Friday, August 10, 2012

\({\mathcal F}\)-\(SU(5)\): LSPs, stops, and proton decay could be seen soon

The "aromatic" papers by Li, Maxin, Nanopoulos, and Walker have been discussed many times on this blog. They have a new preprint today,
A \(125.5\GeV\) Higgs Boson in \({\mathcal F}\)-\(SU(5)\): Imminently Observable Proton Decay, A \(130\GeV\) Gamma-ray Line, and SUSY Multijets & Light Stops at the LHC8
Once again, they update their best fits involving their favorite stringy inspired supersymmetric grand unified scenario, the \({\mathcal F}\)-\(SU(5)\) models, and announce that the recently measured data and tiny excesses could be mutually consistent and suggest the looming discovery of several new effects.

In that framework, one is led to include new vector-like matter multiplets, the "flippons". In the newest paper, these particles are a bit lighter than before, perhaps closer to \(1\TeV\) or even their best fit \(700\GeV\) than \(3\TeV\) if we mention their typical interval for the flippon masses. That allows them to argue that the Higgs mass should be \(125.5\GeV\), the average of the CMS and ATLAS observed values. The lighter "flippons" contribute greater loop corrections that raise the original value of \(124\GeV\).

The same point of the parameter space would also predict the lightest neutralino of mass\[

{\Large m_{\tilde \chi} \approx 145\GeV}.

\] Forgive me bigger fonts in the displayed equations. I want all the double subscripts below to look great – and I want to show you how beautiful the \(\rm\LaTeX\)-produced mathematical equations and fonts are. Two such LSPs could pair-annihilate into \[

{\Large \tilde \chi \tilde \chi \to \gamma Z,}

\] thus producing the \(130\GeV\) gamma-ray line identified in the Fermi data by Christoph Weniger.

Their best fit – and again, I am afraid that what they're doing is the sin of overfitting – implies a gluino and light stop with masses\[

{\Large m_{\tilde g} = 945\GeV,\quad m_{\tilde t_1}=777\GeV }

\] which isn't exactly the "very light stop squark" (like one employed by Hooper and Buckley) but it should also gradually become visible in the 2012 data if the stop is really over there. The stop decays mostly to the top quark and the LSP.

Their scenario doesn't have to be correct – I am really not promising you it's correct, especially because I carefully observe the status of several other "specific enough models" which make slightly different predictions. But it could be very well correct, too.

If that's true, we should expect not only some groundbreaking discovery at the LHC soon; there would be other consequences for the experiments. A clearer evidence for the \(130\GeV\) gamma-ray line could strengthen the picture. But there is one more effect we often neglected in recent years: the proton decay.

The simplest grand unified model would predict the proton lifetime something like \(10^{31}\) years which would soon be falsified. Georgi and Glashow only dared to suggest the simplest model and when they were slapped in face by Nature, they immediately left the program. Other people concluded that the idea of grand unification is way too precious to be abandoned this easily; they constructed more nonminimal models that are compatible with the experiments. But they still have to struggle to remain compatible. The current lower bound on the lifetime set by the Čerenkov detector of the Super-Kamiokande lab is something like\[

{\Large \tau_{p} \geq 1.4\times 10^{34}\,{\rm years}}

\] A funny thing about their preferred point is that the predicted proton lifetime could be just a little bit higher than that,\[

{\Large \tau_{p} \approx 1.7\times 10^{34}\,{\rm years}}.

\] So the proton decay could be seen rather soon. Well, I think it should already be a bit worrying for them that it hasn't been seen yet; a simple way to justify this assertion of mine is to say that a \(1.4\times 10^{34}\) years lower bound at the 95% confidence level is probably equivalent to a \(1.8\times 10^{34}\) years (that's not an exact number, just an estimate to sketch a concept) lower bound at the 80% confidence level so at this reduced level of "certainty", the "best fit" figure predicted by these four authors has been falsified, too. I must mention that in this model, the dominant decay channels for the proton are\[

{\Large p\to e^+ \pi^0,\quad p\to \mu^+ \pi^0}

\] while the first one is a bit more frequent. Needless to say, their claims are huge, bold, and extraordinary. It is a priori very likely that they will be falsified. The discovery of the "dark matter particle" would be a huge event in the history of physics; the discovery of the "stop squark" would be a bombshell; the discovery of the "proton decay" would be stunning; these four physicists are effectively saying that we will witness not just one but all these events within a few years (if not months).

But even though I think that they overestimate the importance of some small excesses and their fits are overfitting (they are effectively fitting the noise i.e. trying to find a deep explanation for something that is likely to be just a coincidence) and they may even exhibit some bias towards "physics right behind the corner", something I have often criticized and something that's been largely invalidated by the first year and a half of the serious LHC data, such a model would not only be extremely far-reaching in physics but the probability that it is valid seems sufficiently high to me to justify several articles on this blog.

So let's stay tuned. ;-)


  1. I never or almost never have anything to say about your physics posts, but I'll chance it this time. A couple years ago or something, one of the breakfast cereal companies test-marketed a cereal called "Immune Response." I thought this was inspired :-), but I went them one better :-) :

    The City of Hope (hospital) was always advertising their proton radiation treatment on the radio, so I invented a cereal called "Proton Source," based on the idea that protons are vital for human health. Now, if there's any chance that what you're talking about in this post implies an unexpectedly early end to the universe, then there may be a real need for my cereal. :-)

  2. Well,I think it is more probable the proton decay will be seen soon than light magnetic monopoles ever seen in CERN :)

  3. Dear Lumo,
    thanks for this update and I like the big font equations a lot :-).
    If at least one of the author's claims (of not the whole model) would become true, that would be a great relieve for physics I think since it would blow some evil sourballs away ...
    I feel a bit exhausted because I had too much "fun" in the comments below the two most recent posts on Matt Strasslers blog about some issues that really bugged me the last days ...
    So this nice article was very welcome to me as a nice and relaxing reading :-)


  4. BTW, Who is the most prominent Greek physicist abroad according to your opinion? Nanopoulos, Dimopoulos or Antoniadis? Here in Greece Nanopoulos is the only one known to the public.

    Personally I believe Papageorgakis has done some important work on M5/M2 branes. He has a bright future ahead...

  5. So do I, unless Leonard, Howard, and Rajesh will improve the data, of course. ;-)

  6. I was also excited about this paper, and Im guessing we may have a much better idea this very month! (SUSY 2012) Based on my quick read I was not certain whether the 145 GeV lightest neutralino was a genuine prediction of the best fit involving just the Higgs/SUSY searches, or if they had already factored in the 130 GeV dark matter signal, but if that agreement was truly organic then that seems to be another eyebrow-raising reason to take this construction seriously. (from your entry Im guessing it is indeed the case)

    While we wait for the data to come in, I'd be really interested to try and learn more about how this fits into a top-down stringy picture. I understand that, as they say, the flippon particles are realized within F-theory model building. But what about realizing it along with the rest of our usual SM/MSSM matter content? Im curious to know more about how complete that picture is, how constrained or not is it, etc. Maybe you can solicit a guest blog ;]

    Im also curious about its compatibility with what I consider one of the most impressive stringy "retrodictions", which is Vafa's derivation of the CKM matrix. If this construction is consistent (or maybe just "close"?) to that setup of Vafa's, that would be even more awesome. If so, the combination of these two pictures, maybe after some fresh theory work, might win us some clearly testable predictions and consistency checks. I was thinking in terms of neutrino flavor physics, but maybe other things too... Even based on just what we know now, the confirmation of this model would already seem to be a huge victory for string theory, but maybe it could also deliver the kind of bounty that would silence the schmoits of the world for good.

  7. Dear Giotis, I am no rating agency but I would still choose Savas Dimopoulous as the pick among his age peers. ;-) After all, he still co-fathered the MSSM, among other "less standard" things such as the large dimensions...

  8. Bad news for MoEDAL guys :) I guess Leo,Howy and Raj should upgrade beam energy of LHC by several orders of magnitude to give it some chance.And Sheldon should work more on theory predicting range of MM masses :)

  9. Dear Dilaton, thanks - I hope you will also have time to relax.

    The discovery of each thing would be cool. In this case, the discoveries are being correlated - the theory containing all of them is more convincing than "just the same of the parts" because the features seem to be coherent in that framework.

    I reapproved your test Disqus comment which removed the flag - the message was visible all the time. I don't believe that by labeling a message as flagged, it could have been made disappeared without my knowledge.

  10. Ha ha, I really thought already when having fun at Matt Strassler s blog, that this must be a very nice wise Dude ... :-). But I`m almost ashamed to say that I need an additional hint ... :-/?
    In this case it is really horrible that Matt Strassler cencored him out. Already some time ago I got the impression that Matt Strassler does no longer think much about all of the beyond the standard model physics and even dislikes string theory now for example. He just keeps looking for these things at the LHC because it has to be done to properly follow the principle of science but he said that his live would be much easier if these things could be excluded (got rid of) rather quickly ... So I'm afraid in principle he rather agrees with the dangerous evil sourballs which is probably an explanation for his censoring out Dude' s helpful comments (Lumo I want to exactly know who that was, LOL :-D!) and why he condemns the new Fundamental Physics Price :-(((. He only disagrees with the dangerous trolls if they make scientifically not exact comments but with their general attitude concerning modern physics he probably agrees.

  11. Dear Dilaton, what you say is very sensible and reflect my values and passions, too.

    I just read what Matt was saying about the Milner Prize. He dislikes it because it's a hero worship thing and he would prefer not-yet-fully-appreciated scientists who may be slightly less achieved than the 9 inaugural winners (perhaps at Rutgers?) and he worries that the prize could be a self-reproducing gadget for super top scientists.

    That's very bizarre because the reason why I think that this prize is great that it is a hero worship, something that creates heroes out of the people who should actually be heroes in a civilized cultural society - the truly top physics brains - and moreover, their being advisers for the next winners is what makes top theoretical physicists a self-reproducing gadget which is insanely good because top physicists such as these 9 are exactly what should be reproduced as much as possible.

    As you can see, I think that the MIlner Prize is a great contribution to the humanity pretty much exactly for the reasons why Matt thinks it's no good.

    Your description of Matt's sentiments reflects my feelings, too. He no longer has any passions, he views science as a big bureaucracy where everyone just has to follow some mechanical rituals to evaluate things and how to behave. I wouldn't personally pay a million of dollars for this conception of science. Theoretical high-energy physics of 2012 doesn't have practical applications but it's has an immense value because it's giving us ever shaper and clearer explanations, it moves us closer to God, it addresses some really great questions we care about and we keep on refining. If these big visions and things we really care about became absent, HEP physics would become a worthless extra layers of bureaucracy. Yes, I often has the feeling that Matt has already "upgraded" his attitude to physics to the status of the new layer of bureaucracy.

  12. Yesterday I almost had to vomit because of a stomach-churning when reading in the teletext of our once serious TV program 3SAT the announcement about the reemission of a certain Nano Spezial with the title "Physik vor dem Kollaps":

    featuring can you guess who ...? Yep Mr. Alexander Unzicker :-((( !
    I really cant believe this !!! In TV programms or in written media contributions about physics physicists, who actually work in the field, are no longer allowed to speak and present their own work. All of the broadcasting time and space to place interviews or reports is used for nothing else than promoting the worst evil trolls who want to destroy physics :-(((. But what can be done about it if those cool, wise, nice physicists do not defend themselfs...? I dont want cool physics to get destroyed, so people please please please do something about this !

  13. It's creepy, Dilaton. I was just watching Betty Heidler, a smiling cute DDR babe, throwing a hammer. So at least someone managed to "balance" my otherwise enthusiastic perception of Germany. ;-/

    Unzicker is of course a natural populist. A high school teacher like himself is close to the ultimate mediocrity so many average people may identify with him. For various reasons, Dieter Lüst would have a much harder job, for example. But those things have to be done. Dieter and others should find some friends who may be their faces on TV or whatever but the real point of science simply has to get through instead of strengthening hardcore crackpot screaming about der Physik vor der Kollaps.

  14. I unfortunately dont have a good TV face, LOL ... :-D :-P
    ... and maybe I liked this Dude already before our comments at Matt Strassler's blog, who knows ... :-)?

  15. Capitalist and Imperialist PigAug 10, 2012, 10:35:00 PM

    Hey Lubos, have you read this information about Peter Woit? It's shocking. Devastating:

  16. Lubos and Dilaton = Batman and Robin. :-)

  17. :-)))

    Thanks Shannon, LOL :-D

  18. Thanks, Shannon, too! Isn't it the other way around? ;-)

  19. Now Nature is even promoting the troll Robert L. Oldershaw that is known from vixra for example and that pops up below every online article about physics topics :-(((:

    I`ve reported every one of his trolling comments for moderation but they do absolutely nothing about it.
    Maybe they misunderstood my flag and thought that is something they should feature instead of deleting :-/ ?

  20. Nah, you're the batman Lubos ;^)

  21. It reminds me of one of the Mladek jokes I was listening to again.

    Two mice are chatting. Do you know I was just dating a cool new (male) mouse? Wow, did you? Can you show me his picture?

    The first mouse shows the photograph of her ex to the other mouse who replies: But it's a bat!

    And the bastard was boasting he was a pilot. ;-)

  22. Very well said, Lubos. You (and Milner) are helping to keep the spirit of adventure alive. And I wish you the best in your "big projects". I would like nothing better than to see you come up with advances that would earn you a Milner prize. That would really make my day!

  23. Yeah Lumo, go and get one of these bucks ... ;-) :-D :-) !!!

  24. "Forgive me bigger fonts in the displayed equations."

    and me English;-)

  25. Hi jitter, to make your comment constructive, could you please also write down what's the right way to formulate this sentence?

  26. "Forgive me for the bigger fonts..." I forget the grammatical name for this, something like "linking words" or "transition words." The way you've written it the "forgive me" and "bigger fonts..." are not related to each other and are just two independent fragments.

  27. Dear Lubos, "forgive" here is a transitive verb and it takes either a direct object (which would be in the accusative case in Czech, right?) or a direct object preceded by an indirect object (dative case in Czech?). Thus,

    Forgive the bigger fonts [direct object only]
    Forgive me the bigger fonts [direct object preceded by indirect object]
    (In both cases, note the definite article "the" belonging to the direct object "bigger fonts".)
    Thus the only thing "wrong" with your sentence was that you omitted the "the". (Bonus points if you can hum "Our House In the Middle of the Street".)

    It is also possible that jitter was not attempting to point out your mistake so much as that s/he was poking fun at a particular variant of spoken English -- perhaps his/her own? -- in which the possessive pronoun "my" becomes "me" :)

  28. OK, next time I will try to be more constructive. I am not as good at english as you and it is my only language. Eugene S has given a good rundown of my post. Thanks Eugene.

    PS. I see we have a Higgs transition in spin ice to go with the Higgs exitations. How many more symmetries can we expect the Higgs mechanism to break and what other fields can it be used in?

  29. Apologies, I will probably not learn that. That's the first time I hear about "transition words" and your precise wording wasn't among my candidates at all even though it sounds just fine.

  30. Thanks, Eugene, your fix *was* among the things I expected. Still, I will use the inequivalence of your and j's corrections as an excuse not to learn "it" whatever "it" is in this case.

    After all those years, I still don't understand [the] articles. It's not clear to me why I am not allowed to drop "the" in the plural which would indicate the plural from "a/an", meaning that I am not talking about any particular bigger fonts.

  31. Forgive my bigger fonts, was what I assumed you ment. Maybe you could have got away with:
    Forgive me, bigger fonts.
    I'm no expert at punctuation.

  32. To be perfectly honest, we would not want you to change. An occasional linguistic quirk adds color and makes for a nice substitute to hearing the accent "live". Plus there is the matchless efficiency of the Slavic languages. Indeed, who really needs definite articles?

    "Hey dude, we're looking for the party?"

    "In Soviet Russia, Party finds YOU."

  33. Kidding aside, I agree that English can be confusing. For example, you could write "Forgive my using bigger fonts etc." and here it is "correct" to drop the definite article. The difference is that now you have the gerund "using". But why is the definite article dropped in the presence of a gerund? Ah, that's a mystery, at least to me. Probably someone has written a scholarly monograph on this very topic...

  34. Now Nature has banned me (Diappointed Reader) for critizising and disagreing with the troll RLO below the new article about the FFP instead of throwing the troll out, LOL :-D

    The research part of Nature may still be ok (I dont know ?), but serious physicists and other people who love physics better forget about NATURE NEWS. Nature News has intentionally become one of the cheapest "boulevard" magazins where physicists and people who actually do the work are no longer allowed to talk and defend their own work and serious readers who love physics are chased away.
    But trolling and mudd slinging on real physicists and their work and on other nice people who want to help fundamental physics for example is highly encouraged by Nature :-/

    I fear the same goes for all of the popular media including various newspapers, TV channels, online news, etc ...
    I have now completely lost my last confidence in any kind popular media...

  35. Thanks for your kind words, Eugene. It's really a biological incapability of mine. I would be able to produce almost all the alternative correct forms of the sentences but when I write down a wrong one, I just have no way to find out it's wrong.

    To keep most sentences linguistically right and "almost reliable", I am already inflating an average sentence by something like 15%. There's a trade-off and I just don't want to increase this figure too much above the current level because it would mean inefficiency. I prefer to betray my ignorance of English at some moments over another increase of the "correctness" of the language.

    In the USSR joke about the party, I may understand roughly what the joke is about but if the articles play a crucial role in the joke, I didn't get it. The [communist] party is just "Strana" in Czech or "Partiya" in Russian and there's just never any article. Declension and other things guarantee that there are no ambiguities without articles - even though we also have the freedom to order the main words in a sentence into pretty much any order. The need for a special ordering already looks extremely unnatural, inhuman, and constraining to me, and [the] dependence on [the] right articles whose presence has never been described by a complete enough set of rules is just annoying.

    On the other hand, I believe that even more intuition may be needed to use Slavic languages properly. They're much more "human-like". Well, I actually believe that all these subtleties may be summarized by rules etc. but there are just too many of them with many exceptions etc.

  36. Your ban sucks, Dilaton! If I didn't consider Nature to be irrelevant in our fields, I would get really upset by this terror by the trolls. ;-)

  37. Maybe the TROLLMASTER owns Nature, Scientific American, certain TV channels, etc and his subtrolls are sitting at the various relevant positions in these media (as reviewrs, editors, comment moderators etc) ?
    It is now clear that the popular media ban any common reader who disagrees with the trolls. But I`m wondering if the same would happen to renowned physicists, such as the nine FFP winners for example, too ?
    Even if the fundamental physics community would agree to start some serious correlated efforts to defend itself against the omnipresent trolls, it could be difficult to put this into practice. It seems that the popular mass media are no longer willing to devote any significient broadcasting time or space in print media to real physicists who have to say something. They are completely taken over by people who just want to promote evil trolls and destroy science :-(((.
    I'm so sad and upset about this since I really love fundamental physics :-/ !

    Yesterday I've seen the movie Neverland (which explains the prehistory of Peter Pan) wherein an Alchemist has created a nice place of refuge for the most valuable people of the society (artists, philosophers, scientists, etc) for them to live in peace forever undisturped by trolls :-). Maybe we need something analogue for our cool physicists too to evacuate them ?

    You once said it was not a good idea to try to explain advanced topics to a broader less educated public. I think I agree now with this (even though I would not know about fundamental physics, which I love so very much now, if I had not read "Out of this world" some years ago and I would not know you and TRF ;-) ...). Talking about it in the popular literature and in the mass media has brought nothing but perdition about fundamental physics, I just hope it will not be its ruin :-/

    Now I need to do something that makes me happy again ;-)

  38. There's no difference of meaning between "Forgive me my X" and "Forgive me for my X." The 1st one is sort of poetic. The same goes for "Forgive him/them his/their X" and the alternative.

    "I forgive you your X" is not as likely an utterance; it would sound "lordly."

  39. Lubos - I once asked a Russian whether it is true that Russian has no syllable stress. He said, "We do, but each person invents his own for the occasion." :-) Is that true?

  40. At the risk of beating a dead horse (remember Rodion Raskolnikov's dream? nevermind...), my lame "party/Party" joke was meant to illustrate the perils of dropping (or, not recognizing the importance of) the definite article. Sorry for being unfunny :(

    Keep in mind that we have languages not so that we can communicate, but so that we can quickly sniff out who is an outsider. The crazy quilt of rules, exceptions, and exceptions from the exceptions helped our neolitihic ancestors to know who was in in and who was not. In World War II, the OSS sent an operative behind enemy lines, a linguistic prodigy who had learned flawless, accent-free German. Every detail, down to the buttons on his uniform, was perfect. Then he sat down to dinner in the officer's mess and after cutting his steak, moved his fork to the right hand. The Nazis killed him on the spot.

    Table manners, idioms, articles.. it's all designed for the same purpose.

  41. Aha, I just thought of an extremely well known example:

    ... and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us ...

  42. Keep in mind that we have languages not so that we can communicate, but
    so that we can quickly sniff out who is an outsider. The crazy quilt of
    rules, exceptions, and exceptions from the exceptions helped our
    neolitihic ancestors to know who was in and who was not.

    Not so that we can communicate!? No, that's absurd.

  43. You may call it absurd, but it's the only sensible explanation for the linguistic diversity found in places like Papua New Guinea. Note, please, that I said that we have "languages [plural] not so that we can communicate (...)", not "language" [singular]. This is by no means an original thought of mine but fairly standard linguistic theory.

  44. ... Lumo should warn me if I`m becoming a too canonical spammer ... :-P :-D :-)

    But I`m still so upset, worried and shocked by what I`ve learned the last tree days or so about the much more complete predominance of the trolls and sourballs in the media than I could have imagined it :-(

    I was and I still am very happy about what Mr. Milner has done for fundamental physics; Lumo do you know if he reads TRF ... :-) ? But I`m no longer sure if the Milner foundation should not better just award the prices as intended, but forget about trying to popularize fundamental physics ? For example concerning the public lectures (How I would like to watch them!) such bad and shocking attacks, as the one commited by the Unzicker-Troll on Prof. Witten in Munich, could repeat themself too easily, if the organizers are not prepared in advance to react efficiently.
    If the top cover is not yet completely torn away from Pandorra's box it would probably be better if physicists go silent about fundamental physics in the popular media (dont mention strings, SUSY, cosmology, and anything that could be worth a FFP any more). Stop talking to science journalists refrain from trying to explain their research on their own initiative is probably the only way to starve out the trolls and sourballs and save fundamental physics (apart from a stop at the LHC or something like that). When keeping out of the media, the trolls may lose their interest in pouncing on fundamental physics, if they are not feed by new information, and look for something else they can destroy.

    As I've just learned, the popular media are no longer in the slightest interested in honestly reporting about physics anyway, observing trolls trolling in the comments or in discussions obviously turns them on, readers who are truely interested in physics must be chased away, etc ...

  45. Dear Smoking Frog, no :-), I am sure that this information is wrong.

    First, let me say that in Czech, we have a complete different character of syllable stress. The Czech syllables are very uniform but it's still true that the first syllable of each word is "strongly stressed" (prepositions are counted as parts of the following words) while each odd syllable is also "weakly stressed". That's something that makes it hard for Czechs to pronounce many English words naturally correctly because English loves stress on the second syllable, something that is pretty much impossible in Czech (our DEpoSIT vs English dePOsit.) :-)

    In Russian, they have much more intense syllable stress than in Czech so Russian is much less "uniform" when it comes to the rhythm of syllables. However, the syllable is both real and different from the Czech one so for example when Czechs are learning Russian, we're using an improved purely-Czech version of Russian that has acutes above stressed/long vowels. Those things can't be overlooked and while I am no professional speaker in Russian, I've learned it for many years (8?), visited Russia twice, and collected 76,000 passionate fans of my Russian-sung music haha

    so I know it well enough so that in most words, I could guess correctly what syllables should have the stress.

    Claiming that those things depend on individuals sound silly to me. ;-)

  46. Good examples, they seem like something that I know how to use, but maybe I am wrong. ;-)

  47. Dear Dilaton, what a cute sad kitty! I sometimes think that this is how my face must sometimes look, too. :-)

    Trolls (or, in other cases, folks who are correct and who make themselves heard at the end) attending lectures aren't a new thing. Such conflicts have occurred many times in the past and in many other fields, too.

    Those science journalists who call crackpots and report their opinions and delusions are obnoxious but they're not here forever. I am sure that a part of the problem is related to the perception of importance and wealth. Because the cranks have been doing almost as well as real/top physicists, it was normal for the journalists to call the cranks all the time. I guess that a $3 million hit in the right direction every year will make a difference.

  48. Thanks for the nice answer Lumo :-)

    Yeas, I really hope that the hit in the right direction will help. Concerning certain parts of the world I'm even confident that it could work :-). For example I've noted that some people in India are very happy that Ashoke Sen got a buck and they have a new hero now, as it should be :-)))

    Somebody should probably advice Nature to make use of their possibility to refrain from reporting about topics, that are way over the head and outside the honest and serious interests of their journalists ... :-P ;-)

  49. Lubos - Now I have the exhaustive solution. The person is the thing forgiven, so "Forgive my X" must be short for "Forgive me my X"/"Forgive me for my X."

    Notice that "Give me the X" and "Give the X to me" mean the same.

    The only trouble is, Jesus was too dumb to know the definitive solution. :-) He said, "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven."

  50. Lubos - Then I suspect the person I'm talking about has a somewhat peculiar way of thinking. He has said other things that give me this impression, and this particular example adds to it.

  51. I'm quite aware that you used the plural "languages." I'm saying that the purpose of excluding outsiders can't possibly be the primary reason why we have different languages (never mind its excluding the purpose of communicating, as you claim!) because without the purpose of communicating, we would not have language at all.

  52. Please don't misrepresent what I wrote, as a debating tactic it reflects poorly on you. I did not claim that "the primary reason why we have different languages is to exclude the purpose of communicating". Go back and read again what I wrote.

    The desire to segregate and form exclusive communities is very strong in human nature. Language, as e.g. Edward Sapir showed in the 1930s, socializes humans in a culture. The converse of this is that people not brought up that way are excluded from such socialization. If economic efficiency were the principal driver of human activity, then there would be only one language (with the exception of communities isolated by geographical accident), as mutual incomprehension is an obstacle to trade and nothing fosters wealth creation more than free trade. This is not what we find, however.

    But you can go back much, much earlier than Sapir. In Bereshit (Book of Genesis) ch. 11, we read:
    1And the whole earth was of one language and of one speech.

    And it came to pass, as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

    And they said one to another: 'Come, let us make brick, and
    burn them thoroughly.' And they had brick for stone, and slime had they
    for mortar.

    And they said: 'Come, let us build us a city, and a tower, with
    its top in heaven, and let us make us a name; lest we be scattered
    abroad upon the face of the whole earth.'

    And HaShem came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

    And HaShem said: 'Behold, they are one people, and they have
    all one language; and this is what they begin to do; and now nothing
    will be withholden from them, which they purpose to do.

    Come, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.'

    So HaShem scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth; and they left off to build the city.

    Therefore was the name of it called Babel; because HaShem did
    there confound the language of all the earth; and from thence did HaShem
    scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

  53. If you have the solution, then what was the question?

  54. Lubos - I've watched/listened to your video, and I like it, but I've also used Google to translate it, and I can say two things:

    1. Every Slav who learns to speak English at all well should receive a gold medal.

    2. Just think of what we'd be up against trying to communicate with space aliens!

    There's a video on YouTube of a crowd of young people break-dancing (or something) to George Gershwin's "Puttin' on the Ritz" at a place in Moscow called Sparrow Park. I Google-translated the Russian title, and it came out "Puttin' Tsekalo and annealed." Can you explain this?

  55. Eugene - I did not misrepresent what you wrote. My parenthetical remark "never mind ..." shows that I did not present "primary reason" as your idea. I presented it because it is not quite as absurd as saying that communication is not a reason at all. It is absurd, but my purpose was to go easy on you just a bit, in case you had not meant what you wrote.

    Now I see that I need to explain better why your idea is absurd.

    Obviously it is true that we did not invent the system of having different languages in order to communicate with each other (i.e., between groups). But we did not invent it at all, and it is only barely conceivable that anyone or any group ever invented a (natural) language with the purpose of making it easy to identify outsiders, much less that many people in many places did so.

    Different languages develop because groups are physically separated. You used the example of Papua New Guinea. Well, the terrain there is very difficult, so there was physical separation. The fact that having different languages makes it easy to identify outsiders is an effect, not a cause, reason, or purpose.

    Language differences persist for a long time after physical separation is reduced, and the benefit of its being easy to identify outsiders might be one of the reasons, but this is not the same as saying that language differences were created with the purpose of obtaining that benefit.

    The story of Babel does not support your argument. Hashem (God) caused the language differences, not humans seeking the benefit of being able to identify outsiders.

  56. Hey Lumo,

    did you really sing that ... ?!
    Of course I do not exactly understand the text :-P, but it is cool (you are a good singer) and the video is fun :-D

  57. Whoa, wait! That's Irving Berlin, not George Gershwin. Getting confused in my old age ... :-)

  58. Well, that's funny. Going easy on you is what I thought I was doing.

    Again, the idea that human communities place a premium on internal cohesiveness and on being able to distinguish between "us" and "them" is not controversial. Among other instruments used to achieve that purpose is language. "Our" language is designed not only to communicate between ourselves (that goes without saying!), it is also designed to be difficult for outsiders, especially adults, to learn. This is not a bug, it is a feature: it accords with the wishes of the speakers of a language to "keep themselves to themselves" and to be able to spot outsiders very quickly.

    Language communities in Papua New Guinea are not cut off from each other geographically. No physical obstacle stands in the way of people visiting their neighbors. The people who lived there had no physical need to create as many languages as they did, but they wanted to do so. The price they paid for their desired mutual exclusivity was poverty and arrested development. By contrast, western Europe is an extremely low-diversity language area. The payoff of this low diversity came in the form of easements to free trade and accelerated wealth creation. Thus while all human communities desire to use language for keeping insiders in and outsiders out, the strength of the desire is a variable.

    I quoted from the story of the Tower of Babel because I have seen you quote scripture and thought it might be a way to get through to you but evidently to no avail.

    In case you have forgotten, this whole sideline in the comments came about because Lubos was expressing his frustration with finding a set of rules that would tell him when to use the definite article in English and when not to. I was simply assuring him that not only is there no simple, internally consistent set of rules in English (as demonstrated by the examples I gave), but English is that way on purpose, the purpose of that perversity being to frustrate the adult learner of the language, and hence Lubos is right to settle for something short of 100% "perfection". It could be worse: compared to some Amazon rainforest languages, English grammar is almost a model of clarity and logic :)

  59. You are completely failing to show that language differences are "designed." That they "accord with the wishes of speakers" does not even begin to show it. You have to show that people actually, consciously designed them to exclude outsiders, or at least paint a plausible scenario of such designing.

    My quoting of Scripture in this thread has nothing whatever to do with whether I am persuaded by scriptural arguments. I was illustrating a point of grammar, and "forgive us our trespasses" is an extremely well known example of omitting the "for."

  60. Except that no one asked about "omitting the 'for'", that was entirely in your own mind and what you "illustrated" was trivial, boring and irrelevant to the discussion.

  61. No one specifically asked about omitting the "for," but Lubos wrote "... Gordon has convinced me to hardwire the phrase 'explain TO someone'," which involves the presence or absence of a preposition. (Lubos sometimes writes "explain someone.") There is a difference in that the presence/absence of the "to" changes the meaning, while this is not true of the "for" in "forgive for," but someone else had brought up the "for," calling it a "transition word" or something like that, which is incorrect, and I thought Lubos might be confused by this, so I informed him that there is no difference of meaning between "forgive me for X" and "forgive me X."

    It occurs to me that you might not realize how utterly illogical it was for you to think my quoting from Scripture suggests I'd be persuaded by scriptural argument. The quotes were examples of English. I have no idea of how Greek handles forgive/forgive for, and even if I did, it would be irrelevant.

    Anyway, it looks like you can't defend your design argument, so you make up diversions. Every one of them has failed.

  62. Dear Frog, your "exhaustive solution" (a grandiose formulation) was anything but. I am a still at a loss why you so rudely barged in in the first place and why you keep hectoring for me for what is really your own failure to read.

    As best I can tell, this aphoristic comment of mine is what sparked your outburst:

    Keep in mind that we have languages not so that we can communicate, but
    so that we can quickly sniff out who is an outsider. The crazy quilt of
    rules, exceptions, and exceptions to the exceptions helped our
    neolitihic ancestors to know who was in and who was not.

    For some reason you got all huffy over it and demanded that I show that people design languages to keep out outsiders. Apparently it offends you that your kindergarten-level understanding of language as a tool for comunication only (and nothing else) is inadequate. With a minimum of thought, you could have thought of such examples yourself. When grade schoolers start talking in "pig Latin" to "fool the adults" they are designing a private language to stump outsiders. When Crips talk different "argot" than Bloods amongst themselves, they are using language by design to foil outsiders. It's all about building internal cohesion and raising the barriers for outsiders wanting to listen and/or speak. The "insiders" relish this exclusiveness and wear it as a badge of pride. Lingusts call this function of language "emblematic".

    This last paragraph was really written for the benefit of the dwindling number of readers who still care. As I suspect that this number is rapidly approaching zero and Frog is too invested in being an angry amphibian to admit he engaged in pointless aggression, I will bow out at this point.