies, take place too often and kill (the ozone layer and) complex life too early. Only 10% of galaxies – typically those that are large enough and sufficiently metallic, similarly to the Milky Way – has a chance to pass this cataclysmic test, and life seems to have a chance far away from the center only.

Kuperberg and a physician vs a thinking smoker

Scott Aaronson has reposted a "parable" that mathematician Greg Kuperberg posted on his Facebook profile. Kuperberg wants to repeat the usual story that the climate alarmists' recommendations are just like the physicians' advises to their patients.

In the parable, a doctor wants her patient to stop smoking but she's unable to answer any questions (clearly meant to be quantitative questions) about the degree to which smoking is harmful. Surprisingly, although Aaronson's is a far left blog addressed to the Cambridge MA Lumpencafé, most commenters seem to realize that

  1. the certainty about the harmful impact of smoking is vastly higher than the certainty about any harmful impacts of CO2 in the atmosphere
  2. most readers seem to be "climate alarm solution skeptics", i.e. they don't think there exists a good rational basis or justification to "fight CO2-caused climate change"
  3. most of the readers actually seem to agree with the patient-smoker, anyway.
This discussion has lots of aspects – whether the particular technical claims about smoking and/or CO2 are right; what the impact actually is; how to behave in the typical situation when the scientific conclusions are statistical in character – and uncertain, too; what is legitimately included in people's and nation's decision making; whether experts' opinion is always the superior one; whether physicians and climate policy experts may be considered full-fledged scientists, and many others.

Monday, November 24, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Bell's and sycophants' criticism of von Neumann's hidden-variable no-go theorem is misguided

John Preskill wrote a blog post, Bell’s inequality 50 years later, which argues that "without Bell, the broader significance of quantum entanglement would have unfolded quite differently and perhaps not until much later." Preskill concludes: "We really owe Bell a great debt."

Is every catchy song or paper written using modern tools "intrinsically original"?

Your humble correspondent is much less convinced that the 1964 Bell's paper was either new or pushing the physics research in the right direction.

It is a nice undergraduate textbook example very explicitly showing the differences between the quantum mechanical predictions and predictions of some simple "local realist" theories a beginner could expect to be relevant. Some people could have still believed that the question whether the probabilistic character of the physical predictions has to be intrinsic would become forever undecidable and that was shown to be wrong.

However, I strongly believe that

  1. the fathers of quantum mechanics could collectively solve the particular thought experiment and see the incompatibility of the quantum vs local realist predictions; even without that, the amount of evidence they had supporting the need for the new, quantum core of physics has been overwhelming since the mid 1920s
  2. much of the explicit findings and slogans about entanglement had been known for 29 years, since the 1935 works by Einstein, Podolsky, Rosen; and Schrödinger
  3. Bell's results didn't really help in the creation of the quantum computing "engineering industry" which would only start in 1970 and which has little to do with all the quasi-philosophical debates surrounding entanglement
  4. most frustratingly, Bell's correct results were served in a mixed package along with lots of wrong memes, unreasonable expectations, and misleading terminology and the negative price of these "side effects" is arguably larger than the positive price of Bell's realizations
Concerning the last point, Bell really remained a champion of the fundamentally flawed Bohmian ways to think about – or classically model – quantum mechanics. He was the man who made it popular for the laymen and deluded physicists to think that quantum mechanics was new because it was "non-local" even though the truth is that the quantum laws controlling Nature are local, thanks to relativity – but they are "non-classical" or "non-realist", if you wish. He has proved that "locality" and "realism" couldn't have been simultaneously true – but he kept on making the fundamental error in deciding which of these two principles is actually right and which of them is wrong.

In some sense, while the anti-quantum movement should have been almost completely killed by Bell's results, it was actually re-energized because one of its members, the quantum mechanics hater called John Bell, was able to write a moderately famous paper. So a cult of personality of a sort was created around this mediocre physicist. The fact that the paper was just another piece of evidence that the main idea underlying the movement is fallacious wasn't a problem for these folks.

More generally, Bell was arguably the main person who helped to degenerate much of the physics culture into the popular-book-driven and media-tainted contest between media fads of the current, postmodern type whose success is being decided by millions of readers who don't have a clue and who routinely interpret physical results exactly in the opposite way than what the results actually imply.

Sunday, November 23, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

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.

UN: Ukraine, Canada, and U.S. officially endorse glorification of Nazism

Yesterday, we were allowed to learn (from the news or Vineyard) about a rather stunning Friday vote in the United Nations. A group of post-Soviet, Latin American, African, and other countries proposed a resolution (initiated in early November)

Combating glorification of Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (full PDF text, 7 pages)
You may read the whole thing, it's not too long, and as far as I can see, the bulk matches the title perfectly. The U.N. members are aware of the harmful impact and rise of the pro-Nazi groups such as skinheads, the celebration of Waffen SS, the destruction of memorials remembering the anti-Hitler coalition. It encourages them to outlaw racially motivated crimes, and so on.

What was the result of the plentary vote? It passed, of course, and will be adopted by the U.N. general body in December (not that such things matter too much). 115 countries including BRIC, Israel, Argentina voted Yes. 55 countries including all EU members, Switzerland, and Japan abstained. (Serbia, an EU candidate, voted Yes.) And 3 countries voted No: Ukraine, Canada, and the United States of America.

I find it shocking that such a standard sequence of comments against Nazism became so controversial. I am flabbergasted by the fact that the U.S. and Canada teamed up around the heart of the pro-Nazi axis of the current world, Ukraine, to create the new axis.

Saturday, November 22, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Chilean telescope finds a "mysterious" 2.5-sigma alignment of black holes

I think it's unlikely that there's something really new in the observations

Two days ago, the Daily Mail (plus colleagues) has excited many readers by the following esoteric article:

Mystery of the 'spooky' pattern in the universe: Scientists find that supermassive black holes are ALIGNED
The Very Large Telescope has found some weird pattern in the locations of quasars and the rotation of the central supermassive black holes. And these patterns are far-reaching – seem to correlate objects that are billions of light years away from each other, i.e. distances comparable to the size of the visible Universe.

This is just an artist's depiction of an alignment.

The probability that such patterns emerge by chance – according to the current models with their probability distributions defining chance – is said to be 1 percent.

WaPo's meddling with allies' internal affairs is despicable

One month ago, I discussed a U.S. entry ban for Hungarian officials, an intervention into an ally's internal affairs that I find unacceptable.

During the following weeks, it was becoming increasingly clear that my own country is a target of this "activism", too. The main underlying reason for these anti-Hungarian, anti-Czech, and other assaults is the widespread opposition against the trade war with Russia in these Central European countries. One could argue that in all the countries of the former Austrian-Hungarian monarchy (and perhaps also in Italy, if not Germany), most people and business interests prefer constructive relationships with Russia.

Someone doesn't like it. Various actually unimportant events, like the Czech president's expletives voiced in his radio show, are used as excuses to meddle with our internal affairs. Zeman has been an outspoken guy for decades. In a recent traditional interview "Monologues from the Lány Chateau" (which Havel used to record every week), he mentioned that Karl Schwarzenberg, his opponent in the presidential elections 2 years ago, uses the word s*it in every other sentence. He would say that the lawmakers have scr*wed the Public Service Bill. And he said that the Pussy Riot ladies aren't really political prisoners but rather b*tches and puss*es (well, his translation was closer to c*nts) who were arrested for a riot, not for their opinions. As you may imagine, lots of reactions do occur after such words. His translation wasn't "quite" accurate and his pronunciation of "p*ssy" was wrong (pahsy) but the broader point was morally right.

Four days ago, The Ron Paul Institute told us that the NED president Carl Gershman, a de facto U.S. "regime change tsar", is working on toppling of the Czech president. When I participated in a recent public debate with the new U.S. ambassador, my impression surely was that he might be thinking that it's his legitimate job to influence the politics in his host country in similar ways.

Friday, November 21, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

An evaporating landscape? Possible issues with the KKLT scenario

By Dr Thomas Van Riet, K.U. Leuven, Belgium

What is this blog post about?

In 2003, in a seminal paper by Kachru, Kallosh, Linde and Trivedi (KKLT) (2000+ cites!), a scenario for constructing a landscape of de Sitter vacua in string theory with small cosmological constant was found. This paper was (and is) conceived as the first evidence that the string theory landscape contains a tremendous amount of de Sitter vacua (not just anti-de Sitter vacua) which could account for the observed dark energy.

The importance of this discovery should not be underestimated since it profoundly changed the way we think about how a fundamental, UV-complete theory of all interactions addresses apparent fine-tuning and naturalness problems we are faced with in high energy physics and cosmology. It changed the way we think string theory makes predictions about the low-energy world that we observe.

Thursday, November 20, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Secret Science Reform Act of 2014: a step towards transparency

An effort to eliminate shamans and would-be scientific pressure groups possessing no verifiable evidence from the EPA decisions

President Obama has threatened to employ dictatorial strategies and completely circumvent the lawmakers during his divine personal mission to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal our planet.

If hired by the government as a researcher, a shaman is enough to serve as an "adviser" and the basis of the EPA decisions as of today.

After all, isn't it enough to control the EPA and to borrow a Michael Mann from the Penn State [I know that the überjerk is elsewhere now] and a Peter Gleick from the State Penn and use this administrator to cripple whole sectors of the economy – while saying that this is what has healed the planet?

CMS releases 1/2 of 2010 data to the public

Hours ago, the CMS Collaboration – one of the two major detectors at CERN's LHC collider – has made a cool announcement via Twitter.

A part of the complete data on the collision became public:

CERN makes public first data of LHC experiments (press release)

CMS releases first batch of high-level LHC open data (an extra CERN news article)

OpenData.CERN.CH (CMS subset, policies)
So far, what we're given are just the high-level data from Run B in 2010. Recall that the center-of-mass energy was \(7\TeV\) at that time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

CMS sees excess of same-sign dimuons "too"

An Xmas rumor deja vu

There are many LHC-related hep-ex papers on the arXiv today, and especially

Searches for the associated \(t\bar t H\) production at CMS
by Liis Rebane of CMS. The paper notices a broad excess of like-sign dimuon events. See the last 2+1 lines of Table 1 for numbers.

Monday, November 17, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

RHIC and a shower: how stand-up comedian Frank Wilczek suffered for science

I think that this 19-minute video at the World Science Festival (the "Moth" series) shows that Frank Wilczek could make the living as a stand-up comedian. At least it seems to me that he is a more natural entertainer than the comedian who introduced him.

The video was posted 3 weeks ago but it was recorded in 2010, I think.

He tells us two stories, a longer one and a shorter one, how he has suffered for science.

RHIC, black holes

First, sometime around 2000, Walter Wagner – the same Hawaiian high school teacher who would sue the LHC later – would question the RHIC experiment in Brookhaven. It was supposed to create a black hole. Frank Wilczek wanted a Nobel prize for some related results so he wanted to be the go-to guy who answers all questions.

So when the P.R. department of the Brookhaven Labs got the complaint, he was asked to write the reply – see e.g. this preprint. The black hole would be too small, too quickly evaporating, and the Earth has survived billions of years of similar collisions. We learned that the "strangelet scenario" was added by Wilczek himself because he wanted to make the threat more spicy and more likely (but still easy enough for him to disprove it). With the strangelet twist, it became a text he was proud about.

Sunday, November 16, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

CMS: locally 2.6 or 2.9 sigma excess for another \(560\GeV\) Higgs boson \(A\)

And there are theoretical reasons why this could be the right mass

Yesterday, the CMS Collaboration at the LHC published the results of a new search:

Search for a pseudoscalar boson \(A\) decaying into a \(Z\) and an \(h\) boson in the \(\ell^+\ell^- \bar b b\) final state
They look at collisions with the \(\ell\ell bb\) final state and interpret it using the two higgs doublet model scenarios.

You may still buy Matt Taylor's shirt

Matt Taylor's shirt has instantly become one of the modern symbols of the fight between science, achievements, freedom, dedication to one's work, and meritocracy on one side and oppression, bullying, parasitism, feminism, humorlessness, cruelty, and superficiality on the other side.

The feminist bullies have apparently broken Matt Taylor, a scientist-in-chief of the Rosetta mission that succeeded in sending a module to a comet and in drilling it – all the data from the drilling got back before the battery went to the standby mode. But the legend has it that the poor guy said "and yet it moves". And even if he hasn't, you know very well that it moves, anyway, don't you?

Lightnings may increase by 12% per 1 °C of warming

David M. Romps, Jacob T. Seeley (Berkeley), David Vollaro, and John Molinari (Albany) published a report in Nature whose title reads

Projected increase in lightning strikes in the United States due to global warming
that was quoted in hundreds of media outlets.

Let me tell you: I find this number conceivable.

They decided that the lightning frequency is approximately equal to the product of the precipitation rate and a potential energy (CAPE). It probably isn't exact but it's probably good enough for some estimates. Combined with some empirical data, 1 °C of warming adds 12% to the warming strikes. When combined with some nonsensically overrated projections about the rise of the mean temperature in the rest of the century, they may get a 50% increase of lightnings.

Saturday, November 15, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Zeman: Velvet Revolution started by the rumor about the death of student Martin Šmíd

The student of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics is doing fine

The current and previous Czech presidents, Zeman and Klaus, were debating about the Velvet Revolution and related topics.

Martin Šmíd from my Alma Mater is the main hero of this blog post.

To remind you, the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia – the Velvet Revolution – began exactly 25 years ago, on Friday, November 17th, 1989, when the police used some amount of violence against the peaceful student rally in Prague (where all the events in this blog post took place). The students of the Charles University, my Alma Mater (that was later, I was a high school student at the revolutionary times), would be remembering the 50th anniversary of the Nazi murder of 9 Czech students in 1939.

Is our galactic black hole a neutrino factory?

When I was giving a black hole talk two days ago, I would describe Sagittarius A*, a black hole in the center of the Milky Way, our galaxy, as our "most certain" example of an astrophysical black hole that is actually observed in the telescopes. Its mass is 4 million solar masses – the object is not a negligible dwarf.

Accidentally, a term paper and presentation I would do at Rutgers more than 15 years ago was about Sgr A*. Of course, I had no doubt it was a black hole at that time.

Today, science writers affiliated with all the usual suspects (e.g. RT) would run the story that Sgr A* is a high-energy neutrino factory.

Why now? Well, a relevant paper got published in Physical Review D. Again, it wasn't today, it was almost 2 months ago, but a rational justification of the explosion of hype in the mid of November 2014 simply doesn't exist. Someone in NASA helped the media to explode – by this press release – and they did explode, copying from each other in the usual way.

Friday, November 14, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Shocking MH17 shotdown photo passes some tests but failed in others

One hour after I posted it, a commenter's URL convinced me that the photo is fake. See the featured comment below the post.

But you still want to see what I wrote before that, right? ;-) Here it is.

The MH17 aircraft was shot down above Eastern Ukraine on July 17th around 13:20 UTC. A ground-to-air missile or an air-to-air missile are the leading "technical" explanations of what happened. The ground-to-air missile theory (probably using a Buk missile; recently vaguely endorsed by the German intelligence) would leave the question "who did it" and "why" open. The air-to-air missile theory would have clearer implications – the post-Maidan Ukrainian government would be behind it.

Click the picture for a 7406 x 5000 very high resolution photograph.

Hours ago, ITAR-TASS (and later The Daily Mail and a helpful blog; I know it from the Czech media) brought us the photograph above.

Rosetta scientists are allowed to wear their favorite shirts

Sad news: Alexandre Grothendieck, one of the 20th century best mathematicians, died.
Philae was the first man-made object that landed on a comet (thrice), after it made two "unnecessary" jumps (a two-hour jump plus another eight-minute jump). But an important British member of the team (he's really the #1 scientist-in-chief in Rosetta) is already finding himself under some heavy criticism, as BMWA1 pointed out.

Try this video, and go to 1:42, to see an interview with this man. His tattoos are all about Rosetta.

This man was acknowledged to be important enough to be a spokesman for the media as well and CNN wrote a story (!) called
Philae researcher criticized for shirt covered in scantily clad women
Holy cow. Many other left-wing media including The Washington Post and The Guardian wrote hysterically negative "stories" while the center-right Telegraph and The Daily Mail reported on Taylor's appearance mostly positively. Pathetically enough, the far left-wing The Independent attempted a character assassination based on the claim that "Taylor can't park his car".