Thursday, March 23, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

What mathematical thinking looks like and why schools should teach it

A week ago, Doug K. sent me an essay

Why We Should Reduce Skills Teaching in the Math Class
by Dr Keith Devlin, a British American set theorist and mathematics teacher.

Like many postmodern promoters of feel-good education, Devlin argues that we should reduce the teaching of all hard mathematics at school. After all, almost no one actually needs mathematics in his life so it's fine. This change will reduce the math anxieties and math phobia in the society, make the world a better place, and so on. At the same time, most people will understand what is mathematics, how and where it is used, they will have a positive attitude to it, and they will be ready to learn it as soon as they need some because math phobia won't be deterring them.

Please, give me a break.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Aaronson's delusions about the universe as a simulation

Four days ago, I praised Sabine Hossenfelder's remarks about the hypothesis that our Universe is a simulation. It's rather clear that complexity theorist Scott Aaronson disagrees on some fundamental issues, as he wrote in his

Your yearly dose of is-the-universe-a-simulation,
and Aaronson is just completely wrong about all these points. Some of these two folks' views were mentioned at Gizmodo. Aaronson summarized the core of his opinion as follows:
In short: blame it for being unfalsifiable rather than for being falsified!
He claims that it's not a problem to reconcile the universe-as-a-computer with the Lorentz invariance, too. On the other hand, Hossenfelder (like your humble correspondent) emphasizes that all the predictions similar to "certain computer-like glitches, such as the failure of accuracy or continuity and deja vu cats" seem to be falsified. So at some imperfect but high confidence level, the "simulation hypothesis" has been ruled out. Aaronson doesn't like it and he's wrong.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Antiviruses: when the cure is worse than the disease

In the morning, my antivirus software suddenly told me that my main defragmenter is a virus.

Just to be specific: I have used the German AVIRA software (web) with the red umbrella icon for over 15 years. It's probably not the most patriotic thing to do because Czechia has turned into an antivirus superpower largely thanks to Avast which recently devoured its competitor AVG (for $1.3 bn) and the company's headquarters stayed in Prague. Avast actually has more employees than Avira etc. Avast was founded as a communist-era co-op in 1988, AVIRA is two years older. Almost all people on the Avast board are non-Czech today, however.

I think that AVIRA does a good job and I've seen some reports that it's among the antiviruses that don't slow down the PC too much.

The other part of the story is that I believe that fragmentation of files slows down PC and I am running a defragmentation periodically. I've tried many but Auslogics Disk Defrag Free seems like the best choice on the market – it's much faster than most others and it visualizes things appropriately and gives you all the information about the fragmented files, the number of fragments, and other things.

Monday, March 20, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Germans should be ashamed of their candidate Martin Schulz

Off-topic: I know that many ex-fans have already grown tired of The Big Bang Theory but I haven't and for folks like me, CBS has approved the 11th and 12th seasons of TBBT. Via syndication, the show has earned over $1 billion for Warner, I haven't been sent a penny (let alone Penny) yet.
In the recent decade, the German politician elite has drifted towards the arrogant, politically correct far left corner. Recall that Angela Merkel's predecessor was the social democrat Gerhard Schröder.

This 2002 parody of a famous Spanish ketchup pop song, "The Tax Song", still showed the innocent politics that Western politics had known for decades. Schröder was a social democrat and it was therefore sensible to assume that he wants too high taxes, too many taxes (I can't even tell you with any certainty whether high taxes were characteristic for his tenure), and he's making fun of the citizens who probably don't like to pay this much. The only other theme of the song I can identify are the accusations that Schröder had to color his hair, otherwise they couldn't have been so youthful.

Although Merkel's CDU should be more conservative than Schröder's SPD, I find it obvious that Merkel is more left-wing than Schröder was. He was really a guy with some common sense who was immune towards most of the insanities – and he's still resistant towards e.g. the postmodern Russophobia that is largely driven by Vladimir Putin's being too conservative for the self-anointed progressive ideologues who have multiplied like locusts in the West.

Sunday, March 19, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Do you really think the Moon is a planet, Kirby? informs us about lots of legitimate news but sometimes it loves to spread hype about some absolute nonsense. When it switches to the nonsense mode, it usually promotes the craziest articles to the "featured" category. On Friday, they posted a crazy article about a topic that everyone should be able to understand,

Scientists make the case to restore Pluto's planet status
Pluto is a hero of the title but this very fact is ludicrous. Some people feel sad about the downgraded status of a piece of rock they have never seen with their eyes. But there's something else that the title doesn't convey: The people who want to redefine a "planet" again intend to make sure that there are over 100 planets in the Solar System so that the list would include the Earth's Moon – where some TRF readers have been – among many others.

Two Plutos, taken from the article about a Daesh astronomer who wants to rename Pluto to the Moon of Mohammed LOL. See also ISIS plans to carry attacks on Pluto.

The main proponent of the new definition is Mr Kirby Runyon (and "Mr" should be understood in the same way as when Dr Gablehauser talks to Mr Howard Wolowitz), a graduate student at John Hopkins, a Christian, and an owner of a cat. Quite some credentials.

Saturday, March 18, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Hossenfelder sensibly critical of our "simulated" world

Sabine Hossenfelder writes a lot of wrong texts, especially about issues that depend on some nontrivial calculation. But she is often reasonable when she discusses certain conceptual issues, including the general properties of quantum mechanics (and the absence of non-local influences in QFT etc.).

The latest example of the penetrating texts is

No, we probably don’t live in a computer simulation
I've discussed the proposals that "our world has been programmed by our overlord, Ms Simulator" in 2011, 2013, 2016, aside from other moments.

But let's look primarily at the comments by Hossenfelder and her readers – who surprisingly seem to agree.

Particles' wave functions always spread superluminally

It's been almost a week since we discussed Jacques Distler's confusion about some basics of quantum field theory. He posts several blog posts a year, a quantum field theory course is probably the only one he teaches, and he was "driven up the wall" by a point that almost every good introductory textbook makes at the very beginning. I expected that within a day or two, he would post a detailed text with the derivations saying "Oops, I've been silly [for 50 years]".

It just didn't happen. He still insists that the one-particle truncation of a quantum field theory is perfectly consistent and causal. In particular, he repeated many times in his blog post (search for the word "superluminal") that the relativistically modified Schrödinger's equation for one particle (with a square root) guarantees that the wave packets never spread faster than the speed of light. Oops, it's just too bad.

Friday, March 17, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Budget 2018: America will eliminate funding for climate hysteria

For more than a decade, I've been urging the responsible people to stop their support and especially government funding for the climate hysteria, a political movement that pretends to be all about science even though it brutally violates even the basic principles of the scientific method and threatens the integrity of the institutionalized science, prosperity of whole countries, and the freedom of their citizens.

There have been partial victories that have made us smile at one moment or another. But up to 2007, it seemed clear that the movement was growing and after 2007-2009, whatever the exact date of the Peak Climate Alarm was, it still seemed extremely likely that the climate alarmists were here to stay and consolidate their influence – much like we thought that communists were here to stay in Czechoslovakia in the late 1980s.

Well, the victory of Donald Trump was the first event that seems to change the big picture and reverse the trends in major ways – the first sign that the climate hysteria could be unsustainable, after all, much like Nazism, eugenics, communism, and other fads currently residing at the dumping ground of history. We didn't know whether Ivanka Trump and Rex Tillerson would "allow" the U.S. president to do something that has been a not so negligible part of the campaign. But things look better again.

Thursday, March 16, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Why research at Czech institutions sucks

Yesterday, a Czech expert in spintronics and nanoelectronics Mr Tomáš Jungwirth has provoked some naive Czech patriots who think that their homeland is very good in things like science:

Researcher: Czech science is average, wins few ERC grants (Prague Monitor, widely discussed in Czech press)
Jungwirth is a member of the European Research Council. Well, I think that I was still a high school student when I was pretty much decided that the Czech contributions to science in general and physics in particular are pretty much negligible. In fact, before I came to the college, I was already worried whether there could be someone in our homeland who could teach me/us things needed for the cutting-edge physics etc.

Just to be sure, the Czech education bringing you up to the early 1970s or so is very good, I still think. But at the research level, the numbers speak clearly:
Researchers from other EU countries submit two or three times more applications for ERC grants than those from the Czech Republic, Jungwirth said. Moreover, 12 percent of the grant applications are successful on average, while Czech projects succeed only in 5 percent of cases. Czech projects have won ERC 25 grants worth 41 million euros since 2007, while Austrian and Hungarian projects have won 189 and 54 grants, respectively.
Austrian and Hungary - totally comparable countries – have won 7.6 and 2.2 times more grants than Czechia, respectively. The deviation of these numbers from 1 obviously cannot be considered noise and – despite the EU's numerous fundamental shortcomings – I don't think that it's an effort of the evil EU organs to hurt Czechia, either.

LHCb discovers five \(css\) bound states at once

The LHCb detector is way smaller and cheaper than its fat ATLAS and CMS siblings. But it doesn't mean that it can't discover cool things – and many things. The letter \(b\) refers to the bottom quark. It's often said that the bottom quark is the best path towards the research of CP-violation and similar things.

But for some reasons, the LHCb managed to discover five new particles without any bottom quark – at once:

The collaboration proudly tweeted about the new discovery and linked to their new paper,

Observation of five new narrow \(\Omega^0_c\) states decaying to \(\Xi^+_c K^−\)
You may count the new peaks on the graph above. If you haven't forgotten some rather rudimentary number theory, you know that the counting goes as follows: One, two, three, four, five. TRF contains new stuff to learn for everybody, including those who would consider any mathematics exam unconstitutional and inhuman. ;-)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

This Nye's monologue is no "big think" was founded in 2007 and Larry Summers and Peter Thiel were among the initial financial and intellectual investors in the project. I am confident that it used to interview many exceptionally intelligent people and they were talking about nontrivial topics and arguments. Five years ago, I mentioned an interview with Lisa Randall about string theory.

If you look at the recent videos at the BigThink YouTube channel, they look like rather lame pop scientific and pseudoscientific topics that you find everywhere on the Internet. You don't need a pedigree of famous founders for such a website.

The 4-minute monologue of Bill Nye is a great example of the intellectual deterioration of in recent years. The diatribe seems to be a response to a Fox News exchange between Tucker Carlson and Bill Nye. Recall that Carlson mainly wanted Nye to say to what extent the humans have driven climate change. Nye wasn't capable to say a damn thing that would be relevant in that 9-minute-long Fox News interview. He had weeks to "think big" about these matters and now, when he added a 4-minute monologue, he still failed to say anything that would be relevant or at least intelligent.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Czechs vow defiance after irrational EU gun ban

The country in the heart of Europe is terrified by the counterproductive, treacherous approach of the EU apparatchiks to gun laws

Czech political parties experienced a somewhat rare wave of unity today which was unfortunately not shared by most of the European Union. The European Parliament voted 491yes-197no-28abstain to ban the sales of new semi-automatic guns.

The largest community in my homeland that is affected are the owners of Model 58. It's known by the Czechoslovak acronym Vz 58 and "vz" stands for "vzor" i.e. "template". After Kalashnikovs appeared, all socialist countries were basically forced to adopt the exact Soviet design. Czechoslovakia got an exception because if a country with this somewhat legendary arms industry were forced to accept the Soviet technology, it would be rather offensive. Vz 58 appeared as a Czechoslovak answer to the Kalashnikovs. It's a full replacement but all the parts are actually different and the Czechoslovak rifle is arguably better than the Soviet competitor.

Monday, March 13, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Should mathematics exams be required at the end of high school?

In recent weeks, I was involved in various discussions about the education of mathematics in Czechia. One of the topics was the "playful" Hejný method (a long CZ thread) to teach mathematics to kids which may be fun and useful but it's simply not a legitimate replacement for mathematics as I define it.

Yesterday, someone asked me to solve one page of undergraduate problems in mathematical statistics. Compute the averages, variances and standard deviations, medians, quantiles, draw some histograms, use computer software to do a quadratic fit. And also compute the probability that you get all 4 kings out of 32 cards in a pile of 7. An hour of work. I did consider the problems nicely chosen and adequate for someone who should have background in any experimental science etc.

But they were taken from an exam (a take-home exam?) for mostly female students who want to get a bachelor degree and become nurses. That's tough because I do think that most nurses just can't do a big majority of these things. But the statistics course is mandatory and right now, unlimited nurses do need the bachelor degree. It looks like an anomaly: Ways to deal with a senior who urinated himself could be more useful for them than the calculations of the residual variance of a quadratic fit. ;-) Some lawmakers are preparing a reform that will allow nurses to work without the bachelor degree – the high school plus a year of a "higher school" will be enough. But it's not reality yet.

At the end, however, I have big sympathies for the instructor who is trying hard to convince the students to learn these things. If you asked me, I would probably agree that people with college degrees in science-related disciplines – and medicine is one of them – should be able to do most of these things, at least in principle. It's not possible for most people to know such things and again, I do agree that nurses shouldn't necessarily be "college-educated folks".

The mathematics instructor is universally hated by his students, of course. This is the level that primarily determines my emotions. I just couldn't support the students in their bitter jihad against the noble man. The fact that some soon-to-be-nurses are being pushed to learn things they don't need is one thing. But this guy was hired to teach college-level mathematical statistics and it's simply right to do it right. It's in no way insane to expect the college students majoring in a science-based discipline to know how to do these standard things after two semesters of statistics!