Saturday, June 22, 2013

Kip Thorne, a star in a Hollywood movie

You probably know the relativist Kip Thorne as a co-author of the Misner-Thorne-Wheeler book on GR, a co-father of LIGO, Gravity Probe B, and a researcher of black holes, wormholes, proponent of the membrane paradigm for black holes, and many other things in relativistic astrophysics. But as The Guardian told us yesterday,
Kip Thorne: physicist studying time travel tapped for Hollywood film,
he is commuting from Pasadena to a town that is 10 miles away, Hollywood, to shoot a November 2014 sci-fi movie called Interstellar.

Theoretical physicist Anne Hathaway (who is also famous in Hollywood where she has earned $15 million) will be the main female star along with Jessica Chastain. Male actors will include Matthew McConaughey, Casey Affleck, and Michael Caine.

The movie will be about wormholes and other Thorne-related beyond-Einstein topics in general relativity. It was apparently important that Thorne is a "colorful figure who wears jeans, Birkenstocks, Hawaiian shirts and a battered cowboy hat." The description also says that "he regularly makes scientific wagers with Stephen Hawking, a close friend, and invariably wins. (Hawking's penalties have included forking out for a subscription to Penthouse magazine)."

This "permanent winner status" is somewhat bizarre because Thorne was on the losing side, along with Hawking, of their bet against John Preskill concerning the black hole information paradox. Unlike Hawking, Thorne hasn't conceded yet which seems painful to me. On the other hand, it's true that Thorne won a Penthouse-related bet against Hawking.

Incidentally, Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni (77), an Argentinian-born U.S. citizen who worked in Los Alamos as a physicist, finally pleaded guilty that he and his wife were working hard to donate the nuclear bomb technology to the socialist country of Venezuela. He was previously insisting that he was innocent.

I think that Edward Snowden is yet another example of the fact that various institutions that are critical for the safety of the U.S. – and perhaps other Western countries – are routinely hiring activists who have offered others no reason to think that they would be loyal servants of the capitalist countries, their citizens, and their security. Whether Snowden is a loon or a hero is a difficult question but the fact that a person with his known background and with his publicly declared values shouldn't have been hired to his job seems self-evident to me.


  1. Gene: It is so easy to disagree with you here. Information is power. As Lord Acton said, "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

    Do you really believe that there is Congressional oversight of the NSA? Do you really believe that spying on all its citizens is necessary to prevent a handful of terrorists? If so, that is pretty scary.

    Another quote from Acton:
    "Every thing secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity."

    and one more:

    Whenever a single definite object is made the supreme end of the
    State, be it the advantage of a class, the safety of the power of the
    country, the greatest happiness of the greatest number, or the support
    of any speculative idea, the State becomes for the time inevitably
    absolute. Liberty alone demands for its realisation the limitation of
    the public authority, for liberty is the only object which benefits all
    alike, and provokes no sincere opposition."

    Of course, he was British :), and I realize that the US had to react to 9/11, but it reacted in a way that played into the government hands by increasing its powers, reducing its accountability, its transparency, and enacting the horror of the Patriot Act.

  2. Gene, how do you feel about warrantless wiretapping? How do you feel about the "Tempora" program in which 500 analysts -- half British, half from NSA -- in Cheltenham UK record and filter a big chunk of the world's daily Internet traffic? (Not metadata -- the actual content: e-mail, forum postings, social media messages, the works.)

  3. Cynthia: I agree with you totally on this thread.[ I still think that Islam is a major problem for Western countries because it is aggressively proselytizing, rigid, delusional, and misogynistic--even more so than most religions :)--I have seen you defending it], but
    your country is revealing itself as a plutocracy where what you see is a show for the plebs- "unser dummer pobel". I am sure that Noam Chomsky is mostly reviled by the conservatives on this thread, but his books like "Rogue States" are crammed with stories of US adventurism, dirty tricks, and basically repugnant policies that I have not seen repudiated. The older Canadian-made documentary about his views about mainstream media---"Manufacturing Consent" is worth a view.

  4. Yup, sure is :) BTW, Gene, I am not angry with you at all--just disagreeing like one of your brothers :)

  5. Yes, follow the yellow brick road of Goldman-Sachs appointees all the way through the Bush to Oz-bama. Examine where heads of central banks (Canada, the Fed, the new EU central bank head, the U.K) come from (one guess---hint, the initials are G.S.) I assume you read Matt Taibbi.

  6. Warrantless wiretapping is illegal in the US, just as it should be. I know nothing about the Tempora program in the UKbut it could not be done by the NSA here in the US. If the NSA has found a way to get around the Patriot Act by doing it abroad it is up to the Brits to fix their system.

  7. I wish the world was not so eager to believe that what is written must be true; or that any person who makes the measured decision to plead guilty is, in fact, guilty. If you have any questions, just look at the federal sentencing guidelines, and pray that you never end up a target for big government. If you are in your 70s, and want a guarantee that you might be able to see your grandchildren again, you had better take a plea. If you want to tell the world your truth in federal court, where the government can essentially classify what it wants, whether it is truly classified or not, and face the fact that when it comes to an issue which even scuffs the fringe of "national security", you have zero rights as a defendant and are not even entitled to know what the surveillance warrants are based upon, and you can't be guaranteed that a jury will even get to see your evidence because you can't use it until after you show it to the government first,
    and then they get to decide at THAT time whether or not it is "classified." And, by law, you cannot challenge the ruling. That sounds like a pretty fair trial...oh yeah, and Federal Criminal juries result in convictions 98% of the time. Another good exercise would be to read the Code of Federal Regulations and th Federal Criminal code in your spare time...oh, and don't forget to read the individual classification
    manuals for all the federal agencies (and they are all different) just in case you might have a security clearance one day. And if you leave your cleared position for some reason, make sure you still read up on all the daily classification and declassification decisions for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, lest you think something was declassified and it wasn't. And do NOT expect anyone to tell you if it is, even if you have been circulating it through Congress for 25 years or so, because no one CAN TELL YOU that it is if you don't have a clearance. And the reality is, if one believes that the ultimate goal is the raw truth of science, I do not think that person truly can ever understand the "dirtiness" of humanity...the schemes, the politics, the secrecy of truth for personal power , rather than a certain level of openness in the quest for the continuity of our species...But these exact situations have existed for centuries..After you catch up or your Fed Crim laws, check out all of the Fbi's declassified documents on Einstein. Good stuff. Sorry, I took up so much of your space, but this group seemed smarter than most others, and

    it's "classified" and if it is...too bad fir you