Wednesday, April 24, 2019 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Physicists' views have been confined to servers that no one else reads

A few days ago, The Symmetry Magazine published Falsifiability and Physics.

Folks such as Slatyer, Baer, Prescod-Weinstein, and Carroll argue that (and why) real physicists don't really pay attention to buzzwords such as "falsifiability" that have spread to the mass media as fire; and why they don't really consider Karl Popper as their infallible guru. The article also points out that Popper's targets weren't theories in physics but things like Freudian psychology and Stalinist history which is why the current critics of physics are really using Popperism outside its domain of validity.

Physicists are interested in statements that are falsifiable in principle and whether they may be falsified in practice and whether it can be done soon is at most secondary. Science cherishes the insights that are true, not those that are early. The thousands of years that the atomic hypothesis needed to be fully established is probably the greatest counterexample to the claim that "we only need theories with a fast complete confirmation".

Some of the names could produce some emotions in the TRF community. If I omit those with the greatest capability of igniting emotions, we are left with Baer and Tracy. Slatyer is an excellent Australian physicist and I was present when she was being admitted to Harvard – she has also worked at MIT and Princeton. Well, it just happens that she – and Baer as well – has also become a "progressive" activist although not as loud one as others. She is still an excellent physicist.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Thanks, CO2: the resilience of plants to drought is amazing

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the CO2 concentration has grown from 280 ppm to 410 ppm or so (ppm is a part per million, of volume, or equivalently, 0.0001% of the number of atoms/molecules in the atmosphere), i.e. by 45 percent. CO2 is primarily good as plant food – most of the mass of trees and other plants is made out of water plus carbon that is extracted from CO2 in the air.

So it's not shocking that agricultural yields have grown by 20% or so just because of the higher CO2 itself. The food is more easily available so plants grow more easily. But the microscopic explanation why plants are doing better also involves water. Because CO2 is more available, plants may afford fewer pores – the holes through which they absorb CO2 from the air – and this is good because the fewer pores also mean a smaller loss of water.

Sunday, April 21, 2019 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Why and how I understood QM as a teenager

First, because Ehab has reminded me, I must start with promoting my PhD adviser Tom Banks' December 2018 book on quantum mechanics. I have learned a lot from Tom, and if I didn't, our views on foundations of QM were aligned. The book discusses linear algebra and probability calculus as the background – Tom immediately presents the amplitudes and the main rules of the game as a Pythagorean-flavored probability calculus; "unhappening" is an essential new quantum feature; Feynman lectures and two-dimensional Hilbert spaces, the Feynmanian attitude (without continuous Schrödinger waves) to "start to teach QM" I have repeatedly defended; quantization of harmonic oscillator and the fields; more details on the QM linear algebra, eigenvalues, symmetries; the hydrogen atom and derivation of basic "atomic physics"; spin; scattering; particles in magnetic fields; measurement with Tom's favorite focus on collective coordinates; approximations for molecules; quantum statistical physics; perturbation theory frameworks; adiabatic and Aharonov-Bohm/Berry phases; Feynman path integral (!); quantum computation (!); seven appendices on interpretations of QM plus 6 math topics: Dirac delta, Noether, group theory, Laguerre polynomials, Dirac notation, some solutions to problems. I think there's no controversial Banksy visionary stuff in the book and if there's some of it, you will survive.

Now, switching to the dark side: Another book against quantum mechanics has been published – this time from a well-established, chronic critic of physics. Numerous non-physicists wrote ludicrous, positive reviews of that stuff for numerous outlets, including outlets that should be scientific in character. The book may be summarized by one sentence:
The only problem with quantum mechanics [...] is that it is wrong.
It doesn't look like a terribly accurate judgement of the most accurately verified theory in science. The contrast between the quality, trustworthiness, and genre of this anti-QM book and Tom's book above couldn't be sharper. Readers and their hormonal systems must be ready for hundreds of pages of comparably extraordinary statements. For example:
The risk, [the author] warns, is the surrender of the centuries-old project of realism...
So here you have it. "Realism" (which is called "classical physics" by physicists) "must" be upheld because it is a "centuries-old project", we are told.

In contrast to that, scientists are used to the fact that old theories are falsified and abandoned – events of this kind are really the defining events of all of science. All this worshiping of centuries-old projects is particularly amusing if you realize that the same author has previously claimed that research projects that are older than 5 years and don't produce a clear victory must be abandoned. The inconsistency is just staggering. There are tens of thousands of fans of this stuff who just don't seem to care.

Saturday, April 20, 2019 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Microsoft: substantial backlash to "diversity" pogroms

Most of the large Internet companies in the Silicon Valley may be classified as pure evil and the chances that they will become compatible with the basic values of the Western civilization are basically non-existent. For example, just three weeks ago, a famous young CEO wrote an op-ed urging the world's governments to escalate censorship and other Big Brother tactics on the Internet. If someone is going to defend your basic civil rights on the Internet, be sure that his name is not Mark Zuckerberg.

However, I have repeatedly pointed out that Redmond isn't a town in the Silicon Valley. It's pretty far – both geographically and spiritually. Most recently, I praised Bill Gates for realizing (thanks to his Czech Canadian friend Václav Smil) that the bulk of the electricity we use today cannot be replaced with solar and wind sources.

Now, we have an interesting story about Microsoft and "diversity". Quartz, USA Today, MS Power User (an insightful discussion), The Verge (long discussion), TimCast, and other media outlets informed us about the content of some internal Microsoft corporate message boards. Some of the titles say that the staff "openly questions" diversity. Can you also question it "closedly"? The word "openly" clearly shows that the writers-activists would like to treat those who realize that "diversity" efforts are harmful as heretics.

Friday, April 19, 2019 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Ad hoc "communities" working on proofs are turning science into a clash of cults

Genuine scientific knowledge changes according to results, not according to communities

Elsewhere: Tetragraviton wrote a wonderful essay, The Black Box Theory of Everything, about a time machine that throws you to the 1960s for you to present an unreadable code, including QCD simulators, the Black Box, as your theory of hadrons. It works. Does it make sense to suggest quarks and partons when the Black Box works and quarks and partons yield "no new predictions"? The Black Box is a counterpart of the Standard Model and Tetragraviton explains why it's unreasonable to say – as some critics of science do say (Tetragraviton calls their view "the high school picture" of science which I don't fully understand) – that a new, more unified or readable, theory giving the same predictions "is not science". What is and isn't science shouldn't depend on historical accidents. I subscribe to every word.
A day ago, David Roberts wrote a comment with a link to some topics in hardcore category theory, mostly related to the initiality principle, and implicitly suggested that everyone judging the value and validity of Mochizuki's work has to follow this particular hardcore category theory stuff.

I don't believe this claim at all. I think there exists no evidence whatsoever that this stuff is useful let alone crucial for understanding Mochizuki's work – or most other results in mathematics. In fact, I have serious doubts about any kind of usefulness or depth of the page mentioned by Roberts. It seems like an overly formalized talk about something whose beef amounts to almost nothing, a Bourbaki on steroids. And this kind of intimidation, "you have to study and worship some particular formal texts, otherwise you're not allowed to speak" is exactly the wrong atmosphere in Western mathematics that I have criticized.

Mochizuki's theory remains controversial but it passes basic tests, has smart enough advocates, and has actual papers with hundreds of pages of actual results. It's just a higher level of scholarship than a random webpage on a blog in Austin. Indeed, I am worried that the Western researchers – including mathematicians – are increasingly turning from proper scholars producing rigorous papers to fans of some web pages filled with superficial, ideologically or emotionally driven, claims.

Thursday, April 18, 2019 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Alessandro's essay in Quillette

The full Mueller report is out – 212+236 = 448 pages of PDF. Well, OK, parts of the pages are redacted out, ongoing matters. You may decide for yourself whether something is left from the Russiagate conspiracy theories.
Two days ago, Alessandro Strumia published the ultimate essay about his encounter with the "women in science" issue. It discusses lots of things, the bibliographic analyses, the two gaps they found, the reasons why he gave the talk, the bad treatment he has gotten, his wise decision not to sue although "Particle for Justice" and similar texts could give him many reasons, and more.

But I want to talk about something else.

Judeo-Christianity and the Greco-Roman culture are the two recognized roots of the European culture. But there's really a third leg we shouldn't forget about about, our old-fashioned Pagan traditions, those that you can still see in Czechia and Slovakia. Although these civilizations weren't terribly high-tech, they gave the Europeans something important, too. We were Pagans up to 863 AD or so (when missionaries arrived from the Byzantine Empire to turn us Orthodox for a while) – so these things are not so infinitely distant. See e.g. The Pagan Queen to understand (a somewhat Americanized story) how the proto-Czechs lived a century earlier.

Easter is here again. The Christian church was rather tolerant to the local cultures and traditions so our celebration of Jesus' final days on Earth also involves the whipping of the girls and women – our Easter (and similarly Christmas) became a hybrid of the Christian orthodoxy and some pre-existing traditions linked to the same seasons. First, to become a full-blown European who also stands on the third leg, the naturally Pagan one, you need to learn how to knit the Easter whip out of twigs. Or buy one. If you want to be a perfectionist, the whip may be 300 feet long.

When you're ready, you need to chase girls and women in your village or town and beat them. It's particularly appropriate if you are a fan of the MeToo movement. Be careful of the people who could call the Santa Cruz police – that's an extra lesson I learned in California. ;-) The beating must be vigorous enough to substantially modify the girl's flow of blood, otherwise it's a useless formality. As the foreigners above explain, you should also pour buckets of water on the women.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Notre-Dame fire: a symbol of so many sad trends of the present

I think that in the grand scheme of things, Notre-Dame de Paris (meaning: Our Lady of Paris) isn't a property of the French people only.

It's really something that the whole mankind, and especially the Christian and Western civilization, owns and a symbol of that civilization. The cathedral in the classic French Gothic style was built between 1163-1345. It has survived 650-850 years or so, including lots of continental wars, cruel regimes etc. Before yesterday, the worst devastation has been an angry French Revolution mob that was destroying the organ and sculptures. The cathedral became the workplace of Mr Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre-Dame in a novel by Victor Hugo.

Because that structure is so universally important, I feel that all of us deserve condolences – so it doesn't make much sense for some of us to express condolences to others. But if Notre-Dame has been much closer to someone's heart than mine, please accept my condolences. By the way, the fire has been completely extinguished – but it took some half a day. The rectangular towers survived but the stability has to be monitored.

It's my guess that most of the TRF readers have been there – I was – and about 1/2 of those have seen the interior, too. Geologist Bob Carter was there in late 2015 – he interacted with some young climate alarmists. Sadly, Bob died a month later... At some level, it's another cathedral – except it's a very old and very famous one.

Monday, April 15, 2019 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Modern young black hole researchers need this quantum BH textbook by Lüst and pal

I think that all young people thinking as theoretical physicists who are interested in black holes should simply buy this new 2019 book Black Hole Information and Thermodynamics (SpringerBriefs in Physics) by Dieter Lüst (Munich, the main author) and Ward Vleeshouwers (Utrecht, a young contributor). The book is basically a set of notes of some 2017 lectures by Lüst, as recorded by Vleeshouwers.

It's a book that looks at the black holes, objects predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity, from viewpoints that are utterly modern. The book is available as Kindle or paperback.

Massie vs Kerry: a tense exchange on the climate

A week ago, RWA recommended me Congressman Thomas H. Massie, a robotics engineer (his Google Scholar record isn't bad!) and a Libertarian (R-KY). It just happens that YouTube offered me a 5-days-old video (boasting 1 million of mostly "progressive", CNN viewers) with this very Gentleman whose name I wasn't actively aware of just weeks ago:

John Kerry fires back at congressman: Are you serious? (video, 5 minutes)
Let me go through this exchange. OK, John Kerry called advisers to Donald Trump – starting with prominent physicist and retired professor Will Happer of Princeton – a "kangaroo court". Happer and colleagues should be replaced with "educated adults". As you can see, a hero of atomic physics Happer was fired by John Kerry from the chair of an "educated adult". Maybe Kerry will still allow you to be an assistant janitor, Will.

This is the kind of an insult that the likes of Kerry have been able to spread without much opposition in recent years because their befriended media repeat these insults every day and character assassinate everyone who dares to point out that such insults are utterly unjustifiable.

However, America still has a working republican system that goes beyond the monopoly of the mainstream media. So a lawmaker – a representative of the American voters – could have discussed this "kangaroo court" and "educated adults" and the existence or non-existence of a justification.

Sunday, April 14, 2019 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

"Abandon rational thinking" is too deep a paradigm shift for science

...but philosopher Wallace has understood many hard issues in physics correctly...

Philosopher David Wallace has previously written many things about the foundations of quantum mechanics that – I believe – no competent quantum physicist may subscribe to. However, if he carefully avoids this particular foundational topic, he may look very intelligent to me. In February, he wrote

Naturalness and Emergence (PDF, HTML).
The main conclusion is radical. He calls for a paradigm shift because the LHC null results and some facts about cosmology "undermine the entire structure of our understanding of inter-theoretic reduction, and so risks a much larger crisis in physics than is sometimes suggested". That's exciting!

OK, it is both exciting and ludicrous. But aside from these ambitious conclusions, he has written many things that seem correct to me – and that could earn an A grade if he were graded by someone like me.

Finland: first elections co-decided by the climate hysteria

The fight against the panic may lift the Finns Party to 15-20 percent

Today, both true and untrue Finns are choosing their representatives in the Parliament. According to the opinion polls, up to nine parties could be represented in the Parliament – Czechia has nine – but it's really five parties that are large, between 12% and 20% of votes. They are, in the order expected in the latest survey:

  • SDP, their social democratic party, that was suppressed in recent years but may return to the top
  • PS, Finns Party, the authentic right-wing party that was mainly anti-immigration but the theme has calmed down (except for some child abuse by foreigners which will help them) so they rediscovered themselves as an anti-green party
  • KOK, National Coalition Party, probably a CDU clone
  • KESK, the Center Party, some other nameless pro-EU party
  • VIHR, the Green League, the Finnish edition of the Far Left
PS+KOK+KESK teamed up to make the coalition after 2015. Due to the True Finns' internal chaos, the party split and a branch of theirs, Blue Reform, replaced the Finns Party, but the Blue Reform looks weak again now.

Since December 2018, the graph of the support for the climate skeptical Finns Party (previously True Finns) paradoxically looks like the hockey stick graph ;-), indicating a doubling of votes in 4 months.

Saturday, April 13, 2019 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Media simply invented the "creator" of the black hole picture

Instead of some reflection and errata, they defend their falsehoods with increased aggressiveness

Hat tip: Charles, Jaime, Rick, Connor, Samwise...

I haven't dedicated a special blog post to this topic but it seems like a classic story at the intersection of recurring themes of this weblog – and the questions have apparently been answered.

OK, who created the first photograph of the black hole?

Everyone who has a clue about this Big Science knows that the number of workers has been large – 348 folks in this case (click for a full list) but the lists contain roughly hundreds if not one thousand names in similar cases (and 2x 3,000 both for ATLAS and CMS) – and, while the individual contributions have been extremely unequal, many folks in this large set were really essential. The Event Horizon Telescope Wikipedia page describes the collaboration as one including 13 stakeholder institutes plus almost 100 "affiliated" institutes.

Some of the senior members of the collaboration were presenting the science during the press conference on Wednesday; see a list of some senior names here. Like in almost all similar experiments, men represented an overwhelming majority of the researchers.

Friday, April 12, 2019 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Black hole picture is mainly a triumph of engineering

There has been lots of excitement – and hype – surrounding the "first photograph of a black hole". Sensible people think beyond the mindless hype, of course, and they are really asking themselves: What has actually happened? Is that important or interesting? If it is, in what respect it is important or interesting? Which kind of work was hard? Which kind of information has it brought us or what can the method bring us in the future?

I think that despite the thousands of articles in the mainstream media, these basic questions aren't being answered well – or they're not being answered at all. Let me try to clarify some of the basic facts about the big picture.

Removal of Roger Scruton

With a delay of 1 day or so, the Czech press (especially Echo) informed us that the mob has gotten Roger Scruton on second try (that's the title chosen by the Washington Examiner). See also Roger Scruton's sacking threatens free speech and intellectual life (The Telegraph) and The real Roger Scruton scandal (Spiked) or The smear of Roger Scruton (The National Review); thank God these sources stood on the side of freedom and Sir Roger (something that wasn't guaranteed anymore).

A well-known British philosopher was a government adviser for housing (and previously for architecture) – an unpaid position – but the leftist mob doesn't want any conservative in the old-fashioned sense to be anywhere. So they were attacking him all time. It didn't work a few months ago. Now, Scruton (75) agreed to give an interview to a young leftist George Eaton (deputy editor of New Statesman).

And it was a trap – the interview was manipulated in order to make predetermined claims, "Scruton has said blasphemous things", and the left mob was joined by some conservative-in-name-only leftists around Theresa May's party who criticized Scruton for these "blasphemies" and Scruton was sacked.