Friday, September 30, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Finiteness of moduli spaces

Zhiqin Lu and Mike Douglas propose a physics proof of the finiteness of the moduli spaces - where the volume is measured by the Zamolodchikov metric - that was recently promoted by Cumrun Vafa in his Swampland. It is not quite clear how general their proof is but it has essentially the following parts:

  • argue that your non-linear sigma-model may be constructed from a gauged linear sigma-model (GLSM) and RG flow
  • show that the volume of the moduli space is finite in the GLSM - it's because the moduli space is something like CP^{125} with a non-singular metric
  • demonstrate that the finiteness does not change by the RG flow: although the total "time" of the flow is infinite, most of the changes appear in a particular finite interval where the RG scale is comparable to the typical scales of the GLSM given by its coupling(s)
They need to assume a gap, making the connection between the discrete spectrum and the finiteness of the volume a bit more comprehensible. It's a bit confusing that the existence of dualities - that seem essential for the finiteness - does not seem to play too much of a role. It's probably because the GLSM does not have most of these dualities and it directly describes a fundamental domain. The dualities appear in the IR limit only. Do I understand it well?

The first millikelvin

Sometimes next week or so, there will be worldwide celebrations of the first millikelvin that will be saved by the Kyoto protocol; see the Kyoto counter on the right side. This millikelvin is a source of immense pride for all the people who care about the global warming.

One negative millikelvin is the upper limit on the temperature difference that the world community has bought so far; this "huge" temperature difference is the highest estimate based on the assumption that CO2 really matters - which is what the "climate models" behind Kyoto assume. If the carbon dioxide matters less, then we have bought an even more negligible amount of negative temperature.

When you will talk to your granddaughter in 2030 and she will be looking at the global thermometer and it will show 16.443 degrees Celsius, you will proudly say the following:

  • Do you see the number 16.443, Hillary? This is a result of the worldwide efforts in 2005 in which I actively participated - efforts to cool down our blue planet. If we had not united most of the civilized world back in 2005 and if we had not paid 100 billion dollars in 2005 itself, the thermometer would probably be showing 16.444 degrees Celsius today. That would be a real disaster. Can you imagine, 16.444 instead of 16.443 on September 30th, 2030? You can see how much I loved you, even decades before you were born. And it was actually very easy: those hundreds of billions of dollars were mostly paid by the evil capitalists anyway. We used the most advanced technology available in 2005 - especially bureaucratic regulations designed to reduce the economic growth. And this progress continued. This is why you are a polar bear, Hillary, instead of a dirty human being. A happy polar bear who likes its country, namely the Icy Socialist Union of Equatorial Glaciers.

You may think that it is not nice to kick into a dead body - and Kyoto is dead even according to Tony Blair and Japan Today, much like newspapers in New Zealand, Scotland, D.C., China, and elsewhere. But such an incredible exercise in madness, using the words of Japan Today, probably deserves to be kicked into even after its death.

P.S.: Some people such as CIP have questioned whether I have actually seen the precise words of Tony Blair who recently declared that no Kyoto-like treaty can ever work and that Kyoto will never be repeated - and it should be replaced by efforts to improve science and technology faster, without any mandatory caps. Of course that I've seen it. You can read the full PDF file with their proceedings here or find Blair's Kyoto comments on page 14.

9900 pages of 175 books on string theory online

In the case that you have not yet tried, you should look at

They include Polchinski, Zwiebach, Greene, and about 9000 others. ;-) You may need a gmail mail account to see the full content of the pages.

The books were scanned in the libraries of Harvard University, because of the very constructive approach of President Summers, and four other, less famous places. ;-)

Thursday, September 29, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere


Some people may think that the stringy landscape is huge which may imply that anything goes. But Cumrun Vafa explains that even if the landscape is as large as the maximally anthropically religious people in the field say, it is not the biggest thing in the world:

The landscape is surrounded by a much bigger swampland which includes effective field theories that seem consistent as effective field theories, but become inconsistent for subtle reasons if you want to couple them to quantum gravity i.e. realize them within string theory.

Such a claim means that Cumrun - together with several of us who are thinking in the same way - has a couple of general background-independent statements or predictions about string theory such as the finiteness of its moduli spaces - which includes finiteness of moduli spaces of conformal field theories (measured by the Zamolodchikov metric; note that everything in this statement about CFTs is well-defined); both upper and lower bounds on the number of low-energy fields, and other things.

The new paradigm is once again that the stringy landscape is still a small and special part of a much larger swampland. And even this swampland is embedded in a much more gigantic s**tland of inconsistent field theories and theories of quantum gravity, but Cumrun chose not to discuss this very broad context of his observations. ;-)

(This is really off-topic but if you're interested in the most general jargon, s**tland is a small part of f**kland of ideas about physics that are not even wrong. In the real world, Scotland is not a part of the Falkland Islands, but in physics, it's different.)

I think Cumrun's is a very appealing proposal - one that could be important for our understanding what string theory is and especially what string theory is not. All of us could try to derive some inconsistencies - for example, worldvolume anomalies and contradictions with holography - in various theories that may be legitimate as field theories, but become impossible as backgrounds of string theory.

Can someone present a convincing proof that a background of string theory - even beyond the vacua known today - cannot have U(1)^{496} gauge group in 10 dimensions? Or can you find a stringy realization of this N=1 SUGRA/SUPER-YANG-MILLS? Can you find infinite-volume moduli spaces in string theory or CFTs with infinite volumes? Do they have a discrete spectrum?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Strings on supermanifolds

There is a paper

by Tokunaga that advocates string theory on supermanifolds. Bosonic string theory may be defined on supermanifolds whose super-dimension is (26+k/k), he or she argues. That of course cancels the central charge - since the spin 0 worldsheet fermions carry c=-1 - and she or he also shows modular invariance. However I find it likely that these theories won't be fully physical in spacetime - for example they will violate spin-statistics relations, won't they?

Also, I wonder what the insiders among the readers think, after a year or so, about the status of mirror symmetry of supermanifolds. Has it passed the test of time?

Topology of horizons

This is a rather noteworthy result. Galloway and Schoen show in

that the topology of the black hole horizons in any dimension must admit metrics of positive curvature. This allows the rings but forbids various other conceivable topologies.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Seed magazine

Because the reborn Seed magazine has also sent me a copy of their October issue, because they mention this blog alongside with other blogs, it may be expected that I join Clifford Johnson and Peter Woit and write a couple of nice words about them, too.

The design is very attractive and the magazine only costs 5 USD for 100 pages. The cover page apparently shows an animal that has been constructed via Intelligent Design. Its face is composed entirely of the mouth and it's really disgusting. I assume that this picture belongs to an article of Chris Mooney - a blogosphere's well-known far left-wing political manipulator of science - about a very cheap topic: namely the assertion that creationism and George Bush are wrong. The article is not really about science but rather about various general arguments of authors of a textbook with the Christians and similar things.

While I agree with most Mooney's opinions about evolution, I strongly dislike his politicization of science. George Bush is not a leading biologist and no one pretends it. His opinions about the origin of species follow the same pattern as the opinion of hundreds of millions of his fellow Christians. His opinion is not threatening scientific research in any way. It's just scientifically insufficient - but it is equally scientifically irrelevant. And it is completely unfair to pretend that it is just the Christians whose religion affects their opinions about science. During the controversy about the "innate aptitudes" we have seen that the feminist religion has the very same effect on the far left-wing believers. Science becomes secondary once a belief is threatened.

Some other articles are about the cosmic relaxation to 3D - an attempt of Lisa Randall and Andreas Karch to explain the dimensionality of our spacetime using an inverse Brandenberger-Vafa mechanism applied to spacetime (or brane) dimensions embedded in the 10D spacetime instead of the worldsheet dimensions within the 4D spacetime. I kind of worked on it and the idea is appealing - and there will be a new paper by Andreas, Lisa, and Liam that may convince new people that their picture works and localizes gravity into the right number of brane dimensions.

Other articles are about buddhism and science, why we love Einstein, four new species, and many other things.

Sunday, September 25, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Nobel candidates for 2005

After my 100% success rate at the German virtual Nobel stock market in 2004, I don't have a sharp prediction for the physics Nobel prize winners this year.

(The stock market otherwise failed miserably - because there were almost no semi-insiders in the game. A sophisticated system to "vote" can't help in this case and the stock prices were thus random - and they cancelled the website in 2005. Most of the actual winners were not even proposed to the market.)

As Peter Woit has pointed out, Thomson Scientific (TS) predicts that Green, Schwarz, Witten will win the physics prize. I am not sure whether one should join their prediction, but it is a good idea anyway (much like many other names associated with string theory and supersymmetry that I could add). ;-) Their (TS) alternatives, based on citation impact, are

  • Shuji Nakamura (UCSB) for the blue laser and LED diodes of many colors
  • Yoshinori Tokura (Tokyo) for new superconductors and giant magnetoresonance

I would also raise the following possibilities for our colleagues to be awarded:

  • Alan Guth, Andrei Linde, and maybe Paul Steinhardt or Henry Tye or Andreas Albrecht for their pioneering contributions to inflationary cosmology
  • Vera Rubin (plus some other theorists or experimentalists?) for her work on dark matter
  • Edward Lorenz for his contributions to the theory of chaos and attractors
  • Peter Higgs, Jeffrey Goldstone, and possibly Philip Anderson (as Minki pointed out) for their explanation of spontaneous symmetry breaking
  • Sheldon Glashow (again?), John Iliopoulos, and Luciano Maiani for their GIM mechanism and the theory of the charm quark
  • Makoto Kobayashi, Toshihide Maskawa, and probably Nicola Cabibbo - the president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (as in "CKM matrix") for their description of quark mixing (and, in the first two cases, CP violation)
  • Stephen Adler and Roman Jackiw for their discovery of anomaly cancellation in particle physics (John Bell died in 1990)
  • Leonard Susskind for his discovery of string theory, technicolor, Hamiltonian lattice gauge theory, quark confinement, theory of scaling violations in deep inelastic electroproduction, holography, one quarter of Matrix theory, black hole complementarity, and quantum tautology (I borrowed the last one from one of my immitators at Not Even Wrong)

I could also mention some additional colleagues at Harvard whose chance is nonzero:

Jacek Kuroń debate

I apologize for this temporary excess of postings about European politics. It won't last long.

On Saturday night, they convinced me to attend a Jacek Kuroń debate at Boston University

  • Values and Social Policy

I have also met Vladimír Špidla, the (only) Czech commissioner in the EU and a former Czech prime minister (who was one of the special guests in the audience, sitting in front of me). He was telling me that the commissioners from the older & newer member countries as well as the large & small countries are treated as equal - which I believe. This is his second visit to the U.S. - and Boston is really a kind of European city as he correctly pointed out.

The panel was composed of 4 panelists (politicians) plus one moderator (an academician) in the middle: Charles Taylor who has not said too much. If you looked at the panelists starting from the left, you would have obtained the following list:

  • Giuliano Amato
  • Danuta Hübner
  • Charles Taylor
  • Stanley Greenberg
  • John H. Sununu

Incidentally, the same list also orders the debaters from the Left to the Right on the political spectrum. The first two panelists were European; the remaining ones were Americans. Yes, indeed: all Europeans in this small group are on the left side from all Americans (including Stanley Greenberg who is an American progressive who even does not want to call himself a liberal because it is not progressive enough but it is still enough to be on the right from the European guys). And yes, the U.S. academia seems to be on the left from the Democratic Party, but it is still on the right side from the European politicians. And yes, Amato is on the left side from everyone else, including the former communist Hübner. ;-)

And yes, the last one - John Sununu - was the only one whose comments made a lot of sense to me. I forgot most of the ideas of the other panelists (except some painful ones described below); they seemed to be combining various generally known stereotypes that should not insult anyone. All of them except for Sununu seemed to misunderstand the "big" ideas about the mechanisms that are necessary for a modern U.S.-like society to work properly.

For example, Giuliano Amato, a former Italian prime minister (from the socialist party), was explaining some "advantages" of the European political, economic, and social model. He believes that one of the "advantages" of Europe is that "everyone" agrees with the concept of the "social market economy" and the emphasis on the adjective "social". Amato said that this is true for all parties; the only exception was Margaret Thatcher and Amato apparently believes that Thatcher was not too important so that she can be neglected (and he also neglects the Civic Democratic Party that I support in Czechia). Amato also argued that it is enough to have one shadow finance minister who does not agree with the concept of socialism and you will lose a lot of votes like Angela Merkel.

Whenever I listen to these comments about the "consensus about socialism", the virtual knife is opening in my pocket. We've had a much stronger consensus about socialism in Czechoslovakia between 1948 and 1989 and I hope that it will never be repeated. Mr. Amato should know that there are many European citizens who consider his opinion about the power of the word "social" disgraceful.

Amato was a representative of the Old Europe; Danuta Hübner represented the New Europe. She's a European commissioner from Poland, she is a former communist, and as far as I can say, it is pretty obvious from her opinions as I will explain later. Both Amato and Hübner were analyzing how the "smart" European politicians are trying to find the right balance between the social values & solidarity on one side and the growth and high employment on the other side. (Hübner admitted that the search for the ideal system may involve some learning from the U.S. experience, too.) Random unimpressive sentences that have taught me absolutely nothing.

John Sununu, a former governor of New Hampshire (and an engineer by profession), pointed out that this European approach is not an example how a functioning (and democratic) mechanism may be designed. Amato and Hübner are essentially trying to find some "ideal and permanent equilibrium" between some quantities. Sununu argued that it was much like the idea that there exists an ideal position of the steering wheel that should be set before you drive from one place to another.

His description of this non-democratic and typically European tendency is spot on, and I believe that this is a similar example that Feynman used to choose for these political questions, too. It is also very related to the idea of the "pre-conception science" or "consensus science". On the other hand, it is essential for modern science as well as modern politics that we admit that we don't know the right answers in advance and that the answers can't be right permanently.

Incidentally, the idea of finding the ideal compromise for the social, tax, and other systems that won't need any corrections in the future was one of the pillars underlying the EU constitution - and it's one of the main reasons why we should be happy that the constitution is dead. No doubt, Václav Klaus would agree with Sununu most of the time, too.

Of course, the correct answer - as clarified by Sununu - is that you only get to your destination if you have a flexible system - or if you (or someone else) can regulate the steering wheel - and if there are various checks and balances that have the ability to fix the mistakes (which is why the mistakes are not disasters) and direct the system in the correct direction if a new situation requires a left turn or a right turn. Also, a working system is one in which radical changes can't be done efficiently.

I must continue to think about this inspiring idea; it's not obvious whether I quite agree with this one; but probably I do because it fits my understanding of a "robust structure" and moreover it agrees with Franziska Michor's description of the difference between "good" and "bad" mutations.

Sununu also argued that lobbying is very important for the U.S. system to be functioning properly because it is an efficient way to communicate opinions and illuminate interests that various groups of the people have; on the other hand, lobbying is a pejorative word in Europe.

Sununu argued that it is essential for the U.S. political system - that has shown its muscles in many cases which includes slavery - that there is a debate going on. You turn on your TV and you see a debate about the role of personal responsibility for communities. Today, television plays an important role in stimulating the debate.

Stanley Greenberg argued that the main political conflict is between self-reliance and community. Sanunu argued that this was a mistake - a better description is that there is one debate about the role of personal responsibility of individual members of communities.

Danuta Hübner protested against Sanunu's "anti-European insult" by saying that there was actually much more political dialogue going on in Europe than in America; people started to laugh to her unbelievable statement when she began to explain how this assertion agrees with the fact that there are not so many political TV duels in Europe. She said that in Europe, we don't use TV to talk to the people. Instead, we talk directly to them. How does such a direct talk look like, Sununu asked? Hübner answered that she spent 6 months on tours through Poland by explaining the farmers why everything must be done exactly in the way that her party proposes. This story illustrates that a former member of a totalitarian communist party is usually guaranteed to think like a totalitarian communist until the end of her life.

Sununu's point was, on the contrary, that the political system should be such that it is able to learn what the actual people need, want, and think; it must be affected by those things; and it must self-regulate itself and use all sorts of feedback mechanisms to make adjustments. This democracy or self-regulation is more important than some particular questions about the size of the welfare system and other detailed topics, Sununu argued, and the Europeans should try to see this important fact.

Hübner's alternative to the self-regulating system is that the people in the whole country should be explained why the opinion of the governing political party is permanently the right one. Well, there are indeed certain differences between the European and the American political system, and I personally find it worrisome that the folks with the opinions about democracy that are similar to Mrs. Hübner's are included in the "European government", namely the EU commission. Too bad that Hübner's opinion is apparently mainstream in Poland and there is no one in that country who would attack her for similar statements.

Sununu is also convinced that it is incorrect for Europe to try to copy the U.S. system that involves 50 states whose social, tax, legal, and immigration rules - among other things - have been homogenized (although there exists a lot of diversity in the ethnicity, race, and other characteristics that are not so important for the functioning of the system). In Europe, there exists not only national diversity but also a lot of diversity in the social, tax, immigration, and other issues, and it requires a very different approach. He agreed with one attendant that Airbus is a good example how Europe can surpass America while it only relies on the integration of those things whose unification is beneficial (business and exchange of know-how in this case).

Sununu answered a question about the election systems. The proportional systems found in most of Europe seem to be inefficient as a method to figure out what is the opinion of the majority because the smaller political parties often acquire crucial influence in the coalitions.

It should not be too surprising that Sununu also defended his colleagues from the G.O.P. He explained that the local (Democratic) authorities are fully responsible for the mess in Louisiana during the hurricane Katrina. He told us that Lousiana is the most corrupt U.S. state and New Orleans is its most corrupt city - something I did not know before but something that seems to be the case. Well, this is not the only thing I learned from this guy; without Sununu, however, this panel discussion would have been useless.

If you watch the news, you will certainly notice that there is something special going on in Louisiana - something that would happen neither in Mississippi (where Katrina was stronger) nor in TeXas (pun intended). Even the hurricane Rita - that The Reference Frame correctly predicted to be a non-event - has shown the incompetence of the officials in Louisiana.

Too bad that Václav Klaus seems to be the only current leader in Europe who is capable to think independently and differently than the "official left-wing euro-optimistic consensus". There are indeed noticeable differences between the American and the European understanding of democracy. For example, virtually everyone agrees that the American "debate" involves a creative fight and competition while it tends to be replaced by a "consensus dialogue" in Europe. One can say many things about advantages of both approaches. But The Reference Frame certainly believes that the American approach is more correct.

Friday, September 23, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Klaus's talk at Harvard

The speech by Czech president Václav Klaus (the gentleman in the middle of the picture above - together with Tomáš Kočiš on the left and your humble correspondent on the right) was almost definitely one of the extraordinary events of the Center for European Studies at Harvard.

The main bad thing is that I had to skip a talk by Finn Larsen; I hope that this gap will be filled very soon.

First of all, the organizers may have underestimated the attractivity of Klaus. The lower level conference room of the Busch Hall may be designed for the audience of 100 or so. There were roughly 150 people attending the lecture and many others have given up the talk because they could not get in.

The Velvet revolution occured nearly 16 years ago. Klaus started by saying that it's a good idea not to repeat the mistakes from the past; he often quoted classics of his favorite literature and painted NGOism, euronaivism, communitarianism, and various other trends as the new illusions that are supposed to replace communism and that many naive people are accepting as the universal cure for their problems.

Thursday, September 22, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Klaus in the U.S.

This news is not covered by the U.S. media at all, so The Reference Frame comes to save the day.

When the Czech president Václav Klaus met Condi and Cheney, all of them agreed that there are no problems in the Czech-American relations. There have been some minor emotions during the war in Iraq; Klaus talked to the U.S. ambassador and told him that if the WMD were going to be found in Iraq, it would have been clear that they were probably seeded by the FBI. George W. Bush got a bit upset, too. ;-)

Of course, while Klaus is an outspoken politician and a principal opponent of most wars (that try to export systems which Klaus believes is impossible), he is also one of the strongest advocates of the American values in Europe and no battle between him and the U.S. could last for a long time.

Klaus and the American VIPs discussed various international politics topics - and also the asymmetry in the visa system. The Americans don't need visa for the Czech Republic but they require them from the Czechs (even for very short visits). The visa procedures I had to go through have been disgusting - and I am happy that Klaus opened this topic. Of course that they're probably not gonna be cancelled. But at least, Condi said a couple of polite words and the student visa procedures may be simplified a bit in the future.

Tomorrow, Klaus is visiting Harvard University and Brandeis University, and I expect that this article is gonna be updated.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Viscosity and Andreas

There are many interesting people now at Harvard, and also many interesting visitors. For example, our physics buddy Andreas Karch - who is now in Seattle - is visiting us, too. He finds "AdS/QCD" to be the among the most interesting topics these days to work on. I want to write some general comments about it later.

One of the things that he clarified for me was the origin of the AdS/CFT derivation of the lower bound for the viscosity that we discussed for example here. In a huge class of theories, the viscosity must be greater than "1/4.pi" times the entropy density, counted in fundamental units. It seems to be true in general. In a subclass of the theories, one may construct a gravitational dual of the theory. How do you derive the bound from the gravitational dual? Let's start in the field theory. The viscosity may be calculated, in the field theory, from some two-point function of the stress-energy tensor. This quantity is directly translated to the gravitational picture.

The relevant calculation involves a graviton propagator in the background of a large (greater than the AdS curvature radius) AdS Schwarzschild black hole; such a black hole is generically dual to the lowest-viscosity environment. It's a rather tedious calculation but you may get the result including the numerical pre-factor. A simpler calculation - one that Andreas found less comprehensible - involves the quasinormal modes. But Andrei Starinets comments:

Viscosities (shear and bulk) of thermal theories with gravity duals can be computed basically in three ways (all inter-related, of course):

  • via Green-Kubo formulae (graviton's absorption on the gravity side)
  • by computing the (retarded) correlator of stress-energy tensor in (Lorentzian signature) AdS/CFT
  • by computing the lowest quasinormal frequency of the relevant gravitational background. This frequency is precisely the hydrodynamic pole in the above mentioned correlator. Computing quasinormal frequencies is sometimes technically easier than computing full correlators, but it is absolutely rigorous. If you like, please look through our recent paper with Pasha Kovtun, hep-th/0506184, where we sort of summarize this.

Global warming on Mars

Martians discovered

See also: Global warming on other planets and moons

This picture showing how the natives welcome Spirit is not the only evidence that there are humans living on Mars. What's the new evidence? As you know, global warming is caused by the humans; it can't be of natural origin. And global warming was just identified on Mars; BBC says that "climate change is in progress". The polar cap is retreating at a prodigious rate (1.5 meters per terrestrial year, nearly 0.01% of the Connolley rate). It follows that there must be Martians over there. How exciting! ;-)

An alternative explanation is that the White House and NASA are already building factories and power plants on Mars.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Rational geometry

I wonder what you think about this news that was pointed out to me by Olda Klimanek. An associate professor of mathematics in Australia, Dr. Norman Wildberger, has figured out that the angles, sines, and cosines essentially do not need to exist and irrational functions should be eliminated from math by replacing angles by new concepts of "spreads" and "quadrances". Students won't have to learn any functions beyond the rational ones. I wonder whether you have an explanation what this means and whether there is a reason why this bizarre news appears in tens of newspapers.

Latent heat II

This exchange is kind of funny. A serious calculational error of a well-known promoter of the global warming theory - an error described below - shows how weak intuition the climate folks have about the order-of-magnitude estimates of the basic processes in nature. They obviously never discuss technical things that require actual numbers.

In his new text meant to humiliate the latent heat

William Connolley decided to show how trivial it's to defeat the latent heat. It is becoming completely obvious that he actually believes that the latent heat can indeed be neglected. In the original version of his article, he wrote the following sentence:

  • Long-wave-down (not net) at the sfc in January is about 135 w/m2 so it would melt about 30m of ice in a day. Of course that neglects the long-wave up.

Yes, this is what he thinks. Don't get confused by his pretentious terminology - his point is very simple. He thinks that the solar radiation above the Arctic is enough to melt 30 meters of ice a day! This is how the "mainstream" climate scientists visualize the heat budget. This is how they do calculations that are meant to justify investments of trillions of dollars. It can't be surprising that they conclude that a "catastrophe" is imminent if they expect ice to melt so quickly. Note that William Connolley is not a random person who has nothing to do with ice; he is paid as a "senior scientific officer" and "climate modeller" of the British Antarctic Survey. You may expect that such a person has some idea about ice; you would be completely wrong. You would be wrong by 3 orders of magnitude.

Monday, September 19, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

QM II: part 1

Incidentally, someone wanted to follow my lecture notes. See Fall2005-Lectures directory here. The directory Fall2005-Basics is also non-empty.

Latent heat of ice and climate models

This looks like an excellent example how the self-confident climate "big shots" are ignorant about basic numbers in physics and how worthless their reasoning is.

Steve Connor wrote another dramatic article in The Independent claiming that global warming is past the point of no return. Such articles appear virtually every day. They're addressed to the people who know even less than the journalist himself. But the fate of our civilization - always an uncertain thing - is not what I want to mention here.

William Connolley is one of the main driving forces among the 9 people who started the alarmist climatologist propagandistic blog called RealClimate. William is one of the main people who define the "scientific consensus" about the climate. If you believe the "scientists" without calculating it yourself, you believe people like William Connolley.

William also has his own private blog called Stoat. In the newest article, he questioned the statement by Steve Connor that the Arctic sea ice is a major heat sink. In the main text he said that ice couldn't be a heat sink because it reflects solar radiation. So I explained him that when we say that it is a heat sink, we mean that it absorbs the heat particularly from the ocean, not from the Sun. I expected him to realize his error.

Instead, he continued and wrote that the latent heat of ice is completely negligible, and they can forget about it when they work with their climate models. In order for you to see how incredible his statement is, let me say a couple of numbers.

The heat capacity of liquid water is 4,200 Joules per kilogram and kelvin. The latent heat of ice is 355,000 Joules per kilogram. What does the ratio tell you? If you melt ice, you can cool down the same amount (mass) of water by roughly 85 degrees.

Lisa's op-ed

Lisa Randall has an op-ed in the New York Times:

She explains that the communication between the scientists and the public is more difficult than it could be in the ideal world because of

  • terminological confusions
  • complexity of science
  • uncertainty of the scientists themselves

The first, terminological theme is documented by the terms "relativity", "uncertainty principle", and "theory" that are abused by moral relativists, uncertain anti-scientific postmodernists, and intelligent designers, respectively. It is possible to abuse them because the words mean something little different in science than what they mean in the everyday life.

As you know, while I agree with her viewpoint on creationism, I completely disagree with Lisa's evaluation of the climate science, especially the statement that its insights have been "underplayed" (unfortunately, I've checked that this was no typo); with her comments about the intrinsic aptitude of sexes, and their sociology - including the questions where is the source of the confusion; what are the true reasons that prevent anyone from finding the truth about these questions, and so forth. But I think that she has done a good job anyway.

Others about the op-ed

The op-ed is also discussed by Peter Woit and Sean Carroll. Sean seems to agree with Lisa - and he conjectures that the topic of the op-ed shows that Lisa must be reading Cosmic Variance; I think that Sean's conjecture is wrong.

Sunday, September 18, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Grand coalition and opposition agreement

The results of the German election (CDU/CSU: 35, SPD: 34, FDP:10, Communists:9, Green:8, others:4) seem to be completely analogous to the results in other countries with the proportional system, especially the Czech Republic which I will use as an example how generic these things are. I will explain why the typical results of such elections are confusing - and more or less always the same - which is why we may want to favor the U.S. majority system or to try to "emulate" the majority system using the so-called opposition agreement.

In both cases, Germany and Czechia, there are two major mainstream parties on the left side and the right side from the political center. In the German case, it's the CDU (plus CSU) on the right and SPD on the left. In the Czech case, it is the ODS (Civic Democratic Party) on the right and again the Social democrats on the left. Not a big deal. The U.S. also have two large parties.

The victorious one among the two large parties is always the condensation core for a new government and neither of them ever gets much more than 35 percent or so. Coalition partners are necessary. The most important right-wing coalition partner in Germany is the pro-business libertarian FDP (free democrats) while it is the Christian Democrats in the Czech Republic (who are ready to join any government and they in fact used to be center-left a few years ago). Yes, in some sense, you may think that the leading and subleading right-wing parties are kind of exchanged because the leading ODS may be more similar to the sub-dominant FDP while the other right-wing party is even called "Christian Democrats" in both countries.

In Germany, the Greens are the left-wing coalition partner of choice. The Czech Republic has no powerful green party and the Christian Democrats can play the role of the appendix both in the left-wing and right-wing governments. Both in Germany and Czechia, the communists are viewed as unacceptable for the mainstream governments - a rule that is much weaker than a physical law.

At any rate, it seems that CDU plus FDP won't have a parliamentary majority; the results of CDU/CSU seem unimpressive compared to the expectations (while FDP did better than expected). There are two obvious choices:

  • the first one is the so-called Grand Coalition (CDU plus SPD). We use the very same term for the left-right coalition in the Czech Republic, too (where it is a hypothetical coalition of ODS and CSSD). In Germany, the Grand Coalition would be formed without Gerhard Schroeder.
  • the "traffic light" (red-yellow-green) coalition - SPD (red) plus FDP (yellow) plus Greens (green)
  • the "double left coalition" - the complement of CDU plus FDP - which means SPD plus Greens plus the double-communist party "Die Linke" (composed of the communists from DDR plus the communists formerly from SPD). SPD has declared that they would not form a coalition with the double-communists - much like some Czech Social Democrats declare that they would not join a coalition with the "ordinary" Czech communists.
Actually, the Czech Republic has tried another, very different kind of resolution of these confusing results of the elections. After the elections in 1998, the Social Democrats became the strongest party but they could not form a majority government. Klaus (currently the 2nd Czech president) who was a leader of ODS (that lost the elections a bit - elections that followed some fictitious scandals after which he had to resign in 1997 from the prime minister chair) respected that the Social Democrats led by Milos Zeman deserved to form the government and he invented the so-called opposition agreement; it was eventually signed by Zeman and Klaus who used to be the most visible opponents on the Czech political scene but who nevertheless shared many personal characteristics and some degree of a mutual respect. (An open Grand Coalition was unthinkable back in 1998 because they had said too many bad things about each other.)

According to the agreement, Zeman could form a minority government. The Civic Democrats promised that they would "tollerate" the government. Klaus became the chairman of the Parliament. Although this agreement has been criticized heavily by many ordinary people and various intellectuals (usually those who think that any politics in democracy is dirty), it seems pretty clear today that it was the best choice in 1998. Also, the social democratic Zeman installed his own kind of reaganomics in the Czech Republic which worked pretty well and may be (among other positive changes) credited for the current 5% growth of the Czech economy. In principle, both parties had the choice of cancelling the agreement, but the probability of this happening was clearly lower than the probability of some other instabilities - and it did not happen at the end.

The social democratic minority government 1998-2002 was much more stable than the (slight) majority governments led by the Social Democrats since 2002 (we already have the third prime minister after Zeman).

The Grand Coalition is a mess. It completely confuses who is responsible for what - and it is a kind of one-party system. Moreover, it is completely unfair that the Grand Coalition is the most likely outcome in 2005: it is more likely than in 2002 exactly because the "grand" parties have lost about 10 percentage points! My idea would be the opposition agreement signed by Merkel and Schroeder. Schroeder (or someone else from SPD) would become the chairman of the Bundestag or something along these lines while Merkel could form a minority government composed of CDU/CSU only or CDU/CSU with the FDP that the SPD would tollerate. I think this is a fair way to circumvent the proportional system in which the results are almost always ambiguous.

At any rate, it is likely that Merkel, an Eastern German physicist, will become the first German female chancellor. The German-American (and Euro-American) relations will improve. The socialist language will weaken in Germany. But we will have to see whether the actual policies will move anywhere.

Saturday, September 17, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Plastic fork

This is not an intelligent post but rather a demonstration of the technological power. These sentences were written by a broken plastic fork touching a cell phone. A hotmail account then transwered the words to

You would think that a plastic fork is not even enough to kill a terrorist on the plane. But it is clearly sufficient for a blogger, even if the cellphone is not connected to T-mobile.

If you think that I am not the first cellphone blogger in the world, let me know. ;-)

Blair's brutal honesty on Kyoto

Most readers probably won't hear about this event which is why it may deserve a short text.

Tony Blair, the prime minister of the most reliable ally of the U.S. and one of two smartest European leaders of the current era, said that he was going to speak with "brutal honesty" about Kyoto and global warming - the most divisive single topic between the U.S. and the U.K. Using harvardspeak, he was going to be provocative at the recent Clinton summit. The full text of their proceedings, including Blair's reasonable comments on Kyoto, may be found here.

He said:

  • "...My thinking has changed in the past three or four years. No country is going to cut its growth. [China and India] are not going to start negotiating another treaty like Kyoto. What countries will do is work together to develop science and technology. … There is no way that we are going to tackle this problem unless we develop the science and technology to do it. ... How do we move forward, post-Kyoto? It can only be done by the major players coming together and pooling their resources, to find their way to come together."

Unless the environmental lunatics are going to find a way to force Blair to apologize for his provocative comments, create 17 new committees and throw away $50 million to show how much he is sorry of his comments, we should be saying: Kyoto, rest in peace.

Friday, September 16, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Entropic principle & asymptotic freedom

The previous blog article about the entropic principle was here.

I would like to draw your attention to the second paper by Sergei Gukov, Kirill Saraikin, and - last but not least :-) - Cumrun Vafa.

They use their (and Ooguri's and Verlinde's) topological edition of the Hartle-Hawking wavefunction to argue that the probability measure is concentrated around the points in the moduli space that
  • lead to asymptotically free low-energy effective field theories
  • and, consequently, for which a maximal number of lines of marginal stability are intersecting in/near a given point
If applied to phenomenology, their first point may explain why low-energy effective field theories and QCD in particular work so well for "probable" stringy backgrounds. The second may be related to the observed fact that various particles prefer to be "just above the threshold mass" for them to become unstable. If neutron were a BPS object on a Calabi-Yau, it would be very close to its line of marginal stability because it barely decays to the proton, electron, and an antineutrino - and it could therefore naturally follow from their new paper. Such facts - and maybe, once in the future, also the hierarchies and the cosmological constant - could have an explanation in terms of the Hartle-Hawking wavefunction. In fact, it seems that some of the solutions to the maximization conditions correspond to points with extra massless particles - which could solve the hierarchy problem(s). Other solutions they find correspond to the existence of quantum-deformed complex multiplication on the Calabi-Yau moduli space.

Even if there is an element of randomness in the vacuum selection in the real world, we must study the rules of this randomness. We must be trying to find the right probability distribution; this tells us not only something about the qualitative properties of the real world, but it is also a guide showing where we should look for the exact right vacuum that describes the real world. The probaility measure has probably nothing to do with the "exact democracy between different vacua" because the latter is completely unjustified (being perhaps related to the infinite temperature) and hard to define; only colleagues with extreme far left wing preconceptions can be convinced that this egalitarianism is necessarily a good zeroth approximation. ;-)

The actual distribution is more likely to be related to the Hartle-Hawking wavefunction, which is why it may be a good idea to follow the path of Sergei, Kirill, and Cumrun.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Klaus at Harvard

As you can imagine, not too many e-mails from the official Harvard offices are as appealing for the fans of the Czech president Václav Klaus, including your humble correspondent, as this one:

Dear Students and Visiting Scholars,

The Center for European Studies (CES) is very pleased to announce that
Czech President Klaus will visit Harvard next week and speak here at CES. I hope you can join us for this very special event. The talk

on Thursday 9/22, 4:00-5:30 p.m. will be followed by a reception. Both are open to the public.

Best regards,

Dr. Patricia Craig

Executive Director

Why no new Einstein II

In a public letter addressed to Peter Woit, Lee Smolin clarifies some issues and possible misunderstandings of his essay Why no new Einstein?

Lee's point was to emphasize that young ambitious theorists should be specifically supported to pursue their own research programs - independently of the "big" research directions. I have argued that the natural equilibrium - the invisible hand of the free market of ideas, if you wish - defines a very good balance between originality and reliability, and every bias such as Lee's proposal is bound to be counter-productive.

For example, the most likely reason why no young (or old, for that matter) person has convinced others about her alternative to string theory is that there probably exists no alternative to string theory.

If a field or subfield is overstudied, eventually the people realize that the amount of interesting problems in that field or subfield is rather small and there is too much overlap of their work with the work of others. If a field or subfield is understudied, it naturally attracts people because there are chances that significant progress can be done quite easily. The same comments apply to the situations in which too many people believe that something is true or something is false - as long as the community's goal is to search for the truth instead of finding evidence for some political goals outside of science.

If there is no progress or very little progress in a field, it usually means that no one knows how to make the next big step, and no amount of social engineering can change this basic fact because science can't be done by bureaucrats and politicians.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

String Theory Course

Several students from the Boston area have asked me whether there is a string theory course at Harvard this fall. Yes, there is - and this time it is taught by Joe Minahan. I'll try Quantum Mechanics II.

Sunday, September 11, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere


Congratulations to Peter Woit who celebrates his birthday today. Four years ago, it was a horrible day. If you want to recall what I was doing - and when I defended my PhD - look here.

Non-perturbative well-definedness

Basic dictionary plus introduction for this article:

  • a perturbative expansion is a Taylor expansion of the form "a+b.g+cg2+dg3+..."; this is the type of a calculation that refines a known starting point "a" (usually a free field theory) by adding ever more accurate corrections resulting from repeated interactions; these expansions have been the most successful practical tool to extract predictions of field theories as well as string theory
  • in field theory and string theory, these expansions don't converge unless they terminate or unless high supersymmetry makes their form special (I believe that in some highly supersymmetric gauge theories, an amplitude is literally the sum of a convergent perturbative expansion plus well-defined instantons)
  • the radius of convergence is thus zero; to see why, notice that QED with the attractive force between two electrons (negative fine structure constant) would produce an unstable vacuum because clumps of electrons plus positrons could be created from nothing (since the negative potential energy between many electrons could cancel the rest mass of the particles); this indicates that the amplitudes should not exist for a tiny negative fine structure constant, and the radius of convergence is thus probably zero
  • this divergence does not mean that the full function does not exist for every "g"; instead, it means that the expansions are the so-called "asymptotic series"
  • the full functions (amplitudes) necessarily involve non-perturbative effects that are not real analytic functions; note that the Taylor expansion of "exp(-1/g2)", for example, vanishes around "g=0" because all of its derivatives (being a product of a rational function of "g" times the much more quickly diminishing exponential) vanish.
I noticed that below the article about heterotic divergences, Greg Kuperberg who is a professor of mathematics, mentioned (among equally important contributions by Gordon Chalmers and Quantoken) a mathematical theorem due to Borel saying that a power expansion around "x=0" of a function that is real analytic at some nonzero "x" can be anything. Well, definitely, I don't dispute this theorem. But it has no implications for string theory where the expansions around "x=0" are the best known quantities.

Quantifying climate uncertainty

What is the probability that in 10 or 20 years, the climate will be cooler in average than it is today? If you read the newspapers and the texts of various "concerned" scientists - where the adjective "concerned" is probably meant to be inequivalent to "biased" although it is hard to see what's exactly the difference - you may believe that the probability is more or less zero. There is a "scientific consensus" - whatever exactly this oxymoron means - and a certainty that the Earth is warming up. Trillions of dollars (about one hundred of Katrinas) will probably be spent in the next 20 years for policies that are based on the assumption that the Earth is warming up on the timescale of several decades.

This certainty is often compared to the certainty with which we know some elementary laws of physics - and those who are not certain or even those who believe the warming but who don't believe that it will have catastrophic dimensions are often compared to physics crackpots (even if they are among the 25 of the world's most influential scientists of 2004 together with Edward Witten).

Saturday, September 10, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Why politicized science is dangerous

I recommend you the following excerpt from State of Fear by Michael Crichton:

Crichton is simply bright, deep, and realistic about the history of science. He chooses two examples; let me not tell you which ones because his text is written in such a way that they appear as a surprise. The social circumstances surrounding these examples have striking similarities to some of the presently popular scientific hypotheses and their political support.

Some readers don't understand a basic point about this text by Crichton. This text is not about any particular question related to the climate. In fact, it uses very different examples; nevertheless, it indicates something if the proponents of the currently fashionable theories are able to recognize themselves. Instead, Crichton's text is about the scientific method itself. It is about the huge difference between a scientific argument and an argument supported by political power.

In contrast to a comment that Greg Kuperberg is going to write, Crichton does not argue that 70% of the climate scientists - or what's exactly the percentage of the "alarmists" - must be wrong because some other scientists were wrong in the past. But he certainly does say that the question whether an opinion is backed by a majority of those paid as scientists is irrelevant for the scientific search for the truth and we have an overwhelming evidence that majorities as large as 80% do not mean much and are still consistent with the 50:50 odds for both answers.

The majority of climate scientists who - at least officially - endorse the global warming paradigm is equal to the majority of the string theorists who have voted against the anthropic principle. I definitely do not think that this vote is one of the main reasons why the anthropic principle goes in a wrong direction. (The likely fact that it goes in a wrong direction has very different reasons.)

Sometimes people are right, sometimes they're wrong. The same thing holds for the scientists. There is no universal rule that a majority must be wrong or right - and it is pretty easy to manipulate a majority.

I wonder how it's possible that someone with IQ above 90 can still misunderstand this crucial point in the 21st century, after so many historical examples involving the church, various totalitarian regimes, and the majorities that these systems controlled in which brute power of manipulation had tried to neutralize the scientists who were so often right. And in many cases the regimes succeeded (temporarily). It's just amazing that someone still misunderstands that the scientific truth and the political influence are two very different things. Maybe they're below 90 after all.

Friday, September 09, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

A new kind of music

Incidentally, the Astronomy Magazine seems really nice, and you should look at it. There is an article about the landscape that I only liked less than the cosmic string article because the topic itself seems too vague to me - both of them are by Steve Nadis who has done a great job in both cases. There are other articles about black holes and astronomy, of course, but those two by Nadis are the most interesting ones for a physicist.

I don't have time right now to type.

But Steven Wolfram just announced his new computer application that should enhance your knowledge of his New Kind of Science, and you may create your own

Wednesday, September 07, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Cosmic strings in Astronomy

The October issue of the Astronomy magazine is out and you can buy it for 7 USD; I just borrowed Nima's copy. If you wonder why the October issue appears in early September, recall that the Great October Revolution took place in November, and these two problems actually cancel.

On pages 46-51, Steve Nadis from Cambridge, Massachusetts offers something that seems as the most detailed semi-popular account of cosmic strings and cosmic superstrings that I've seen so far. The text explains some history - for example why cosmic strings became unpopular 20 years ago.

Nadis explains all important details of the CSL-1 string lensing candidate of Sazhin et al. as well as the oscillating double quasar by Schild of Harvard et al. Henry Tye also promotes the possibility that a sharp discontinuity of the temperature may be seen in the CMB. Polchinski argues that if this particular case is confirmed, the number of known cosmic string lensing examples could jump to 1,000 within 10 years. He also offers a catchy slogan that the cosmic strings would allow us to look at energies that are a trillion times higher than what we can reach with the particle accelerators.

Other people including Dvali illuminate some more technical questions how these strings are produced at the end of inflation in various types of models. The transition from the old-fashioned cosmic strings of Kibble and Vilenkin to cosmic superstrings is explained. Figures also show how strings may rearrange, and a snapshot of a simulated realistic string network. Only a very small demo of the article is available online.

Heterotic divergences

We're spending hours with these questions, among others, so I should better ask whether someone knows the full answers.

Heterotic string theory apparently has the same divergent high-order structure of generic amplitudes that seem to behave as "(2h)!" for large genera "h"; the factor comes from the leading behavior of the volume of moduli spaces of genus "h" Riemann surfaces. In type II string vacua, this can be used to estimate the magnitude of the first non-perturbative corrections to the amplitudes; the result - comparable to the minimal, namely "1/g"th term in the expansion - is "exp(-C/g)" where "g" is the closed string coupling. These effects arise from D-instantons and D-branes in the loops, generally speaking.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Comments on news

Chernobyl radiation killed 56

In a 1986 disaster that many were comparing to the third world war and that others have used to interrupt the progress in nuclear energy for at least 20 years, only 56 people were directly killed. A new 600-page report also estimates that the total number of indirect deaths caused by thyroid cancer - usually of the people who worked on the recovery of the plant after the disaster - will stay below 4,000.

There has been no measurable deterioration of the public health in the surrounding areas. Was the anti-nuclear reaction to the Chernobyl accident appropriate? The Reference Frame does not think so and encourages the developed countries to build new nuclear power plants.

The previous numbers were inflated because of miscalculations of exposition to radiation, and by attempts of various not-quite-honest countries to boost the financial assistance flowing to the area.

Compare the new numbers with the typical number of people that are killed by natural disasters such as the typhoon in Southern Japan today (100,000 people ordered to flee their homes), plane crash that has just killed 147 people in Indonesia, and, of course, Katrina that has killed thousands. (The French Quarter will be fine.) And these disasters represent a small fraction of the people who die under more prosaic circumstances.

Global warming destroyed Saturn's ring

According to a generalized global warming theory, Saturn's rings must be static for thousands of years. It turned out that the innermost ring, the D-ring, looks completely different than 25 years ago. It's dimmer and it may even disappear. Also, there are minivan-sized objects in the outermost A-ring. This short period of time - 25 years - in which things can change proves that the humans who drink Coke and their production of carbon dioxide must be behind these celestial developments, the generalized theory of truly global warming says.

More seriously, subtle things in the Universe, which includes Saturn's rings as well as Earth's climate, are simply changing. They're naturally changing, they have always been and they always will. Hurricanes and typhoons are naturally created all the time and the people are too weak to change these basic processes, and whoever does not like these laws of physics should try to find a better Universe to live in.

Kazaa will have filters

The company running the file-sharing network Kazaa will have to install filters that protect the copyrights, a judge has decided. It may be a fair decision; such filters won't prevent the users from any legal activities. Kazaa will appeal.

Sunday, September 04, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Ferguson on Katrina

Niall Ferguson who is a professor of history here at Harvard University has a nice piece in The Telegraph

in which he asks whether natural disasters can be and should be abused for political, religious, and ideological goals. You may guess what's the answer.

He starts with the earthquake in Lisbon in 1755. Voltaire argued that the earthquake had shown that Nature was powerful and there was no God to defeat it. For Voltaire, disasters were evidence against religion as well as against Leibniz who had claimed that ours was the best world one can imagine; instead, they were a reason to believe natural sciences and natural philosophy. Alexander Pope, on the other hand, stated that the world would be less perfect without such disasters; a pretty deep point.

(Incidentally, tropical cyclones are an important part of the air circulation system, and they often bring rain to very dry regions.)

The main goal of Ferguson's article is, of course, to show how tasteless and rationally unjustifiable it is for various groups to use the natural disasters as an additional tool to support their ideologies and agendas. While it is obvious to Ferguson, me, as well as anyone who has not lost her mind that a hurricane is unpredictable and has nothing to do with our sins, with the religious beliefs of islamic extremists, with the war in Iraq, or with the Kyoto protocol, there are unfortunately many people - including the people in the Academia - who don't get it even 250 years after Voltaire's precious remarks.

The following groups were an obvious choice for Ferguson: the 18th century catholic priests who said that the earthquake was a punishment for our sins; the islamic terrorists who cheer Katrina as a powerful "Private" who was sent by God to join jihad; the so-called environmentalists who cheer the hurricane as a new powerful argument that should help the U.S. to sign the so-called Kyoto protocol; and more generally American "liberals" who believe that most of the tragedy is apparently caused by the war in Iraq and maybe the tax cuts, too.

(I put the word "liberals" into quotation marks because for me, as a European, a person from the continent where these classical ideas got started, the word still represents neo-liberals and libertarians who like freedom - the word itself is derived from "liberty". The U.S. "liberals" today seem to have exactly the opposite tendency. Let me continue to use the adjective "left-wing" and the nouns "socialists", "communists", "feminists", and "environmentalists". Thanks.)

Since 1755, the information technology and theoretical physics have both made a tremendous progress. But when one looks at the opinions of generic professors today, it is hard not to see that the quality of political and philosophical thought has peaked a few centuries ago and deteriorated markedly since the golden days of Enlightenment.

A majority of "intellectuals" today seems to be driven by new kinds of superstitions and irrational and perverted religions - whether or not they call it a "religion" (in some cases, they want to describe their religion as "universally anti-religious" which does not guarantee that the irrational essence is any different from the religions called this way). They are either not willing or not able to separate these superstitions and their political beliefs from natural science and fair and rational thinking in general. Too bad that it apparently includes a large fraction of the U.S. academic world.

In some sense, the public is doing a better job in attributing the hurricane and related problems. One may find it more natural to blame the Democratic LA governer Kathleen Blanco, but a goal of this text is to say that it is not a right idea either. A technical point: some people blame the spending cuts. The non-partisan FactCheck.ORG has just released a report that proves that it is ridiculous. It shows that even if Katrina waited until 2015 - the expected completion of the better levees - it would still flood New Orleans (via A similar conclusion holds not only for the levees but for hundreds of other aspects of the disaster: certain people simply want to believe that Allah or the Government is and should be omnipotent so that it can easily cool down the whole planet, forbid hurricanes, and make everyone rich and happy. Laws of physics paint a very different picture.

Dark matter and 3 extra dimensions

Philip Ball describes in the New York Times as well as

a recent speculative preprint

in which Bo Qin, Ue-Li Pen, and Joseph Silk study some quantitative features of Spergel and Steinhardt's model of self-interacting cold dark matter - one of the popular models that can explain that the dark matter halos don't seem to be cuspy, which is a wrong prediction of the older models of cold dark matter theories.

It is argued that the observed data are exactly matched if there are three extra large ADD-like dimensions whose size is 1 about nanometer. Below this distance scale, the gravitational force would intensify from the 1/r2 behavior to 1/r5. This would be pretty hard to measure with the tabletop experiments. ;-)

In these extra large dimensions scenarios, you must think about the ADD braneworlds. For example, type IIA on a six-torus with orientifolds and D6-branes - something that you can learn from Barton Zwiebach's textbook - could, in principle, allow you for such a strange arrangement of the dimensions in which three of them are large.

They also advocate the mass of the dark matter particles to be 0.3 microelectronvolts (the Compton wavelength is around a meter), a fine value for axions. You may think that this is very light; but because the sub-nanometer gravity is so strong in their model, the (purely gravitational) self-interaction cross sections are large enough. On the other hand, at galactic distances, the self-interaction becomes weak which solves some difficulties of Spergel and Steinhardt's model to account for the absence of certain gravitational lensing observations, and for some galactic X-ray data. Three large extra dimensions seems to be the unique discrete number in which all things may be resolved, the new guys argue.

Silk et al. explain that they may thus be capable to almost prove string theory by hardcore data which may be more straightforward than the arguments based on uniqueness of quantum gravity and the incredible mathematical beauty of string theory. ;-) Their proposed scenario, if true, would probably imply a lot of new physics to be seen at the LHC, too.

Can you actually construct a stringy model that has such a light axion?

Saturday, September 03, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

John Baez and quantum gravity

In his Week in mathematical physics, John Baez argues that the research of quantum gravity has been stagnant recently which was his reason to focus on pure math - and the so-called operads (which I probably don't want to learn about - evidence that this is unreasonable is welcome) dominate his "Week". Well, most of the things he says are based on true facts but some of them may require some comments.

String theory

Concerning the landscape, it should be known that the anthropic reasoning is a rather active and slightly fashionable direction that a relatively small subset of typically very smart string theorists considers promising as the likely ultimate explanation; this subset co-operates with a larger group that likes to study various technical questions about the stabilized vacua. The majority of roughly 80%, as shown in the poll in Toronto, opposes the anthropic reasoning.

This is probably a fair ratio reflecting our ignorance about the right answer. While the majority seems to share my opinion that much stronger evidence would be needed for us to accept that the predictibality of particle physics should be crippled in this radical, anthropic fashion, no one can yet use string theory to prove that the anthropic scenario is impossible as a rule for this world.

Friday, September 02, 2005 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

A few thoughts on Katrina

According to David Vitter, a Harvard alumnus and the second Republican Louisiana's senator in history after John Harris who was elected in 1867, the final number of casualties in Louisiana itself will probably exceed 10,000.

Katrina has been a nasty bitch. My packets of compassion go to all who have been really affected - especially those whose relatives have died (not the casualties themselves because I doubt that it is allowed to read my blog in the Heaven or the Hell); those who have stayed in the critical area; and finally to the CEOs and CFOs of insurance and re-insurance companies who will have to make sure that most of the people in the area will actually benefit at the end.

My thanks go to those who have helped the victims and who decided to sacrifice themselves for the common good. No doubt, this includes the people of all races and ethnicities and supporters of all parties. Whom do I mean?

For example, I mean the cops who did not quit their jobs in New Orleans and who have been working in the streets despite the obvious risks - especially from the thugs and looters - and despite the minimal amount of thanks that they will receive for their work. In my opinion, these cops should get at least one extra monthly salary for their work: for their courage, and for the risk they have taken. Similar statements apply to the rescue workers who often help even if guns are used to welcome their choppers.

I also mean the citizens of Texas and other states around the unlucky region. In particular, those in Houston have done everything they could. The Louisiana Supersymmetric Dome is undoubtedly the only supersymmetric object in the world that really sucks (and stinks). The Houston Astronomical Dome turned out to be a much better place to live for the people who have tried the concentration camp called the Superdome (although it is 10 years older).

I also mean the local politicians - such as Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, who has shown an incredible amount of realism and honesty. Frankly, I also mean the president George W. Bush who not only went to the region and responded almost as much as he could (and the aid is already flowing to the region), but who will undoubtedly be blamed for nearly everything wrong that has occured and will occur in the Gulf Coast. Some people will even blame Bush's ability to play the guitarre. If Mr. president prays to God every day for an easier life, I guess that he may start to have some doubts whether God is actually working properly because Bush's presidency is a pretty tough one.

How can they blame Bush for this event? The reason was pointed by Einstein: two things are infinite - the universe and human stupidity - and I am not sure about the universe. Many people will say that the disaster is actually a consequence of the war in Iraq. Let me say that the soldiers are not paid for being sleeping men and women who just wait for a hurricane to be useful. Soldiers are supposed to fight with an enemy; while their job in a disordered city such as New Orleans is a natural one, it is not their primary task. Moreover, many troops are coming to New Orleans, but it does not mean that everything will be smooth.

The current (or yesterday's) situation in New Orleans is, unfortunately, an example of the ideal communist dreams that have come true. It's a society where everyone only works as much as he or she wants, and where everyone can take whatever he or she needs. We can see how such a system "works": the basic premises may be satisfied but there is often nothing that they can take - and the people have a very small motivation to do anything because such a system is about permanent despair.

Also, it was mostly the wrong people who had the guns; many of them have stolen them in the stores such as Wal-Mart. You may say that what I say about communism disagrees with the official wisdom of Marx. But it actually agrees very well: he argued in favor of the "spiral" analogy: communism is exactly like the society in the pre-historic era but on a higher level (that includes some skyscrapers).

More seriously, the streets of New Orleans are also an example how the life of our ancestors looked like in the ancient times when they actually had to struggle to survive and when no modern laws could have been enforced (it is apparently not sufficient that they're written somewhere). This is how the authentic life in Nature looks like; it does not look like in the romantic dreams of the environmentalists who believe that it is only the human being who has interrupted the nice co-existence of all other species who used to love each other. ;-)

Also, when one looks at the stores in New Orleans, it is hard not to realize that giving some material help to the third world is probably not quite a sufficient act that will necessarily help them. As Feynman liked to emphasize, it is not the material assets themselves but rather the ability (and know-how) to produce them that distinguishes the first world from the third world.

(The second world has been gone since 1989, except for Fidel and a few friends.)

Most of the civilization achievements must be constructed for the society to work along the modern lines: the law, including the economic rights, must be enforced; the right people with the right (and intelligent) plans and ideas must be in charge and must be able to become influential; the individuals must have some motivation (mostly but not exclusively economic motivation) to make some progress.

Do I think that this particular hurricane will and should affect some quantitative ideas about the policies? Yes, I do. Next time, the insurance companies (well, FEMA itself in the case of the U.S. - thanks, CIP) should think more carefully how high the insurance costs should be in places that are as dangerous as New Orleans has apparently been. The prices of various things will naturally shift, at least temporarily. The American engineers may think that the levees should be stronger after all; maybe they should learn something from those Dutchmen who also live below the sea level.

Do I think that global warming should be blamed for Katrina? No, really no. The hurricanes were always occuring. Their maximal intensity has apparently decreased. There have been roughly five comparable hurricanes in the U.S. during the 20th century; their frequency used to be larger than today during the previous tropical cycle. Even if you imagine - and I am being very "generous" - that global warming may contribute one extra Katrina every century, you will only justify a fraction of one percent that our civilization spends on the global warming.

All these problems must be solved with the focus on the local concerns; it is about the insurance costs, the levees, and the process to choose a place for a new city. The rational approach is not about the attempts to cool down the whole planet and about the hope that such a cooling may help us in average.

Is there global warming behind the fact that the hurricane chose New Orleans this time - exactly when the climate change hysteria became extremely powerful? No. Who says "Yes" is endorsing medieval superstitions. A scientifically oriented person may be emotionally touched; but her rational thinking can't undergo a conceptual revolution because of an event that simply has to happen at some moment, by the very rules of statistics. A hypothetical functional dependence of the distance between the hurricanes and the cities on the amount of carbon dioxide emissions is such a bizarre link that a rationally thinking person must simply reject it.

What is the damage caused by a hurricane as a function of time? Clearly, as the population grows, the total number of lives that are lost would grow if the technology were stagnating. Also, because we are getting richer, the total costs are guaranteed to grow, too. We know from the history classes that there have been many disasters like this one in the past. In some sense, we got used to the idea that these things avoid us. But a more accurate comment is that only the disasters that our technologies can prevent are expected to diminish. While we know antibiotics and many other cool things to eliminate many tragedies that used to ruin the humankind in the past, we can't yet control the weather.

Until we learn how to do it, we must be ready that the hurricanes will be able to destroy the whole regions as much as they could in the past. But I am sure that America will recover from this tragedy much like it has recovered so many times.

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