Friday, March 31, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Fairness of reviews of McCutcheon: The Final Theory restored

Update: One day after this article was written, the one-star reviews were erased once again.

Brian Powell has just informed me that the critical reviews of the book

are no longer deleted from the website. When we first informed about the strange filtering procedures, the book had 33 reviews with the average rating of 5 stars. Now it has 63 reviews with the average rating of 3.5 stars - a consequence of roughly 15 one-star reviews that quite suddenly appeared on the amazon website. ;-)

Harvard will be free for the "poor"

Yesterday, the officials announced that the Harvard students whose families earn below $60,000 a year, which includes 1/4 of the current students, won't have to pay the tuition which will be $43,655 for the next year. See The Crimson.

Let me admit that - probably because I come from a poor environment from all viewpoints and from a country where it is very hard to advocate any tuition, even 16 years after the collapse of communism - this tuition seems gigantic to me and the millionaires are the only ones whom I would advise to pay it - despite my significant respect for the school. I don't believe that one year of Harvard education is worth $43,655; however, the value of the degree may be high because of the significant prestige of the university (and the known fact that those who get here are likely to be extremely good).

If you want to compare: the previous Harvard cutoff was $40,000 instead of the current $60,000. UPenn's figure is $50,000 while Yale and Stanford have $45,000. Others can't compete at all and Harvard is simply the best school to support smart young students from the "poor" families. I used the quotation marks for the word "poor" because $60,000 is actually 1.36 times higher than the median U.S. household income in 2004.

SSC and the Clinton administration

The article "The Collider Calamity" has sparked some discussions and I need to add a few words.

When the Superconducting Super Collider was aborted, I just became a sophomore in Prague. Because I knew that it was a great physics project started by the Reagan Administration to probe the structure of matter, it was a bad news. But at that time, experimental particle physics was somewhat remote to me. I was only able to view the cancellation of the SSC as a very sad event a few years later.

Thursday, March 30, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Searching for the answers

This blog had to face about 2,000 additional hits on Wednesday plus 3,000 extra hits on Thursday and 2,700 extra hits on Friday because many people are apparently very curious what was the real motive of Winkler's murder, a very sad event that has stunned America a week ago. It seems obvious to me that the Tennessee officials and Mary Winkler herself (plus a few more conceivable exceptions) are the only ones who know the reasons behind the murder. It is known that the reason was a very particular thing. If this insight leaked, it would probably spread over the internet very quickly.

This fact can't discourage the Americans from searching for the answers on the web. What answers do the search engines offer?


At any rate, the search engines are obviously using superficially reasonable algorithms. What the people are looking for are really theories which is why they must offer their customers websites that analyze the theory of everything. Such a theory might, in principle, also include the answer to the question Why did Mary Winkler kill her husband... The only problem is that our current knowledge of string theory is not sufficient to calculate observables such as the motive of this particular murder. It is also too primitive to be able to save Matthew Winkler's life...

Mithat Ünsal: deconstruction as twisting

Mithat Ünsal from Boston University spoke about his interesting work with David B. Kaplan, his collaborator. The talk was about deconstruction. As we explained in the past, the method of deconstruction allows you to define lattice-like models of gauge theories with supersymmetry in such a way that fine-tuning is no longer necessary or at least the amount of necessary fine-tuning is reduced.

In the continuum limit, one naturally obtains a larger amount of supersymmetry from a discretized starting point with a smaller amount of supersymmetry. From the field theory viewpoint, it is a consequence of some nice and non-generic discrete symmetries. For a string theorist, the main reason can be described as a combination of dualities and various limiting procedures.

If you deconstruct the N=4 gauge theory, only a subset of supersymmetries is preserved before taking the continuum limit. There exists another manipulation with the N=4 gauge theory that preserves a part of supersymmetry: namely topological twisting. Mithat argued that deconstruction and topological twists are closely related.

More concretely, he explained that the discrete symmetries that act on the "theory space" are not really discrete subgroups of the rotational (or Lorentz) symmetry group. Instead, they form a discrete subgroup of a diagonal SO(4) group that generates rotations of the Euclidean spacetime as well as SO(4) rotations inside the SO(6) R-symmetry group.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

The Collider Calamity

The Scientific American has published an article

of exactly the type that I always expected to start to appear in 2006 or so. It explains that the U.S. experimental particle physics will move overseas. At the Tevatron, only B-physics has the ability to compete with (or beat) the LHC. And B-physics, in which George W. Bush is an expert, is probably not a sufficient justification to continue with these colliders. The calamity started when Reagan's Superconducting Super Collider (SSC) was cancelled in 1993, during the Clinton-Gore era. For Al Gore, this decision was nothing strange because Al Gore openly prefers junk science such as the "climate change" over serious scientific fields such as particle physics.

The Scientific American suggests that the only way to restore the American pride - and the boost that the development of high-energy physics gives to technology, medicine, and economy in general - is to build the ILC on the American soil even though its price will be comparable to the cancelled SSC. If supersymmetry is found by the LHC, surely the American ILC will be a necessary condition for the U.S. to remain a superpower in 2020 or so. ;-)

Warren Siegel and Kiyoung Lee: ghost pyramids

Tonight, I recommend you the preprint

by Warren Siegel and Kiyoung Lee. It is actually a followup of a 2005 preprint that most of us missed
In these papers, the authors propose a formalism that is arguably (and certainly according to the authors) better than the four existing frameworks to compute perturbative type II superstring amplitudes, namely than
  • Ramond-Neveu-Schwarz Lorentz-covariant approach
  • light-cone-gauge Green-Schwarz approach
  • the hybrid RNS-GS approach
  • Berkovits' pure spinor approach
In the picture of Siegel et al., the super-Poincaré invariance is manifest and no exotic picture-changing insertions are needed. The price you pay - and I guess that Nathan Berkovits would argue that it is a high price - is the infinite number of fields.

What you actually need is to extend the spacetime spinor variables "theta_a" where "a" is a spinor index in the 32-dimensional representation (the same variables that occur in the pure spinor or other covariant Green-Schwarz frameworks) into a ghost pyramid
  • theta^{mn}_{a}
where "m,n" are non-negative integers which is why you span a pyramid (or a quadrant, if you draw "m,n" as vertical and horizonal axes). The original ordinary group of observables "theta_a" becomes "theta^{00}_{a}". The number "m+n" measures the "ghost level" (where 0,1,2 means humans, ghosts, and ghosts for ghosts, and so on) while the difference "m-n" counts the ghost number. Note that the statistics of theta's is flipped for odd values of "m+n".

If you keep "m+n" fixed, there are "m+n+1" sibbling fields "theta". Their central charge should be counted as "(-1)^{m+n}" times the central charge "C00" of the fields "theta^{00}". This means that the total central charge of the whole ghost pyramid is
  • Cpyramid / C00 = 1 - 2 + 3 - 4 + 5 - 6 + ...
The contributions 1,-2,+3,-4 come from the theta variables with m+n=0,1,2,3 and so on while the alternating signs arise from the alternating statistics of the ghosts for the previous ghosts. This sum plays an important philosophical role in the new formalism, and it is useful to evaluate it. You can use the zeta-function regularization with the usual allowed tricks. A simple reasoning shows that
  • 1 - 2 + 3 - 4 + 5... =
  • 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5... - 2 ( 2 + 4 + 6 + ...) =
  • 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5... - 4 (1 + 2 + 3 + ...) =
  • (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5...) x (1-4) =
  • (-1/12) x (-3) = +1/4
That's one quarter. Note that this heuristic calculation is inevitably confirmed by the rigorous theta functions when you check the one-loop modular invariance. One quarter is significant because it tells you that the 32-component spinorial ghost pyramid has the same "number of degrees of freedom" as a single 8-component spinor, such as the spinor found in the light-cone gauge description.

Your worldsheet field content then only has the usual fields "X,b,c" much like in the bosonic string plus the "theta^{mn}_{a}" ghost pyramid. No "beta,gamma" systems occur. Pure spinors "lambda" are absent, too. The total central charge cancels because of the identity
  • 10 (X) - 26 (bc) + 16 (theta pyramid) = 0
The BRST charge is constructed as some annoying conjugation by an operator "U" (to make the non-invertibility of the following operator harmless) of the operator defined as follows:

The operator in the core of the BRST operator is essentially the usual bosonic BRST term, i.e. the integral of "cT(sigma)", plus a fermionic term that is equal to the integral of
  • (1/4) Pi . Gammapyramid . Pi
Here, "Pi" are the conjugate momenta for the fields "theta" in the pyramid and "Gammapyramid" is a generalization of the Dirac matrices that acts on the "Pi" and "theta" components of the pyramid in a particular way. The operator "U" needed for the conjugation is defined as a particular exponential.

You can then define vertex operators for physical states and if you read and understand the paper that appeared one hour ago, you can also compute some particular scattering amplitudes.

And because I don't want to write their whole paper again, anyone who is interested in details should try to read the original papers. It should be possible to prove the equivalence with the Berkovits picture, and it is even conceivable that the proof is known.

An expert from the Western hemisphere confirms that Siegel's and Kiyoung's approach is analogous to working with the picture 0 operators in the RNS superstring while the picture -1 may be more natural on the worldsheet. These picture 0 operators are enough for tree-level and one-loop graphs but it seems obvious that for genus 2 diagrams and higher, one needs an extension of the formalism and the ghost pyramid approach could face problems at this level.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Kadima party wins & mess in France & Summers' annihilation of poverty

Breaking news: the Kadima party, the center-right party that was formed by Ariel Sharon after he left the right-wing Likud, has won about 30 seats in the Israeli Parliament that has 120 seats. Labor Party will be around 22 seats, Beitenu (Russian) around 12 seats. Likud's Netanyahu with 11 seats admitted a "body blow" to his party and is expected to resign. Pensioners will take 7 seats or so.


Meanwhile, France is paralyzed by new strikes organized by a new Jacobin club. These young people are revolutionaries. In fact, they are very odd revolutionaries who don't want to change the world. Instead, they want to preserve all the socialist constructs that became so normal in France. Preserve them for themselves.

Of course, France can no longer afford these things. The unemployment among the young people under 26 is about 23 percent. The employers are afraid to hire anyone because they would have to guarantee all the socialist achievements for these employees. As Quantoken obviously misunderstands, when it's hard to fire, it's better for the company not to try to hire.

The government has decided that the job market must become more flexible and they have created a new law that allows the employers to fire the young people for 2 years without inventing convoluted explanations. The young students don't like it and the young non-students are even worse. The latter group attacks both the government as well as the young students.

The only reason why I am not ashamed of these officially young but morally old people - who are, indeed, similar to some of the retired workers from Czechoslovakia who loved the paternalistic communism - is that I don't find my citizenship in the European Union to be one of the two most important parts of my identity.

If you didn't know: the Jacobin Club was the first Stalinist organization in the world that became powerful at the end of the French revolution during the Reign of Terror when about 30,000 people were executed. It was led by people like Jean-Paul Marat who was a killer analogous to Che Guevara and by Robespierre who was a left-wing radical metrosexual analogous to - but worse than- Howard Dean. Of course, the lunatics from the French streets mattered, too. Thanks God, the terror ended on 7/28/1794 when Robespierre and his 21 associates were executed.

If you think that I am the only one who compares the French left-wing revolutionaries to Stalin, you may want to know that Jean-Robert Pitte, the president of Sorbonne, is "ashamed of his country" where "Stalin is not yet dead". He explained that "France is his last refuge". Pitte had opposed the protests in 1968, too. If you guess that the article must mention that Sorbonne's president has similar reasonable opinions as Harvard's president, you guess correctly.

Summers will eliminate poverty from the Milky Way

If you are interested, Larry Summers just hails Dubai's economic strategies and they praise him. Yesterday, Summers recommended the International Monetary Fund to run a half-a-trillion USD hedge fund. The main goal of this modest but meaningful proposal is to eliminate poverty from the Solar System - and probably beyond - by replacing the incompetent managers in the Third World by competent managers supervised by IMF. Many underdeveloped countries have huge financial reserves that are not dealt with efficiently.

The left-wing activists did not realize that by firing Summers, they will initiate - if you allow me to exaggerate just a little bit - a daily transfer of half a trillion USD in the right direction, a direction that they viscerally hate. ;-)

B-mesons and supersymmetry?

I am usually very skeptical about statements that new physics has been discovered through high-precision experiments; especially about the precise identity of the new physics - and this case is no exception. Five years ago, we have heard a similar story about the discovery of supersymmetry in Brookhaven. It went away after some signs in theoretical calculations of some two-loop diagrams were corrected.

Nevertheless, you should still know that the D0 detector team at the Tevatron at Fermilab is submitting a paper about the

to Physical Review Letters in which they argue that their measurement is "the first tangible evidence for supersymmetry" (at least in the article above they say so). I, for one, will only believe that SUSY is discovered once the things are so clear that Michal Fabinger pays me those 1,000 dollars which will probably not happen in 2006 if ever.

Moreover, a reader points out that the measured frequency is exactly what is predicted by the Standard Model, which would make the comment in the article to be just the opposite of the truth. I am not able to verify the exact number.

The B_s meson is a neutral bound state of a bottom-quark and a strange-antiquark that can, much like the neutral K meson, oscillate in between this state and its antiparticle. The frequency of oscillations is, according to the experiments, 19 trillion Hertz plus minus 10 percent at 90 percent confidence level. These oscillations measure violations of discrete symmetries, especially the CP symmetry.

The article also explains that the physicists only accept a statement as a discovery once the confidence level is 99.99995% which you should view as an explanation why I find various tests about the correlations of XY and health (or climate) to be junk science.

The spokesman of the competing CDF detector group explains that the CDF people are jealous but they are better anyway. With a higher sensitivity, they have a more chance to make the discovery by looking at a corresponding dataset. Stay tuned but don't expect miracles.

Steve Shenker: Inflation in AdS/CFT

The last duality seminar by Steve Shenker was about

Steve is a captivating speaker so we could not miss this one. He brought us some fresh air from the West Coast, including the West Coast thinking where everything is fine, everything goes, just as required by the anthropic principle, and moreover the metric tensor signature is (+---).

One of the dreams of modern, high-energy alchemists was to create a Universe in the bottle. Imagine that there is a scalar field whose potential energy has a local minimum somewhere above our minimum. You prepare a scattering process and try to raise the value of the scalar field to the higher minimum in a large enough region of space inside your bottle. This small seed can start to inflate: it may begin to grow exponentially while its boundary may remain small. A large new Universe with billions of stars may eventually appear inside your bottle.

Is it possible? Although this picture uses physical concepts that are widely believed by theoretical physicists to be correct, the ultimate answer is No. Today we may argue that such a Universe in the bottle violates the entropy bounds and the holographic principle: the entropy and the number of degrees of freedom in a region (inside the bottle) should not exceed the surface area of the region (the bottle).

More materially, Guth and Farhi have proved years ago - using the classical methods of general relativity and the theorems about the existence of singularities - that a few moments or minutes before the inflation starts, the spacetime must develop a singularity. If you want a Universe in the bottle, you must sacrifice all your history except for the last few minutes, pretend that the Big Bang occured five minutes ago, and as you can agree, this is far too high a price to pay. Farhi, Guth, and Guven did not want to give up and they proposed a new way to start the local inflation - using quantum tunneling.

Steve reviewed these things - and he drew the Penrose diagrams in various situations sketched above (for example, an air-conditioning inflating box attached to the filled anti de Sitter cylinder) as he participated in intense debates whether the tunneling breaks the analyticity of various quantities. But his intent was more modern. Today we have alternative definitions of theories of quantum gravity, especially the AdS/CFT correspondence. Can they tell us something new about inflation? While I don't know the answer to this question, Steve could still manage to say some interesting things.

Don't get me wrong: the conclusion remains that the Universe in the bottle is impossible, even if you use quantum tunneling.

But the exact explanation why it is so is somewhat interesting albeit controversial. Steve essentially argued that if there is an inflating region inside anti de Sitter space, it must be described by a mixed state in the full theory. Because pure states can't evolve into mixed states, the evolution that initiates inflation is impossible.

I don't understand the assumptions of this argument (although I agree, of course, with the impossibility to evolve into mixed states) and Steve's answers to my questions confirmed my expectation that I won't ever understand it because it contradicts my understanding of some basic notions of quantum mechanics. We can't ever say that the world is objectively described by a mixed state. A mixed state or a density matrix is nothing else than the quantum counterpart of the classical uncertainty, the classical probability distributions. A mixed state is a mixture of matrices constructed from pure states that is a useful description of reality whenever we only know some features of the pure states (such as some macroscopic or low-energy quantities) but not all of them.

But a representative pure state included in the mixed state must always have the same macroscopic properties as the mixed state itself. And we must always be free to imagine that our system is in a particular pure state - we just don't know which one. If you consider a thermal density matrix, surely you don't think that you can't find particular pure states that behave in the same way. The description of the macroscopic physics in terms of a thermal mixed state may be more convenient than any calculation you could do with any particular pure state that looks thermal, but it is just a matter of convenience, not a matter of the truth.

Moreover, when you derive by some semiclassical methods that a CFT description of your inflating region is traced over some degrees of freedom and it therefore looks as a mixed state, it does not mean that the mixed state is the exact answer. By the same semiclassical methods, you might argue that a black hole is a pure state that has no entropy. That would be, of course, wrong. The opposite case - in which the semiclassical approximation overestimates the entropy - is unlikely because the semiclassical degrees of freedom are subset of all degrees of freedom and an inequality should therefore hold. However, I did not see how one can isolate the "many" degrees of freedom on the boundary that describe the CFT, so I don't see a sharp contradiction with the entropy argument.

At any rate, one can never objectively say whether the Universe is found in a pure state or a mixed state: this question is a subjective question about our complete vs. incomplete knowledge of the physical system. The density matrix is not the same as a classical state of a classical system. And no physically measurable quantities or questions can depend on the answer to this philosophical question about the purity of our Universe because that would be in contradiction with the postulates of quantum mechanics, I think.

Steve was telling me that these basic ideas of "mine" break down in quantum gravity but I don't understand what they have to do with gravity which is why I cannot fully reproduce their argument here.

Time magazine: Another Ice Age?

An unusually chilly spring has delayed planting in Canada and the harvest will disappoint.

The cooling trend shows no signs that it will be reverted. The apparently contradictory weather effects show, in fact, a global climatic upheaval. If you average the temperature over the planet, it has been gradually decreasing in the past few decades. Since the 1940s, the temperatures dropped by 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit.

Climatological Cassandras who foresee the misfortune are increasingly apprehensive because the weather anomalies they study seem to be the harbinger of another ice age.

Telltale signs are everywhere, from the unusually thick Icelandic ice to the migration of the warmth-loving armadillo from the Midwest. Satellites have shown that three years ago, the ice has grown by 12 percent during one year. The Baffin Island used to be snow-free. Now it's covered by snow all the time.

Monday, March 27, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Dyson and 42 as the answer to everything

As Wolfgang has always known, the number 42 is not only the universal answer to life and the Universe but also the third moment of the zeta function.

The first two moments of the zeta function are 1 and 2. All these big discoveries follow from an encounter of Freeman Dyson with another scholar, Hugh Montgomery, in 1972, and because I don't understand anything in this story except for the value of the moments of the zeta function, your explanations will be welcome.

Monty Hall Paradox

This is a good example how people who professionally deal with statistics can disagree about the results if the problem is not accurately defined.

The Monty Hall problem is the following. There are three doors 1,2,3, goats behind two of them, and a car behind the third. You want to win the car. The procedure has several steps.

  1. First, you choose one of the doors. Without a loss of generality, because you don't know anything yet, you choose the door number 1 (they don't know that this is your convention)
  2. Second, Monty Hall chooses and opens another door, say the door number 3 (the subtlety occurs at this point!), and you see there was a goat behind the door number 3
  3. Third, you can either choose to keep the door number one or switch to the door number 2, trying to maximize the probability that you win a car

In fact, you can play it here. This seems as a trivial task but actually the rules above are not yet well-defined as we will see. What is the probability that you get a car if you keep the door number one?

Symmetric argument

At the beginning, there are three equally likely possibilities with likelihoods of 1/3:

  • 1/3: car behind (1)
  • 1/3: car behind (2)
  • 1/3: car behind (3)

Once you see a goat behind (3), it is obvious that the third possibility could not have been realized. So only the first two possibilities survive. Once the third possibility is eliminated, you should work with the conditional probabilities, i.e. you should replace P(Answer) by

  • Pconditional(Answer) = P(Answer & Assumptions) / P(Assumptions).

Given the condition that the car is not behind (3), which is what we have just learned, we know that the truth must be one of the first two possibilities. Because their total a priori probability was 2/3 (the denominator of the formula above) and each of them had 1/3 a priori (the numerator), the new predicted probabilities of victory are 1/2 for each door 1 or 2, and it therefore does not matter whether you change your door or not. Because no one has seen anything behind the door 1, it is completely irrelevant whether you were standing in front of 1 or not.

Sunday, March 26, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Lisa Randall's Warped Passages website

The only role of this posting is to inform you and the search engines about the new website of

Among other things, you will find a free chapter from the book on that website much like MP3 files with various interviews. Enjoy!

Freeman Dyson on PhD, global warming, biotechnology, and superpowers

Via William Connolley.

Freeman Dyson has been and is an eminent physicist who has never received a PhD even though his name appears in the main text of 1,410 scientific articles. In fact, he considers the PhD system to be deeply flawed. In December 2005, he offered a very interesting

in which he promotes three opinions that he calls "heresies".

  1. Global warming theories are unreliable, exaggerated, and based on models with many flaws (Dyson describes them in detail), and the researchers in this field create a lot of hype to steal money from more legitimate human activities
  2. Biotechnology will become as domesticated as computer games and children and housewives will create their new animal and plant species at home. Most people don't realize that this will happen much like John von Neumann didn't appreciate computer games as a major source of the 21st century entertainment
  3. The United States have less than 100 years left as a global superpower because in most cases, the superpowers become overextended and eventually collapse - and Dyson who is British American sees signs that the United States may slowly be approaching this point

At the celebration, Freeman Dyson also informed the new PhDs that their education will probably turn out to be overspecialized and they may be declared redundant; indeed, Dyson is just like the Fairy Blackstick from his fairy-tale. Much like in the fairy-tale, such a redundancy may also be an opportunity because the students can always join the heretics. Dyson himself is a proud heretic but, unfortunately, an "old heretic" - one of those who don't "cut much ice". The world needs young heretics, he says. And in November 2006 he will release a book about scientists as rebels. You should buy it:

Are there any young heretics in this world?

Well, I, for one, don't think that the statement that the global warming industry is essentially a fraud is a heresy. And I am not a heretic but a mainsteam person; there just happens to be too many stupid people around who oppose my opinions. It is they, not me, who should be burned at stake. ;-) William Connolley who is unwilling to recognize that he is less qualified than Dyson and your humble correspondent to judge the reliability of the climate models is one of them.

Saturday, March 25, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Mary Winkler: the motive

See also: Who was the Virginia gunman & Victoria Lindsay in FL
See also: & blogs on Winkler
December 9th, 2012, update: Mary Winkler says some bad things on the late husband on TV

September 7th, 2012, update: Mary Winkler moves to McMinnville

May 20th, 2011, update: Mary Winkler is currently a free employee of dry cleansers, on a $750k bond, but the parents of Matthew filed a $2m lawsuit.

November 5th, 2011, update: The story was converted to a movie, "The Pastor's Wife". See also an interview with Rose McGowan (who stars as Mary Winkler).

August 4th, 2008: Mary Winkler regains custody of her three daughters!

Friday, March 24, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

A newspaper snippet

Rae Ann has scanned and sent me an interesting newspaper snippet that is apparently going to be published on Sunday:

Please don't ask me what it exactly means because I must still study the details.

Lennart Carleson wins Abel prize

Lennart Carleson (78) who is described by the British socialist daily "The Guardian" as the inventor of the Fourier series whose discovery was used in the electronic components of iPod :-) has been awarded by the Abel prize which includes half a million British pounds. The prize is intended to be a mathematical counterpart of the Nobel prize, as demonstrated by the verse Nobel-Abel, and can only be awarded to mathematicians who avoid non-Abelian gauge theories. See

More seriously, Carleson has studied "complex dynamics" of complex maps such as the Henon map, convergence and growth of partial sums of Fourier series, interpolations of bounded analytic functions, and many other things, some of which look like simple math but it may be just a wrong impression. Most famously, Carleson has proved the Corona theorem in the early 1950s.

When we talk about the millions of dollars: the Kennedy School of Government has received $1.5 million to support women in politics, under the slogan "From Harvard Square to the Oval Office". Actually I did not know that Lewinski had a Harvard degree.

Bug in MSIE 6

There exists another reason to download the new excellent Internet Explorer 7 that we discussed here. The new, March 20th edition of its beta 2 preview is the first version of a Microsoft browser that is not (according to Microsoft Security Response Center Blog) affected by the new, highly critical text-handling bug that allows hackers to do anything with your computer they want, including eating the food from your fridge. Note that if you have installed a previous version of Internet Explorer 7, you must first uninstall it before installing the new one.

Thursday, March 23, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

How they probably did not steal my identity

This story looks like a continuation of the story

but the details are slightly different and potentially more serious.

What happened today? At 3:00 pm, after the class about the anomalous magnetic moments, I received a very strange package to the department. It was a book about Benazir Bhutto. If you don't know - and I did not really know - she was the first female leader of a Muslim country: a politician from the People's Party of Pakistan (PPP). The pretty book by Mary Englar costs $30.60, quite a price for 112 pages. But the book looks really nice.

It should be obvious that I had never ordered a book about Benazir Bhutto. What was even more disturbing was the address where the book was sent:
  • Lubos Motl
  • Lyman Lab
  • Photographer
  • 36 Oxford Street Apt. 11
  • Cambridge MA 02138-1957
I am not a photographer and the address has nothing to do with me: it is a complete accident that it ended up in the physics department at 11 Oxford Street where we have no apartments: moreover, the Lyman Lab is not a photographic lab. Josh Lapan (and Suvrat Raju) helped me to try to apply for the free annual credit report to see how much money have the identity thieves borrowed on behalf of my name. Neither of the three agencies returned any data. It became obvious that someone has stolen my identity and changed the official address so that I cannot get the data using my real address. And he or she is buying books, houses, and airplanes using the credit card.

Moreover, who could be interested in a Pakistani politician? For example, Al-Qaeda. A terrorist has apparently used my identity from the phishing website and the politically correct bankers have opened a credit card for him, assuming that he must be Lubos Motl.

The only method how to pay all those millions of dollars back that I could think of was to nominate Viktor Kožený, a friend of mine from the Bahamas who offered me to become a Czech shadow minister of education, as a candidate for "Scholars at risk", a scholarship at Harvard. If he wins, he could give me a few million from his assets of hundreds of millions of dollars. ;-)

So I went to see how 36 Oxford Street looks like. The building is called the Conant Hall and it belongs to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. You could smell the drugs and see the blood on the floor. There are scary posters informing the readers about conferences of various researchers in racial studies and similar pseudosciences. You can imagine that the environment had to be quite depressing for me. You can't get behind the second door into the building - otherwise police is immediately alerted, as you can read on the walls. I made it sure that my fingerprints are cleaned from all the doors that I touched. Also, I was waiting for the fake Lubos Motl to appear behind the door. How is he or she going to look like? Should I kill him or her? Am I strong enough to do it?

Eventually I called the publisher and a rough framework of the solution to the mystery suddenly emerged in front of my eyes when they told me that the book was free. I completed the details of the theory after the telephone conversation. Can you solve the puzzle, too? Let me give you a hint: the page 36 of the book explains that Benazir came to love her experience in the United States at Harvard's Radcliffe College in snowy New England. Also, the page 97 of the book outlines the most important events of Bhutto's life between 1968 and 1971 - and the page contains three pictures: a picture of a college in Cambridge, a photograph of the first man on the Moon, and a picture of the first microprocessor by Intel.

Why are these events in Bhutto's life relevant for solving a mystery about criminals who just ordered a book about her 35 years later? Do you know the answer? If you don't, read the following sentence backwards:

.koob reh fo ypoc eerf a em tnes dna ,211 egap no em deknaht ,effilcdaR fo erutcip ym desu sah ralgnE yraM

Inaccurate clocks in quantum gravity?

Rodolfo Gambini, Rafael Porto, and Jorge Pullin have a paper

in which they argue that there exists some "additional" fundamental contribution to decoherence arising just from the fact that someone is able to measure time. They even say that there is a "fundamental loss of unitarity" in a theory of quantum gravity. I believe that all these papers are completely wrong. Five years ago, we investigated similar statements by Ng and van Dam together with Raphael Bousso and other guys who were in Santa Barbara.

The authors had claimed that quantum gravity implies that the uncertainty of measuring a distance "L" is always of order "L^{1/3} Lplanck^{2/3}" which is a pretty huge uncertainty that grows with "L" quite rapidly. They followed Wigner and constructed a completely stupid kind of inaccurate clocks. Because they had inaccurate clocks, they argued that all clocks must be inaccurate (probably because they are the smartest people in the world and no one can construct better clocks than they can), which means that the inaccuracy of their dumb clocks is a fundamental principle of Nature, they argued.

Unity of strings

One of the features of string theory that the non-experts often misunderstand is its unity and inevitability of its conclusions. People outside the field often believe that the string theorists are "inventing" different objects and structures studied under the name of "string theory".

The reality is very different: our conclusions about the mathematical structure that we continue to call "string theory" (despite the importance of non-stringy objects that has been appreciated in the least 10 years) are rigid, unchangeable, and inevitable. More importantly, it is impossible to "buy" some parts of string theory and abandon the rest.

String theory is undoubtedly an important subject to be studied as a topic in mathematics. As Edward Witten has said, mathematics of the 21st century will be dominated by string theory. But does string theory describe the real Universe more accurately than the previous theories of physics? The answer to this question is either Yes or No. It cannot be something in between.

As a theory of this Universe, string theory is either completely relevant or completely irrelevant.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Political diversity on campus

You may find it confusing that the title refers to something that does not exist - but if the title does not exist, it does not necessarily imply that one can't write an article about it. :-) It may be a good idea to try to convince you that the diversity on campus does exist if you look carefully enough.

Let's start with some optimistic comments.

The Crimson informs that a feminist tried to learn some wisdom from Prof. Harvey Mansfield of Harvard University. Mansfield has explained in his talks and in his new book that manliness is confidence in a situation of risk, and it is a characteristically male feature. Naomi Wolf, a feminist writer, interrupted Mansfield's speech by her comment that Mansfield was very charming. She has also asked Prof. Mansfield whether a certain tool is needed to have authority, and Prof. Mansfield has patiently answered his new student that it helps. You can see the whole lecture on Sunday at 3:00 pm, on C-SPAN 2. :-)

In another article, Prof. Ruth Wisse has deconstructed the methods used by political correctness to avoid any kind of debate - simply by labeling any different viewpoint than the "obviously official one" as "extreme". Well, I have known this strategy for quite some time. More precisely, I have known it for many years before 1989 and the recent events have simply reminded me of these nearly forgotten memories.

At the end of the first paragraph, Prof. Wisse also mentions that there apparently exist two junior professors at Harvard who share her opinions about ROTC and the Middle East controversy. I can't understand these people. If they share such opinions about these questions, they could equally well create a website and write on the second line that they are reactionaries. It's just crazy and unthinkable. :-) Prof. Wisse will take the secret who are these two mysterious people to the grave. So don't ask me who is the second one: I don't know and it was wise not to inform me because 340,000 people could know the secret as early as tomorrow. ;-)

More seriously, some recent as well as older debates - although the term "interrogation at a PC police station" could sometimes be more accurate than the word "debate" - have demonstrated one point related to Prof. Wisse's main observation: the left-wing senior professors, despite their unquestionable talents, simply can't (or don't want) to understand that there can be anything such as right-wing politics. They must be convinced that the existence of right-wingers must be a myth created by the moderate left-wingers to confuse the progressives.

For example, almost everyone was completely shocked back in 2004 that Bush had won the elections even though the polls had indicated quite clearly that he would become the winner. Apparently, they innocently assumed that the U.S. nation is politically similar to the Harvard faculty.

And if some of these respected colleagues of ours believe that the right-wing politics exists, they obviously assume that its advocates must have horns and a tail - or they must differ from other humans in some comparable dramatic fashion. Those who read this blog carefully know something about my politics but even some of those who occassionally read my blog and who often talk to me - mostly about non-political issues - still find it incomprehensible how someone at Harvard could think that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were heroes, among dozens of other examples. The possibility that people who look almost just like them could be right-wingers is something that apparently contradicts the laws of Nature as they understand them.

After intense efforts, you can eventually convince other people to accept the hypothesis that you really fail to be a leftist. But even in this case, the left-wing majority apparently believes that your (or my) political opinions must be a fluctuation that is surely going to change after one discussion. It does look like they are convinced that this is how things work and I just can't understand it. I have been personally thinking about these universally important matters for 25 years or so and holding these opinions despite the regime whose official ideology was codified in the constitution and enforced by police and secret police.

And what is the situation in the U.S.? The feminist, socialist, communist, environmentalist, and other opinions are not even defined in the U.S. constitution to be the only allowed opinion. So how can they expect people like me to accept these viewpoints that I consider deeply flawed? But most of my colleagues quite obviously assume that everyone who is not left-wing will surely become left-wing after an hour of discussions. The idea that different political opinions could exist at timescales longer than the Planck time is just unthinkable for them. ;-)

This fact is even more fascinating because of the obvious lack of their own thinking about all these issues. Take the example of the intrinsic aptitude. Although I am among those who find questions in theoretical physics very important in comparison with other questions, I am very far from thinking that every question about physics is more important than any question outside physics. And the basic questions about the origin of intelligence and other characteristically human properties have always been among the important ones - much like the features of evolution of life, character and mechanisms of human thinking, and many others. I have been evaluating these things for 20 years or so and got an imperfect but pretty good, quantitative idea what are the reasonable expectations in dozens of detailed questions related to the intrinsic aptitude. Many of them have been checked and re-checked and they have passed many consistency checks. Some of these ideas may be wrong but most of them are quite certainly correct.

When you discuss with those who share the "dominant" opinion, it becomes abruptly clear that they have not thought about these issues at all. Their attitude is that "no one has an idea about these things" and "why should we assume XY" and "any reseearch of these issues is guaranteed to be wrong" and so forth. I, for one, find it unimaginable for a curious person to live for 30 or 50 years without having tried to answer these simple and rather universal questions. But the colleagues from the "majority" find it very natural. In fact, they find it unnatural to ask these questions at all. There is simply a point at which all rational thinking must be turned off. You may be a professor of physics but you must simply stop your brain whenever questions like the differences between the sexes are being discussed; the political beliefs must take over.

As far as the knowledge of actual data goes, an average worker or farmer could very well have richer and more complete opinions about these matters.

Of course, this effect of "turning rational thinking off" is nothing new for me either. In Prague, various classmates of ours were Christians. They could learn how to create good programs. Some of them learned physics. But whenever we were thinking about any topic that had the potential to contradict the Bible, the brain had to be abandoned. Of course, they would never admit that their brain was turned off. By definition, a brain controlled by God is running perfectly. Nevertheless, the answers were decided according to the ultimate religious dogmas instead of critical rational thinking. Those who believed the creation according to Genesis had to stop their brains whenever the history of the Earth older than 6,000 years was considered. Different people were turning their brains off at different moments but the general mechanism was always the same.

From this viewpoint, political correctness is just another type of religion. While the Academia is extremely rational about many "politically insensitive" topics, it is extremely irrational about "politically sensitive" topics. I feel that it is very wrong. Also, my opinion is that a scholar in certain interdisciplinary fields should not be dogmatic about his or her being a "scientist" or a "social scientist". Whether or not the methods and insights of science or social science are more relevant to answer an XY puzzle is a question that often can't be decided a priori, and a scholar should evaluate the relevance of different approaches rationally, using the well-established scientific methods, including the method of trials and errors.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Peter Woit recommends supersymmetry

Top quark is the heaviest elementary fermion, the king of quarks. Its mass used to be thought to be 178 GeV. It was lowered to 175 GeV and now to 172.5 GeV, with error margin around 2 GeV. When you divide this number by 247 GeV, the vacuum expectation value of the Higgs boson, you obtain the tree-level top Yukawa coupling which happens to be close to "1/sqrt(2)".

I hope that many readers will be excited about this fact and will incorporate this fact into their guitar theories. :-) Regardless of this nice value, the top quark mass is, in principle, the easiest fermionic mass to calculate from a full model.

As you know very well, particular string models predict the exact masses of all particles. The most popular models in the early 1990s were the heterotic models, so what is their prediction? In fact, it is a rather well-defined question because the top quark mass value is more or less a general feature of these models. The top quark mass predicted by the "free fermionic" heterotic string Standard Models was first "almost" properly calculated by Alon Faraggi in 1991 and he obtained a mass in the range

  • 175 - 180 GeV.
See this page for a scanned version of his Physics Letters B paper from 1992 where this prediction was made. More than three years later, in 1995, the top quark was eventually discovered at the Tevatron and the mass was between 175 - 180 GeV. Faraggi's string-theoretical prediction was experimentally confirmed. At roughly the same time, Faraggi included some loop corrections which made the agreement worse because the physical mass he obtained was 192 - 200 GeV.

At any rate, this story is an example that string theory can predict properties of particle physics and it can even give us the right predictions.

The experimentalists who work on top physics - and the theorists who work with them - explain the importance of their work in their talks, much like everyone else. See, for example, this talk by Timothy Tait who is a theorist. It is one of these nice talks that you can often hear and that follow a certain standard scheme. It reviews the theoretical side of the experimental methods, the current theories - the Standard Model - and then they study physics beyond the Standard Model. The pages 10,11,12,13,14,17,19 - more than one third of the talk - are dedicated to supersymmetry, the "best studied and best motivated solution to the hierarchy problem" as (not only) Tait calls it. Tait explains that the Higgs mass in the minimal supersymmetric Standard Model depends primarily on the top and stop masses which is what makes a continuing research of the top quark important.

The funny thing is that Peter Woit has not checked the talk carefully and actually recommended this talk as an explanation why the top quark is important! :-) That's very unusual because all of you know very well that the only physics articles that Peter Woit normally links with positive (or without negative) remarks are scientifically worthless rants whose only "virtue" is that they are critical about string theory and the whole modern high-energy physics for that matter, which makes them the ideal material to please the crackpots who constitute the core of Peter Woit's readership: Quantoken, Nigel Cook, Tony Smith, Danny Ross Lunsford (who stopped posting, thanks God, because he could not survive that WMAP seems to confirm inflation), Alejandro Rivero, MathPhys, stan, secret milkshake, and a whole army of others.

Which scientifically worthless texts promoted by "Not Even Wrong" am I talking about? Well, the new article on Peter's blog that immediately follows the announcement of the corrected top quark mass - a text about some new poetry about political incorrectness of geometry by Bert Schroer - may be used as an example.

As you can see, Peter Woit does not really read any of these talks, not even the superficial talks for the non-experts, which allowed him to publish a whole blog article about the fact that the research of the top quark is important because it is important for the fate of the minimal supersymmetric Standard Model. Some readers are asking him: So why is the mass of the top quark so important? And of course he won't be brave enough to give them the answer, even after he learns it from this blog.

If you don't care about the details of the Yukawa coupling, the content of the text above can be replaced by GoogleFights. ;-)

Monday, March 20, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

BPS black hole as a Hungarian quantum computer

There is apparently a Hungarian day in physics today. Péter Lévay from Budapest

points out mathematical similarities between non-trivial problems in quantum information theory on one side and mathematical aspects of BPS black holes on the other side. A quick analysis indicates that the author knows what he is talking about on both sides of the conjectured "duality".

First of all, I should mention a related paper by Michael Duff from January 2006:

This "older" paper found the square root of Cayley's hyperdeterminant introduced in 1845 at two seemingly unrelated places:

  • in three-qubit quantum entanglement - think about the GHZ state /000>+/111> whose importance and bizarre properties were pointed out to me by Herman Verlinde
  • in the entropy formula for extremal black holes in d=4, N=2, STU theories
  • well, OK, meant three places: Michael Duff has also pointed out that the hyperdeterminant appears in the Nambu-Goto action for a 2+2-dimensional target space: see here

If you don't know what STU backgrounds are, they are heterotic strings on six-tori and the three number S,T,U are three complex scalar fields in d=4, namely the dilaton/axion, the complexified Kähler structure, and complex structure, each of which gives you a single SL(2,Z) duality group. Alternatively, you may describe this background using a dual description with type II on K3.

The letters S-T-U are interesting because there is a triality symmetry permuting all these three fields - and this triality is a part of the full U-duality group (entertainingly enough, the general U-duality group is a reconciliation of S-dualities and T-dualities, but these STU letters are unrelated to the S-T-U letters describing the particular background). Such a discrete symmetry is very constraining. These symmetries consequently tell you that the entropy, as a function of four electric and four magnetic charges, must have a very special form.

If you organize the eight charges into a "2 x 2 x 2 hypermatrix", the squared entropy is given by Cayley's hyperdeterminant. This hyperdeterminant is actually a polynomial of fourth (not second) order in the hypermatrix elements (the entropy of four-dimensional string theory black holes is always a square root of¨duality-invariant, quartic polynomials in charges), with six copies of a two-dimensional epsilon symbol (to get rid of 12 indices):

  • HyperDet M = -0.5 e(ab)e(cd)e(ef)e(gh)e(ij)e(kl) M(ace)M(bdg)M(ikf)M(jlh)

In the formula above, it is assumed that Cayley had known Einstein's sum rule back in 1845, i.e. 34 years prior to Einstein's birth, and all indices are either 0 or 1.

While the fact that the black hole entropy depends on the hyperdeterminant may be easy for a string theorist, the fact that it is useful to study three-qubit quantum entanglement is simple for a quantum information theorist. At least at the level of this interesting algebraic structure by Cayley, the two fields of physics seem to converge.

They also converge sociologically at the Perimeter Institute where some of our friends also want them to converge towards loop quantum gravity which seems slightly less realistic. ;-)

It is up to you whether you find these similarities to be just mathematical coincidences or signals of a profound connection. During Preskill's lectures, I was also thinking how to represent various operators in the multi-qubit systems by gamma matrices acting on the spinors. But I, for one, find it likely that the similarity is just a coincidence.

Péter Lévay continues in this line of reasoning. He is not satisfied just with the cute entropy formula written using the object defined above. He also writes the entropy formula in terms of the squared norm of a three-qubit state associated with the horizon. See equation 99, for example, whose general structure cannot hide a similarity with the Ooguri-Strominger-Vafa formula. However, his equation 99 has a very different interpretation of the wavefunction than OSV have. The author does not cite OSV, as far as I see. Moreover, there is one more important difference: in the OSV picture, the squared wavefunction (squared topological partition sum) is equal to the exponentiated entropy, not the entropy itself.

The paper also finds an interpretation of the attractor mechanism based on quantum computation - as some canonical optimization problem.

At any rate, quantum black holes do carry quantum information, the relevant entropy is, at least in some cases, attributable to the entanglement entropy, and the research of quantum entanglement in this context could turn out to be very fruitful which is why many of us should look at these "coincidences" more carefully. They may very well clarify the origin and mathematical details of the black hole complementarity.

But notice that this particular similarity does not really translate the full quantum information of the black hole to the qubits of the corresponding quantum computer. Instead, the quantum computer only "remembers" the macroscopic features of the black hole, and therefore the motivation described in the previous paragraph is a bit of fraud.

Hungarian solution to the CC puzzle?

Csaba Balázs from Argonne, IL, and István Szapudi from Honolulu, HI, propose their courageous solution to the cosmological constant problem.

It is based on holography, especially its Fischler-Susskind-Bousso cosmological version. It reminds me of the debates around 1998. My advisor Tom Banks would say that according to holography, there are no bulk degrees of freedom, and therefore there should really be no bulk contribution to the vacuum energy. I have always been excited by these ideas. Problem solved. Almost.

The new paper is philosophically similar. The authors argue that the total energy in some region can't ever get larger than the mass of the black hole of comparable radius. This principle of course implies that the vacuum energy is determined from the known value of the radius of the Universe or, if you wish, the Hubble constant - just like the observations indicate.

If the Universe gets bigger, the maximum allowed vacuum energy density goes down like "1/R^2" in the Planck units. The authors explain why their bound should hold for vacuum energy just like it holds for conventional matter. It is not hard to buy this argument, I think.

What seems much harder to me is to answer the question Why is the Universe so big then? In their picture, the vacuum energy density is pegged to the Hubble scale. They don't explain how can this link be compatible with effective field theory that is successful in all other respects. More importantly, they don't say how the vacuum energy and the pegged radius of the Universe evolve with time. Why does not the vacuum energy stay near the Planck density, keeping the Universe Planckian in size?

As you can see, I remain skeptical about the details but if you have something more positive to write, write it here!

Sunday, March 19, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

HTTrack, Picasa2, and other software tips

I would like to recommend you some free software that is clearly very helpful.


This new version of Google's picture software is amazing. It quickly finds all your pictures on your PC, shows you their thumbnails that are created and controlled extremely smoothly and quickly - the thumbnails of all files on your computer appear in one long column which is very efficient. You can organize, re-organize the pictures (and videos), sort them according to various criteria you can think of, search for pictures according to a keyword within a fraction of a second, print them, create posters, presentations, CDs, and so forth.

Some queries that lead here

Several interesting examples what some people have been searching for in the last hour or so (plus another hour on Sunday), before they found this blog - the most frequent queries, various combinations of the words Lubos, Motl, blog, and reference frame, are too generic, uninteresting, and omitted:

I guess that the last mentioned page receives hits from somewhat different search queries at Google :-), for example:

Friday, March 17, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Simeon Hellerman: nongeometric things

Simeon Hellerman from the IAS at Princeton spoke about the landscape of nongeometric compactifications and it was very interesting.

At the beginning, there was some debate what class of vacua he really wants to consider and what belongs to this class and what does not. After a short time, it became clear what theories he actually wants to talk about: perturbative, locally geometric vacua.

The extra dimensions are not really compactified on manifolds but just on "things". (I made a joke and asked whether these "things" are "categories", and the answer was essentially "Yes".) What is Simeon's "thing"? It is a fibration over a base space in which the fiber can undergo not only SL(k,Z) monodromies around codimension 2 singular loci of the base space, but more general SO(k,kZ) T-duality-like transformations. His condition is, however, that all these monodromies around the "minimal" singularities in the base space should be conjugate to elements of SL(k,Z), so that the local physics in the base space is equivalent to geometric physics via dualities.

In the case of the three-tori, k=3, the picture above is an ideology. In the case of k=2, the allowed conjugations must include the exchange of the complex structure "tau" and the complexified Kähler structure "rho" if the conjugations are supposed to generate non-trivial backgrounds. Simeon can define very a nice thing, the so-called Thing-1 or \Theta1 for short. More precisely, he can generalize the concept of an eliptically fibered K3 manifold in an interesting way. Such a non-manifold has 24 singular fibers and the monodromy around each of them acts on the complex structure "tau" or the complexified Kähler form "rho" nontrivially.

Consequences of an outage

What happens when a server ("filer") at fails and the guys have a hard time to replace it, just like it happened to this blog in the last 16 hours? Among other things, the following events could be expected to occur:

  • Readers in 120 countries are doomed and outraged
  • A global conflict is imminent
  • Instead of 2,500 page views during the period, they receive 2,500 "403 Forbidden" error messages
  • Approximately $0.17 are irreversibly lost because the readers can't click the advertisements
  • My mailbox receives 8 messages from nice and wise readers and 1 message from a not-so-nice reader asking what is going on
The points above should be clarified. The 120th country was probably the Palestinian territory. This land must make a lot of additional progress to compete with Israel which is roughly the 20th most civilized country in the world according to the counter on the right side, with about 200 distinct visitors who visited this website in the last month.

Because there are only 192 countries in the world, with the current rate of new countries per week, we expect to run out of ordinary countries in a month and discover an extraterrestrial civilization. Note that only 191 countries are members of the United Nations because Mr. Jesus Christ (and Vatican) has chosen to avoid the United Nations because He apparently has a more ambitious plan to unite the nations.

I separated the authors of the e-mails to nice people and not-so-nice people. What is the difference in the interpretation of the hardware failure by these two groups?
  • The nice readers think that they have done something wrong, and therefore their access to the blog has been blocked
  • The not-so-nice readers think that their access to the blog has been deliberately blocked because they have done something that the paranoic owner of the blog did not like
These two lines look identical scientifically but there is a world of difference between them at the level of humanities. :-)

High energy behind the climate?

Jan Veizer, an esteemed scientist (to be explained below) from University of Ottawa who emigrated from Slovakia after the 1968 occupation by the Warsaw Pact, argues that the primary driver of the climate is a

namely high-energy cosmic rays. An article in Geoscience Canada explains why he thinks so: the summary is that in the last 200,000 years, there is apparently a high correlation between the temperature and the amount of cosmic rays reaching the Earth, as reconstructed from radioactive isotopes: the more cosmic rays you face, the colder climate you get. Cold eras also occur whenever the geomagnetic field - a field we can reconstruct - was less efficient in screening the cosmic rays.

A larger group of people is apparently getting convinced that it is "certain" that the climate is primarily dictated by high-energy cosmic rays that determine the rate of cloud formation.

The Royal Society of Canada called [Veizer] "one of the most creative, innovative and productive geoscientists of our times," and added: "He has generated entirely new concepts that have proven key in our understanding the geochemical history of Earth."

He won the 1992 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, worth $2.2 million Cdn, representing the German government's highest prize for research in any field. The prize ended up financing his research.

The judges said he "has in front of his eyes the overall picture of the Earth during its entire 4.5 billion years of evolution," and he is "one of the most creative ... geologists of his time."

Yet, for years he held back on his climate doubts. "I was scared," he says.

Well, I am surely not certain that the theory is correct but given the credentials of my generalized countrymate, it may be worth thinking about it. Well, Veizer has also written an article in 2000 that presented evidence of decoupling of CO2 and the climate during the Phanerozoic eon. See also here.

A famous critic of strings

The new WMAP data provide us with a good opportunity for this conundrum. Which book by a famous critic of string theory is described in this review? If you know the answer, write one letter of the book's title (including the articles) in the fast comments.

  • ... In section 28.5, after many hundreds of pages, we find out: the tone starts to change. Here [the author] demolishes comprehensively and convincingly, even for laypersons, the Inflationary Theory - a major corner stone of modern Cosmology. In his demolition job he seems to come very near indeed to saying the inflationary physicists are quite stupid: Humanity starts cheering him on. What sort of guide to the TOE can this be? Well, in the following pages, he proceeds to demolish the physics pretensions of most of the mathematical groundwork painfully laid out in the first 800 pages. Unfortunately his demolition of strings, that dodgy life-raft to which most theoretical physicists now cling, is so lengthy and esoteric it can only really be relished by a specialist like himself. But I have no doubt at all that he has hit his intended target.

    [The author] continues with a dismal picture of the state of modern experimental measurement. [The author] describes the National debt-sized expenses, the half a lifetime timescales and the consequential scarcity of experiments. ...

Thursday, March 16, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

WMAP: three-year data released

Fourty minutes ago, the WMAP team has released

Click at the link above and enjoy. If you want to be informed about similar events by e-mail,

The polarization analyses of Lyman Page et al. see no evidence of B-modes but tell you a lot of details. Note that the B-modes describe the magnetic field of electromagnetic waves. If you choose the synchronous gauge, the B-modes of the radiation are sourcing the tensor "h_{ij}" modes of the gravitational field only. In other words, the absence of the B-modes means an absence of short gravity waves.

See also WMAP 5-year results.
This observation seems to rule out the original ekpyrotic models of the Universe because these models predict that the energy stored in gravity waves grows faster with the momentum than inflation predicts while the upper bound on the tensor/scalar ratio from the WMAP data is 0.55. The cyclic Universe models based on the original ekpyrotic scenario may be ruled out, too. Note that newer cyclic models are claimed to generate a scale-invariant spectrum indistinguishable from inflation.

David Spergel explains, together with his team, that a standard six-parameter cosmological model containing cold dark matter plus cosmological constant plus baryonic matter fits not only the new three-year data but also finer CMB details: patches that are smaller than in the previous data have been looked at and the case for inflation has strengthened because the spectrum continues to be scale-invariant up to these shorter length scales. Try this 2048 x 1124 map in the W-band (more than one megabyte!) and compare with the analogous, older pictures from COBE and WMAP-1-year. One can see solid angles that are 1,000 times smaller than those at COBE and almost 100 times smaller than with the first-year WMAP maps. Instead of listening to Peter Woit, have a look! ;-)

The equation of state of the dark energy has "w=p/rho" equal to -1.07 plus minus 0.1 or so. The sum of neutrino masses is below 0.68 eV at 95% confidence level. No non-gaussianities have been seen. The index "n" is close to one (scale invariance) but very likely different from one, something like 0.96.

A 142-page-long description of the whole experiment is here. Some update on temperatures is here - they hijacked the acronym ILC! A discussion of data analysis and error margins is here.

Figure 1: An image of the skies. (WMAP/NASA science team.)

More hot new images can be found on a NASA website. EurekAlert offers a press release. Because the temperature fluctuations still perfectly agree with the inflationary framework, there is a lot of room for poetic comments. Brian Greene revived a theme from his book "The Fabric of the Cosmos" at the press conference:
  • These observations are spectacular and the results are stunning… it is truly inspiring. Galaxies are nothing but quantum mechanics writ large across the sky. also presents the results as a stronger argument in favor of inflation. The astronomers won't ever be impressed by high-energy physics and they prefer to learn that the first star was born 0.4 billion years after the Big Bang, which means 13.3 billion years ago. See Bad (low-energy) Astronomy Blog.

More news on Mark Trodden says just a few words. Sean Carroll, on the other hand, tells you much more how the LambdaCDM model is in good shape.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Heterotic TOE and the vacuum energy

Technical message: the outage was caused by a temporary maintenance of one of servers. Pete from, Lubos Motl from The Reference Frame, and George W. Bush, the president of the country where the incident took place, apologize for any inconvenience.

The previous blog article about the heterotic minimal supersymmetric standard models is here.

One of the usual complaints against the traditional line of superstring model building is that there is no huge landscape of such vacua, which is why you can't solve the cosmological constant problem.

This is a pseudoargument because there exists no quantitative evidence that the cosmological constant problem can't be resolved in a scientific way.

Burt Ovrut and Volker Braun propose their picture here:

Inside the visible E_8 on their favorite pure MSSM Calabi-Yau manifold, they use their latest pure MSSM bundle that leads to the correct minimal MSSM spectrum. The corresponding bundle for the hidden E_8 that would cancel the anomalies has been known to be unstable. Instead, Ovrut and Braun use a trivial bundle for the hidden E_8 and cancel the anomalies by M5-branes and anti-M5-branes that live in the bulk, in between the two domain walls.

If you only used M5-branes but no anti-M5-branes, you would obtain a supersymmetric AdS vacuum whose cosmological constant is of order -10^{-16} M_{Pl}^4 - which is large and has a wrong sign - as they show in two simplified but nevertheless pretty complex models. However, when you use both M5-branes as well as anti-M5-branes, you may obtain positive and perhaps even semi-realistic values of the vacuum energy as long as you adjust the Kähler moduli to appropriate values. At these values, the visible bundle is slope-stable, too, which is a good news.

At the beginning of their paper, they review their best and minimal model. They advocate the opinion that gaugino condensation in the hidden sector, even though it is popular, is not a phenomenologically attractive way to break SUSY in heterotic M-theory. This is why they decide that M5-branes and anti-M5-branes whose curves are fixed by the anomaly cancellation are a better way to break SUSY "explicitly" (of course that the breaking is still "spontaneous" from the viewpoint of the full string/M-theory).

In their simplified analysis, they neglect the bundle moduli but show the stabilization of the dilaton, complex structure moduli, and Kähler moduli.


Imagine that you believe that they are converging to the theory of everything. What are the relevant scales?
  • the coupling alpha_{GUT} = 1/25 near the Planck scale
  • the Planck scale is around the usual 10^{19} GeV
  • the Calabi-Yau radius scale is around the GUT scale, 10^{16} GeV - the GUT and Calabi-Yau scales coincide because the momentum modes at the Calabi-Yau scale that feel the Wilson lines can be interpreted as the GUT-breaking Higgses
  • the eleventh dimension is longer, 1/R is around 10^{14} GeV that can already be called an intermediate scale, which is why the theory is five-dimensional above this scale and below the GUT scale
This sounds great to a conservative ear. Where does the smallness of the cosmological constant come from? As you know, the cosmological constant, about 10^{-120} in Planck units, is often viewed as a reason to adopt new forms of religion because it is so incredibly tiny.

In Ovrut and Braun's framework, the realistic values of the cosmological constant may be obtained from very reasonable numbers. The tiniest number they need to use is "Vscript_5bar" - the volume of a one-complex dimensional surface on which the anti-M5-brane is wrapped. Recall that one needs to get a cosmological constant that is 120 orders of magnitude below the Planck scale, so you might think that you need a ridiculously small two-cycles on which the anti-M5-brane is wrapped.

However, their calculation shows that you only need a two-cycle whose area is about 10^{-7} in the Calabi-Yau area unit (the unit of area is the third root of the volume of the Calabi-Yau manifold). This more or less reasonable number leads to the observed value of the cosmological constant.

Snow has returned to Cambridge...

Czech gay partnership bill approved

The lower chamber of the Czech Parliament has beaten President Klaus's veto by 101 out of 200 votes, exactly what was needed to pass the bill. The Czech Republic has become the first post-socialist country in which the gays can register their partnership.

Bert Schroer's paper

A reader has pointed out that Prof. Bert Schroer has submitted a new paper about axiomatic quantum field theory that focuses on string theory:

This paper is a good illustration of the current intellectual trends in axiomatic field theory and an excellent example how publications in physics journals are going to look like if the current wave of "scientific democracy" wins.

Endorse this Czech

The second website linked in the "Science and policy" section has decided to endorse the owner of the first website linked in the "Socially dominated" category.

In other words, Marián Tupý has written a text for the TechCentralStation called

in which he attributes the economical successes of the Czech Republic to no one else than Václav Klaus, the current president. Czechia has recently become a new donor for the World Bank: this event may be interpreted as the official confirmation of the completed transformation from communism to capitalism.

In 2005, the Czech GDP grew by 6 percent which is "slightly" higher than the average growth in the EU. The double-tailed lion has surpassed even powerful animals such as the Celtic tiger. The Czech GDP per capita has exceeded the GDP per capita of an old member of the EU for the first time. Which old member do we talk about? Well, it is no one else than Portugal - a country currently controlled by shameful commies - which is why Marcos Mariňo has chosen this troubled country as the ultimate paradise. :-)

The foreign aid that was flowing to Czechia after 1989 has been something in between 4 and 22 dollars per year and per capita, again "slightly" less than 7,000 dollars per year and per capita that West Germany has been pumping to East Germany - a piece of land that can be described as a relative failure. As you can see, financial aid is not too important and sometimes it is not even helpful. Freedom, free markets, and their invisible hands are things that matter.

Klaus, a soulmate of Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Margaret Thatcher, started as the Czechoslovak finance minister in 1990. In this role, he outlined the basic plan for the transformation of the Czechoslovak economy - an economy that used to be the most socialized economy in the world, waiting to become the 44th freest economy in 2003 and 3rd freest post-socialist economy after Estonia and Hungary. Later he became the Czech prime minister and in 2003 he has been elected the president, replacing Václav Havel.

Be sure that Klaus has been an extremely controversial politician, especially in the middle 1990s. The number of Klaus-bashers has been comparable to the current number of Bush-bashers and most of the Klaus-bashers were exactly as far left-wing people as the Bush-bashers. Some details are different, however: Klaus, an atheist, has always been generally considered as one of the brightest European politicians, even by his foes.

In the early 1990s, Klaus has decided to build on several principles that were correct, as we know today, but that were strongly criticized by cheap, left-wing, moralistic intellectuals. First of all, he was a monetarist and carefully avoided significant inflation. He decided to "turn off the lights" in order to transfer the factories from the state to the individual owners, to liberalize and privatize the economy as soon as possible, and to assure that the free market is always ahead of bureaucracy and legislation. He has also famously declared that there was "no difference between dirty money and clean money" in order to intensify the circulation of cash.

These days, Klaus's responsibilities are limited and somewhat analogous to the job of the British queen, and a controversial prime minister has transformed into a popular president. After 1997, when the prime minister Klaus had to resign because of a fictitious scandal, the country has been led by the Social Democratic Party whose policies have been acceptable. It has been said that Miloš Zeman, a famous retired social democratic politician (and a lover of fancy as well as ordinary alcoholic beverages) who was viewed as one of Klaus's main rivals, was organizing "hidden Reagonomics" that allowed the economy to grow for several years afterwards.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Warming due to the asteroid?

As Guido has pointed out, Vladimir Shaidurov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the co-winner of Russia's most prestigious scientific "State Prize" from 2004 and the director of the Computer Modelling Institute of his academy, proposed a new explanation of the recent warming at a meeting at the University of Leicester in the U.K.

The biggest stone is nothing else than the Tungus meteorite that landed in Siberia on June 30th, 1908. By changing the concentration of ice crystals in the upper layers of the atmosphere, it damaged the structure of high altitude clouds in the mesosphere that normally reduce the amount of energy that reaches the surface of the Earth.

According to this theory, the nuclear tests in the atmosphere between 1940 and 1980 played the opposite role than the meteorite and contributed to cooling. Shaidurov predicts that the warming will start to decelerate.

The Reference Frame is not able to identify or check the right answer but agrees with Shaidurov's thesis that water causes most of the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere - the crucial role played by water was already known 150 years ago to the Irish scientist John Tyndall - which is why water should always be the primary compound found in the atmosphere to be looked at.

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