Thursday, August 04, 2011

Cuba enters serious string theory research

As you may have noticed, the wealthy island of Cuba lost its glamorous adjectives in 1959 when a group of criminals and murderers around Fidel Castro and Che Guevara overtook the country and changed an oasis of prosperity to a land of friends of the communist Czechoslovakia, among others. ;-)

Today, the GDP of what used to be an equivalent of Florida is below $10,000 per capita (PPP) while the nominal GDP per capita is just $5,000; the population is 11 million. Compare it with Mexico which is not exactly an example of a rich, safe, and stable country. Its GDP is $14,000 per capita (PPP) and the nominal one is $10,000; and the population is 110 million. One may accumulate a factor-of-two difference in GDP in 50 years if the growth differential is 1.4% every year.

Nevertheless, there are signs that recently slightly liberalized Cuba is overtaking countries such as Mexico in some disciplines, maybe even in theoretical physics. Well, one swallow doesn't make a Spring. But it is an impressive swallow, anyway.

A new, seemingly German hep-th paper
A perfect match of MSSM-like orbifold and resolution models via anomalies
is showing that heterotic strings on smooth resolved Calabi-Yau manifolds - which look very hard from the computational viewpoint because the manifolds are so curved and generic - are actually as easy as the heterotic strings on toroidal orbifolds - which have always looked easy. The authors construct an explicit map between the chiral spectra of the smooth and singular models using a method in which the Green-Schwarz anomaly polynomial plays the key role.

It's a totally sensible technical task, the results - if correct - seem to be pretty important for the heterotic model building. And the authors clearly know what they're talking about. Look at the paper: its quantitative content looks formidable.

But it's just fun to look at the list of the four authors. Their names don't seem to be uniformly German. Michael Blaszczyk is clearly Polish in origin. The last two names sound German or at least Germanic but the second name is Ms Nana Geraldine Cabo Bizet. That's pretty Spanish. But not Spanish Spanish. :-)

She wrote some two papers about QCD and received a diploma from the Abdus Salam ICTP in 2007. But the pre-history is more fascinating. In 2006, she received a Masters degree in physics at University of Havana where she got a more ordinary diploma in 2004. To make the story even more amusing, it was 5 years after she completed the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin high school in 1999. :-)

And she works in Bonn, Germany, like the other authors.

But if you think about it, the idea that a co-author of a serious and complex (look at the tables and equations) paper on heterotic supersymmetric string theory model model building was almost fully educated in Cuba is kind of mind-boggling which is why I am mind-blogging about it. It's the same island that is trying to hide its slums - which were photographed by the Czech supermodel Helena Houdová who stored the memory card of her digital camera in her bra (TRF).

A supermodel may show that the island belongs to the third world; nevertheless, people who grew up there may work on heterotic supersymmetric models and still be associated with the institutions in their homeland. Meanwhile, Mexico is supporting pseudoscientists promoting medieval superstitions about loop quantum gravities and spin foams, the kind of mental garbage that was also promoted by a very painful, negative, and vacuous preprint by Carlo Rovelli today, too. Haven't we already outgrown this ideological cranky junk, Mr Rovelli? It's 2011 now.

I am actually impressed that the Cuban officials allow her to be associated with the imperialist science that string theory is. That's not to say that string theorists themselves are not left-wingers; most of them are. But they could only achieve all these remarkable achievements because of a generous enough funding by rich countries and because of capitalism-like, competitive pressures that have existed in the theoretical physics research itself as well.

So I hope that it's also a sign that once communism sizzles out, Cuba will choose to switch from the "second world" where it has belonged for 50+ years to the "first world" and not the "third world".


  1. About Cuba, considering its proximity to the US, I really think they're better off communist. Sure, the embargo has been crippling, but at least they have doctors. Compare Cuba to Haiti.

    Communism is a decent choice when you're right up next to the biggest, most obnoxious imperialists in the world.

  2. Is this a joke or is it serious? Honestly, I can't tell.

  3. Cuba there are several universities where one can study physics, maths and other sciences. There is even an institute where one investigates high energy physics. Why is it so strange that a young Phd girl comes from Cuba. She just had to study physics at the university, and since the government has no job for her, they let her go abroad to do some science in a rich country, exactly as the thousands of russian or checzs or ....

  4. You're surely joking as well, aren't you?

    The difference between Cuba in 2011 on one side and Czechia or Russia in 2011 on the other side is that Czechia and Russia are no longer communist countries, so indeed, the governments allow people to travel abroad.

    I assure you that when we were as communist as Cuba is today, people were *not* allowed by the communist government to go to the West and work there.

    Have you ever heard about the Iron Curtain? The only thing that people could do was to desert from vacations in Yugoslavia, or sail a boat across the Baltic Sea, or something like that, and emigrate. But this was an irreversible decision - until the end of communism.

    I am confident that it wasn't really allowed in Cuba until recently, either. Cuban people had to go through quite some adventures if they wanted to get to Florida, or something like that. And if this work abroad becomes tolerated by the Cuban regime, it's very clear that a clear end to the totalitarian communism arrives within years if not months, too.

    People who know the West will know a little bit too much not to realize that something is seriously screwed in their homeland.

  5. I'm Cuban and I can tell you that there are thousands of people who live and work abroad. This has been going on for at least 30 years. You need to go to Cuba and learn a little of what life is like there. It is no longer like in the old communist block times. Even though there are still some restrictions, it is mainly professionals who have it easier to leave, go back, work abroad, study abroad, etc.

  6. Dear mayte, welcome here. Where are you located now?

    I am sure that your "30 years" is at least exaggerated. The traveling out of Cuba in the 1980s was surely as rare as it was in Eastern Europe.

    Whom do you call "professionals" i.e. who has this basic human right that other Cubans don't have?

    The usual recipe for travel from communist countries relies on a combination of some "unusual professional skills" and a sufficient ideological compatibility with the communist party. Havel was surely a "professional" of a sort as well but he couldn't travel. Or if they allowed him to go away, they wouldn't allow him to return.

    The Czechoslovak communists allowed some ideologically untested musicians or athletes - like Matuška, Lendl, Navrátilová - to travel but they were very sorry about the outcome at the end, at least in most cases. :-) Those successful Czechs created the conscience among their countrymates about the better life abroad. That's despite the fact that Matuška couldn't resume his music career - he spoke next to no English - so he was singing in the pub for a pint of beer. Fortunately, his wife was a millionaire :-) so it didn't hurt.

    But this contact with Czechs who were clearly better off and who clearly accepted the rules of capitalism - and these two things were clearly correlated - were among the main factors that convinced most of the people to oppose the communist regime. I am sure this works in any nation.

    The young physicist in Germany is getting about 10 times the average Cuban salary and I am sure that many others in Cuba notice. Some of them surely do realize that an important reason why they don't have as much freedom and wealth as she does *is* related to the regime that has existed in Cuba since 1959.

    No doubt, Batista wasn't perfect and it's easy to sling mud on him. But his system was surely better than the Cuban communist system and it would have evolved into something much better by today, so comparing Batista in the early 1950s to regimes in 2011 is really a demagogy because functional societies always see some progress.


  7. Dear Lubos,

    You are an ignorant and an arrogant. Stop reading U.S news papers.

  8. "Compare Cuba to Haiti"??? Cuba has never been compared to Haiti, simply because Cuba was until 1959 one of the most advanced countries in the region. Only NOW can Cuba be compared to Haiti: before Cuba had more movie houses, more television sets and telephones and cars than Spain, Portugal or Hungary and Austria. And before 1959 Cuba already had more doctors per capita than most countries. Most medical institutions in Cuba predate the revolution. The only crippling embargo is the one imposed by the 50 years rule of an inept despot.

  9. Dear Lubos, I can see you have little idea of what you are speaking (=Cuba).
    First of all, I am Cuban and know Cuba really well. I am not joking at all. The problem is that you misunderstood what I wrote or that I was not clear enough: I didn't say that she was allowed from the Cuban side to go outside of Cuba like the Russians were, but rather that she like the Russians got money, a job paid by the Germans.

    Now, since you want to go into the details, I will answer as best as I can but it will be long and complicated like everything is in Cuba. In synthesis, for scientists in Cuba, there are 2 ways of exiting Cuba: through their job in a collaboration, or a training, even a phd, before '90 to the Comm. Block and after everywhere (a lot of cubans studied abroad before '89)...second option (only after '93) was on a personal matters trip (this would be extremely complicated to explain but you can read about it just google it or ask any Cuban, basicaly you have to be invited, Cuba has to have no more use of you etc...)

    Now Lubos, what you say about scientists not being allowed to travel out of Russia is false...check it...they sometimes even taught in the US...but it is true that it was not free at all...

    So in a nutshell, what wonders me is that you write as if you had discovered something incredible that has been going on for 18 years. On a personal note I know Nana and I know how she got the permit to exit Cuba, I didnt just go to her facebook page like you did and copy and paste everything that was there.

    What Maite said to you by professionals is that a waiter even if he is allowed to leave Cuba does not find a job as easily as a Cuban engineer...but there are a lot of Cuban waiters in Europe and America...ah the salary is not 10 times more it is almost 100 times more...and please dont speak about have no clues...he was a dictator and killed many people...otherwise 99% of the Cubans wouldnt have wanted Castro in ' wikipedia at least...Batista's system was not really that great. As a proof I can cite that all Anti Castro people also hate Batista.

    dont be like a physicist that tries to extrapolate his knowledge of one country to really know nothing about Cuba, or very little, if you want I can recommend some books...Imagine I would try to explain the Czech Republic (there is no Czechia in English) starting from the Cuban experience that I have. A blogger writes whatever comes to his mind. A journalist has to study first what he is writing about. And you have not done that here. You just assume facts that you IMAGINE must be like this or like that...

  10. Néstor your data are correct. But you see the side that you want. What was the number of people that could read, and how many black doctors, and who owned the land and then why were 99% of the people pro Castro in 1959? I am sure in your family people were pro Castro in 1959...
    The US Blocade has cost some money... around 10% every year on average...thats not a lot, I agree...but that is more than anything...