Friday, November 30, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Teppo Mattsson: Dark energy as a mirage

Is cosmological constant zero, after all? (PDF)
If this guy were right, the required changes would be tiny. Dark energy would go away, 90% of the mass would be dark matter, 10% would be baryonic, and the age of the Universe would jump to 14.8 billion years.

He says that as you observe distant objects, the Universe is getting emptier, due to a hierarchical clumping of matter, and in these emptier regions, the Hubble constant increases, mimicking the accelerating effects of the cosmological constant.

2007 Atlantic hurricane season: below forecasts

The 2007 Atlantic hurricane season that officially ends today (and it is no longer possible for an additional named storm to occur in time) was stronger than the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season but much weaker than what we saw two years ago.

Current hurricane info (bookmark)
In 2005, 2006, 2007, the total accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) was 248, 78.5, 67.5. You see a clear decreasing trend here: ACE even indicates that 2007 was even weaker than 2006. The median ACE index and the mean ACE index for the 1951-2005 period are 89.5 and 102.3, respectively. It means that according to ACE, both 2006 and 2007 were below the average.

Figure 1: H. Dean, the angriest hurricane of the season. ACE: over 33. Dean was the first male category 5 hurricane after four previous female ones - Emily, Katrina, Rita, Wilma - in 2005. But the surprise is not so overwhelming because Dean is really a self-described metrosexual. ;-)

The total damage was about USD 130 billion, 0.5 billion, 4 billion in 2005, 2006, 2007.

Klaus: Africa, don't rely on foreign aid

It has been ten years since the so-called Second Sarajevo Assassination, a forced resignation of the Czech prime minister Václav Klaus during his visit to Sarajevo that was justified by a financial scandal, one that was later demonstrated to be bogus.

The times are different now. President Klaus who was just nominated for the next term (the only candidate so far, despite many people who are desperately seeking Antiklaus) delivered his

speech in Lagos, Nigeria.
Klaus advised them to rely on their comparative advantages rather than foreign aid that is never really free, whose magnitude and importance is always overstated, and whose structure is always determined by the interest of donors. East Germany was used as a bad example of aid - a whole GDP of the Czech Republic was pumped to East Germany every year and they didn't make more progress than the Czech Republic that was getting no aid. Aid often makes actual useful developments impossible.

Also, the third world should determine its own optimal environmental, social, safety, labor, hygienic, and other standards, rather than to listen to someone else. Moreover, the best thing that the first world could do for Africa is to open its markets. You should see what Nigerian newspapers and their commenters write about the speech. Klaus's speech is accepted kind of enthusiastically and they seem to understand the main points and their power.

Hep-th papers on Friday

Below you find descriptions of the 17 today's papers on hep-th.

Bert Schroer dedicates 50+ pages to what he calls "significant conceptual differences" between quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. Needless to say, quantum field theory is a standard example of a quantum mechanical theory and the difference between quantum field theory and other quantum mechanical theories is purely dynamical, not conceptual. What defines a quantum theory are the postulates of quantum mechanics (Hilbert space, observables given by linear operators, evolution given by a unitary operator, probabilities given by expectation values of projection operators) that hold everywhere, including quantum field theory, plus a choice of dynamics on the Hilbert space (e.g. a Hamiltonian) that depends on a theory. Quantum field theory is thus just another example. Also, all the features of the uncertainty principle and localization that hold in non-relativistic quantum mechanics of particles may be derived from quantum field theory in the appropriate limit(s). The paper is a nonsensical stream of philosophical misinterpretations, misconceptions borrowed from the "real" algebraic quantum field theory, and buzzwords.

Alikram Aliev shows that the "g=2" gyromagnetic ratio for rotating charged black holes is surprisingly universal in general relativity, regardless of the asymptotic geometry, its curvature etc.: the value remarkably coincides with the value for the electron calculated from the Dirac equation. (Non-relativistic gyroscopes have "g=1".) It becomes "g=4" when two angular momenta coincide.

Arthur Sergyeyev and Pavel Krtouš study the Klein-Gordon equation on a multi-dimensional Kerr-NUT-dS or -AdS background. They find a complete set of many commuting angular-momentum-like operators and prove that they commute. This is done purely in the first-quantized setup because the second-quantized Hilbert space of course can't have a finite complete set of commuting observables. Moreover, it can't really be interpreted in the quantum fashion because the Klein-Gordon equation (or any other relativistic equation) can't really be used as a first-quantized physical Schrödinger equation. So to summarize, it is purely a work in general relativity & classical field theory, the word "operator" should be interpreted as nothing else than a mathematical (differential) operator and it is somewhat confusing why the paper is on hep-th.

Noboru Nakanishi seems to be unfamiliar with conventional renormalization and is troubled by the quadratic divergences of the Standard Model. So he rediscovers the Pauli-Villars regularization and interprets the wrong sign as a consequence of wrong statistics of these new complex fields, rather than a negative sign of the kinetic term. The author doesn't seem to be at home with quantum field theory, as highlighted e.g. by the fact that he or she doesn't use the term "Standard Model". He only cites three (not too relevant) papers besides his own and Pauli & Villars are not among them.

James Hartle, Stephen Hawking, and Thomas Hertog offer a possible solution to a problem of the Hartle-Hawking no-boundary proposal: that it predicts a very short inflation. They show a gauge-invariant, serious, "non-anthropic" calculation whose result is to add an additional factor of exp(3N) where N is the number of e-foldings to the probability of various classical solutions: similar factors may have appeared as results of anthropic hand-waving (or ingenious anthropic prophecies, if you wish). In the relevant physical context of a stringy-like landscape, a lot of inflation, starting near a de Sitter geometry at the saddle point, then follows. Surely one of the most interesting papers today.

Ee Chang-Young, Hoil Kim, and Hiroaki Nakajima construct a matrix representation of a super Heisenberg group that occurred in a stringy two-dimensional N=(2,2) deformed superspace describing D-branes on background Ramond-Ramond fields. Just like a background B-field forces bosonic coordinates to be non-commuting, a background RR-field makes the supercoordinates non-anti-commuting even though the math and limiting procedures are somewhat less clear.

Suresh Nampuri, Prasanta K.Tripathy, Sandip P. Trivedi ask, along the lines of "Dualities versus singularities", whether T-dualities - in their case those of type IIA on K3 times a two-torus - are enough to refractionalize a black hole with large D0-D4 or D0-D6 charges and bring those charges to Cardy's limit. The answer is "Yes" for non-supersymmetric black holes and "No" for generic supersymmetric black holes. The "Yes" answer might imply that the entropy of all extremal but non-supersymmetric black holes may be calculated.

Arzumanyan and 4 more Armenian authors compute the radiation from a charge that moves along a helix. Given the fact that the typical energy they consider is 10 MeV and the topic is more relevant for condensed matter physics (dielectric materials are needed) or something else, I don't think that the otherwise interesting paper should have appeared in a high-energy archive.

Cristina Zambon attempts to incorporate the so-called jump-defect, known from the sine-Gordon model, to the affine Toda field theories which are a complementary integrable description of similar physical systems.

B.M. Zupnik studies harmonic superspaces for three-dimensional theories. Harmonic superspace is a superspace that, in addition to anticommuting coordinates, contains additional bosonic coordinates spanning quotients of groups. His particular interest is in a non-Abelian Chern-Simons theory whose manifest supersymmetry from the superspace is N=5 but is extended to N=6.

Juraj Boháčik and Peter Prešnajder study the zero-spatial-dimensional anharmonic oscillator with a quartic interaction term using non-perturbative methods due to Gelfand and Yaglom. They offer a comprehensible proof of an equation that specifies corrections for such an oscillator. Again, it is interesting but not directly relevant for high-energy physicists.

A.T. Avelar et al. study topologically unusual soliton solutions to models with a single real scalar field. Their potential is a combination of (mostly fractional) powers of the field and the topologies include lumps with flat plateux at the top and lumps on top of another lump. The fact that they mention that the results may have applications to non-linear science highlights that this should probably not be a hep-th paper.

Kwan Sik Jeong studies supersymmetry breaking in KKLT-like models. It is being assumed that the source of the breaking is in a hidden, sequestered sector. The author argues that the impact of this breaking on the visible sector can be summarized in an F-term expectation value that is universal. Ratios of vevs and logarithms of ratios of various mass scales are the only thing that appear in the ultimate key formula.

Albion Lawrence, Tobias Sander, Michael B. Schulz, Brian Wecht look at type IIB string theory on a Calabi-Yau three-fold. Their aim is to find the spectrum of auxiliary fields which is not exactly a physically unique, objective, physical question but a particular natural answer may be useful. Indeed, it is useful and they argue that the expectation values of these auxiliary fields lead to deformed CFTs that add either the H-field (a field strength for the NS-NS B-field) or an SU(3) x SU(3) structure (different tangent bundles for left-movers and right-movers). Once these things are nonzero, generic vacua are non-geometric globally (although probably geometric locally, because of their starting point), a worldsheet argument suggests. Mirror symmetry is argued to hold beyond the (2,2) worldsheet supersymmetry and worldsheet instantons are presented as more important animals when their fluxes are turned on. One of the most interesting papers.

Niklas Beisert, Denis Erkal present the spin chains arising in the AdS/CFT correspondence as very special spin chains with non-nearest-neighbor interactions that nevertheless preserve the integrability of a simpler spin chain with nearest-neighbor interactions only. They can't prove the full integrability for the interesting cases that occur in string theory but they can do so for a seemingly similar gl(n) spin chain model with longer-range interactions. The proof is technically based on checking the Serre relations for a Yangian generator. A very interesting paper.

Borun D. Chowdhury and Samir D. Mathur study the fuzzball model of black holes. Now they look at radiation by these monsters. They derive the classical radiation emitted by these classical solutions (not suppressed by hbar) by combining the Hawking radiation into (very many) unstable modes of their individual geometries. I kind of feel that this was guaranteed to work because of the standard limiting relationships between classical and quantum systems but don't worry. They argue that this means that the information is manifestly preserved in the supergravity degrees of freedom. Well, I don't have any problem with the statement that these fuzzball geometries preserve the information or may behave as ordinary horizon-free solutions. They are ordinary, after all. What is missing for me is a proof that these fuzzball geometries conspire to behave like ordinary black holes in contexts where I want to believe that the black hole description is correct, e.g. after a collapse of a star. Also, I don't see any proof that all the relevant degrees of freedom that store the information about a black hole are geometric in character.

Chris Hull and R.A. Reid-Edwards discuss similar structures as Albion Lawrence et al. above, namely non-geometric compactifications. If the monodromy in such a background is taken from the T-duality group, such a background may be made similar to a geometric one by adding the T-dual coordinates besides the normal coordinates at each point. This has been discussed many times, even on this blog, and Hitchin was the most well-known guy who has advocated this viewpoint. Hull and Reid-Edwards think that one can also construct backgrounds that are non-geometric even locally, by thinking about the double as a Drinfeld double. I don't see this statement justified in the paper.

Thursday, November 29, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Al Gore & Pat Robertson

Tim Slagle, a political satirist, offers not only some comparisons of Gore and Robertson but also a funny albeit unflattering outsider's viewpoint on scientists in general.

Hat tip: Antagoniste

Bonus: You should see John Brignell's list of 600+ evil things caused by global warming, alphabetically sorted and including links to the mainstream media where the individual catastrophes are described. ;-)

The list works like a dictionary. Invent your favorite problem, for example salmonella, and find the word. Click it and you will see a proof that salmonella or anything else is caused by global warming. :-)

Jim Simons & string theory

Bloomberg & The International Herald Tribune
writes about some daily activities of Jim Simons. He divides his time between string theory, autism, and math education. Cumrun Vafa who is, much like Simons himself, a wizard is an important channel into string theory. And by the way, Simons also doubled his assets during the last year.

Paul Davies: Taking science on faith

Update: a list of wrong assumptions about science was added at the end of this essay. The article written on 11/25 was moved to the top as the most discussed recent text.
As far as I can say, The New York Times remain by far the best source of science news and opinions among the English-speaking newspapers.
Paul Davies' op-ed
meditates about the controversial question concerning the difference between science and religion. I agree with most things he writes. He starts with the idealized picture that many people believe to be true - namely a picture in which science and religion are sharply separated. Skepticism belongs to science while blind belief belongs to religion.

He instantly adds his main thesis that this picture is an oversimplification because science has its belief system, too. The first thing that a typical scientist - and especially a theoretical physicist - believes is that the questions he is trying to answer have coherent, understandable, and universally valid explanation.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Enrico Fermi: an anniversary

Enrico Fermi (9/29/1901 in Rome, Italy - 11/28/1954 because of stomach cancer) was most likely the second most important Italian physicist after Galileo Galilei (check this list).

When he was 17 and he was entering the college in Pisa, he wrote an essay about a Fourier-series analysis of solutions to the partial differential equation describing... waves on a string. The examiner interviewed Fermi and determined that the essay would have been good enough for a PhD in Pisa.

The young 25-year-old professor did his most important purely theoretical work in fundamental physics in 1926 when he wrote the paper about the Fermi-Dirac statistics. The rest of his research life was dedicated to radioactivity. In 1938, right after the war started, he was wittily given a Nobel prize for induced radioactivity. ;-) But he was just getting started.

Did everyone accept Fermi's statements from the very beginning? You may guess what the answer is with these great minds. When he submitted his famous paper on beta decay to Nature, the editor rejected it because "it contained speculations which were too remote from reality". This is what the lagging, inferior minds say about cutting-edge research in theoretical physics in most cases, even today. The paper using the new term "neutrino" that Fermi invented (but Pauli got the idea in 1931) was therefore published in German and Italian before it appeared in English.

As Wikipedia argues, he never forgot this experience of being ahead of his time. His protégés were therefore told "to never be first; to try to be second". James DNA Watson was preaching pretty much the same thing to his protégés.

Nature eventually published his report on beta decay in January 1939. Once he left Italy for Columbia University at the very same time, in order to save his Jewish wife, he reproduced some other people's fission experiments. Fermi moved to Chicago where he built the first nuclear pile, a primitive nuclear reactor that went critical in December 1942 in a "squash court"; Russians translated the location as "pumpkin field". :-) Every step was carefully and brilliantly planned.

This wisdom and experiments were also useful during the Manhattan project in which Fermi, who became a U.S. citizen in 1944, assisted. When you summarize his work on nuclear technology, you will see that Fermi was the most practically talented man among the great 20th century theoretical physicists and the impact of his work makes the comments about his work being detached from reality doubly ludicrous.

He had to think, write, and do a lot to realize all his achievements associated with nuclear physics. But if we measure the impact on public's perception of scientifically loaded questions per word, his most influential results are three words from the 1950s: "Where are they?" The Fermi "paradox" shows that it is rather unlikely for the Universe to be filled with too many very advanced civilizations.

I have talked to a student of Fermi. She admired him and she was certainly not the only one.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Most Germans are Celts

The Google News are now available in Czech:

Czech Google News
I am convinced that Google News are better than any individual source of news. And there are many special news in the Czech edition, too.

For example, we learn that Patrick Moore, a co-father of Greenpeace, met with President Klaus to support nuclear energy, industrial consumption of wood, genetically modified crops, chemical compounds protecting people against fires, industrial production of salmons, and our fight against the global warming religion.

This is how a true environmentalist should look like. The present generation should treat Patrick Moore as their role model. Incidentally, Patrick Moore was immensely influenced - and led to the green movement - by a Czech scientist and politician named Mr Vladimír Krajina (1905-1993) who emigrated to Canada in 1948. If you care, the word "Krajina" means "landscape". ;-)

Scafetta & West: Climate phenomenology

In this weekly dose of the peer-reviewed skeptical literature about the climate, we look into Journal of Geophysical Research:

N. Scafetta & B.J. West (click): Phenomenological reconstructions of the solar signature in the Northern Hemisphere surface temperature records since 1600
The use purely statistical tools applied to the correlation between the sun spot number and reconstructed temperatures to argue that most likely, the total solar irradiance had a low secular (=trend-like, non-periodic) variability but it was accompanied by a high preindustrial secular climate variability between 1610 and 2005.

The Sun is a major player

That means that small changes of the Sun can lead to significant changes of the climate. With the preferred magnitude of variability as given by Moberg et al. 2005, one of their conclusions is that that Sun is responsible for roughly 50% of the observed 20th century warming. Not too surprisingly, if they choose Mann 2003 instead of Moberg 2005, the calculated effect of the Sun becomes negligible.

Ada Lovelace died 155 years ago

Augusta Ada King née Byron, Countess of Lovelace, died of medicinal bloodletting associated with uterine cancer on November 27th, 1852, at the age of 37. She is considered to be the first programmer in the world.

Her father, the poet Lord Byron, called her "the princess of parallelograms", Charles Babbage called her "the enchantress of numbers", and she was one of the most mathematically gifted women of the history. She wrote the first computer program for the "Analytical Engine", a mechanical computer designed by Charles Babbage that was never built. The program was computing the coefficients of the expansion of the closed string vacuum in string field theory in the Schnabl gauge, the so-called Bernoulli numbers.

Some science historians argue that the program was written by Babbage himself and Ada hasn't really mastered some basic maths but the story in which her contributions were original sounds more sexy. Moreover, I find many champions of this viewpoint untrustworthy. On the other hand, it is also plausible that people like Ada Lovelace contributed to Babbage's design of the computer itself.

Alexei Zamolodchikov died

... see Asymptotia.

Monday, November 26, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Andrew Revkin asks James Hansen about holocaust

On his blog, Andrew Revkin from the New York Times discussed Hansen's description of coal-burning power plants as extermination camps.

Figure 1: Is global warming the new holocaust?

He reviews the very same formulations as we did. At the end of his text, Revkin reveals five questions that he has sent to Hansen:

  1. Do you care whether holocaust survivors are offended?
  2. Have you received complaints/support from any?
  3. Is such a metaphor necessary to change the people?
  4. Is it true that such analogies polarize and paralyze any discussion?
  5. Who is the actual victim of your holocaust?

It might be interesting - and probably shocking - to see Hansen's answers to Revkin's questions. I would expect something like that:

Lucie Vondráčková: Strach

I feel that Slovak music remains overrepresented on this blog so let me offer a purely Czech song this time.

Ms Lucie Vondráčková (1980) is the niece of Mrs Helena Vondráčková, a top-tier Czechoslovak and Czech pop-music musician. Lucie's song "Strach" (Fear) remains at the top of many hitparades for much of this year (again).

This post with English lyrics

Fantastic journey: scales in Powerpoint

Has anyone seen the English version of this presentation?

Fantastic journey
The presentation includes typical pictures of various length scales from clusters of galaxies down to the size of quarks, including a Czech description.

Saturday, November 24, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Hansen: power plants = extermination camps

Source of correspondence (PDF)
In his recent testimony to the Iowa Utilities Board, Rev. James Hansen argued that the construction of a new coal-based power plant is equivalent to the holocaust. The trains that bring coal to the new power plant are nothing else than the death trains that were moving the Jews to extermination camps:
... If we cannot stop the building of more coal-fired power plants, those coal trains will be death trains – no less gruesome than if they were boxcars headed to crematoria, loaded with uncountable irreplaceable species ...
Kraig Naasz, the president and CEO of the U.S. National Mining Association, suggested that this comparison was both repellant and preposterous. It trivializes the suffering of millions of people while it irrationally evaluates the actual reasons behind various climate phenomena: one additional power plant in the U.S. surely can be no "tipping point" especially when China builds a new plant every week.

Figure 1: Kraig Naasz is the second man from the right. How many chestnut trees (and power plants) has Mr Hansen planted? ;-)

Naasz recommended Hansen to apologize to the hard-working men and women in the coal mining and railroad industries. What did Mr Hansen do? You may guess.

Sheldon Glashow: five minutes of video

You may watch four one-minute clips with Sheldon Glashow so that this co-father of the electroweak theory doesn't feel discriminated against: ;-)

  1. The unification of the large and the small
  2. The origin of the Universe
  3. The four forces of Nature
  4. Early work on unified theory
Alternative place to find the videos: Honeywellscience. On December 5th, 24:00 EST, right after Glashow's 75th birthday, there will be 90-minute-long videopodcast at
In the four videos above, you will probably not learn too much but there is a story in the last part. Julian Schwinger told Glashow, one of ten annoying students who wanted projects, to go and construct a unified electroweak theory. At the end, Glashow needed a help from his high-school buddy.

powered by ODEO Audio 1: Glashow describes the LHC as a possible end of particle physics. ;-) But he hopes for the best possible outcome: absolute confusion.

Amazon Kindle: an electronic book

People have been talking about electronic replacements for books for quite some time. But Amazon may be the first company to offer a viable realization of the idea: Amazon Kindle. It can't read PDF files and your right to read the e-books probably expire in a few years - and consumers give it 2.5 stars only - but a zeroth approximation for USD 400 is here. Click the picture to get to

Friday, November 23, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Telegraph: Cosmologists are killing the Universe

Steve Heston has posted a comment telling us that

The Telegraph
argues that "mankind is shortening the universe's life" by observing the cosmological constant, bringing us closer to the doom. As soon as I saw his message, I would have accepted a 10:1 bet that the author had to be Roger Highfield because it is very unlikely that there exist two or more breathtakingly unreasonable people of this magnitude in the Telegraph. Of course, I would have won the bet.

Roger Highfield has already "informed" his readers that Einstein may have started the rot (the word "rot" means modern theoretical physics) and that Garrett Lisi has found a theory of everything.

The names of the two sensation-thirsty alternative "physicists" who wrote this complete absurdity into their preprint are
Lawrence Krauss, James Dent.
These "scientists" offer far too many basic misunderstandings of cosmology and quantum mechanics to discuss all of them. For example, without a glimpse of a rational reason and in contradiction with all existing theories and scenarios, anthropic or otherwise, they proclaim the typical lifetime of our Universe to be comparable to the Hubble time.

Leave string theory alone

Before you watch the video below, you should know Chris Crocker's famous, 13-million-visit defense of Britney Spears against the journalistic hyenes. Well, doesn't string theory need its own Chris Crocker? Yes, it does. Here it is:

But scooter, you should have been a bit more passionate! ;-) But at least, I am happy that you will now deal with all those Woits and all this crap. What a relief.

Radiation is not too deadly


talks about scientific teams, especially experts from GSF, that have analyzed several events that led to increased levels of radiation,

  1. Hiroshima in 1945
  2. Radioactive rivers and explosions in the Soviet Union preparing their nuclear bomb after 1949
  3. Chernobyl 1986

In all cases, it is found that the actual effects of "radiation illness", including birth defects and delayed deaths, were several orders of magnitude below the description available in the media. For example, almost all people who died as a consequence of the Little Boy did so either instantly or within a few hours, because of burned skin. Casualties who died after a long time because of radiation illnesses were very rare.

Geoengineering: a discussion

I am kind of interested what various readers think about geoengineering. Some of the questions are:

  1. If you had the tools to achieve anything you want, what would be your optimal temperature and the concentration of basic compounds such as CO2? Is it higher or lower than the present values? Why do you think it is optimal?
  2. How would you estimate the economic value of such an improvement? Describe your method and the result.
  3. Would you find it OK to significantly change the composition of the ocean, e.g. by adding a lot of iron?
  4. Would you find it OK to significantly change the composition of the atmosphere by sulphur oxides or particulate matter?
  5. In the context of cloud-seeding, if you could pre-program when it is cloudy, what would be your schedule? You don't have to think about cooling the planet only - but about your general comfort.
  6. If these global changes could be made much more rapidly than the changes that occur nowadays, or if someone installed some mirrors in space that could increase or decrease the amount of solar radiation, how would you regulate what is going on? What role would you assign to democracy or markets?

Joel Shapiro on the birth of string theory

Joel Shapiro, a very interesting early worker on string theory whom I know well from Rutgers (also as an excellent teacher, by the way), remembers the early days of string theory and it's a lot of fun.

At that time, the four interactions were really separated, both physiologically as well as sociologically. Shapiro was interested in "unified field theory" but his advisor never told him to study general relativity. ;-)

Instead, Shapiro started as a hadron phenomenologist. He improved the old Veneziano amplitude a bit and started to draw diagrams. Sy Pasternack insisted that "pomeronchukon" should be used instead of "pomeron" in his Physical Review. Pasternack should have cared about fixing his own silly name instead of screwing others. ;-)

Shapiro says that he still feels a certain kind of grumpiness :-) about a paper he wrote that was more cumbersome than another, more recent paper that became more famous - but truth to be told, I've never read either of these two original papers.

Thursday, November 22, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Arthur Eddington died 63 years ago

Arthur Stanley Eddington died on November 22nd, 1944. He was the most famous astrophysicist of the early 20th century and an interesting and sensible character who became a crackpot in the 1930s.

The Eddington limit, i.e. the maximum luminosity that can be obtained by accretion, is named after him.

Eddington and general relativity

Eddington was once asked by a journalist whether it was true that only three people understood general relativity. Of course, Eddington realized that such a statement was just another manifestation of journalistic stupidity but he answered with his famous question: "And who is the third?" :-)

Eddington, one of the most important early promoters of general relativity, made Einstein famous in 1919. His expedition confirmed Einstein's prediction that the light bending has to be twice as strong as Newton would have expected if he had assumed that light was a stream of massive particles moving at the light speed and influenced by Newton's gravitational force.

It seems rather likely today that Eddington's confirmation was a case of scientific misconduct. His accuracy couldn't have been good enough to make a decision. Nevertheless, the media were already powerful back in 1919. The London Times announced a "revolution in physics" on their title page. Masses started to adopt general relativity. Fortunately, general relativity was correct. But Einstein's remarkable intuition about classical physics was a more solid sociological explanation why it was correct than the journalists' belief in Eddington's statements.

Eddington's observation was overhyped

I find this phase transition irrational. Every good theoretical physicist who was interested in gravity and special relativity had to know back in 1915-1916 that general relativity was almost certainly the right theory of gravity because it was the only plausible theory of gravity at its level of complexity that agreed with special relativity as well as the equivalence principle. Moreover, it correctly postdicted the precession of Mercury's perihelion.

France: horses may replace buses and trucks

Reuters informs that French towns will be replacing vehicles, starting with school buses and refuse trucks, by horses. Seventy towns are ready to realize the plans of the Regional Horse Promotion Commission and thirty more will follow in a year.

In his 2003 speech at Caltech, Aliens Cause Global Warming, Michael Crichton was thinking what kind of a catastrophic problem the environmentalists in 1900 would predict for the year 2000. His best answer was exponentially increasing horse manure from their natural vehicles of choice.

As many science-fiction authors, Michael Crichton was right but he was 107 years ahead of his time. In reality, the tons of horse manure per squared meter are now predicted for 2107 rather than 2000. And Paris, not New York, will be the first city to experience this development.

The obsolete 20th century vehicles such as buses, trucks, and perhaps cars (for example Renaults that were never too good anyway) will be replaced by modern vehicles that emit not only CO2 but also CH4. The smoothly, exponentially increasing volume of excrements on the streets is referred to as "sustainable development" by Reuters. ;-)

Horses are beautiful animals but five million horses in Paris could be too much of a good thing. I have no doubts that there are places where horses would be more pleasant friends to do certain tasks. On the other hand, doubling or tripling the time that children need to get to school or from school could cause certain problems.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Möbius transformations

This video is not quite a theory of everything but - as its creators forgot to tell you - it is about the tree level approximation of a theory of everything. The Möbius transformations are conformal i.e. angle-preserving, one-to-one maps from a sphere onto a sphere (or from a complex plane onto itself, or from anything of the same topology such as the Stanford bunny) which is why they are essential in perturbative string theory to bring a sphere diagram into a standard form.

Incidentally, the sphere is conformally equivalent to the plane because of Riemann's stereographic projection.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Sidney Coleman: 1937-2007

Very sadly, Sidney Coleman died on Sunday morning. In sleep. Apparently peacefully. Arthur Jaffe's e-mail is here and there is an obituary in Chicago Tribune and Harvard Gazette.

In 2005, Arthur Jaffe and Barbara Drauschke organized Sidneyfest (official WWW) to celebrate Sidney's life achievements, his sense of humor, and his friendship.

Sidney was a physicist's physicist. He has been an excellent teacher, simplifier, expositor. His lectures at Harvard on quantum field theory were legendary and his notes were used by many of his successors including your humble correspondent for years. See the TeX edition of these notes and an earlier proposed Sidney Coleman Open Source Project. Many physicists have his Aspects of Symmetry with selected Erice lectures on their bookshelves.

With Abdus Salam, 1991 (taken from a today's article about crackpot Lisi)

But of course he has found some precious results, too. The Coleman-Mandula theorem showed that many superficially plausible ways to unify physics in the 1960s were guaranteed to be on the wrong track. Some people haven't understood the power of the theorem to day.

Related: ScienceNews celebrates Juan Maldacena: a decent article
The Coleman theorem proves that one cannot spontaneously break continuous symmetries in two dimensions or below. The Coleman-Weinberg potential pioneered loop corrections to the vacuum energy that can also induce new phase transitions. Coleman also found that the Thirring model was equivalent to the sine-Gordon model. He is the main physicist behind our understanding of the fate of false, unstable vacua. Add tadpoles (i.e. spermions), thin-wall Q-balls, many other papers about symmetry breaking, confinement, black holes, wormholes, parameterizing Lorentz symmetry breaking with Glashow... it's a lot of stuff.

Matory's disgraceful demagogy

The Harvard Crimson rightfully criticizes Lorand Matory's attempts to discredit friends of Israel as "enemies of free speech".

I find comments about free speech from a person such as Mr. Matory absolutely incredible. In 2005, Mr. Matory was the author of a truly disgusting "lack of confidence vote" against President Summers that was primarily justified by Lawrence Summers's polite and cautious remarks about the basic relationships between gender and innate aptitudes.

This guy, Mr. Matory, clearly thinks that free speech is something so intolerable that even the brilliant president of the world's most famous university must be eliminated when he dares to speak - or even ask - about things that every sane person knows anyway.

I have had huge personal problems with the voodoo expert myself. In 2005, after I criticized his resolution, he has harrassed all officials in the hierarchy above me behind the scenes and forced them to create problems for me. If you realize that all Harvard officials with a possible exception of Summers were (and are) cowards, you may guess what the result was.

Today, Mr. Matory, a fanatical anti-Semitic bigot, a freedom-hater, and the closest thing to Adolf Hitler that Harvard can offer, wants the FAS to "reaffirm its commitment to free speech and tolerance of minority views" which really means to "transform Harvard into loud headquarters of the world's anti-Israel movement".

Thankfully, the FAS has at least tabled the resolution. But until mechanisms will work not to allow crap like Mr. Matory to penetrate into influential places, similar ideological contamination of the Academia and the society and immoral ploys are guaranteed to continue.

And that's the memo.

Craig Loehle: Medieval Warm Period is back

There have been many peer-reviewed or at least published skeptical climatological studies but I didn't have enough time to give you a report. In this weekly dose, C. Loehle in Energy and Environment, vol. 18, No. 7+8, 2007, takes the average of 18 stations: click at "Download file" on that page to receive a PDF file. Also, feel free to download the CSV file for Excel.

Figure 1: Temperatures in the last two millenia.

Craig Loehle has eliminated tree ring series from his datasets, explaining that they don't seem to be good temperature proxies. The result is a new kind of a hockey stick, the so-called zig-zag hockey stick. ;-) The new blade in the middle of the stick is called the Medieval Warm Period.

For an audit of Loehle's paper, see McIntyre I, McIntyre II.

See also: Loehle vs Schmidt, Loehle vs tree ring reconstructions

Monday, November 19, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Amazon: Zune beats iPod

I was almost certain that the moment would eventually arrive. It's here.

The brown Zune 30 GB is #1 bestseller in electronics at, ahead of all iPods. It is not so shocking because this particular color only costs USD 134, much less than the price of much weaker iPods. I am simply amazed how they can produce it for this ridiculously low amount of money.

Other colors besides brown are more expensive. And the 2nd generation Zune (above) costs USD 250, with 80 GB of disk space.

BBC HARDtalk with Václav Klaus

Part I
Part II
Home page of the program
Real Video

You can guess whether the BBC journalist and the Czech president agreed about every word or not. ;-)

I find the approach of the journalist somewhat incredible. It's the same kind of guys who like to say that George Bush is unprecedentedly stupid. But he finds it sensible to take the opinions of the same George Bush and other similar people and accuse Prof Václav Klaus of "plain arrogance" just because he doesn't agree with those fashionable talking points by all these lesser minds. It is apparently not "plain arrogance" to treat a European president in this way.

Their behavior is just an amazing combination of stupidity, intimidation, and hypocrisy.

After the second part of the video, Klaus answers that he has grandchildren. They won't know about the global warming debate in 30 years because it will be forgotten. But if they find something about it, they will just say that their granddad was right.

Finally, Stephen Sackur asks a few questions about the European constitution and the radar.

Type IIA vacua claimed to be cosmologically excluded

Take Barton Zwiebach's textbook on string theory and read his story about the type IIA braneworld scenarios with intersecting D6-branes. They surely look beautiful as a possible source of the Standard Model but are they correct?

Hertzberg, Kachru, Taylor, Tegmark
claim that they can rule out all types of type IIA models that have been constructed in literature, by their violation of cosmological requirements.

The slow-roll parameter epsilon that should be small is shown to be greater than 27/13 whenever the potential V is positive. You may view this inequality as a quantitative example of our generalized "weak gravity" principle. Slow-roll inflation and de Sitter vacua therefore become impossible. Their theorem makes some assumptions - such as the absence of NS5-branes. They sketch a possible class of models with extra features that could circumvent their no-go theorem. Well, with the right ingredients to obtain mirrors of the type IIB vacua claimed to be alive and well, it should be possible. ;-)

Sociologically speaking, you may want to know that these authors have been saying that type IIB vacua - the canonical KKLT-like and KKLLMT-like landscape - are the phenomenologically more acceptable ones for quite some time.

Sunday, November 18, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Niels Bohr died 45 years ago

Niels Bohr died on November 18th, 1962. Like most great 20th century theoretical physicists, this Danish physicist was a Jew.

While Bohr received his Nobel prize in 1922 for his old model of the Hydrogen atom - with ad hoc discretized Kepler orbits for electrons - that was superseded a few years after he was awarded the prize, it might be true that Bohr's role as a spiritual leader of the quantum community was more important.

Bohr is the father of the complementarity principle in quantum mechanics - something that only differs from the uncertainty principle by a different handwaving. And he became the ultimate lawmaker who codified the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. As a boss, it was both his responsibility as well as pleasure to debate leading misguided contrarians, particularly Albert Einstein. He had to invent a lot of wise quotes, too.

Werner Heisenberg was his pupil. Their intellectual relationships were very intense and were only destroyed once the two great minds appeared in two different competing teams that were trying to create a nuclear weapon. Bohr was on the good side that eventually became the winning one, too.

Saturday, November 17, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Velvet Revolution: 18th anniversary

Video 1: Music and lyrics by Brontosaurs, a Czech folk and tramping band: one of the informal anthems of the pro-democratic demonstrations in 1989. The clip includes not-quite-English subtitles. ;-)

I was just watching a documentary about the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and there were many well-known things in it as well as some new ones.

The dissidents were remembering how hopeless the situation seemed even at the end of 1989 when communism in East Germany started to collapse. However, Czechs didn't seem to care. There was no visible momentum. There seemed to be no plausible mechanism that would lead to the end of the totalitarian system. I have had the same feeling at that time.

Kentucky, climate, and intimidation

If you want to see how intimidation by the climate change movement looks like, look at this story. There are hundreds of such stories every day but we have to pick an example. A Kentucky legislative committee had a hearing dedicated to climate change on Wednesday:

The Courier Journal
Jim Booch (DEM) was a co-chair of the committee and one of the guests, Lord Monckton, said a few very decent things - about Al Gore and others - that were however not great enough for the champions of the climate change catastrophe.

Jim Booch himself said that he had supported "their vice-president" nevertheless. He is also a "tree lover although not necessarily tree hugger" and wins most of the political battles for Democrats. Nevertheless, by having been a co-chair of an ideologically imperfect hearing, he has become a heretic anyway.

Two days later,
Lexington Herald Leader
ran a story asking whether Jim Booch should resign. To help the case, the journalist mentioned that USD 11,750 of donations during Booch's career could be linked to coal. Now, that's a lot of money, indeed - about 0.01% of what Al Gore has earned with his fraudulent theater and derived activities. Now, 0.01% doesn't seem as too much but when we talk about a heretic, the rules of mathematics change...

The talk about a resignation is of course absurd but you know that the power of the media is very large. Tens of thousands of people have surely begun to debate a fabricated question of his possible resignation. And when something is debated, it is gradually becoming a "reality" anyway.

The champions of the fight against climate change have high ideological standards, indeed. People must be 100% clean. A famous German political party in the 1930s allowed their new leader to be 1/4-Jewish. I am not sure whether this degree of tolerance could be found in the contemporary global warming movement. Jim Booch is untolerable for some people because he has been seen a few meters from Lord Monckton. Imagine what would happen if he were a cousin or a grandson of Lord Monckton! ;-)

15 minutes of fame: a definition

Andy Warhol, a Slovak American pop artist, coined the idiom "15 minutes of fame". No doubt, the modern media are creating a lot of short-lived hysterias, madness, misinformation, and cheap fads with no lasting value. But some of the quantitatively inclined readers don't know how this term is defined. Is there a graph that explains the concept? Well, there is one:

Click the graph to get to the source at Google Trends. The two peaks in the third quarter of 2006 correspond to the publication of "Not Even Wrong" and "The Trouble With Physics", two silly books attacking science. Besides the search queries "Woit" and "Smolin", I have included another query that is not subject to the 15-minute-of-fame effect as a reference.

Friday, November 16, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Symmetry and the Monster

A mathematics talk in RealVideo: use RealPlayer and open the following URL (write as one line):
The speaker, Mark Ronan, covers some history about the solutions to quintic equations, Galois's life, etc. Since 22:00 or so, he talks about the classification of finite groups. One minute later, the Monster enters the scene.

Hat tip: Prof John McKay, thanks!

A theory of everything triples traffic

A. Garrett Lisi doesn't know why bosons can't be added with fermions and why spinors can't be added with scalars and vectors, among many other things. But he has made it. ;-)

The term "a theory of everything" in the title together with a bunch of unusually stupid journalists is enough to do so.

A female surfer was picked instead of AGL to enforce affirmative action.

The Telegraph, The Ottawa Citizen, and other outlets have made this crackpot so famous that even humble blogs such as this one have seen their traffic triple yesterday as a consequence. On Thursday, TRF had over 9,000 unique visitors and on Friday over 14,000 unique visitors. Everyone is thrilled with the "E8 theory of everything". Well, people are rather excitable. ;-)

Good for them. Bad for the wisdom of the society.

Thursday, November 15, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Blauer Planet in grünen Fesseln

Was ist bedroht: Klima oder Freiheit?

And a climate conference

Buy at
Czech President Václav Klaus (whose book "Blue not Green Planet" was just published in German) and Petr Mach, the boss of the libertarian CEP think tank, have organized a pretty cool climate conference in Prague, showing seven scholars who can be counted as climate skeptics. There were 500 people watching and it was aired live on TV which is why it wasn't a good idea for me to be semi-gravel-voiced ;-) but otherwise my talk went just fine. I don't plan to see the conference again through TV archives. :-)
My PPT/DOC contribution in Czech: science basics of the climate debate
The ČT24 channel has attempted to preserve the people's sanity and ability to think independently against absurd proclamations about the "climate consensus" that some people are trying to import into the Czech Republic.

With all my respect to all of us, the Czech and other Central European speakers, the last two speeches by Julian Morris and Michael Walker (in English) were simply a different league. They're professional speakers, after all. I have learned some new things during the day, including conversations at a fun dinner in Sherwood, and other people have learned things, too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Uganda: Global warming makes girls hot

A short time ago, we saw that global warming has stopped circumcisions in Kenya. Consequently, young men are not ready to marry anyone which is why the girls marry older guys.

In neighboring Uganda, global warming causes a related problem, namely early marriages. It is also caused by global warming but the detailed mechanisms are different. It occurs because rich men are ready to marry young females while the girls' families need some money that were stolen from them by global warming. This is a conclusion of a scientific report funded by the United Nations that has identified "famine marriages", i.e. a new method for families to earn money and food by selling their daughters.

Global warming also increases the school dropout rates: click the cartoon above to zoom it in. It exposes people to sexually transmitted infections because when it is warm, people tend to undress their condoms, despite intense education by dancing Indian condoms. Other consequences of global warming are bush-burning (because they want to punish the bush that is clearly responsible for global warming and for the hot girls and because it should improve pastures), hunting of birds and animals, and diets.

Is there a consensus among skeptics?

Richard Black at BBC asks the question whether the climate skeptics have unified opinions about detailed questions about the climate.

I think that the correct answer is obviously "No". But unlike Richard Black, I don't think that it is a disadvantage or counter-argument of any kind. The differences between the skeptics pretty much reflect the amount of uncertainty about individual questions. If Richard Black or someone else believes that those 100% unified committees of communist parties or the unified body of believers in Al Qaeda make the opinions of these groups more likely, I beg to differ.

Not only skeptics have different opinions about detailed questions but individual skeptics are uncertain about individual questions themselves.


Skeptics have a unified opinion about the question that defines their skepticism. More concretely, they believe that climate change is not an urgent crisis that requires dramatic changes of the way how we live and how we use the fossil fuels.

But there are differences about pretty much every question simply because these questions are not settled and free people normally reach different conclusions when they analyze incomplete observations and incomplete theories. I know that this is an inconvenient truth for those who would like the opinions of the whole population to be unified but it is a truth nevertheless.

Also, there is a subtle problem with the questions that are usually not accurately enough formulated so that different people may mean different things by various words. Let us look at particular examples.

Is there global warming?

Well, I think that most skeptics will tell you that it is likely that the average temperature on Earth has increased during the last 100 years. But surely not all of them and frankly speaking, I have a full understanding for those who doubt it. The surface measurements don't seem too reliable because they are plagued by the urban heat island effects, human errors, and other things. It is conceivable that once a couple of these errors will be corrected, the warming that we like the quote today will go away or will at least be substantially reduced.

Some skeptics will tell you that the global temperature is not a terribly well-defined notion. Others will argue that the global character of the warming doesn't seem to be statistically significant. There have been many places that got cooler and the global average may be warmer simply because of statistical fluctuations: it is never guaranteed that the area of regions that get warmer must be equal to the are that gets cooler.

Many skeptics will protest that the choice of the 100-year timescale is an example of fine-tuning, cherry-picking, and cheating, and they are right. At different timescales, one cay see either warming or cooling. By emphasizing the importance of the 100-year timescale, we are already putting the "man-made" answer into the game as an assumption.

OK, I personally think that it is most likely that the warming trend in the last 100 years was close to 0.6°C per century.

Is this warming unprecedented?

Most skeptics, including myself, will say "No". They will tell you about dozens of types of climate changes in the past. Is it true that this 20th century warming is twice faster than the average warming or cooling during an average century in the last 1 million years? It might be. Was it the fastest centennial warming in the last 1 million of years? Probably not.

I think that it is obvious that people are guessing here. Climate has clearly been changing as we know from thousands of sources, experiments, and observations. But equally obviously, we don't have direct measurements of the decadal variations of temperatures 17,680 years ago, among other examples.

How the hell could there be any unity of opinions about it if we clearly have no data about it and no quantitative reliable theories either? Any group of people that is unified about these questions - such as decadal variations 17,680 years ago - that can be neither measured nor reliably calculated is simply a religious group. I think that the previous sentence is another statement that virtually all skeptics - and all sane people - will agree with.

Does the Sun's activity measurably influence the Earth's climate?

Surely, almost all skeptics, including myself will answer "Yes". Some influence is both explained physically as well as deduced from statistical analyses of the temperature records. The influence of galactic cosmic rays on the clouds and the climate is much more scientifically established than the role of the greenhouse effect. Again, most skeptics will agree. Look at the correlations in the papers by Svensmark and Friis-Christensen: they are simply impressively accurate.

The question about the cosmic and solar influence is just a quantitative one, just like the greenhouse effect. When combined with complex phenomena and feedbacks in the atmosphere, both solar activity and cosmic rays as well as the greenhouse effect have some effect on the climate.

The legitimate question is how large it is in both cases. Anyone who tries to make this question dogmatic and binary - that the answer is "Only one is correct and you shall never believe other Gods" is a religious bigot. Such bigots may exist on both sides but I happen to know many more greenhouse bigots than solar bigots.

How much warming should we expect in the next 100 years?

Well, we will probably surpass 560 ppm of CO2. Even if you believe that the greenhouse effect is responsible for all long-term warming, we have already realized something like 1/2 (40-75%, depending on the details of your calculation) of the greenhouse effect attributed to the CO2 doubling from 280 ppm to 560 ppm. It has led to 0.6°C of warming. It is not a hard calculation that the other half is thus expected to lead to an additional 0.6°C of warming between today and 2100.

Other derivations based on data that I consider rationally justified lead to numbers between 0.3°C and 1.4°C for the warming between 2000 and 2100. Clearly, one needs to know some science here. Laymen who are just interested in this debate but don't study the numbers by technical methods are likely to offer nothing else than random guesses and prejudices, regardless of their "ideological" affiliation in the climate debate.

When Richard Black quotes some uneducated people who are climate skeptics, it just shows that he is not being fair and he is spreading propaganda. The real problem with the global warming orthodoxy is that some of the craziest opinions about a coming catastrophe are heard from the most powerful alarmists. When we want to show that the alarmists are not quite sane, we don't have to pick the stupidest representative on the street. We don't have to humiliated Alexander Ač all the time. Chiefs of their institutes at NASA and Nobel prize winners will do the job, too. This is the real difference here.

Clearly, there can't be any consensus about precise values of the climate sensitivity simply because no accurate calculation of this quantity exists. Once again, if a large group has a consensus about the precise value, it is inevitably a religious group.

Now, would 1 Celsius degree of warming be a catastrophe?

This is a question in which skeptics probably agree once again. During the 20th century, the temperatures may have increased by 0.6°C. Not only we can say that it has caused no catastrophe. In fact, it seems that it has caused no visible problems at all. Our world is richer, more fertile, healthier than it was 100 years ago. By extrapolating this observation to the 21st century, there is absolutely no reason to think that a hypothetical additional warming would cause some big trouble.

Can the climate get out of control?

Once again, skeptics will say that probably not. But there is no rigorous proof. No one can say these things for certain. Catastrophes and instabilities are unlikely because they haven't occurred for billions of years even though our planet has tried many eras that were much more extreme than our times. So skeptics generally find theories about instabilities, tipping points, points of no return, and so forth very awkward. But they won't burn someone at stake because it can't be rigorously proven. They will just think that the person who propagates fear is not quite sensible.

Are the oceans more important than the solar activity?

Again, I don't know. If they are at least comparable, we would have to define the question more accurately anyway. Turbulent phenomena in the ocean surely play some role. 1998 was the warmest year mainly because of a huge El Nino. No doubts about it. But once again, there can't be any consensus here because we don't fully understand dynamics of these things. Even if we did, the system is so complex that we would have to carefully define two quantities that we are comparing. The question above is just too vague.

Is CO2 regulation a good idea?

Again, probably all skeptics will answer No, regardless of their belief about the previous questions. CO2 regulation is extremely expensive and it has extremely negligible impact on the climate. Moreover, we are not really sure whether the sign of this impact is positive or negative.


If I summarize. I think that the main difference between climate realists, also referred to as skeptics, and climate fanatics is not a different choice of some technical quantity such as the climate sensitivity. The main point in which they differ is their attitude to the society, freedom, and knowledge. Climate realists think that questions like that must be looked at in a very calm, balanced way, and each scientist must be free and independent to reach any conclusions that seem to be implied by the available evidence. They think that the complexity of complex systems must be acknowledged and uncertainties should never be masked. Moreover, the link between scientific conclusions and policies is extremely indirect and requires some people to answer many additional questions whose character is not related to climatology. Climate realists think that we must first answer these questions and then we can perhaps use the answers to influence policymaking.

On the other hand, climate fanatics think that these are moral questions that must be looked at in a very irrational way. Only one kind of an answer must be promoted or allowed. Policies must be created before the evidence is available and evidence must be tweaked to agree with the desired policies. Scientific conclusions must be deliberately exaggerated, cherry-picker, and oversimplified to achieved "sacred" goals. Everyone must be forced to believe the same thing and all infidels and heretics must be ostracized. The desired policies of CO2 regulations are good even if the climate apocalypse doesn't exist - even Marx himself believed these things - which justifies any amount of attacks and lies about the skeptics and the climate itself.

These two groups don't differ in technical details of science. They differ in their basic thinking about man, society, nature, freedom, truth, and science.

And that's the memo.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Berkovits, Vafa: proving AdS/CFT

Berkovits and Vafa have a paper that I choose to be the most interesting paper on the arXiv today. They may have made steps towards a full proof of the perturbative part of the most famous example of the AdS/CFT correspondence, namely between the N=4 gauge theory on one side and the AdS5 x S5 background of the type IIB string on the other side.

Some aspects of their construction are well-known to me but others are new. Among the aspects we have realized for some time, we can mention the fact that the relevant worldsheet description of the type IIB string is similar to the pure spinor language of Berkovits. It is an A-model which is a quotient of the U(2,2/4) supergroup and its maximal bosonic subgroup. Another aspect that I have believed for a few years is that the proof is based on a reduction of the two-dimensinoal worldsheet to Feynman diagrams, by "erasing" most of the information inside disk-shape regions included in the Feynman diagram.

What seems new, and what I am not able to fully check at this moment, is their statement that the proof could be analogous to the Ooguri-Vafa proof of a similar but topological Gopakumar-Vafa duality. The key feature that Berkovits and Vafa claim to be shared is that the worldsheet theory has a new Coulomb branch in this case much like it had in the topological case. The pieces of the worldsheet that are found in this Coulomb branch are interpreted as the faces of the Feynman diagrams while the boundaries between them are its propagators and vertices. As the 't Hooft coupling goes to zero, the regions found in the Higgs branch shrink and become the propagators and vertices.

Clearly, Cumrun Vafa is the first person who would be expected to suggest such a picture - in fact, I have heard such hints from him some time ago - and people who are less topological than he is, which surely includes your humble correspondent but most likely also all other humans on this planet, with a possible exception of Edward Witten and hypothetically also Marcos Mariňo (and with apologies to Aganagič, Gopakumar, Ooguri, Saulina, and others), face greater hurdles in trying to follow the details here.

Communism, capitalism, and environment

An anonymous Marxist third-world commenter mentioned - incredibly - that he or she thinks that the environmental situation in post-socialist Europe became worse after the fall of communism. I just can't believe that someone would buy such a thing because it is crazier than any propaganda I have heard during communism.

The improvements are manifest and sometimes breathable througout post-socialist Europe but I will choose the best example, the Czech Republic, for both obvious as well as less obvious reasons. You should read:

Environment in the Czech Republic: A Positive and Rapid Change
by Bedřich Moldán and Tomáš Hák. According to a Yale's 2006 report, Czechia ranks 4th among 133 countries in environmental performance, after New Zealand, Sweden, and Finland. Let me sketch some basic facts about the history.

The black triangle

The black triangle near the common borders of Czechia, East Germany, and (to a lesser extent) Poland used to be one of the most polluted regions in the world, full of power plants, chemical plants, refineries, dirty mines, and steam heating. Pilsen where I lived used to have a lot of industry and was very influenced by it: but there is no doubt that the Northern Bohemia was much worse, environmentally speaking. You couldn't really breath there. When there was smog, and it was extremely often, the visibility would be counted in hundreds of meters only.

Monday, November 12, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Trillions for CO2 regulation & propagation of guilt

Two years ago, some people criticized the Kyoto counter in the sidebar because it assumes that the Kyoto protocol costs USD 150 billion per year which seemed too high to the champions of CO2 regulation. Well, times are changing. Almost no one would raise such a childish criticism today because most people realize that the actual costs of CO2 regulation are much higher.

The Guardian explains that according to Nicholas Stern's calculations, a U.S. climate bill would cost USD 212 billion per year while its EU counterpart would cost USD 164 billion. Add a few more countries that could also participate and you are well above USD half a trillion.

These are huge numbers that are completely comparable to trade surpluses and deficits of various countries. And as you know, these surpluses and deficits are no details or small perturbations of the economies. Their small changes add whole percentage points to the GDP growth. One percent of the world's GDP is a lot. If you assume that companies and societies invest and increase their capacities only from the "last" resources after everything else is subtracted, you would conclude that the annual costs around one percent of the GDP are equivalent to a reduction of the GDP growth by one percentage point.

Such a percentage point makes a huge difference. For many developed countries with the growth potential about 2 percent, it means that their growth rate is reduced to one-half. For countries that would otherwise grow a bit more slowly than at the one-percent annual rate, it means recession. Even the countries that used to have a three-percent GDP growth might switch to a two-percent regime, changing the time needed to double their GDP from 25 years to 35 years.

And we are still talking about CO2 policies that will have no discernible and demonstrable effect on the climate.

The article in the Guardian argues that one must carefully divide the CO2 emissions into the "politically correct ones", for example those in India, and the "luxurious ones", a point repeated by The Independent and others. Let me ask a rhetorical question: do you think that such a classification of CO2 emissions can be scientifically derived from physics or climatology? These things show that this whole hysteria about a "dangerous climate change" is politically driven. The greenhouse effect and all these things are just cheap tricks that are blown out of proportion in order to justify completely different things that those people actually care about.

But as Václav Klaus has emphasized, no country in the world is safe. If these CO2-regulating proposals win in some countries, their proponents will gain self-confidence and propagate the policies to ever broader set of countries.

Propagation of guilt

The Wall Street Journal explains that China, the country that generates the highest amount of CO2 emissions, might start to blame its rising CO2 emissions on the Western buyers. This question about the propagation of "guilt" is another important aspect of this whole debate. Imagine, for a little while, that CO2 emissions are harmful. Who is responsible for the Chinese emissions? Is it the buyers?

One of the comparative advantages of Asia is that a marketplace can be unified with a train station. Isn't it practical?

Well, the transactions between the Chinese producers and the Western buyers is arguably a contract that benefits both parties, much like most other contracts. But when the product is already completed, the hypothetical harm to the environment has already been made. It is very hard to realize this obvious fact in the case of CO2 that really causes no harm. But if you replace CO2 by mercury, you won't have any doubts who is guilty.

The Chinese products usually don't contain dangerous concentrations of mercury which makes it OK for consumers to buy them. In the same way, the products don't emit additional CO2 - except for cars that are made in China. So I find it obvious that if someone were guilty, it is the Chinese producers who could have used clean technologies or produce something completely different. One simply can't be viewed as a criminal for buying a legitimate product from a criminal, if you want me to amplify this language.

Of course that one can feel somewhat bad for having something - or anything - to do with some bad guys. But one of the principles of an enlightened modern society is that guilt simply cannot propagate in this way. For example, you shouldn't be held responsible for your parents' being killers even though you have had relationships of many kinds with your parents.

Guilt for well-defined sins must be localized to those who are really responsible. Indirect relations between these people and others cannot become a justification for the government to control those other people because if it became one, the government could control everyone. Why? Because everyone is indirectly connected to some people who do bad things, either more directly or less directly.

There are many other subtleties associated with these ambitious projects to regulate the carbon cycle. But if the goal were really to reduce total CO2 emissions, it is clear that their price would have to be universal for the whole planet, much like the price of oil. This conclusion might be controversial for those who mix science and economics with politics and religion. But a universal price would be necessary for these policies to regulate the net emissions instead of just moving them from one place to another.

Let me emphasize. These considerations are hypothetical in character because I don't believe that any CO2 regulation is rational.

Incidentally, the coal-oil price ratio is about 5 times smaller than what it was a decade ago. If this situation persists, I think that people, companies, and societies start to realize that. Someone should work on modern versions of gadgets that burn coal - for example 21st century steam engines in cars. ;-)

Thanks to Benny Peiser for the links.

Lord Rayleigh born 165 years ago

John William Strutt, 3rd Baron Rayleigh, was born on November 12th, 1842. Even though this white male aristocrat ;-) received his 1904 Nobel prize for the discovery of argon and geologists know him for Rayleigh-Lamb waves, most physicists would almost certainly think of the Rayleigh scattering.

This scattering is the main reason why the sky is blue: short-wavelength electromagnetic waves (e.g. blue photons) are scattered much more strongly which is why they arrive from random directions of the sky rather than the Sun. Rayleigh scattering is a good description when the impurities are much smaller than the wavelength of the light. Their calculable effect on radiation increases with the fourth power of the frequency.

This is probably not the best example but believe me - the sky is usually blue.

Two students of Lord Rayleigh were called Thomson and both of them were great physicists who won a Nobel prize. J.J. Thomson discovered isotopes, the mass spectrometer, and especially the electron for which he received the 1906 prize. George Paget Thomson shared the 1937 prize with Clinton Davisson for their observation of electron diffraction, a major experimental pillar of wave mechanics. If you want to be sure that the world of great physicists was really small, notice that George Paget Thomson was a son of J.J. Thomson. ;-)

Sunday, November 11, 2007 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Hugh Everett: 77th birthday

Hugh Everett was born on November 11th, 1930. He proposed the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and because no one cared, he left physics right after his PhD. More precisely, the term "many-worlds interpretation" comes from DeWitt who interpreted Everett in this way in 1971.

Later, he applied Lagrange multipliers in the commercial sector and earned some big bucks. As a chain smoker and drinker, he died at the age of 51. However, he believed in quantum immortality so the death was probably not such a big issue. His daughter, Elizabeth, suffered from schizophrenia and committed suicide in 1996, claiming that she was moving into a parallel universe to spend time with her dad.

Snow returns to Pilsen

So far, the amount of snow is not high enough to make it beautiful. Instead of photographs, I include a videoclip "Snow" from Richard Müller, a Slovak singer. The song is in Czech.

The scientific content of the song is small - we are so fresh and clean when it is snowing around. ;-) But it looks pretty.

Klaus: Merkel is the new 5-year planner

Abstract from the Czech Press Agency
Full text in German
Another interview in German for DPA about his book
Reuters news story

Interview of the President of the Czech Republic for the Wirtschaftswoche

Mr. President, German chancellor Angela Merkel fights for climate protection during her state visits throughout the world. She finds listeners in all countries except for yours. Why?

The unfair and irrational debate on global warming annoys me. The topic is increasingly turning into the fundamental ideological conflict of our times.

Has Mrs Merkel been caught into an ideology?

She probably thinks about these ideas. That surprises me. Because as a trained physicist, she should be undoubtedly able to test controversial hypotheses. But it also shows that this is not about science. The movement for the protection of the atmosphere embodies a new ideology. Surprisingly, it is espoused by Mrs Merkel who herself lived in socialist society. But she should know the risks associated with those ideologies that are directed against freedom.

Do you consider the chancellor to be a savior of the world?

I don't want to analyze Ms Merkel. The utopians are those who want to improve the world. However, politicians may find utopias to be an excellent thing because these politicians may start to talk about the distant future and avoid their everyday business. Such politicians are "escapists" because they want to escape reality. The issue of climate change is ideally suited for this purpose because we can spend 50 or even 100 years in the future by developing visions - while voters remain unable to control the consequences.

What are they escaping?

Politicians flee away from the emptiness of their own imagination. They have no ideas rich in content that could fill the present.

Does this also apply to the U.S. President George W. Bush who has apparently also warmed up to the climate debate?

I have talked about this topic with Bush several times. During our last meeting in the context of the U.N. high climate event in September, he asked me: "Václav, where is your book? I look forward (laughs)." As many Americans, he views the topic a bit more pragmatically. Americans have never been truly interested in utopias.

In your book, "Blue, Not a Green Planet", you only describe the environmentalists, as you call them, vaguely. Who are those conspirators whom you find so dangerous?

The climate debate itself deserves a sociological analysis. The politicians come first; they use the climate for the reasons explained above. Then we see the journalists who use the issue as a free ticket for a catchy theme on the title page. And finally the climate researchers only act to benefit and to maximize their profit by looking for subjects with the most promising funding situation.

Serious and prestigious researchers are among those who attack you. Are all of them opportunistic small minds?

Let's take for example the United Nations report on the climate. The presidium of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) decides on what is in it. People like IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri may have been scientifically active in the past, but since then they have become bureaucrats. These people published their last journal article years ago. Today they work on policymaking. And among the real scientists, there are many who can't offer any new approaches. They simply follow the mainstream.

One can analyze scientists ad hominem. But if there is a critic with a legitimate criticism, why is he not heard?

Whatever the climatologists find incompatible with the so-called consensus is even not included in the U.N. climate report. Every day, I receive letters from all around the world in which scientists disagree with the prevailing opinion but no one wants to listen to or print their hypotheses. They are simply unfashionable.

You seem to suppose that the climate research is being censored.

You know, the whole thing is very familiar to me. After the Warsaw Pact troops intervened to terminate the Prague Spring, I was dismissed from the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences as an enemy of Marxism. In the 1970s, I couldn't write any articles on economics.

You are trained as en economist, not a climate researcher - are you able to judge the scientific debate?

As an unemployed economist, I had a job in the State Bank of Czechoslovakia. We had the first computer over there. My task was to work on statistical and econometric models and against my will, I became busy with things that are important and relevant for climatology. Climatology is not one of the fields of physics and chemistry where a controlled experiment can be repeated a thousand times. It deals with data and hypotheses which can either be accepted or not. It works with time series that require statistical analysis.

Do you therefore distrust the method of climate researchers?

I have played with similar models for years. In hundreds or thousands of similar equations, I could always see that a slight change of a parameter or the addition of another parameter may radically change the outcome of complex models. That is why I am very critical about this methodology.

Do you flatly disagree that climate is changing?

No, of course not. The fact is that the climate is changing but every child knows that. There have to be no Nobel prize winners or a professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Of course, humans also play a role. But the crucial question is: How big is the influence of people on this process? The dispute is about orders of magnitude. Is the induced temperature change nonzero in the third, fourth, or fifth digit after the decimal point? This is a serious question that we must answer. And there is no consensus.

You say that the environmentalists such as the former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore threaten the freedom of thought. It is easy to argue against it. Who would be against freedom? What do you actually mean?

It is hard to answer in a few sentences. I have both political as well as economic and scientific freedom in mind. It is important that we don't lose either of them. Communism was another version of this ideology that placed something else as a "sacred" value above freedom. Environmentalism follows the same logic. First, the climate, then comes freedom followed by prosperity. Such priorities are wrong. For me, freedom is an important value. We Czechs have some experience with a lack of freedom. We sensitively and perhaps oversensitively respond to the threats to freedom - including those that the people in Western Europe don't understand too well.

The European Union has set - with the approval by the Czech government - ambitious climate targets. Your views make you totally lonely.

I am not alone. But I do find the current situation in Europe and the U.S. somewhat tragic. During the recent climate change conference in New York, my speech was the only one that criticized the climate policies. I didn't hear applause. Only after the dinner, many heads of state came to me and congratulated me. "There must have been someone to tell it," they said. One already probably needs political courage to speak against the policy of climate.

Who has thanked you?

I can't give you the names. It wouldn't have the right effect.

You argue that the economy and technological progress has the capacity to solve all problems resulting from climate change. What makes you so sure?

I didn't say the economy, I mean the market! This difference is fundamental. I believe in the market. Throughout my life, I have studied the economy in all of its manifestations, including communism. Plans vs market, external control vs spontaneity - these have been the eternal debates since Adam Smith. Why am I so confident? Because of my life experience. I have seen governments being mistaken hundreds of times. The market is not perfect, but its shortcomings are slight in comparison with the mistakes governments make. I lived in the regime of the planned economy - I consider the 50-year long plans of Angela Merkel just as misleading as the former five-year-plans.

What do you think about emissions trading? If carbon dioxide gets a price, the forces of the market will operate freely.

That's nonsense. This is a fraud by climatologists and environmentalists. Only fake economists could say what you did. This is about dirigism and not a free market. This method only pretends to be market-friendly. Emissions trading is just a game that looks like a market and as a classical liberal, I disagree with it.

There are entrepreneurs who earn money with the help of the environment. Germany has become the market leader in environmental technologies. It seems that the environment and the entrepreunerial spirit fit together wonderfully.

It is completely appropriate when entrepreneurs earn money by their effort to save energy. All of us should be thrifty regarding the energy, after all. Something else happens when entrepreneurs make profits out of alternative technologies. Transactions involving solar and wind energy are only possible because of the high subsidies paid for by the governments. These companies thus have political objectives and they don't play according to the rules of the free market.

No one doubts that we need traffic signs. Without minimal rules, chaos would threaten whole societies. Don't we need a couple of warning signs for the environment as well?

It depends on whether we talk about the environment or climate change. I have nothing against laws that protect ponds against waste disposal. But the environment protection laws, especially those in the EU, now go too far. But in this case we at least know what are the negative consequences of our actions or sins, if you wish. When the lake is polluted, it becomes contaminated. On the other hand, one cannot see how large and important the human influence on climate change is. It is an equation with too many unknowns - I am against climate restrictive laws and other forms of dirigism.

Václav Klaus, Wirtschaftswoche, November 10th, 2007

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