Tuesday, September 30, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

MSNBC AGW propaganda team stuck in the Arctic for 3 weeks

Just three weeks after we learned that Lewis Pugh gave up his ludicrous plans to kayak to the North Pole, we have another story of the same kind.

MSNBC (click): Stuck in the Arctic for three weeks and counting
According to the normal rules of Nature that likes to punish excessive stupidity, these people should have been dead for weeks by now.

As pretty as it has been for eons...

However, someone manages to waste USD 50,000 a day for an icebreaker to keep these insane folks alive - yes, that's already a million bucks just for their survival - so you may expect that the ultimate result of their freezing trip to the Arctic will be a "document" about a devastating effect of global warming on the Arctic. ;-)

Hat tip: Anthony Watts

MSNBC seems hopeless but the L.A. Times think that the green bubble bursts. Almost no one cares about Obama's and the Democrats' suggestions to inflate the tires. Instead, the slogan of the day comes from the GOP: "Drill, baby, drill." ;-)

Václav Klaus in Portland, Oregon

The Czech president was/is visiting Oregon. Sorry, Gene, I didn't know about it in advance. See e.g. his speech
Global warming alarmism is unacceptable and should be confronted
Karl Ockert, a brewmaster in Oregon, was late because he was having beer with the president (see the picture above). Klaus experienced some standing ovations in Portland and a dinner for 1,200 guests while a James Pitkin wrote some nasty things about Klaus in the local press.

Klaus' visit to the U.S. continues through October 4th. In Seattle, he joined Ronald Reagan, Rudy Giuliani, and Jeb Bush and picked the Columbia Award. He gave this speech:
Freedom and free market principles are as important to fight for now as in the past, maybe more

Monday, September 29, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Bailout rejected

The Democrats mostly supported the intervention while the Republicans mostly opposed it. I watched the proceedings in the U.S. Congress and my reaction is: wow.

See also: Lawrence Summers: Taxpayers can still benefit from the bail-out, Financial Times
These guys have a lot of courage if not irresponsibility. Not too shockingly, Dow drops by 7% (by 778 points, biggest absolute drop in history), S&P 500 by 8.8%, and Nasdaq by 9.1% (and oil by 10%). On the "previous" black Monday, in 1929, Dow dropped by 12.8 percent so these quantities (but not others!) seem to be comparable by now. ;-)

Some of the Republicans have already claimed that the GOP with its loud "No" was reacting to Nancy Pelosi's partisan speech: well, I must tell you, that's a pretty bad policy to decide about the world economy according to an emotional reaction to an irrelevant bitch.

Cell phones will track your carbon footprint

The Guardian writes about a system that will monitor people's motion to make sure that they're not using cars and jets unless it is necessary to convince other people not to use cars and jets.

Andreas Zachariah was a graduate student at a college in London. But once he wrote the program that translates the GPS data from cell phones to the distance walked, cycled, bused, subwayed, trained, driven, or flown, he became the CEO of the Carbon Hero company. ;-)

The Guardian explains that the software will be useful for other companies to publicly chastise their employees for using the means of transportation with a large footprint such as cars. So you should better buy another minimalistic cell phone that may be used for your recreational trips that will be invisible to the Big Brother.

Airlines may use the gadget to detect the number of people in the airplanes. If it is realized that some of them could bike or swim, the motor may stop right after taking off to save the fuel (at least until it explodes on the ground). The advantage is that the sinners will never repeat their sin in the future.

Pachauri is working on a program that will monitor what you eat. Whenever you say "steak" into the microphone, the system will realize that you have either eaten or you plan to eat meat. You will have to buy carbon indulgences for USD 20. Another program will monitor the vibrations of your body. If it is cold and the program doesn't detect any shivering for hours, it means that you turned your heating on. Again, a visit of your local carbon priest will become necessary.

Hat tip: Marc Morano

Sunday, September 28, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Good King Wenceslas murdered

The Czech Republic celebrates the Czech Statehood Day today. Exactly 1,073 years ago, on September 28th, 935, Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia - now St. Wenceslaus, the Czech patron - was murdered by his brother Boleslaus. He was only 28.

Yes, Wenceslaus I is the same guy whom you know from "Good King Wenceslas", the carol in the video above (see lyrics, both English and Czech). In the carol, a poor man tries to find some winter fossil fuels. The good king indirectly helps him; Wenceslaus also saves his freezing page boy by a little bit of global warming emanating from the king's carbon footprints. (The environmentalists have literally rotated the "good" and "bad" upside down! Neither Czechia nor the Vatican is planning to denounce St. Wenceslaus because of his warm footprints so far.)

Sv. Václav - his Czech name - is also the Gentleman on the horse on the Wenceslaus Square in Prague, a place named after him, much like many other things. Boleslaus killed Wenceslaus while the latter was coming to the church: a very nasty scenario. It was enough for Boleslaus to succeed Wenceslaus as the prince of Bohemia.

Four new recordings of the Czech national anthem were presented for the anniversary.

Saturday, September 27, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

CO2 output increased 3 percent in one year

AP informs that the amount of carbon dioxide produced by the civilization grew by 3 percent between 2006 and 2007, mainly thanks to developing countries. See Google News for more.

The approximate figure 3% shouldn't be so shocking given the fact that the world's GDP growth was about 4% and the GDP and CO2 production are intimately linked, except for some increases in efficiency that remain subleading. And they will remain almost negligible unless a completely new technology becomes economically more acceptable than those based on the combustion of fossil fuels, fermentation, alcohol production, animal agriculture, and cement manufacturing.

Analogously, the U.S. CO2 production increased by 2%, agreeing with the estimate based on the GDP growth, too. China defended its new status of the #1 producer of CO2, leaving the U.S. its #2 spot while Russia's #3 position is threatened by India.

Light bot: a game

Full screen... (click)
Press "Play".

Light up all the blue boxes. To do so, you must create a program, "main method", out of the basic commands (step, turn right, turn left, jump, light up) and two procedures, "f1" and "f2", that you may create, too. Press "Go" when your program is complete.

Friday, September 26, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Nobel prize winners who didn't sign the letter endorsing Obama

A group of 61 U.S. science Nobel prize winners has signed a somewhat dumb letter endorsing Obama as a visionary leader who will furthermore give more money to science, offer everyone a lot of energy, cure all diseases, and stop the climate from changing. In other words, a true Messiah.

The letter reminds me of some of the "anti-Charter 77" documents supported by scientists and artists who wanted to show how concerned and politically correct they were during communism, by endorsing the only progressive party in the country and by condemning the reactionary elements.

Well, I don't know whether Obama is a visionary. I don't know whether he will give more money to science. And I don't know whether it is a healthy idea to do so. But I am pretty certain that this letter won't mean much.

In democracy, it is a bizarre idea that Nobel prize winners should organize their own political parties and it is a childish idea to think that their Nobel prizes give them a special tool to influence political questions that have nothing to do with their awards.

Hermann Grassmann: anniversary

Herman Günther Grassmann was born in 1809 and died 131 years ago, on September 26, 1877, in Stettin, Prussia, Greater Germany (now Szczecin, Poland) to a family of an ordained minister who taught maths and physics.

It's an anniversary of his death, not birth, so this story won't be quite complete. But this mathematician had an interesting CV. Unlike others, he was a lousy student and it seems that he studied no maths and physics at all. Instead, he chose classical languages, philosophy, and theology.

Because of some twists and turns, he decided that he should teach maths at a Gymnasium (a job similar to his father's). But he needed an exam. His score was so-so but he was allowed to teach at the high school. It just happened that during that time, he made some crucial steps that eventually led him to his now-famous 1844 paper referred to as "A1". Not bad for a high school teacher.

What was the paper about? Well, he defined various formal, exterior (or "combinatorial" or "wedge") products, and discussed the concept of linear independence. The only other axiomatic system known before Grassmann was the Euclidean geometry so his new abstract system was quite revolutionary. With some updates, Grassmann's work also led Hamilton to discover quaternions and it influenced Felix Klein and Élie Cartan. Linear algebra and group theory would be virtually unimaginable without Grassmann's "momentum".

Microscopic entropy of Kerr black holes

Monica Guica, Thomas Hartman, Wei Song, and Andrew Strominger (click!) show that the string theorists' ability to compute black hole entropy microscopically goes well beyond the canonical, supersymmetric, higher-dimensional, and "stringy" cases such as OSV and split attractors.

What about the black holes we see in the telescopes?

All of them are almost exactly electrically neutral - so you don't need the Reissner-Nordström solutions if you're an astrophysicist. But many of them have a huge angular momentum which is why the Kerr solution is important.

The Kerr solution prevents the angular momentum from exceeding a limit:

J < GM2
The rotating black holes that saturate the bound above are called extremal Kerr black holes. And they're the focus of their paper.

Video 1: GRS 1915+105, the heaviest known stellar black hole in the Milky Way, including fake pictures and its authentic sound translated from its X-ray spectrum to somewhat more melodic frequencies. (MSNBC about Wheeler.)

Are there any extremal black holes observed in the telescopes? Well, not exactly extremal ones. But can you get close? You bet. For example, a binary X-ray source GRS 1915+105 (wiki) has
J / GM2 > 0.98.
Wow, that's almost one. It's useful to know something about this object as well as extremal Kerr black holes in general. The object has mass about 14 solar masses.

Thursday, September 25, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Google Chrome mouse wheel scroll bug: a fix

Update December 2010: the new Dev version has a bug with scrolling up. Wait for 24 hours and an update will be available via tools/about/update.

With some mice and touchpads, the wheel only works in one direction (down; you can't return up). The cleanest way is to download and install a patch from this web page:

Download the patch for Chrome.dll here (click)
Search for light green "Download the chrome patcher" on the page above and click "here".

It will work afterwords. It is compatible with all versions of Chrome (2,3) that I have tested. Alternatively, you may go to the Control Panel, Mouse, Wheel, and switch from "Enable Universal Scrolling" to "Use Microsoft Office 97 Emulation Only" or something like that. Chrome will be fixed but some other places where wheel can be useful (e.g. scrolling the programs in the Vista start menu) may break.

Spore game: intelligent design promotes evolution

The Spore game (wiki, YouTube channel) has sold one million copies, becoming an official hit. People have submitted about 26 million creatures: see Sporepedia.

While your role in the game is to be God (or "a god", in this case) and help the creation of new life forms by your intelligent design, I guess that the people who play the game will end up believing and understanding evolution more than they did before.

Google: idea for USD 10 million

Google celebrates its 10th birthday so they invented a new philantropic project to improve their image,

Project 10100 (=googol)
If you have a good idea that helps many people, you can win USD 10 million.

Your solution can be about anything, your imagination has no limits, but the resulting idea must be just like the First Mile Solutions or Hippo Water Roller to have any chance. ;-)

Submit by October 20th.

Meanwhile, Al Gore used Clintonfest to urge "civil disobedience" toward coal plants. The Reference Frame urges the people to obey the law and to protect their property against violent attacks with guns whenever necessary.

New president of South Africa

Many people are asking me whether the new president of South Africa, Kgalema Motl-anthe, is my relative. I don't know for sure. We may have a common ancestor but he probably lived a long time ago. Incidentally, Anthe is a moon of Saturn.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

WMAP: dark flow: attracted behind the horizon

The WMAP probe has detected a nonzero velocity of galaxy clusters between the constellations of Centaurus and Vela:

Spaceflight Now, Science Daily
1E 0657-56, previously used to "directly see dark matter" (TRF I, II), is an example of such a cluster. I am not sure whether the present authors fully realize this direct link with dark matter: I would bet that there is only one new effect going on with these clusters, not two new effects.

The motion can't be explained by the normal FRW cosmology or anything inside the observable horizon, they claim. It's been called "dark flow", to make it sound as mysterious as "dark energy" or "dark matter".

The driver of the motion is arguably behind the cosmological horizon! The paper by Kashlinsky, Atrio-Barandela, Kocevski, and Ebeling will be published this week in online Astrophysical Journal Letters but you can already read the papers as preprints (hat tip: mtheory):
Technical details
Results and cosmological implications
Thanks to Gene Day!

Jerome Cardan: birthday

Gerolamo Cardano (or Girolamo Cardano or Hieronymus Cardanus in Latin) was born on September 24th, 1501, because his mother didn't succeed in her abortion attempts (at least this is what he was saying). As you will see, the pro-choice people want to prevent us from knowing how to solve algebraic equations. ;-)

He became quite a skillful physician. For example, he was also the first man who described typhoid fever. However, he couldn't really follow his interest in medicine professionally. The only reason why he wasn't admitted to the College of Physicians in Milan was that he was a bastard, both literally and metaphorically. :-)

Instead, he had to make living by gambling and chess and he became pretty good at both. These skills were useful not only for his practical life, to earn at least some money, but also for his gifts to the civilization. In the 1560s he studied game theory and was the first thinker to treat the concept of probability systematically. "Liber de ludo aleae" was only published a century later.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Richard Lindzen: Climate science: Is it currently designed to answer questions?

Richard Lindzen is not only a renowned climate scientist but also an experienced person who has met many people and understood how many institutions work. In his new, published 35-page paper that is also available via the arXiv,

Climate Science: Is it currently designed to answer questions? (PDF)
he shows that institutionalized climate science is becoming an inefficient tool to answer scientific questions.

For a few decades, the discipline has been losing the creative confrontation between theory and observations and the standard practice of compact problem solving that can lead to results in a finite time. Instead, unconfrontational huge observational projects that never end and simulation took over. The amount and importance of bureaucracy has skyrocketed, a development that has affected many other disciplines, too. This has allowed various players to consciously politicize the field which is particularly important in the case of climatology.

Nonrelativistic AdS/cold atoms correspondence

We have talked about the application of string-theoretical methods in heavy ion physics and condensed matter physics.

Recently, several people became interested in another discipline that could be overrun by string theory ;-), namely atomic physics.

Free fermions as well as the so-called fermions at unitarity might have dual AdS-like gravitational descriptions - that would only differ by boundary conditions - even though the details are not known.

Monday, September 22, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Spenta Wadia: a review of string theory

Spenta Wadia wrote a semi-technical review of string theory that might be useful for many TRF readers familiar with some related physics concepts but not with those of string theory:

String theory: a framework for quantum gravity and various applications (PDF)
The text includes a few pages about perturbative string theory, spectrum, interactions, AdS/CFT and fluids, cosmology, and particle physics in string theory.

But it also presents the correct microscopic calculation of black hole entropy as a nontrivial check that every theory of quantum gravity has to pass. In his opinion, holography might become the ultimate underlying principle that defines string theory at the end.

You know, the microscopic calculation of the entropy could have led to a wrong result: the correct result is thus a nontrivial piece of evidence supporting the theory. Because the result could have been wrong at the beginning, the theory is falsifiable. That's one of the important features that put string theory above the would-be competitors.

Craig Loehle: trouble with tree-ring reconstructions

In this weekly dose of peer-reviewed skeptical climatological literature, we visit Springer's Climatic Change where Craig Loehle has the following article:

A mathematical analysis of the divergence problem in dendroclimatology (abstract, preview of page 1)
He shows that the tree ring proxies can completely mislead you. Even if you have reasons to believe that the tree ring width primarily depends on the temperature, there is one subtlety that can literally turn your results upside down: nonlinearity.

In his previous papers, Loehle has presented evidence that in fixed conditions (and moisture), the growth rate is bounded from above for a given species. Under normal circumstances, the growth rate increases with temperature. How is it possible that it is bounded? Well, it may (schematically) behave either as
  • rate = 1 - exp(-temperature)
  • rate = 1 - (temperature - optimum)^2
In the first case, the rate asymptotically approaches a given value. The second scenario may be even more realistic: the growth rate can actually be maximized for an optimum temperature and then it can decrease again. If you want to extract the temperature from the rate, you have to solve a quadratic equation that is famous for having two solutions. ;-)

Consequently, it is easy to incorrectly pick the other root of the quadratic equation that has the effect of flipping pieces of the graph upside down. So it's actually easy to get a medieval cool period instead of the correct medieval warm period if you're not careful enough: this wrong result may be hard to discover because all the statistical tests may be extremely encouraging.

Newsnight: Brian Cox vs David King

The host of "Newsnight" is Jeremy Paxman. TRF readers may know him from The Great Global Warming Swindle where he is shown as an example of a new kind of morality based on man-made global warming: "Now the Prime Minister's back from his holiday. He's unrepentant and unembarrassed about yet another long-haul destination."

But let's now return to the LHC first beam day, the most symbolic day of experimental science in the last 3 decades. The old, senile, and obnoxious guy who says that he doesn't give a damn about science (and a penny for science) unless it feeds his throat is - believe me or not - the president of the British Association of the Advancement of Science, David King.

Do you think that Mr King has the right job to advance his deeply anti-scientific sentiments and that he has chosen a good day to ventilate them? Prof Brian Cox (CERN), a former rock musician, fortunately had something more cultural and sane to say about this issue. ;-) The only thing that Cox forgot to mention was that King, much like the LHC alarmists, was a tw@t (even though, at 4:52, Brian was pretty close to this goal!).

Sunday, September 21, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Jeff Id: cherry-picking in new hockey stick graph

Jeff Id (noconsensus.wordpress.com) provides us with some new perspective on the new hockey stick graph, Mann et al. 2008. It seems that the paper is not only a case of sub-prime science but an example of scientific fraud.

For example, look at the two graphs of the temperature in 1700-2000 above (click to zoom in). Imagine that you have two curves, the purple one and the blue one. Imagine that you are Michael Mann and you want to write a paper about global warming. Which one would you use?

What do these two lines mean? The purple line comes from 64 datasets that were not used, for unspecified reasons, while the blue line comes from 55 datasets that dominate Mann's extrapolation procedure. Wow, it's just amazing.

Hermann Minkowski: 100 years of spacetime

Exactly 100 years ago, on September 21st, 1908, Hermann Minkowski gave a talk titled "Raum und Zeit" ("Space and Time"; book version) in Cologne, Germany in which he proposed a natural interpretation of Einstein's special theory of relativity in terms of a geometry with an indefinite signature.

Using his words, space and time lost their independence and only their union remained physical. The distance between points (0,0,0,0) and (t,x,y,z) in spacetime is

ds² = -(ct)² + x² + y² + z²
and must be preserved by the allowed transformations of the spacetime which include both the ordinary rotations as well as the new "boosts" responsible for switching to different inertial frames (as well as translations).

This talk hasn't changed anything about physics of special relativity, as understood by Einstein, but it has affected the way how we think about these phenomena. And Minkowski's picture has made it easier for Einstein to develop general relativity in the following decade. Minkowski, who thought that his ex-student Einstein was a "lazy dog", didn't see these developments because he died in 1909 (ruptured appendix).

This video is cute because it shows how naturally elastic the Minkowski spacetime is. The areas or volumes are preserved, much like the 45° angles associated with the light rays. It follows that the distances are contracted and the processes are slowed down from the viewpoint of reference frames in the state of motion.

Some memories

When I was a 10-year-old kid, there were all kinds of articles about special relativity that made me excited but none of them explicitly mentioned the indefinite signature of spacetime. Instead of rediscovering it instantly, I remember proposing a bizarre theory of a Euclidean spacetime that obeys the normal Pythagorean theorem.

Because this spacetime disagrees with the rules how the speed of light should be combined with others, I designed some even more bizarre rules how the coordinate times and proper times should be extracted from the spacetime diagrams. As a result, the composition of the speed "c" and a small speed "v" only differed from "c" by terms proportional to "v^2/c" which, I believed, was compatible with the available experiments.

Annual variations of nuclear decay rates?

A paper in August 2008,

Evidence for correlations between nuclear decay rates and Earth-Sun distance
summarized some experimental evidence suggesting that the decay rates of nuclei could periodically vary every year - by up to 0.5% or so. They link the variations to the Earth-Sun distance which doesn't seem inevitable: the phase doesn't seem to work too well (there's a lag). There exist other quantities that may change during the year - such as the relative orientation of the Earth's and Sun's magnetic field etc.

Pakistan: they killed the Czech ambassador

I was just looking at news at CNN and the most viewed story right now (because it is on the CNN front page) is

Report: Czech ambassador missing in blast
Once the police found the body and confirmed the sad news, the headline was changed.

It was known from the beginning that the ambassador, Ivo Žďárek (47), was in the hotel (the Marriott Hotel ★★★★★ in Islamabad) during the explosion. Bastards!

A month ago, he worked as the ambassador to Vietnam but moved to Islamabad. His office covered both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The one-ton-of-explosives truck (the truck followed a small car that hit the gates and "opened" them) suicide attack has also killed 50+ people (mostly hotel staff and drivers) plus CIA agents whose number remains classified.

I wonder whether Pakistan is able to protect their nuclear weapons if they cannot protect a five-star hotel against cheap old dirty Al-Qaeda tricks.

Saturday, September 20, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

LHC: a large spill of helium

While the 30-ton transformer has been fixed, a large spill of helium occurred because at least one of the 1,700 superconducting magnets failed.

The event known as "quench", caused by a faulty electrical connection between two magnets, heated up roughly 200 magnets in the sector 34 (the last sector that was just being commissioned) by 100 °C. The vacuum may have been lost in parts of the pipe, too.

This story will delay the LHC at least by two months (needed to warm it up, fix it, and cool it down again; update: sorry, at least until Spring 2009): Special CERN announcement, Thaindian, FoxNews, New York Times. The LHC alarmists may enjoy several additional days of life. :-)

The problems are disappointing but surely not unprecedented. The LHC's predecessor in the same tunnel, LEP, was nicknamed "Lots of Extra Problems" because many things broke at different stages of the project.

This is LHC, Les Horribles Cernettes, about liquid nitrogen, not helium, but you may get the idea anyway. :-)

Friday, September 19, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Ice-hockey, stock markets

We just returned from the ice hockey match. In a dramatic contest between two beer towns, HC Lasselsberger Pilsen defeated HC Mountfield Czech Budweis 9:4. It's pleasure to watch such games. ;-) After 5 matches, Pilsen has all 15 points and stands at the top of the Czech Hockey Extraleague - something that we haven't seen for very many years.

Now I just saw that those who have some stocks had a pretty good day, too. The Russian figure should actually be 28.7%, not just 22%: it reverted most of this week's losses. (Yes, the numbers such as 28.7% and 11.73% are new national records for a daily jump.) Earning money must be relatively simple for the people who have some access to fast tools and capital.

Peter F. didn't like that I haven't criticized the bailout plans of Paulson et al. Well, I accept the criticism. But I am already annoyed by this (mostly verbally fabricated) crisis, too. Markets are statistically wiser than bureaucrats in distributing resources and quantifying the value of things. But when it comes to overall quantities such as the "general confidence in the markets", they can behave in a crazy way.

The U.S. administration could in principle be more sensible - at least in isolated cases - and it seems that it is the case right now. The markets started to behave like if we lived in another Great Depression - and we're technically far from anything like the recession (the last U.S. GDP growth was 3.3% annualized): they seem to be as mad as hysterical women in the asylum or as global warming alarmists. And it's just good that someone is trying to stop them.

So I admit that I have some understanding for their "uniform pumping" of dollars into the economies. This is pretty much a flavor-blind adjustment of the overall global economy - an intervention of the same type as the adjustments of interest rates - and governments and central banks should probably be allowed to do similar things. They're just protecting a sensible "value of the money" and the agreement between the official interest rates and the psychologically determined risk aversion of the typical market players.

If companies like AIG had been allowed to go bankrupt, it would be cleaner from a market perspective but it could have influenced many other innocent players. Maybe, the U.S. economy could be the first one to face serious problems. And we could say that other economies won because they were stronger. Well, I understand that Paulson et al. wouldn't like this outcome and they have the right to do something about it. In this sense, Paulson behaves as a skillful manager of a huge company (the U.S.) and big financial institutions are branches of his company.

These interventions probably help the global economy, too, at least in the short-time and medium-time perspective. In 20 years, the interventions they are just doing may have slightly negative consequences but they may protect us from five bad years etc. which could be more important than what happens in 2028. These guys have already allowed Lehman Brothers to die - which means that they allowed the laissez faire principles to be more healthily destructive than during any other previous administration. So I am not going to criticize the U.S. administration for the newest "socialist" bailouts because others would have to be criticized as well.

And let me honestly confess that I am not sure whether I would have the courage to allow other big financial companies to die if I were responsible for the broad U.S. economy. Moreover, the ideas to make money market accounts safe may be good, too. Normal accounts like that simply shouldn't be risky, especially if you can avoid the risk by putting the money into your fridge (you would only sacrifice interest rates which are now pretty low in the U.S. and many other countries): it's about the definition of the money and the central banks and treasury departments and ministries of finance have the responsibility to do such things.

I have some half-baked ideas about new rules how to "naturally" regulate excessive leverage and volatility in the markets. For example, it would have similar effects as the ban on short selling that SEC is going on impose on financial stocks. Short selling is something a priori legal and sometimes helpful but in the case when it helps people to benefit from companies' losses that are mostly caused by the irrational behavior of third parties, I agree that short selling is an evil, ethically problematic, and counterproductive activity.

It is not quite the same thing as normal selling: the difference is sometimes similar to the difference between building houses and demolishing houses. Both of these things may be useful but I still think that the building part is just more important and valuable in most cases and the total profit that people make by demolishing things should be smaller than the total profit from building things - because demolishing is easier. It just sounds bad if the profits from these two activities are equally large. And whenever they are (almost) equally large, it means that the leverage in the markets is huge which is simply bad and creates instabilities.

(As you can see, I have the same opinion not only about ordinary markets but also about other things - including people's good name and even scientific theories' respectability. Empty criticism without alternatives and even without a coherent simplified picture is something I can't stand.) But let me postpone this topic.

At any rate, sorry if I have disappointed the advocates of free-market solutions who are more "clean" than I am.

Microsoft ad: I'm a PC, too

See also the short version and many U.K. versions on the opposite side of the barricade. This commercial is not as funny as various anti-PC pro-Mac ads (that provoked the reply above) and the people in it are not quite as cute as Ellen Feiss but it is one of the few ads that may deserve the word "honest".

I certainly don't think that Apple computers suck and I surely don't think that the Mac people must be bad, especially not Ann :-), but I noticed that many of them literally believe the stereotype advocated in the pro-Mac ads. They believe that in certain "hip" occupations and groups, they have to use Mac instead of a PC. This followed from many conversations.

Thursday, September 18, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Sarah Palin: nothing wrong about a Yahoo address

A hacker - namely a student nicknamed Rubico who is the son of Mike Kernell, a Tennessee state legislator (DEM) - has hacked into Sarah Palin's e-mail account, gov.palin@yahoo.com, and published some content on the web. It was easy: he or she has only reset the password by answering a few trivial questions such as the ZIP code and the place where she met her husband (Wasilla High). What he or she or it or they have found seems innocent so I can show you:

You will find some ordinary family-related photos, friendly messages from her friends-believers that she shouldn't care about the negative press. Of course, she shouldn't. And there are some complaints from her collaborators about obnoxious Alaskan (right-wing) radio hosts, too. ;-)

I happen to think that the people who violated her privacy in this blatant way are criminals and they should be found and put in jail for a little while if it is possible. Whoever helps to legitimize these crimes is helping a crime and is a mean person, too. Needless to say, a significant portion of the media, e.g. ABC and ZDNet, care about something completely different than human rights, law, and privacy. They ask how could she dare to use a Yahoo account.

What is wrong about using a Yahoo account for e-mails? Millions of other people are doing the same thing. Are they criminals? Or are mayors and governors stripped of these basic rights? Really? At Harvard, we would have permanent problems with the network: for bizarre historical reasons, the group had a separate cluster that had no permanent administrator. It was often causing a lot of problems and one was always hoping that the problems wouldn't be repeated - which is why he never switched - but they were repeated all the time.

Some people prefer to use e-mail services such as Yahoo and Gmail while others favor their organization's domains (for example because they feel more respectable with the "official" domain in their "From" line: how stupid). But what's the physical or legal difference? None of the e-mails should be read by other people - whether the messages are about family or about political issues - and both of them can be looked at (or erased) in special situations: so there is no difference from a political perspective. Yahoo may be more reliable (and safer) than a computer account managed by an Eskimo computer administrator in the crystal meth capital of Alaska.

I am simply scared and outraged by the loud folks who try to pretend that it is effectively a crime e.g. to use Yahoo as an e-mail account. Every sane person must know that there's absolutely nothing wrong about it and whoever claims that it's wrong is simply a morally questionable person who loves to attack other people and cripple their freedom without having a glimpse of a rational reason. In some sense, such people try to destroy the privacy of other people to the very same degree as the hackers themselves. The people who try to "enrich" the political correctness by similar unjustifiable limitations should be kicked into their buttocks for hours every day. They're at the bottom of the society.

Some of the very same people - like Glenn Greenwald - who would protest if the telephone calls of dangerous terrorists' contacts were monitored are suddenly on the same ship with the hackers because an innocent mother of five should surely have "nothing to hide". Surely that people in civilized societies that respect human rights always have something to hide: it's called their privacy.

These Greenwalds are foes of the modern democratic civilization. They're squarely on Al-Qaeda's side, against the human freedom. It is very clear whose interests they protect and whose interest they want to harm and if I were the U.S. president, I might treat them in a remotely analogous way to the terrorist networks.

Most of the fast comments are dedicated to passionate debates about how the public and professional mailboxes of elected officials should be separated.

Douglass & Christy: limits on CO2 climate forcing

In this dose of skeptical peer-reviewed [see some debate about the adjective in the comments] literature about the climate, we look to Energy and Environment. In the August 2008 issue, David Douglass and John Christy have the following article:

Limits on CO2 climate forcing from recent temperature data of Earth (PDF)
Yes, it is also an arXiv preprint! The authors use a very natural strategy to determine the CO2 contribution to the warming trend. They look at the tropical and extratropical data from the last 30 years, as collected by UAH MSU and HadCRUT3.

The tropical temperatures are nicely described by a linear function of the ElNino/LaNina (ENSO) region-3.4 index: the correlation is very strong. They determine the two coefficients (linear and absolute) and subtract this ENSO contribution from the original temperature anomaly. The remainder is not visibly correlated with CO2 - wrong fingerprints - and it apparently comes from additional effects in the extratropics.

Nevertheless, whatever the origin is, they can extract the underlying linear trend and it is currently 0.6 +- 0.1 °C per century (from the 1979-2008 data). This matches the normal greenhouse calculation without any feedback i.e. the climate sensitivity close to 1 °C. There could exist positive feedbacks but they would have to be canceled by negative forcings to match the data.

New Škoda Superb debuts in the U.K.

The Škoda cars (the logo shows an arrow with wings) used to be among the world's best cars during the First Republic (Czechoslovakia 1918-1938). Well, communism changed things a little bit. But at least, the cars arguably remained the best cars in the socialist bloc. They were exported to many places including the U.K. where they provoked uncountable jokes.

With the Volkswagen's decision to buy the Škoda factories, things began to change. You know, when a great company deteriorates for half a century, it simply needs a leadership by someone who has known what he was doing. So you should imagine that their business is a result of the somewhat cheaper Czech labor and the talents of the local engineers who are comparable to the German ones but also the German experience and habits (effectively those from Porsche) wherever you could have reasonable doubts about the Czech skills and approaches or a missing know-how.

First, Škoda became able to produce some standard, average Western cars such as Fabia, Octavia (the most popular product so far), and the old Superb: all these names were recycled from the good old days 50-80 years ago.

But in 2008, the situation may have changed even more dramatically. The new Superb has received almost flawless reviews everywhere - for example, The Mirror, The Independent, The Sunday Mail, CarKeys, Scottish Daily Record, Pertshire Advertiser, WhatCar, TotallyMotor, CarPages, and many other places that essentially claim that the model has no competitors.

It's the first car that has the Twin-Door system: you can open a smaller trunk or a gigantic trunk. ;-) It can park automatically and there are many other electronic achievements that would look unthinkable for a Czech car as recently as 10 years ago.

CNSNews on Easterbrook and 30 years of cooling

CNSNews: Astronomical influences affect climate more than CO2, say experts
The article explains that many scientists begin to think that cosmic rays are the primary player behind climate change and we may expect 30 years of cooling (also because of PDO). Willie Soon is quoted as a skeptic among skeptics - he doesn't like the cosmic rays explanations.

The article also mentions the report of "our" Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), edited by Fred Singer.

Incidentally, it's freezing in Pilsen right now, with temperature being slightly below 0 °C. How much do you think that the Pilsner people worry about global warming when this thing happens in the summer? ;-)

Google phone: HTC Dream

Among the fourteen national editions of Google phone published in 2007, one guess was essentially correct: the "West Turkish" Google phone produced by HTC in Taiwan.

HTC Dream will cost USD 199, be compatible with T-Mobile (owned by Deutsche Telekom) plans in the U.S., and use Google's "Android" operating system (modified Linux for mobile gadgets). The design has changed slightly from the video above.

See Google News and a presentation from Tuesday (I loved the "blue dot" with the detection of the gravitational/inertial force). The model will show both "Google" and "HTC" (and the carrier). Well, it is not too different from iPhone, is it?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

LHC: first collisions next week

According to many sources such as the U.K. Times, the LHC will begin collisions at the beginning of the next week!

This goal could have been achieved already this week but the 1-week delay was caused by some power failures affecting the cryogenics. These transformer problems are now fixed.

But don't expect the end of the world yet, like the authors of the artistic film, "Our Final Days", above. The center-of-mass energy will be around 900 GeV (6% of the ultimate goal) only so the LHC will behave as a half-Tevatron.

The only explanation why God would initiate the judgment day at the LHC - and not the Tevatron that has already seen such collisions - is that many Europeans are infidels. :-)

By October 12th, they should already try collisions at center-of-mass energy of 10 TeV which can already create new things, such as dragons and the a new galaxy like in the video above. :-)

The formal inauguration ceremony will take place on October 21st. The LHC will no longer be a virgin. It might even be the mother of several superpartners but we will probably not know yet.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Sharia law takes over Great Britain

A few years ago, a creative far-right website offered this map of Europe as of 2015.

Well, they may have been close to the truth; however, note that they included Italy but not Kosovo into the Albanian Federation so the reality is already exceeding their expectations at least at one spot.

In North Pakistan, they are establishing sharia courts that will work simultaneously with the old British courts (that will be temporarily allowed as long as there remain some infidels on the island):

Times online
It has not been explained whether Al-Qaeda and Taliban will share the responsibility for security with the old, white male British police, at least for the crimes by the citizens of North Pakistan who have already been properly converted to Islam. ;-)

The preachers have already figured out that they can make Britain an Islamic state without an external war: it's enough to follow the Albanian recipe to steal Kosovo from Serbia, namely to have more children.

Hat tip: Vitalik


Infinities, divergences, and emotions

In this text, I would like to talk about the infinities and divergences in physics - what they are, what is bad about them, what is not bad about them, and what transformations their character has undergone during the most recent centuries and decades. People often scream "divergences are bad" but these screams are often motivated by irrational justifications.

The story will probably require the reader to understand physics at an advanced undergraduate level but anyone can try to penetrate through it, anyway. On the other hand, I don't expect professional physicists to learn something materially new here but it is plausible that the organization of the ideas is different than how they think about it.

Monday, September 15, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Lehman Brothers (1850-2008)

Lehman Brothers were established, under this name, in 1850 when Mayer Lehman, the youngest brother (the guy on the right side), joined his older brothers, Henry Lehman (the real founder) and Emanuel Lehman (the guy on the left side), and emigrated from Bavaria to Alabama. Their first businesses were based on using cotton as a currency.

The company has grown and survived many twists and turns, world wars, Great Depression, internal battles, and many bankruptcies of competitors in the financial ecosystem. However, it failed to survive the subprime-related crisis and today, after 158 years, it filed for bankruptcy, listing USD 613 billion of debts, making it the largest bankruptcy ever.

Well, such things happen. I think that there are too many momentum speculators, derivatives, and investments detached from the fundamentals. The risk of many types of investments - arising at various time scales - has not always been properly quantified. From this viewpoint, it's great that one company focusing on these things will evaporate, together with the employees who are also focusing on things different from the actual content of the economy and the products.

What is less great is an additional period of irrationality and volatility that we can expect. Many speculators will extrapolate various downward trends dramatically, causing additional problems to the world economy. I wonder why so many people are doing these irrational things and adding so much noise to the system. Cannot they try to invent their own realistic picture how the world should look like and what the prices should be, and simply sell overpriced things and buy the undervalued ones?

Sunday, September 14, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Hillary Clinton vs Sarah Palin

Isn't it funny? ;-) BTW, if you didn't know, flurge is a hybrid of flush and purge. But what "Clinton" actually meant was FLIRG, a male organ in the state that is not erect (also, "flerg" means a foreskin). It stands for "First Lady Is Really a Guy/Gay", an acronym that should probably explain the flaccidness. ;-)

Old SiteMeter is back

New SiteMeter was much less usable than the old one

As you can check, they managed to return to the old SiteMeter within 24 hours. Congratulations. The whole text below becomes obsolete.

Update: Sitemeter claims that they have heard us and they will be implementing a rollback to the website immediately. So please, give them some time. Your patience is what they deserve in this painful situation.
SiteMeter.com, a web service responsible for the counter near the bottom of the right sidebar of this page, has switched to new servers with new software. Click the picture below to zoom in.

The statistics is suddenly shown in Flash applets. Because of the following and other reasons, I believe that the old SiteMeter was more usable:

Time magazine: Northwest Passage navigable

On September 13th, Time magazine (click) informed their readers that "Northwest Passage's navigability was dramatically demonstrated".

Two ships coming from the opposite directions met and astonished Eskimo cheers from both crews echoed through the rock-bound channel. ;-)

The only problem is that it was not September 13th, 2008 but September 13th, 1937. :-) Well, it shouldn't be too shocking because the current Arctic temperature is pretty much what it was in the late 1930s.

Saturday, September 13, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Ike: Wilkinson escapes "certain death"

The residents of Texas beaches near the eye of the hurricane Ike were informed about their "certain death" if they wouldn't evacuate.

Well, about 3 or 4 people died in the U.S. as a result of Ike - which was a tropical storm when this article was first posted and a tropical depression when you read it now - and none of them was in Galveston. In another group of the casualties, a boy tragically died because his father was afraid of Ike and decided to cut a tree and except for two Ike evacuees. Once again, the number of victims of the alarm may exceed the number of victims of the hurricane, suggesting another overreaction.

Tens of thousands of Galveston residents stayed and survived, despite the deadly warnings and despite the memories of a hurricane in 1900 that killed 8,000 people at the same place (and add 400 casualties of a similar hurricane in 1915: they don't really look like man-made events; the majority of the costliest hurricanes since 1900 occurred before 1950).

But Ray Wilkinson (67) of Surfside Beach, TX (check the Google Maps: it's actually a very long island) has literally humiliated the warnings.

Friday, September 12, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

ITER: Nb-Ti superconductor works

On Wednesday, exactly when the LHC saw the first beams, ITER announced good news, too.

Prototype superconductor for tokamak fusion reactor proves successful
What is the state of the thermonuclear art?

JET, the Joint European Torus, was so far the most successful realization of the Russian "Tokamak" (co-authored by Tamm and Sakharov) toroidal technology (the acronym stands for "Toroidal Kamera/Chamber with Magnetic Katushkas/Coil") to sustain thermonuclear fusion: it was able to produce 16 MW for one second.

ITER, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (or "way" in Latin), officially funded since 2006 and under construction in Cadarache, France (Google Maps, Google Earth overlay), is designed to break the record and produce 500 MW for at least 1,000 seconds. However, it is a USD 10 billion project scheduled for 30 years and the energy production might occur after 2018 (the energy will be lost because this is an experimental gadget).

Huge currents (52 kA) and magnetic fields (6.4 T) are needed here. Russia managed to construct the superconducting Nb-Ti wires, Europe succeeded in incorporating them into a broader structure, and Japan successfully tested the superconductor during the last 4 months (see above). It will work.

Eurobarometer: Czechs have the smartest attitude to climate change

Eurobarometer has released its latest poll,

Europeans' attitudes towards climate change (PDF, Google News)
If you go to page 7 ("9 of 145" in the PDF file), you will see the percentages "how many people in each country view climate change as a serious problem". The results are sorted from the sanest countries to the dumbest ones in this respect:
  • 45% Czechia
  • 47% Portugal, Italy; 50% Poland
  • 52% Bulgaria; 57% U.K.; 58% Lithuania, Estonia
  • 60% Romania; 61% Spain, Belgium
  • 62% EU average; 63% Ireland; 64% Malta
  • 66% Slovakia, Latvia, The Netherlands
  • 69% Austria, Luxembourg
  • 71% Hungary, France, Germany, Denmark
  • 73% Finland; 74% Sweden; 80% Slovenia
  • 90% Greece; 92% Cyprus

You see that the differences are substantial and the numbers seem to be largely uncorrelated with the latitude and GDP per capita. But it's arguably scary that only 3 EU members seem to be dominated by climate skeptics.
Related: Czech president Václav Klaus talks about climatism at the Mont Pelerin Society.

Thursday, September 11, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Why the LHC will see the Higgs: Peter Higgs vs Stephen Hawking

Today, dozens of mostly British media including Nature, The Telegraph, The (London) Times, Register, First Post, and many others have exaggerated a story about a "battle of titans": Prof Peter Higgs "attacked" Prof Stephen Hawking, they argue. ;-)

What actually happened was that Stephen Hawking wanted to be interesting, so he "conjectured" that the LHC won't find the Higgs boson. Instead, it could find SUSY or something completely different (or unfamiliar), Hawking claimed. The money he bet, USD 100, are unlikely to bring Stephen Hawking close to bankruptcy. ;-)

See also: The Origin of the Universe: a Crash Course (Brian Greene's op-ed in today's The New York Times)
Well, if recent high-precision measurements as well as SUSY are correct, SUSY could indeed be found before the Higgs particle and the Higgs could even come so late that it could become not only uninteresting but it could even remain undiscovered by the machine.

Prof Higgs was irritated a bit and began to talk about Hawking's paper that is "not good enough". Well, I don't think that there exists any real technical paper by Hawking that supports his no-Higgs scenario. Strange things can happen but the papers that argue that there is nothing like the Higgs boson at all have so far been crappy so I would say that Peter Higgs was correct - and excessively diplomatic because those papers are not really "not good enough" but rather piles of sh*t - and he was correct even if he was talking about a non-existent paper by Hawking.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Ecovandalism becomes legal in the U.K.

Greenpeace celebrates that six ecovandals who have made about GBP 30,000 criminal damage to the Kingsnorth coal power plant (as counted by the costs of removal) were declared not guilty!

The jury decided that they were saving the world, so it was fine to damage the smokestack by painting ("Gordon bin it", but they failed to write "bin it" in time).

See Google News.

Wow. James Hansen played an important role of an "expert" witness in this story. He has participated at many fringe left-wing events in the past, too. In fact, it can be said that James Hansen is the spiritual father of this particular act of eco-terror. One year ago, he said:

It seems to me that young people, especially, should be doing whatever is necessary to block construction of dirty (no CCS) coal-fired power plants.
Let's hope that someone will paint their noses red to really save the world.

Hat tip: Tom Nelson
See also: Watts: NASA, fire Hansen

Smartkit: Alien police of the chronic fellow game

Full screen...
Click any square and the square plus four adjacent squares - in a plus-shaped cross - will change their state. Limited number of moves per level; 35 levels.

Why supersymmetry should be seen at the Large Hadron Collider

The observation of superpartners at the LHC would become the most spectacular discovery in experimental fundamental physics in the last 35 years, to say the least.

Expected breaking news: the LHC first beam day is celebrated by the world, including the Google main page.

Embedded Sky News Live TV was here and removed when the main events ended.
The "First LHC beam" webcast began at 9:00 am, Prague=CERN Summer Time (midnight Californian daylight saving time). At webcast.cern.ch, there were only 2,000 connections: sorry, you're unlikely to connect directly. Qbrick offers a working mirror of CERN TV but at some moments, I embed Sky News Live instead: their programs occasionally differ.

When you're bored, try the other one (Qbrick vs Sky). Sometime after 2:00 p.m., Sky News returned to non-LHC topics for a while (but it's back to the LHC now) while the CERN TV / Qbrick broadcast stopped at 6 p.m. Prague Summer Time.

See Adam Yurkewicz's and David Harris's live blogging from CERN: after adding sectors one by one, the beam 1 has made the full clockwise round trip at 10:23 a.m., as the updated map of sectors and fresh beam event pictures show. Applause! Orgasm across the room (YouTube)!

Unfortunately, a 17-year-old Indian girl was so devastated by the moving pictures (the end of the world) that she committed suicide. Other Indians blame the LHC for an earthquake in Iran. On the other hand, the LHC is supported by all obedient Christians.

After the noon, the beam 2 was getting ready for a counter-clockwise trip. Around 1:40 p.m., the first sector (78) was added to the beam's journey, followed by 67 at 2:02 p.m. when the point 7 (betatron cleaning) was penetrated. Cryogenics was behind the slow progress of this stage. (Sectors around the sector 8 were not always as cool as desired.)

Around 2:15 p.m., the beam unexpectedly stopped right after the point 6 (dump). A difficult period of the LHC history started and it ended by 2:23 p.m. :-) when the beam was already knocking on the CMS (point 5): the glitch was caused by optics. The point 4 (RF) and 3 (momentum cleaning) followed at 2:38 p.m. and one minute later.

At 2:44 p.m. and 2:51 p.m., points 2 (ALICE) and 1 (ATLAS) joined the winners. ATLAS (the only point at the Swiss territory) gave the green light at 3:03 p.m., allowing the beam to reach point 8 (LHCb) and celebrate the second round trip! The director could finally say some nice words to his employees (in French). Each beam took an hour or so to make a round trip, debunking all kinds of pessimists.

See Russia Today and CNN and BBC for fresh video reports on the LHC.

There have been many fascinating people who were speaking on the live webcast - bosses of different teams at the LHC, numerous former and current leaders of CERN, Nobel prize winners, and other famous physicists (such as Rubbia, 't Hooft, Smoot, Randall, and even Mariňo :-) of the topological string fame, among many others). Unfortunately, I can't repeat the whole days of interesting comments.

Supersymmetry (SUSY) would also count as the first experimentally confirmed prediction of string theory that was historically not a postdiction.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Brent crude oil price back below USD 100

Brent at USD 99.56
The U.S. benchmark is currently above USD 102. The previous article about a similar topic - and peak oil - was written when the Brent price was near the record USD 147.25 per barrel, almost 50% above the current price. Is it fair to call it a bursting bubble?

Kasatochi eruption makes sunsets nice

Kasatochi Island is one of the Aleutian islands arranged in a strip located Southwest of Alaska.

Just when the Olympic games were getting started and Georgia attacked South Ossetia - between August 7th and 8th - Kasatochi volcano erupted. The picture above is from Kansas and was taken from a FoxNews story.

Recall that these nice colors have the same reason as the fact that the sky is blue, namely Rayleigh scattering.

This eruption is also likely to cool the climate just a little bit. A much bigger explosion of Mt Pinatubo (Philippines) in 1991 contributed to more than 0.5 °C year-to-year cooling at that time.

RSS MSU: 0.001 deg C cooling last month


UAH MSU reported a 0.07 °C cooling between July and August 2008. The August anomaly was negative: -0.01 °C. It means that the last month was cooler than the average August since 1979.

Also, GISS & sea surface data imply a 0.11 °C cooling between July and August. In August 2008, their anomaly was 0.39 °C, coolest August in this century so far. According to HadCRUT3, the month-on-month cooling was 0.025 °C.

Originally posted on September 4th

RSS MSU shows that the temperature anomaly in August 2008 was 0.146 °C which is 0.001 °C cooler than July 2008. So the month was somewhat warmer than the recent very cold months but it was still cooler than any month between January 2005 and October 2007.

For example, August 2008 was 0.22 °C cooler than August 2007 (one year ago) and, for example, 0.03 °C cooler than August 1991. Also, the January 2008 - August 2008 period was the coldest January-August eight-month period since 1994.

The Solar Activity (or the lack thereof) was perhaps even more interesting: August 2008 was the first spotless month since June 1913 - almost in 100 years.

You may also be interested in the sea level rise during the last 15 years. Click at the following picture from Accuweather to zoom in:

Because of winds and other things, even the sign of the sea level rise is very non-uniform. For example, all readers in California experienced a sea level decrease in the last 15 years. The global average was 3 mm/year.

Also, if you care about the Lewis Pugh kayak expedition to the North Pole: no padding today because they didn't find a break in the ice. ;-) At least, they're preparing 192 flags and they met a polar bear. The map indicates that they're trying to return to Spitsbergen.

Monday, September 08, 2008 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Three years of prison for a few longhorn beetles

Update, September 10th: Švácha, the more famous scientist, was released while Kučera, his assistant, was given 3 years of prison. The asymmetry wasn't quite explained.

Update, October 26th: Like in the Hollywood movies, Petr Kučera has liberated himself
Today, a court in Delhi, India decided that a Czech entomologist, Mr Petr Švácha, and his assistant, Mr Emil Kučera, will be imprisoned for at least 3 years (at most 7 years: to be decided on Wednesday; plus, much less importantly, a USD 200 fine) for collecting about 200 beetles and their larvae in India, despite calls from 800 scientists from the whole world who wanted their colleagues to be released (petition).

Petr Švácha (Entomological Institute, Czech Academy of Sciences) needed some butterflies plus a few specimen to complete his book about longhorn beetles. The trip was partly funded by the Czech Entomological Society. The good Indian folks not only stole a few dozens of the small (living) animals but, incidentally, also all of their equipment.

Officially, the researchers' "crime" was that the place where they collected the insect was a national park: it is not clear whether they even knew about this fact. These coincidences have led to a violation of the local 1972 Wildlife Protection Act. Well, the Indian people who want to put the scientists in jail are wild life forms themselves and when wild life becomes existentially dangerous for humans, it might be a better idea not to protect it too much.

Insect is the most overpopulated class of animals on Earth, containing about 90% of all the animal species - about 30 million species even though the error margin of this figure is nearly an order of magnitude (partly because scientists are not allowed to work). And I don't even want to talk about the trillions of the actual pieces of insect that live with us on this planet. There's so much of it - and of the species - that you will never see most of the species and the diversity only has a real value for true experts such as the two Czech scientists.

Cucujus bicolor (click), the most precious piece on a list that was identified. This ugly guy can send you to a dirty prison for 3-7 years and you don't even have to kill it. The Indian guys clearly think it is more valuable than a human being. Holy cow. Whoops, holy cows are also infinitely valuable there. ;-)

I wonder whether the Indian authorities behave as science-hating primitives only because they have lost the enlightened imperial supervision by the United Kingdom. But when I read what a top U.K. science adviser said about particle physics and space research yesterday, I am inclined to believe that the Indian independence is not the main reason of their barbarian behavior. ;-)

Who is Tamino?

Who is Tamino at tamino.wordpress.com, a blogger who loves to date famous climate alarmists? Try to guess. A few hints.

In 2001, a musician wrote a shameful self-promotion at a USENET newsgroup, alt.fairs.renaissance: see the post.

It just happened that he was a member of the renaissance music duo, Bedlam Boys, founded in Boston in 1998 (a song at YouTube).

David Shukman & BBC on the LHC

The BBC has created a pretty nice introduction to the Large Hadron Collider, the marvelous experiment where the protons should begin their revolutions (but not yet collisions) on Wednesday.

I chose these comments about the Grid (computing). But he also talks about CMS, Atlas, Alice, LHCb, Tunnel, Grid, and others. Videos, pictures, and words are included.

On Wednesday, at 9:00 a.m. Prague Summer Time, you should watch CERN Webcast with the first beam. The TV program (that you know from Strings 2008) is already broadcasting some stuff now. Enjoy.

Meanwhile, most of the media coverage (hundreds of articles) talks about the end of the world. What would you expect? Find "communication" in IQ in different fields. Only teachers and public administrators are lower. ;-) For example, what's your estimate of the IQ of Sarah? My estimate is 85.

Obama: my Muslim faith

Around 1:20, Obama says that "McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith". Now, because this is not a cheap blog abusing three words for political reasons, let us analyze the slip a bit more closely.

At the very beginning of the video, the host (George Stephanopoulos) talks about Obama's Christian faith. The discussion becomes a bit contrived and Obama suddenly mentions "my Muslim faith".

So what did he mean in that sentence? I see three basic answers:

  1. he meant "my Christian faith", as the host corrected him
  2. he meant "my alleged Muslim faith [that doesn't exist]"
  3. he meant "my Muslim faith" because he just happened to open his heart at that moment.
At some moment, I found the answer "2" to be the most likely one. Imagine that someone may claim that you're a gay but you're not. Would you say "McCain hasn't talked about my homosexuality?" I doubt it. You would use a formulation that makes it clearer that it is a false accusation.

Also, if Obama meant "my alleged Muslim faith", I find it unlikely that he would "okay" the host's correction afterwords. The host suggested a correction "my Christian faith" and Obama agreed with the correction. If he meant "my alleged links with Islam", he would have insisted on that when the host tried to correct him. He kind of did it, too - but only another second later. Obama simply looked very confused about what he actually wanted to say. So does it mean that "1" is correct and Obama was talking about his Christian faith?

Two new Mersenne primes & Mersenne's 420th birthday

Marin Mersenne was born on September 8th, 1588, which is exactly 420 years ago. Exactly one week ago, on September 1st, we also celebrated the 360th anniversary of his death (lung abscess). Together with the two new numbers (two new largest known primes) announced below, we have a quadruple opportunity to talk about Mersenne.

After two years, the GIMPS project found two new Mersenne primes (of the form 2^p - 1) almost simultaneously. Only 46 such numbers are known and only 44 of them are known to the public so far. ;-)

The numbers are called after Marin Mersenne and I will talk about him below.

M45 and M46 were announced on August 23rd, 2008 and September 6th, 2008, respectively. The verification process took two weeks or so (in each case): the exponents are therefore around 40 million which means that they will exceed the 10 million decimal digits condition to win USD 100,000 (one-half of which goes to the person who runs the program).

The exponent found in August 2008 is 43,112,609, almost 13 million digits, while the September 2008 exponent is 37,156,667, around 11 million digits.

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