Thursday, January 31, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Czech temperature record 1961-2012

Because Frank E. L. asked me about related issues, I have downloaded all the monthly/regional Czech Hydrometeorological Institute's temperature data from the years 1961-2012 to Mathematica and calculated all statistical quantities I considered interesting.

Here is the PDF preview of the notebook.
Click at the red tile. Let me describe what I have found.

First, I had to figure out the right URLs of the HTML pages that contain the tables in an importable enough format, import them with some sensible formatting options to Mathematica so that they quickly become an array, and replace decimal commas by decimal points.

When we're done, we have the temperature for each of the 12 months of each of the 52 years for each of the 1+13 regions of the Czech Republic. Just to be sure, Czechia has 14 administrative regions (the division was different in the era of communism and it's not one of the things in which I considered communism to be worse: I don't really care) but in this dataset, Prague is unified with the Central Bohemian region that surrounds the capital which means that we only have 13 "weather regions" but they're sometimes supplemented by the new 14th region (put at the beginning) which is the whole country.

Well, your humble correspondent rewrote the names of the regions with the right character set and diacritics. It still displayed incorrectly in the PDF and most readers can't read Czech, anyway. ;-)

Evolving portrait of the electron

About 150 years ago, people began to do the experiments that would lead to the discovery of the electron.

They would study the electrical conductivity of rarefied gases. Finally, in 1896, J.J. Thomson and his collaborators proved that the colorful fog coming from the cathodes is composed of individual discrete corpuscles, the electrons.

Feed URLs for blog categories

This is a purely technical blog entry. Magnus Andersson asked me to create a feed with the climate articles only.

Google reader: string theory blogBlog posts on this blog are assigned several categories or labels – see "other texts on similar topics" beneath each post or the list of categories or labels in the right sidebar. This feature only appears in the widget-heavy, green template, not in the mobile one.

If you have a favorite category, you may find its feed at URLs such as records
The second URL was mentioned to show that spaces may be included in the URLs. If your browser happens to have problems with spaces, replace each with %20

(I couldn't add the period after the last sentence because it would be misleading.)

Your humble correspondent has created a Feedburner copy of the climate feed – in a new format – on a special URL.

Monday, January 28, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

A theory of everything is an important research project

Richard Feynman stressed that we shouldn't make preconditions about how our future description of Nature is going to look like:

Lisa Randall, a top phenomenologist whom I know very well, gave an interview to Nude Socialist in which she says that it's an illusion that physics is mostly about the search for the final theory (among other things: read it). To a large extent, her answers are similar to Feynman's.

Phil Gibbs wrote that we need to find a TOE, after all.

A visit to Crumlaw

Fun paper: More than 12 years after the LEP collider was closed (now the LHC sits in the same tunnel), the collaborations publish a paper on the search for charged Higgses. That's quite a delay! ;-)
On Sunday, I gave an interactive blackboard physics talk in Český Krumlov, an architectonic and historical pearl of Southern Bohemia (14,000 inhabitants today) to a group of a dozen+ of curious, wonderful, young people.

I began like this. What is physics? It comes from the word physis, Nature. We started in ancient Greece 2,600 years ago, on a warm sunny evening when you just finished your shopping in a local market or agora and you looked at the night sky... ;-)

And so on, elements, particles, quantum mechanics, double slit experiment, sound and light and aether, relativity, LHC etc. (over two hours of the lecture was cut from The Big Bang Theory, as you may have noticed). Of course that most attendants had to be disappointed when I elaborated upon the physicists' opinions – well, conclusions, I may say on my own blog – that fewer supernatural phenomena are possible relatively to what they believe. To mention a well-defined yet representative example, the idea that one may detectably increase the rate of the Higgs boson production by thinking about it intensely – by telekinesis of a sort – is very hot in Krummau these days. :-)

My hosts were very kind, creative, generous, and educated, and as they were voters for Schwarzenberg, I've heard some stories and arguments that would have had increased the odds that I would vote for Schwarzenberg if I had heard those things before Friday – but probably not quite above 50 percent. ;-)

One of the hosts – a proud descendant of people of many ethnic groups and the Germans in particular (the Sudetenland border was crossing the town) – also clarified some facts about the life and events in the Sudetenland etc.; I also learned the answer to a question by a TRF reader why the maps of the low election turnout (today) coincide with the map of the Sudetenland (newly imported Romanian citizens were a part of the story).

Saturday, January 26, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Klaus' successor: Miloš Zeman elected Czech president

I have "more positive than negative" opinions about both candidates but I voted for Miloš Zeman (*1944, see a sensible story in NYT) in both rounds of the first direct presidential elections because he seemed like a decent enough successor to Klaus to me – and I am not claiming that Zeman is quite in the same category as Klaus (yet). As the de facto founder of a non-communist, major, left-wing party (in Czechoslovakia and later Czechia) that other nations know, this guy who has lived as a pensioner in the last 10 years is one of the last active "founding fathers" of the post-revolutionary political system in my nation.

Whether or not the politicians – and the society – preserve the continuity and the respect to the first events of our modern democracy (instead of the currently widespread and fashionable, de facto anti-democratic, Hitler-like screaming that the system we have is intrinsically or even inevitably corrupt and so on) is something that I find very, very important. So is the genuine rule of law – as opposed to arbitrary decisions of some self-anointed people following some unwritten, would-be "moral" criteria; the genuine freedom and democracy – as opposed to freedoms that only exist for those who agree with the self-anointed ones and the "democratic" selection with the only allowed choice where everyone else is immediately attacked, demonized, and labeled unethical.

I am not hugging the trees in order to extract energy from them. I am just sometimes caressing the bark of such a tree that looks beautiful to me. I am not preparing my opinions at the moment when I am giving an interview or writing a book. They have to be clear to me a long time earlier. Our politics is grey and boring and people are already tired of ripoffs and scandals. But there's an act that is better than to curse the darkness: to light at least one candle. Who doesn't believe in himself shouldn't enter politics at all. To make fun out of other people is only possible if you can make fun of yourself, too. My worst vice is trustfulness but maybe it's my best virtue, too. I have always lived so that I didn't have to be ashamed of myself, and so that my daughter Kateřina didn't have to be ashamed of me. Each president should work for the future. And the future is also kids.

Despite his being an officially and verbally a "leftist" politician and in spite of his opposition to Klaus in the early and mid 1990s (when he sometimes drove me up the wall – and I would consider him Sládek light: but the political struggle ultimately respected the etiquette), he seems like the more right-wing candidate among the two candidates to me in the respects I find most important – undesirability of the power for the uncontrolled "civil society", opposition to the environmental movement and green parties, global warming skepticism, hawkish attitude to foreign matters, especially in the Middle East, defense of basic national interests and belief in the legitimacy of the expulsion of most Germans after the war, and even in minor things such as his opposition to the independence Kosovo.

In the recent two weeks, I was pretty much sure that Zeman would win. My methodology was to look at the results of the first round and estimate the percentage of the voters of other candidates that would switch to Zeman. All the remaining 3 candidates in the top 5 voted for Zeman – Jiří Dienstbier (because he is a social democrat), Jan Fischer (who supported Zeman indirectly, citing anti-nationalism as the problem with Schwarzenberg), and (surprisingly) Vladimír Avatar Franz (most of the aides to these folks, especially Franz, became Schwarzenberg voters but they were not too important). Getting just 60% out of these people's voters would be enough for a smooth Zeman victory – above 55% – despite the unlimited and insane pro-Schwarzenberg brainwashing in pretty much all the media during the last two weeks.

Friday, January 25, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Weinberg's evolving views on quantum mechanics

Cool anniversary (1/25): CERN discovered the W-boson (UA1 experiment) exactly 30 years ago, two months after their first W candidate; there was a press conference. Via Joseph S.

A pulsar with a button periodically switched by ET aliens in between two regimes, to broadcast a binary message to us, was found. This answers the question "Where are they?" The new question is "What are they talking about?" Via The Register.
Lectures on Quantum Mechanics by one of the world's most achieved living physicists may be grabbed from the bookshelves; click at the link on the left side.

Aside from the Weinbergization of lots of the usual technical topics you expect in similar textbooks, there is also a section, Section 3.7, dedicated to the interpretations of quantum mechanics.

One may see that Weinberg's views have changed. Unfortunately, the direction of the change may be associated with the word "aging".

HEP: the bias favors women

In the Time Magazine, when Jeffrey Kluger wrote about Ms Fabiola Gianotti, the spokesman of ATLAS at the LHC, as the runner-up for their "Person of the Year", he wrote, among other things:

Physics is a male-dominated field, and the assumption is that a woman has to overcome hurdles and face down biases that men don’t.

But that just isn’t so. Women in physics are familiar with this misconception and acknowledge it mostly with jokes.
This is absolutely accurate in most cases. Pretty much all competent women in high-energy physics whom I met acknowledge that this "myth about extra hurdles" for women is just nonsense. You won't hear about these women because their politics is inconvenient for the PC Nazis who have hijacked most of the media. However, the women with this opinion on the situation produce well over 90% of the actual scientific output that women contribute to science, an enterprise of all the humans.

(Some feminist activists who are good enough physicists, e.g. Melissa Franklin at Harvard, would love to deny the fact that there is no bias against women left and the bias that remains real has the opposite sign. However, their room to spread this fairy-tale about their "oppression" usually shrinks substantially once they're elected the department chair, for no really good reason.)

I could tell you dozens and dozens of examples of highly productive women – really the bulk of women in the proper science – who agree with me but I can't even afford to do this thing because they would face trouble with the PC Nazis just for the fact that their name has appeared on my blog in this context. So even though they're the majority among the productive female scientists, you won't hear about them or their opinions. They know something that certain people just don't want to be heard. Instead, you will always be offered stories by obnoxious, constantly whining, largely unproductive "also scientists" who want the membership in a would-be oppressed group (including women) to become a universal excuse for incompetence so they will always be dissatisfied with something.

The author of "Hurdles for Women in Physics" and Tommaso Dorigo disagree with Kluger (and with your humble correspondent) and they try various incomprehensible sleights of hand to justify their claims. However, ironically enough, the fact that women are much more likely to have advantages rather than disadvantages is well documented by pretty much all the female names that appear in these texts. What do I mean?

Thursday, January 24, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

CNN: Marc Morano on extreme weather trends

CNN and its Piers Morgan show just aired a very short exchange of opinions

Michael Brune vs Marc Morano (video)
between a defender of the climate alarm (an activist in the Sierra Club, well, its executive director) and the man behind the skeptical website.

I think that Marc Morano couldn't be a full-fledged scientist – I mean to actually calculate various things from the observed data, including confidence levels, and other things. It's my understanding he doesn't have the technical background for that.

However, when it comes to his ability to localize the relevant literature and data for a question, to figure out their implications for some general enough questions, to memorize all these things, and to clearly present them, he would probably beat a vast majority of scientists and non-scientists on both sides of the dispute about the climate change.

A tragedy named Schwarzenberg

By Petr Štěpánek (original in Czech)

The opinions of the author don't necessarily reflect the opinions of your humble correspondent but they happen to do so accidentally

The prince has a more impressive (pink Mohawk) haircut than Sid Vicious of Sex Pistols. Nevertheless, the illustration is meant to resemble him.

Karel Schwarzenberg has always looked like a likable figure to me. I am intrigued by his life story. Forced emigration after the year 1948 [the rise of communism in Czechoslovakia], political asylum given to him by a Zurich family boiling down to centuries-old contracts and the Swiss citizenship that followed from that asylum, complicated personal relationships with his "double" wife [he divorced and remarried her], overcoming of various human "traps" that were placed in their way by their fate, selfless help to the Czechoslovak dissent before the fall of communism, his aid to exotic Warholian characters such as Ivan Moron ["Magor"] Jirous before November 1989 as well as touching tales such as his ability to infallibly find Winnetou in the Schwarzenberg Library. ;-)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Medical literature: do wrong results prevail?

A remotely related link: Scientific American surprisingly ran a story on the Liberals' War on Science. The content isn't quite accurate but it's impressive that this troubled magazine could have challenged the politically correct myth that the leftists are inherently pro-science. Hat tip: B Chimp Yen.
The Physics arXiv Blog wrote a comprehensible review of a new paper,
Empirical estimates suggest most published medical research is true,
which studies the same question as the 2005 paper by John Ioannidis that claimed that most published biomedical results are wrong – false positives.

Mathematician Leah Jager and her collaborator Jeffrey Leek now use similar techniques to estimate that among 77,000 papers in an ensemble they picked, the rate of false positives is about 14%. That's nearly 3 times higher than the naively expected percentage of false positives – 5% because the maximal tolerable \(p\)-value is 0.05 – but it's more than 3 times lower than what would be needed for the wrong results to represent a majority.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Are slow quantum computers needed to demolish firewalls?

Today, the black hole firewall saga continues with two new preprints:

Quantum Computation vs. Firewalls by Harlow, Hayden

Black Hole Complementarity and the Harlow-Hayden Conjecture by Susskind
They are the first two papers on hep-th, rather clearly signalling that the authors consider them important. Both papers are written as gifts to John Preskill's 60th birthday: Congratulations!

Recall that last summer, Almheiri, Marolf, Polchinski, and Sully (AMPS) offered an argument using basic facts about quantum information in general and the monogamy of entanglement in particular to argue that the black hole interiors can't be empty and the usual lore about the black hole complementarity isn't internally consistent.

Their argument is flawed because they assume that the degrees of freedom in the black hole interior are independent from the degrees of freedom describing the exterior (which is what needed for them to claim that these sets of variables are "two distinct wives"); in other words, they are assuming from scratch that black hole complementarity in its usual sense can't operate. They also incorrectly assume that the "natural" observables that may be measured are defined "in advance". In reality, the "natural" observables that decohere and that may be easily measured depend both on the Hamiltonian/dynamics as well as the state of the system. In the black hole case, it means that an observer may ultimately "project" the same Hilbert space into very different bases, depending on whether or not she falls into the black hole.

The first new paper above concludes that firewalls aren't necessary. However, the reason why they aren't necessary is claimed to be subtle.

Monday, January 21, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Lasers: Star Trek's tractor beam tugs particles in the real world

Discovery News and others (especially Czech media) didn't overlook an interesting experiment in the Czech Republic – the Institute of Scientific Instruments of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Brno, the country's second largest city (team led by Dr Pavel Zemánek) – that has made some Star Trek dreams come true. It works like this:

You just pick a laser, press a button, and you may transfer your armchair (or a spaceship such as the International Space Station) from one corner of your room to another. It's handy, especially for armchair physicists.

Slovak CIA spy caught in Iran

Communicating scientific secrets? Hunter in trap

Four days ago, TV viewers in Iran could have seen this dramatic 20-minute James-Bond-like report (that partly resembles the Czechoslovak communist sitcom, Thirty Cases of Major Zeman):

The hero of this video is Mr Matej Valúch, a 25-year-old Slovak recruitment and international management expert, the kind of guy who connects with everyone and who is apparently very good at it, as his LinkedIn page (and a similar Slovak page) testifies.

In Slovakia, he has been unaccounted for since September 2012. You may also see that he is a marathon runner, with 3:14:02 as his best time I can find.

Sunday, January 20, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Mapping all possible physical theories

Young people should get some clue about all possibilities, avoid dead ends

I am kind of – albeit not obsessively – observing young, emerging physicists who have a chance to bring a new significant conceptual development or "revolution" to physics. It's hard to see whether such a future "revolution" will be an accidental side effect of some "modest" technical work or whether it will arise from some people's attempts to think really deeply and conceptually.

It seems to me that on this planet, the number of people below 30 who have independently understood the structure of the "space of ideas" and possible theories and who "really know" why there isn't any alternative to string theory as a theory of quantum gravity, to pick a major example, is at most "a few dozens". There are a few hundred young people who have worked on string theory as well but they were made to do so and they're not really "leaders" of the collaborations. Also, they may easily "change their mind" with a new boss.

Statistics, laymen, and shuffling cards

On Sunday, we usually spend hours by playing Canasta, a card game, in a broader family.

Most typically, there are 2 teams with 2 players each (the composition of the team may change during the tournament which consists of something like 25 games per afternoon).

Sometimes men win but it seems that more often, women win, and so on. I don't want to go into that. ;-) Instead, I want to discuss an unlikely event and people's reactions to it.

Lance Armstrong and ephemerality of sports

Enhancing humans to find a TOE

Cyclist Lance Armstrong confessed to Oprah Winfrey. He gave short answers such as "Yes" to questions whether he's been using illegal compounds during every single triumph of his. It's hard to imagine why he would be saying "Yes" in the case that the true answer is "No". That's why the newer answers probably supersede his proclamations over many years.

He's been lying to us for years. Bad Lance. To lie is obviously wrong.

Of course, I never knew whether he would be doping. The hypothesis that his victories were due to unusual gifts from Mother Nature and hard work, aside from several comparable legal things, was always compatible with the basic laws of physics. Someone has to win even if no one is doping. And the individual races aren't independent from each other which makes it more likely that the same winner will be seen many times.

On the contrary, when the concentration of illegal substances in a community is nonzero – and they're probably rather common in cycling (and other sports: to some extent, Armstrong is just a scapegoat) – the person who wins is more likely to be one of those who took them than an average contestant simply because the substances are potential explanations of the success or its part.

East Germany used to be a superpower in sports – many of them. For such a small nation, it was incredible. Years later, we would learn that much of their excess above average was due to doping as well – it was pretty much omnipresent. But how much worse doping really is relatively to legitimate sources as a source of success?

Saturday, January 19, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

What did the winters look like before global warming?

Via Shooty, SME.SK

When you kids ask you this question, what will you answer?

Friday, January 18, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Scottish streets became opaque to Higgs runs an amusing, light story.

Peter Higgs became a toy model capable of explaining the physics of Margaret Thatcher.

For decades, the sidewalks of the Scottish capital Edinburgh were almost perfectly transparent to Higgs' excitations while Higgs was obscure: his cross section was almost as low as the cross section of dark matter. However, those good old times are gone, mainly due to the official discovery of the God particle on July 4th, 2012.

Thursday, January 17, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Growing Moon near the horizon and binocular vision

When you see the Moon near the horizon, it appears larger than when the Moon floats somewhere in the middle of the sky.

If you haven't joined the club of witnesses of this optical illusion, you're a rare exception and you're invited to try to explain the illusion as seen by the humans whose vision is not as objective as yours. ;-)

Needless to say, the actual angular size of the Moon – and the size of the spot on your retina – is the same regardless of our satellite's distance from the horizon (although both fluctuate roughly by 10% due to the eccentricity of the Moon's orbit). The usual explanation is that the optical illusion is a variation of the Ebbinghaus illusion.

Sean Carroll, Copenhagen, and consensus

The recently published poll about the interpretations of quantum mechanics was discussed by Sean Carroll under this dramatic title:

The Most Embarrassing Graph in Modern Physics
I would agree with him that the diverse results of the poll are somewhat strange and a reason for discouragement but I disagree with everything else he writes – what the poll means and doesn't mean, why we should be concerned, and so on. He's clearly a "consensus scientist" and make no doubts about it, all consensus scientists are hacks or at least sleezy jellyfish who spend their time by optimizing the solution to the task how to swim in the society so that they maximally benefit but they are surely not approaching Nature with the scientific integrity.

To show his embarrassment, he picked question 12 whose results look (almost) least embarrassing to me among all the questions.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Quantum physics doesn't depend on definitions of observers

Lots of people who are trying to understand quantum mechanics but who don't really want to listen constantly ask the same question:

What is an observer really?
This question is usually encapsulated in the linguistic mud that is equivalent to the following monologue:
I'm sick and tired of explanations of quantum mechanics because they never tell me who is an observer and who isn't. Now, I am the savior of physics who will ask you and you will finally tell me and everyone else what are the ultimate, exact, well-defined criteria that determine who is an observer and who isn't, when the sound of a falling tree was heard and when it wasn't. This will permanently eliminate all the confusion about quantum mechanics. Amen.
These people must believe what they're saying but if they were also able to think about it, they would realize how stupid the question is. What kind of an answer are they envisioning if they really want to divide the objects or physical systems in the world to observers and non-observers?

Clock: doom arrives in five minutes

...but the sky has already been falling too many times for any credibility to have survived...

You may hear from Fox News and other journalists that the doomsday clock will show 23:55, five minutes before the midnight, as the time indicating the "imminent destruction of humans" for the whole year of 2013 (unless an urgent modification is needed).

We are told that the timing – one that has been said many times before – was calculated and announced by "scientists". When you read a few more paragraphs, you will realize that it's some article written in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists which is, despite the name, no longer controlled by atomic scientists. For example, the boss named Kennette Benedict is a socialite-type activist who's been working (?) on peace with the former Soviet Union (when it no longer existed) and on education in Nigeria.

We're told that the doom is imminent because of a combination of the large nuclear arsenal of several countries, global warming, and a slow recovery from the Fukushima meltdown.

Anthem, foreigners, and PC: Czech edition

Related, political news: When Václav Klaus leaves the Prague Castle in March 2013, he will become a fellow of the CATO institute (search for Klaus in the linked PDF file).
There is some sense in which I personally like Karl Schwarzenberg, the 75-year-old prince who will become Václav Klaus' successor as the Czech president if he beats Miloš Zeman next Saturday.

I think that he's been doing good things throughout much of his life, he isn't really obsessed with harming or restricting other people, I have no problems with his links to the late ex-president Havel that he managed to build, I like some of the residual aristocratic manners he still displays, and I acknowledge that he has inherited some good things (in my opinion) from the Czech character. Many friends and family members will vote for him – and they have already voted for him, and so on.

But despite his being described as a right-wing candidate, his victory is becoming a very bad scenario in my eyes because even though he wouldn't be hurting people himself, his arrival could signal the victory of the nasty, Nazi-like political correctness and submissiveness to the Eurocrats in my country. And that's something we should avoid.

In the same way, Zeman is a self-described leftist and in many ways he is a left-winger, indeed (he claims to support high taxes, Keynesianism etc.), but still, he despises the green parties and activists and many other PC groups as much as I do and those are the cultural things that the president primarily influences. The economy is controlled by others.

The video above – Schwarzenberg trying to sing the Czech national anthem in the wake of his success in the first round of the presidential elections – has led to some humiliation as well as scandals. What happened?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

New Higgses at \(90\)-\(105\GeV\), \(\tan\beta=6\)

A few days ago, I wanted to write about a new paper

Recent Developments in HiggsBounds and a Preview of HiggsSignals (PDF)
by Philip Bechtle and 6 co-authors. I decided there had been too many articles about SUSY fits on this blog. However, even an enemy of SUSY named Tommaso Dorigo positively mentioned that paper so I decided a comment should be here, too.

They discuss games with (similar authors') publicly available program HiggsBounds and its various versions (3.8.0 and 4.0.0) which unifies the constraints from LEP, Tevatron, and LHC experiments. Feel free to click at the link in the previous sentence and try to play with the web-based user interface to this software. Or download the source.

Czech Budweiser defends the trademark in the U.K.

A major loss for the world's #1 brewer

Pilsner Urquell is clearly the most valuable Czech beer trademark – not only because it's produced in my hometown. The brewery belongs to SABMiller these days, the world's second largest brewing empire after Belgium's AB Inbev which is known as the owner of Anheuser-Busch ("Budweiser").

On the contrary, Budweiser is arguably the second most well-known Czech beer after all the Pilsner brands. Yes, I said Budweiser. The Czech brewery (founded in 1895 in its current form but the city has produced OK beer since the 13th century and pils since the 1840s; the brewery is state-owned these days) has been active in legal disputes against its American namesake (founded in 1852 in St. Louis) since 1906. It's been quite some time.

Now, you should understand that it's a genuine David vs Goliath battle: Anheuser-Busch produces a whopping 270 times more beer than the equally named Czech brewery. But just like in the Holy Scripture, David may sometimes win. And it actually often wins. Among the 125 legal disputes about the trademark since 2000, the Czech brewer has won 89 of them, a vast majority.

The newest victory today is among the sweetest ones. The battlefield was the United Kingdom, an important market and a natural transition point between Europe and the U.S.

Monday, January 14, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Edge: What should we be worried about?

Giddings on crisis in physics, firewalls asked their annual question to 151 or 152 scholars,

What should we be worried about?
I suppose that the word "should" was highlighted in order to prevent the respondents from giving an easy answer to the opposite question, what we shouldn't be worried about. We shouldn't be worried about the end of the world in 2012 (now for sure), collision with another planet, catastrophic climate change, and similar nonsensical conspiracy theories.

Katinka Matson and John Brockman of

Among the 152 contributors, there are lots of people whom I don't quite recognize. Let me discuss those whom I do recognize.

Diverse forms of energy

TBBT: The latest episode The Bakersfield Expedition of the Big Bang Theory attracted the record 20.0 million U.S. viewers. That's quite a number. The episode showed the boys in sci-fi costumes going to a Comic Con and the girls accidentally plunging into a boy-like argument about sci-fi topics.
Energy is a concept that is often given associated either with a mysterious or, on the contrary, excessively corpuscular meaning by the laymen. What do I mean?

The laymen either think that energy is some ill-defined, science-transcending form of a soul or happiness or something that can't be quantified. In that case, they associate it with health, with the hugging of the trees, and similar things.

Other laymen realize that energy is a fully quantitative concept, something that can be moved from one place to another. But to make this assertion compatible with their imagination, they think of energy as some kind of marbles or material, one that is excessively similar to water and similar stuff. This leads them to believe that energy has to remain equally visible at all times.

None of these two ideas is right. The truth is different and, to some extent, it is in between the two positions above. Energy is a quantity that may be quantified but its units resemble neither marbles nor molecules of water. Energy doesn't have any molecules or other indivisible minimal units. Its values are continuous in general and its units are abstract, different from any "object" we know. Energy may change its forms in a huge number of ways, it may hide and become invisible to the human eyes (but visible to other ways of measuring it). In this sense, it resembles the spirit or ghosts envisioned by the first group of the laymen.

What is the most universal definition of energy?

Sunday, January 13, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

A projection of future drought one can't believe

Rob Wile of Business Insider discussed a climate survey prepared by the U.S. Commerce Department (with some well-known alarmists in the team of authors). Among other things, he reprinted Figure 2.21 from that draft paper:

It shows that the percentage of the territory of the United States and Mexico that will experience drought will suddenly take off and reach something like 0.3 if not more than 0.5 by 2100 even though the recent values are close to 0.01-0.02 or so. Just look at the picture and think about it. Is it a plausible outcome of viable models of the climate?

Friday, January 11, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Looming dark matter announcements

The LHC is enjoying its well-deserved two years' vacation. When it re-emerges in late 2014 or early 2015, it will be stronger than ever. The collisions will boast the center-of-mass energy of \(13\TeV\), well above \(8\TeV\) of 2012, so certain discoveries that were virtually impossible in 2012 could become trivial in 2015. Meanwhile, we're waiting for lots of papers evaluating the 2012 collisions. Most of the articles should be out by March 2013.

Will there be some interesting experiments running in 2013? You bet. The Nova neutrino experiment will look for CP-violation in the neutrino sectors. But most importantly, we shouldn't forget about dark matter experiments. Recall that two months ago, I mentioned that some important insights about dark matter could very well be around the corner.

Thursday, January 10, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Trillion dollar coin: a road to Hell

Two years ago, a random guy in a random discussion has pointed out that the U.S. laws have a bizarre loophole. One may circumvent the debt ceiling by printing a trillion-dollar coin out of platinum and donating it to the treasury.

I think that the laws are really silly if it matters whether the money is printed in the form of many $100 banknotes or a somewhat smaller number of $1,000,000,000,000 coins. What should matter is the total debt. However, the Treasury Department may apparently mint commemorative coins and their value isn't restricted.

Let's not get to the legal details. Someone has simply screwed it up and even though no one has found the loophole that may be abused before 2011, the Treasury Department is apparently allowed to print an arbitrary amount of money regardless of the debt ceiling as long as the format and material is appropriately chosen.

Polls: Choose your Czech president

Let's try to organize presidential elections among the TRF readers. It's supposed to be fun, you may choose your winner for serious reasons as well as less serious ones. Please feel more than free to invite your friends to vote for your favorite candidate, too. The actual presidential elections take place on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. There are nine candidates. I keep their ordering 1-9.

Zuzana Roithová MD is a politically correct physician who's been working in managements of hospitals and healthcare. She got an MBA remotely from Sheffield Hallam University. She's been a member of the European Parliament for some time. She doesn't have any opinions I am aware of except for the mundane politically correct clichés.

Poll about foundations of QM: "experts" disagree on everything

The physics arXiv blog (and, after your humble correspondent, John Preskill) was intrigued by a new preprint by Schlosshauer, Kofler, and Zeilinger:

A Snapshot of Foundational Attitudes Toward Quantum Mechanics
They kind of repeated a 1997 poll organized by Max Tegmark (among 48 participants of a conference at that time) but among 33 participants of a recent quantum-foundations conference.

Off-topic. Greatest snowfall in Jerusalem since 1992. President Peres teaches the Israeli how to keep snowmen from getting cold.

The main result is that there is no consensus on anything. I was actually pleased because I was expecting that there would be a consensus on the wrong answers because that "subdiscipline" of physics is completely screwed; instead, the correct answers were mostly the strongest ones. What did they ask?

Gustáv Husák: 100 years

Today, the last communist president of Czechoslovakia and Slovak communist Gustáv Husák would celebrate his 100th birthday. When I was a kid, this birthday – January 10th, 1913 – would be the most frequently celebrated one. It would be written down in all the calenders, too.

Click the image for various pictures of Husák. YouTube offers tons of videos. New Year Address in which he said the year was 1895 so they returned the clock by 5 minutes and started again. Various parodies in which Husák says jokes, and so on. It's easy to find his pictures and videos with all the fellow communist leaders, with Gaddaffi, and lots of characters of this sort.

I want to shock you with the size of this image so that you appreciate how omnipresent this image has been during the first 10 years I spent at schools. I am pretty sure that Husák has spent more time in front of my eyes than any of my parents. ;-)

Wednesday, January 09, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

RSS AMSU: 2012 was 11th warmest year

Focus moved to the contiguous U.S. states: new warm record

As the preliminary data published two months ago indicated, the satellite temperature record RSS AMSU has indeed concluded that the year 2012 was the 11th warmest year on their 34-year-long record, rather close to the median.

That's not a good starting point for a hype about global warming – something that hasn't been seen for 15+ years at this point – so the climate fearmongers use a different strategy. Before I get to that strategy, let me post the complete table of the RSS AMSU years.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Nonsensical hype on negative temperatures

Off-topic cinema: I've seen my first 3D movie in a cinema today, The Life of Pi about a sensitive Indian teenager whose family moves to Canada with the whole zoo but the boy (believer in all the world's major religions) is the only one who survives on a boat, together with their tiger named Richard Parker. Top Russian actor Gérard Depardieu of Saransk starred as a racist cook on the ship. :-) It turned out that the glasses were some kind of color anaglyphs. The question how it's possible that I can see all RGB channels in both eyes despite the filters replaced my analogous question for circular polarization glasses. ;-)
Fox News and tons of other sources proudly announced that physicists in Munich have finally realized temperatures colder than the absolute zero, –273.15 °C. Their article has ignited a storm in the Jan 4th issue of Science.

When you combine objects with people or worlds that are upside down, like in this 2012 Canadian-French romantic movie "Upside Down" about the love between Adam and Eve from two co-existing worlds, things may get confusing or, more often, downright inconsistent. One has to be careful. ;-)

Needless to say, I completely agree with David Berenstein:
Bad science reporting versus good science reporting
David picked Ars Technica as his example of the most acceptable reporting about this story.

What's going on?

Monday, January 07, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Dine-Haber symposium in Santa Cruz

Between Friday and Sunday, particle physicists organized a spectacular symposium in Santa Cruz to celebrate the 60th birthdays of Michael Dine (left) and Howard Haber (right).

The website of the symposium shows that the program was impressive and included speakers such as Gross, Seiberg, Witten, Arkani-Hamed, Kane, Susskind, Allanach, Grossman, and others.

Sunday, January 06, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Irrational hysteria about Klaus' amnesty

At the end of his last New Year address as the Czech president, Václav Klaus offered a "shocker" and declared a partial amnesty that has freed about 1/3 of the prisoners. A wave of hysterical criticism has emerged and it is still strengthening. I conjecture that the passionate critics (a group that unfortunately includes almost all people around me who care one way or another; and among the famous people, only the Archbishop of Prague, ex-boss of National Gallery Knížák, several Klaus' aides, and your humble correspondent have defended the decision) don't have a clue about the background – for example, they don't have a clue about most of the facts below. They don't understand why amnesties exist at all.

One of the legal traditions in the Czech lands that have survived since the feudal era is the president's right to declare amnesty and to release prisoners. Amnesties are acts by which the king and/or the emperor could have shown his or her mercy and magnanimity – and the job of the Czech president emulates the emperor in various formal and informal ways and amnesty is one of them. Franz Joseph I of Austria declared the most famous general amnesty in 1857 (as famous one as Napoleon's 1815 amnesty and a few others).

During the imperial era, amnesties repeatedly took place and they had consequences that were not negligible at all. For example, on January 5th, 1917, almost exactly 95 years ago, Charles I of Austria, our last "kaiser" and the last Czech king, declared an amnesty that have changed the lives of many people. Amnesties were never vacuous formalities.

The Bory prison in Pilsen is famous – and quite a good piece of architecture, I would say. The first inmates moved in in 1878.

Among them were Mr Karel Kramář who would become Czechoslovakia's first prime minister on the following year, 1918, and Dr Alois Rašín, our coming first ingenious finance minister (also from 1918) who managed to organize the currency split and other key procedures, almost by himself. They had received nothing less than death penalties.

Just to be sure, Kramář and Rašín were convicted for spying and high treason. They would organize various pan-Slavic conferences and similar things. The death penalties were first reduced to 20 years before they were released altogether. For Rašín, the 1916 death penalty (also for his activities in the Czech independence movement during the First World War, "Maffie", which had about 200 members) wasn't his first contact with prisons and punishments. In 1894, as a politically active student of law (and a fresh holder of the degree), he received 2 years for his work for "Omladina" and the related Czech Young Party. He was jailed here in Pilsen (Bory) but was released during the 1895 amnesty.

LHC: discovering grand unification

...aside from supersymmetry...

Apologies if the title was too dramatic. Supersymmetry and its possible looming discovery at the LHC has been discussed many times. But let's look at a different portion of modern model building in particle physics, Grand Unification. Grand Unified Theories (GUTs) are those that embed the Standard Model group\[

SU(3)_c\times SU(2)_W\times U(1)_Y

\] into a larger group, typically "simpler" (having fewer factors), ideally "simple" group in the technical sense (one factor). If it is possible, and it possible, the advantage is that the quarks and leptons may arise in a smaller number of multiplets (representations of the gauge group) and the lower number of factors in the gauge group implies a smaller number of adjustable coupling constants. So the GUTs are more constrained.

If they're verifiably right, they're more beautiful. But because they're more predictive, one may also be worried that they're less flexible and therefore less resilient towards falsification – a characteristic you may consider good or bad. However, the flexibility may be restored by adding various stuff and potentials at the GUT scale so the "qualitative difference" is somewhat debatable. At any rate, from a purely theoretical or aesthetic top-down perspective, it's rather natural to expect that Nature may want to unify the forces near the fundamental scale if She can.

And yes, She can. Many grand unified theories are naturally compatible with everything we may observe at low energies of doable experiments.

Saturday, January 05, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Czech presidential candidates: test your English

Czech TV and LHC: Tonight, the Hyde Park Civilization [click for the full video] program of the ČT24 channel was airing an unusually high-brow episode about CERN. I haven't seen any remotely comparably advanced programs about particle physics in English.
In one week, Czechia will vote its new president who will replace Prof Klaus (who's been the Czech president for 10 years) in March in the first direct presidential election ever.

The two candidates who are expected to pass to the second round, Mr Miloš Zeman and Mr Jan Fischer, were facing one another in a direct TV debate last night: full 90-minute video.

Zeman was showing his beautiful daughter, Fischer was showing his son without excessive adjectives but with red socks. ;-)

Zeman was more convincing, entertaining, and he is widely considered the winner of the debate. The two Gentlemen have comparable chances to win; Schwarzenberg (the aristocrat who loves to sleep during talks and whose German is probably better than his Czech) and Franz (a blue hybrid of Avatar, a Smurf, and the native American totem: 90% of this artist's and professor's body is tattooed; he actually loves to call himself an Avatar) may be the two men who may surprisingly jump among the top two i.e. to the second round of the election. If I wouldn't have to care about realistic chances of the candidates, I could also vote for Ms Jana Bobošíková.

However, the video above also shows a test of their English which was performed by a U.S. journalist, Erik Best, who has been living in Czechia for decades.

Theory of something: QM has reached limits

Several people have asked me about the following press release that was published a few days ago and that was reprinted at various servers such as one that belongs to San Francisco Chronicle:

Theory of Something Reveals Why Quantum Mechanics has Reached its Limits: Mass is Outside of Particles (press release)
We learn that quantum mechanics has been defeated. More colorfully, the mass is located in a grid outside particles that is 100,000 times larger than the particle itself. A proton has a core with 63 "negtrinos", electron has 9 of them, and the hydrogen atom has a "grid room" for 16,525 "negtrinos".

Lots of similar nonsensical sentences, mostly with additional nonsensical numbers and new words, follow, together with a bizarre YouTube video. The press release also promotes their website,
Theory of Something.COM
Let's pick a picture from that website.

Friday, January 04, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

The world as seen by the LHC protons

Off-topic paragraph: Today, we celebrate 370 years from the birth of Isaac Newton, arguably the brightest scientist ever. He was born on January 4th, 1643 (New System: it's December 25th, 1642, in the Old System). He was the founder of classical physics (and, in fact, physics in the modern sense), the universal law of gravitation, co-inventor of calculus, the discoverer of lots of mathematical methods, laws in optics, and so on. He was also a reliable executioner of counterfeiters and a devout Christian whose literal belief in the Bible and in the existence of the Holy Spirit permeating the whole space actually powered his physics research.

But in the text below, we're going to discuss an example illustrating the special theory of relativity, one of the theoretical frameworks that superseded Newton's theories.

Our cars and trains and airplanes are fast but the speed is negligible relatively to the speed of light \(c\) which is why Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity remains abstract for most of us. It hasn't been hardwired in our brains.

However, all the relativistic effects are mundane at the particle accelerators such as the LHC. Protons are accelerated to speeds that are very close to the speed of light.

If you did it with a slightly higher number of protons, you could accelerate whole human beings to such speeds – assuming you would find out how to accelerate electrons as well and add them to the atoms again (it's hard to accelerate the electrically neutral human bodies directly). That's why the experience of the protons isn't something "totally different" from what humans could experience. With a little bit of extra work, we could experience it.

But what do the protons experience?

Thursday, January 03, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Al Jazeera buys TV from Al Gore et al.

There's been lots of interesting science news – for example, Neil Armstrong has apparently lied to us when he was saying that he invented the "one small step for man" line on the Moon. He had been thinking about it for quite some time, his brother recently told the BBC, and he was even collecting feedback e.g. from his brother.

I am sure that most readers follow the news, especially those related to science. But this news is kind of special:

Al Jazeera buys Current TV, will launch new channel (CNN Money)
The failed 2000 U.S. presidential candidate and the failed demagogic promoter of the failed climate hysteria has sold his and Joel Hyatt's failed TV station, Current TV, to an Arab broadcaster.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Feynman's "Ode to a Flower": an animation

You must have heard Richard Feynman's monologue on the beauty of a flower from the scientist's viewpoint.

It was aired at the very beginning of the interesting 1981 BBC program The Pleasure of Finding Things Out.

But this may be the first time when you're encouraged to watch this animation that was created on the background of Feynman's wise words.

NYT urges Obama to introduce socialism

Off-topic, firewalls: Ted Jacobson wrote the 26th followup of the AMPS firewall paper and he joined the majority that disagrees with the "original perpetrators", as he calls Polchinski et al. He declares that their paper assumes that one may tensor-factorize the Hilbert space and isolate inner and outer degrees of freedom which is incorrect in quantum gravity where the Hilbert space is "a priori constrained", something that doesn't make local measurements impossible. I rarely agree with Jacobson but here he's on the right side.
Many American conservatives remain significantly proud about their country that they believe to be much more immune against socialism, top-down bureaucratic control, and other things they associate with the Eurotrash in their own old continent.

Well, I am afraid that this pride is exaggerated.

Economist John Cochrane (via Patria.CZ) noticed that The New York Times has published a breathtaking editorial (the opinion of all the important editors) on Saturday:
Why the Economy Needs Tax Reform
The term "tax reform" may sound refreshing and intriguing but if you read the editorial, or just a part of it, you will quickly realize what they actually mean by or hide behind the term "tax reform".

Tuesday, January 01, 2013 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Greenhouse effect doesn't contradict any laws of physics

It's the new year, 2013, and I will start it with some sort of "hardcore skeptic bashing".

Needless to say, it's not the first time when you can read a text on this blog that could be described in this way. Your humble correspondent is balanced when it comes to the catching of mistakes spread by "alarmists" as well as "skeptics", "believers" as well as "infidels", and so on.

The glass greenhouses resemble the greenhouse effect in the sense that they make it harder for the heat to escape. However, the methods to achieve so are different. The greenhouse mechanically stops convection; the greenhouse effect reduces the escaping thermal radiation by absorption and re-emission of some of it downwards.

Roy Spencer wrote the following text today:

Misunderstood Basic Concepts and the Greenhouse Effect
It's of course a basic stuff but I still think it's useful to start with the comment that I agree with every word he wrote. Amusingly enough, Spencer starts with pointing out that the definition of the greenhouse effect is wrong because it suggests that the greenhouse effect depends on the sunlight and its ability to get from the Sun to the Earth's surface easily.

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