Monday, March 31, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

BICEP is good news for string gas cosmology

Guest post by Robert Brandenberger of McGill University

The indirect discovery of primordial gravitational waves on cosmological scales via B-mode polarization of the cosmic microwave background is being interpreted by most people inside and outside of the cosmology community in the context of the inflationary universe scenario. The purpose of this guest blog is to remind the readers that gravitational waves on cosmological scales is a prediction which is not unique to inflationary cosmology. In particular, "String Gas Cosmology", a scenario initially proposed in 1989 for the early universe and which is based on fundamental principles of superstring theory predicts a spectrum of gravitational waves with significant amplitude. In this blog I will briefly explain the scenario and its predictions. Specifically, String Gas Cosmology predicts a slightly blue spectrum of gravitational waves, a prediction which allows us to differentiate the scenario from inflationary cosmology which generically predicts a tilt of the spectrum which is slightly red.

Sunday, March 30, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

The Great Immensity: NSF-funded AGW theater play

A musical that revolutionizes statistics, climatology, $697,177 – approved

I just received an e-mail from Barack Obama. It seems that he wants to promote his latest scientific project so let me quote:

Dear Luboš,

I noticed that you are interested in science. You have pointed out that William Keck, the founder of Superior Oil Company (now a part of ExxonMobil), established his W.M. Keck Foundation which initially funded the BICEP experiment that recently discovered the primordial gravitational waves.

So I believe that you might also be interested in the newest scientific project of my foundation, the National Science Foundation, which is actually 7 times larger than the W.M. Keck Foundation. It (NSF) has funded a $0.7 million theater play called "The Great Immensity" with songs by Michael Friedman, written and directed by Steven Cosson. The play received a Work-In-Progress showing on April 17, 2010 at the Berlind Theatre at the McCarter Theatre Center at Princeton University.

The implications of the play are far-reaching. For example, I attach the song "Margin of Error" that could be helpful in particle physics, too.

Your weblog may attract some viewers to the April 11th, 2014 premiere in Manhattan (Kansas City saw it today, on Saturday. Along with ObamaCare, this is one of the two most beloved projects of my tenure as the U.S. president. I hope that you will agree that the taxpayer money managed by an enlightened president is capable of producing equally sensible scientific projects as the Big Oil.

Truly Yours
Barack H. Obama
So I thought it would make the sender happy if I mentioned this NSF scientific project.

Saturday, March 29, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Nate Silver, Roger Pielke, and journalism ethics

Nate Silver is a statistician who has analyzed baseball and elections. I don't know him but it seems that some other people do. At any rate, he started a new expensive online news server (the number is 538). Some mostly left-wing pundits have criticized the new server and made its childhood a rocky experience.

The first study he happened to publish on that server was one by Dr Roger Pielke Jr, a "climate lukewarmer" [in the middle between skeptics and alarmists] who does research into damages caused by meteorological phenomena:

Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change (by Pielke)
His main point is simple: the absolute amount of money destroyed by natural disasters is increasing but so is the total GDP. The ratio stays pretty much constant – as he demonstrates by some graph from the Munich Re reinsurance company – and it should. (Well, there is even some decrease that seems statistically insignificant; if it ever became significant, it would probably be due to people's increasing ability to protect their assets.) There exists no scientific or otherwise rational reason to think that the "losses to GDP" ratio should be significantly changing with time. As people are getting wealthier, they have more assets that may be destroyed by unpleasant weather and so on.

Needless to say, a "lukewarmer" like Pielke Jr is a sufficient heretic for the climate activists to go ballistic; his claims – self-evidently correct claims – were a blasphemy. So they have spammed the comment section with tons of negative comments (80% of comments were claimed to be negative), posted a long pseudoscientific rebuttal at SkepticalScience.COM, a rant at Salon.COM mentioning the grilling of Silver by Jon Stewart, a diatribe at HuffPo, and dozens of other anti-Pielke replies on assorted far left-wing servers and blogs.

Spineless Nate Silver has apologized to the working class for his anti-revolutionary, anti-socialist provocation.

Friday, March 28, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Axion monodromy inflation

Guest post by Prof Eva Silverstein, string theorist and cosmologist at Stanford & SLAC

Let us assume that the BICEP2 result is confirmed as cosmological, and indicates primordial gravitational waves generated during inflation. Within the context of inflationary theory, this groundbreaking discovery has important implications for quantum gravity, for which string theory is our leading candidate.

String theory contains a rather simple mathematical structure – monodromy – which naturally generates a significant tensor signal. In this guest post, I'll describe that mechanism, and discuss its range of applicability as we currently understand it. (String theory also contains multiple axion fields, which in itself gives an interesting realization of assisted inflation, N-flation, covered nicely in an earlier blog post. It was later realized that along each such direction the monodromy effect operates; in general, one may consider a combination of these two mechanisms.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

The Universe really began with the Big Bang singularity

Matt Strassler wrote two recent blog posts that attempt to denounce a singularity at the beginning of the expansion of our Universe and to question the Big Bang itself.

While I agree with most of the detailed technical claims he is making (e.g. with the constantly repeated notion that the closer to the Big Bang we dive, the more uncertain our knowledge about the phenomena becomes etc.), the truth value and purpose of the main propositions that Matt wants to defend remain mysterious to me. (See also my conversation with Umesh.)

Our whole universe was in a hot dense state,
Then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started. Wait...
The Earth began to cool,
The autotrophs began to drool,
Neanderthals developed tools,
We built a wall (we built the pyramids),
Math, science, history, unraveling the mysteries,
That all started with the big bang!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

BICEP2 string-theoretical winner: N-flation

Last Tuesday, I discussed some of the winners and losers of the apparent discovery of the primordial gravitational waves.

The first winner that I mentioned was Andrei Linde's "chaotic inflation" with the potential \(V=\frac 12 m^2 \phi^2\). It is extremely simple and it matches all the observations at this point. However, it is just an effective field theory, not a full-fledged compactification of string theory.

What are the actual compactifications or scenarios in string theory that are winners? We will turn to this question later in this blog post.

One point that I haven't sufficiently emphasized is that the anti-physics activists, the sort of computer administrators, senile teaching assistants, and other assorted unfriendly individuals are the top losers – in the excitement following the discovery, we have almost completely forgotten that they exist. Imagine how you must feel if you have been preaching for decades that physics at dozens of \(\TeV\) is untestable, unfalsifiable, or any other adjective that was popular among similar cranks... and suddenly, a cheap $10 million experiment measures the value of a new parameter that describes some physics at the supersymmetric GUT scale, around \(10^{16}\GeV\), and it eliminates 90% of the theories that say something about the scale. 90% is quite a brutal case of falsification, isn't it? It would be appropriate if at least 90% of these physics haters disappeared now, too.

Yakov B. Zeldovich once said that the Universe is the poor man's accelerator. In the USSR, they had sufficiently many poor men which is why they had to look to the Universe and why a significant fraction of the pre-fathers and early co-fathers of inflation were Russians. And as another Slavic physicist and probably the first man who thought about the decomposition of CMB into E-modes and B-modes, Uroš Seljak, observed, "[the discovery] may force us in the direction of string theory; it also fits in with models of continuing inflation that produce multiple universes."

Sorrow or better fear of several "details"

By Václav Klaus, Czech ex-president

While it's true that we're confronted with "details" of this kind on an almost daily basis, sometimes an excessively high amount of them accumulates. From this perspective, the beginning of the last week of March 2014 was extraordinary.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Inflation on the back of an envelope

Guest blog by John Preskill of Caltech, a trained particle physicist, cosmologist, a top quantum computing expert, and a teacher of nations

Last Monday was an exciting day!

After following the BICEP2 announcement via Twitter, I had to board a transcontinental flight, so I had 5 uninterrupted hours to think about what it all meant. Without Internet access or references, and having not thought seriously about inflation for decades, I wanted to reconstruct a few scraps of knowledge needed to interpret the implications of \(r\sim 0.2\).

I did what any physicist would have done … I derived the basic equations without worrying about niceties such as factors of \(3\) or \(2\pi\). None of what I derived was at all original — the theory has been known for 30 years — but I’ve decided to turn my in-flight notes into a blog post. Experts may cringe at the crude approximations and overlooked conceptual nuances, not to mention the missing references. But some mathematically literate readers who are curious about the implications of the BICEP2 findings may find these notes helpful. I should emphasize that I am not an expert on this stuff (anymore), and if there are serious errors I hope better informed readers will point them out.

IPCC: impact of climate change small, either beneficial or not

Media write about the report of the Second Working Group of the IPCC (focusing on "impacts of the hypothetical climate change") that will release its fifth report next Monday.

Most of the sources tell us about the catastrophes that will cripple Asia, Australia, and any other random piece of the globe. You have seen this stuff 1,000 times in the past so you may imagine what they have to offer.

But there are some notable exceptions. The BBC chose an interesting title, Dissent among scientists over key climate impact report. But The Sydney Morning Herald has the most upbeat article.

Monday, March 24, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Alan Guth and inflation

Alan Guth of MIT is one of the nine well-deserved inaugural winners of the Milner Prize. He has received $2,999,988 because Milner failed to pay the banking fees (Alan Guth was generous enough not to have sued Yuri Milner for that so far).

As far as I know, Alan Guth is the only winner of a prize greater than the Nobel prize who has ever regularly attended a course of mine. ;-)

I have taken many pictures of Alan Guth, this is the fuzziest one but I think it's funny to see a young Italian physicist showing a finger to Alan Guth in the New York Subway during our trip to a May 2005 conference at Columbia University.

Under the name Alan H. Guth, the SPIRES database offers 73 papers, 51 of which are "citeable". That's fewer than some other famous physicists have but the advantage is that it keeps Alan Guth in the rather elite club of physicists with about 200 citations per average paper.

Sunday, March 23, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

APS reviews its AGW statement again: 1/2 of witnesses are skeptics

Among the scientific disciplines, the concentrated climate panic is confined to the specialized interdisciplinary clique of self-described "climate scientists", a scholarly discipline that was pretty much created and greatly inflated with the very purpose of spreading the climate hysteria and to make it look "connected to science".

Actual scientists in disciplines that have existed before this political movement became strong are usually neutral or skeptical about the climate panic. This includes people in the adjacent disciplines such as meteorology, geology – and physics itself. Physicists should be particularly immune towards this kind of brainwashing. After all, when Galileo Galilei kickstarted physics, he was fighting against similar religious attempts to "constrain" the human thought.

Some physicists have been very honest and outspoken; others less so. The disappointing physicists' attitudes were particularly embarrassing in the case of the American Physical Society (APS) that actually became one of the most mindless mouthpieces of the climate alarmist movement. Things have a chance to change again.

UCSB professor of pornography faces assault charges

A confrontation clearly showing why similar women are called feminazis

I've spent almost one year at UCSB in Santa Barbara in total. And yes, I've met tons of feminists and their apologists in California. Fox News brought us the following incredible story:

University of California-Santa Barbara feminist professor charged in confrontation with pro-life teen
This cute 16-year-old, Thrin Short, was protesting abortion on campus (in a free-speech zone, near the Girvetz Hall) along with her sister and some friends.

You know, this is the canonical attitude to these matters that a pure 16-year-old often takes and probably should take. If the education system were working, it would probably present Thrin Short as a sort of a role model for the teenagers. Abortion is a form of murder. Because the embryo isn't terribly cute and cannot protect itself, and because its feelings and thinking are not really developed yet, it is perhaps a more defensible form of a murder but people clearly have the indisputable right to think that abortion is just wrong and many of them always will.

As this video vaguely shows, the group of girls faced someone who was very unlike them, a feminist professor. In other words, they encountered an unattractive, fat, arrogant, freedom-hating, egotist woman called Mireille Miller-Young.

Saturday, March 22, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Warsaw Pact manages to delay 2030 EU climate target decisions

The events around Ukraine and some new activities of the climate fearmongers in the EU are worrisome but at least, they allow us to see the politicians from new angles. And these new angles show e.g. the new Czech social democratic prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka in a more positive light than what your humble correspondent would expect based on the old angles.

First, he and the bulk of the government seem to realize that a trade war against Russia would be an insanity. In fact, the populist billionaire Mr Andrej Babiš' coalition party "ANO" is a more typical anti-Russian element of the coalition (as we are often assured by anti-Russian proclamations by the actor and current defense minister Mr Martin Stropnický). Still, Babiš seems to realize very well that some of the proposed (and even adopted) EU policies might be counterproductive.

In particular, the EU has decided to allow tariff-free imports of the Ukrainian goods, in order to help these "new friends" of ours in their costly, indefensible, and doomed attempts to hurt their Eastern neighbor. A not-quite-negligible portion of these goods are chickens and Babiš' Agrofert Corporation itself is the Czechia's most important producer of chickens (Chickens of Vodňany, "Vodňanské kuře") so it is pretty clear that he is not thrilled by these policies. ;-)

Particle fever: Q&A with the cast

If you have 57 minutes, here is the newly posted "Filmmakers at Google" debate

with the cast of Particle Fever. You will see some Google folks, experimenters including Fabiola Gianotti, and theorists such as Savas Dimopoulos, Nima Arkani-Hamed, and David E. Kaplan who had decided that such a movie should be created.

I had to recheck that David E. Kaplan is someone else than my former co-author David B. Kaplan, probably the only co-author whom I "almost" don't remember meeting (although I probably did meet him in Seattle). And I am still not sure whether the physicist who is speaking around 27:15 is the same guy as the biochemist dad in Cats & Dogs that I watched last night. ;-)

Friday, March 21, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

BICEP2: the announcement (1-hour video)

Most of us had at least partial problems while watching the BICEP2 press conference on Monday. I urge the dear readers to find some time and watch these 60 minutes again (or for the first time):

The important event was very smoothly recorded and posted by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. In my opinion, the number of views of this video – below 1,770 at this moment – is totally inadequate for a discovery of this magnitude.

Thursday, March 20, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Schoolkids are more indoctrinated than during late communism

A report by Václav Klaus, quick translation by L.M.

Summary of the fifth Dialogues at Hanspaulka
Is the degree of indoctrination at our schools higher or lower than during late communism?

On Wednesday 19th, the halls of the Institute of Václav Klaus witnessed the fifth "Dialogues at Hanspaulka [a neighborhood in Prague]". The participants – about 20 panelists – were spending their time with the issue of our education system from a particular angle described in the title above: they were deciding whether the degree of indoctrination of our kids at schools is higher or lower than it used to be during the final years of communism. I emphasize the adjective "late" i.e., to a large extent, "stale" communism that was self-evidently displaying no powerful charge. We wanted to completely avoid discussions about our schools in the scary decade of the 1950s; communism wasn't "stale" then at all.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

BICEP2: some winners and losers

While some theories and theorists got even bangier, others were banged in their heads

Update: on Friday, Nature will publish a rather helpful and complementary article about spring cleaning after the BICEP2 announcement.

In this blog post, I will assume that the observation of BICEP2 suggesting \(r\approx 0.20\pm 0.05\) and \(n_s\approx 0.96\pm 0.01\) is right and will eventually be confirmed by independent experiments. If the result turns out to be wrong, the whole blog post below will become irrelevant and misleading, but so will many other, more important texts and papers. That was the last time I mentioned this disclaimer in this text; I think that e.g. Matt Strassler's addition of "IF IF IF" in several colors in each sentence of his long text is a somewhat childish pose. Moreover, I think that the discovery is more likely to be right than wrong.

This new discovery is groundbreaking and has a huge impact on the health of virtually all detailed models of inflation and its audaciously proposed alternatives. Let me list some major losers and winners; I expect some true expert in inflationary model building to do a similar job "right".

The #1 loser: cyclic and ekpyrotic universes

Throughout the recent decades, Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok were the two loudest critics of cosmic inflation. (Well, we could also include Roger Penrose, but that would bring us too far from science to science-fiction.) Most of the TRF blog posts mentioning Turok and many of those mentioning Steinhardt refer to these men's vigorous attacks against cosmic inflation.

They would be repeating that inflation doesn't solve the problems that inflation solves so beautifully and they would be proposing various cyclic and ekpyrotic (born from fire) alternatives to inflation. What is the status of this competition? Well, let them speak. Look at their 2003 paper with Justin Khoury. They wanted to show some "really bad news" for inflation. Let me quote the abstract:

We present a simple, nearly model-independent estimate that yields the predictions of the simplest inflationary and ekpyrotic/cyclic models for the spectral tilt of the primordial density inhomogeneities. Remarkably, we find that the simplest models yield an identical result: \(n_s\) is approximately \(0.95\). For inflation, the same estimate predicts a ratio of tensor to scalar contributions to the low multipoles of the microwave background anisotropy of T/S \(r=20\%\); the tensor contribution is negligible for ekpyrotic/cyclic models.
So the cyclic and ekpyrotic models are so cool because they predict negligible tensor modes. Eleven years later, an experiment measures T/S \(r=20\%\), exactly what Turok et al. assigned to inflation. The spectral index \(n_s\) predicted for inflation is consistent with the observed one within 1 sigma, too.

The agreement between the "prediction of simple inflationary models" quoted negatively in a critical paper and the observation is amazingly ironic. It reminds me of the cute 2008 story when Alain Connes calculated from some of his "noncommutative standard models" that the Higgs had to weigh \(170\GeV\). Needless to say, \(170\GeV\) was exactly the first a priori possible Higgs mass that was excluded by the Tevatron! ;-)

Monday, March 17, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

BICEP2: primordial gravitational waves!

Guest blog by Liam McAllister, Cornell University.

The BICEP2 team has just announced a remarkable discovery (FAQ): they argue that they have detected, at very high significance, the imprint of primordial gravitational waves on the polarization of the cosmic microwave background.  Moreover, the signal they see is very strong.  If they are right, this is The Big One.

BICEP on site at the South Pole

BICEP's map of the CMB:

Vorticity in the CMB according to BICEP

How should we interpret this result, and what are its implications?

If the BICEP measurement really is a detection of primordial gravitational waves, and if we interpret this finding in the context of the overwhelmingly favored theory for producing primordial gravitational waves — namely, inflation — then the implications of this finding are staggering.  I find it hard to imagine a more powerful, more transformative experimental result anywhere in fundamental physics, short of a discovery of extra dimensions or of a violation of quantum mechanics.

Let me now temper this excitement with a number of cautionary remarks, and then explain why a detection of inflationary gravitational waves would be so important.

Who should get the Nobel Prize for cosmic inflation?

Guest blog by Phil Gibbs, manager of

Graph added in the afternoon, LM.

Today at 4 pm British Summer Time we might hear some good news [and read some documents: already posted! \(r=0.2\) at 6-7 sigma; FAQ on the discovery] about a discovery of primordial gravitational waves and within a few more weeks that could be confirmed in more detail by Planck. If this happens the observational status of the theory of cosmic inflation will change dramatically because primordial gravitational waves have been described as a smoking gun for the theory. Well that may be an exaggeration but the observed scale invariance of the CMB anisotropy spectrum is already a good pointer towards inflation so could the combination be enough to sway the notoriously cautious Nobel committee towards awarding a prize for the theory?

Rumors say that Alan Guth and Andrei Linde have been invited to tomorrow’s meeting where the team of astronomers who work with the BICEP2 observatory in Antartica will announce a “major discovery” about B-modes in the cosmic microwave background. E-mode polarisation in the cosmic radiation was produced at the time of last scattering when it decoupled from atomic gas in the early universe. These E-modes could then have been distorted by the tensor modes of the primordial gravitational waves permeating space, twisting the polarisation field of the microwave background into the (hopefully) observed B-modes. So the B-modes are a signature of the gravitational waves that are themselves a remnant of the much earlier inflationary epoch of the universe.

Saturday, March 15, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Kosovo and Crimea: common themes and differences

There will be a referendum about the independence of Crimea from Ukraine tomorrow. The turnout will be above 80 percent and around 95 percent will endorse the annexation by Russia.

On March 16th, we are choosing: [this] or [that].

As the billboard shows, the people will be choosing between a membership in the burning land composed of fences and represented by fascist national colors of Ukraine (black and red: the Right Sector uses the same colors on their flag) with a swastika on one hand, and a future in a shiny Russia represented by the Slavic tricolor flag on the other hand. The sniper-controlled parliament in Kiev has helped the independence of Crimea by declaring the Crimean parliament non-existent according to the Ukrainian laws, so the Crimean parliament may finally start to operate outside Ukraine. It won't be a smooth sailing. For example, Ukraine may quickly cut water pipelines and other things.

I expect the referendum to approve the independence. The desires in Crimea seem clear to me. Ukraine was a cradle of the Russian civilization but it later diverged or mutated. But Crimea has always been an intrinsically Russian territory and Khruschev's 1954 decision to reclassify Crimea as a part of Ukraine was a prank of a sort, a method for an Ukrainian-Russian-mixed Soviet leader to show everyone that he can do anything.

Friday, March 14, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Rumor: inflation-related primordial B-modes to be announced on Monday

BICEP2 near the South Pole might have found a gem

Update, Monday 4 pm: The rumor was 100% true. Ahead of the press conference, official data have been released. They measured \(n\sim 0.96\) and more importantly \(r=0.20\pm 0.05\) or so (see a new graph) and could exclude \(r=0\) at a 6-7 confidence level. The peaks are where we expect it from cosmic inflation, contamination by instruments seems very unlikely to them. See FAQ. See also a post-discovery blog post by Prof Liam McAllister.
In the morning, Sam Telfer asked Matt Strassler, Adam Falkowski, and myself about the new buzz related to the B-modes. It turns out that he was ahead of us. But now, all of us know what is supposed to happen soon, and it is exciting.

As an undergrad, your self-described non-athletic humble correspondent would be the sports commissar of the Academic Senate. I would establish a new "fitness gym course" that people could take instead of the logistically inconvenient volley ball and similar courses on the other side of Prague. I attended it myself along with mostly female fellow students. The female instructor stressed that without hormones, women can't really develop structured bicepses.

The rumor is all about BICEP2, a small experiment at the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station in the Antarctica (BICEP1 concluded with this paper; see also BICEP2 status in 2012). Focusing on the frequency \(150\, {\rm GHz}\) i.e. wavelength 2 millimeters, it is trying to find the primordial B-modes, something that could be important to pick the winners among theories of cosmic inflation and possible alternative theories to cosmic inflation.

Russia will nuke U.S. if tensions run too high

I have been amazed by the degree of anti-Russian warmongering by the U.S. and other Western politicians who are willing to ignite an economic conflict because of events in Little Russia, a territory that they don't understand at all.

Despite the devastating global economic consequences, we cannot really exclude that a trade war against Russia will occur. But things are worse. War games are taking place near the NATO-Russia borders, Ukraine is asking for U.S. weapons, and the U.S. tends to suggest that they will help the "people of Ukraine" (a category that clearly explicitly removes the citizens who find the influence of Russia beneficial).

Albert Einstein: 135th anniversary

Albert Einstein was born 135 years day, on the \(\pi\approx 3.14\) day in 1879.

He is a towering figure of modern physics. Your humble correspondent knows too much about him; many readers know too much about him, too. Many of us have been exposed to similar things but I've also learned a lot of things about Einstein's stay in Prague, for local reasons. These things are too numerous and they just don't fit into a biography so I have removed Albert Einstein (and a few others) from attempts to write a short biography that you have heard about many others. Einstein is too large a soul for that, sorry.

Numerous documentaries about Einstein have been linked to: Einstein and Eddington; How I See the World (PBS), and others. Today, I decided to embed a 90-minute documentary "Albert Einstein: Equation of Life and Death".

Thursday, March 13, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Candy Crush is \(NP\)-hard

Candy Crash [Saga] is currently the most popular game on Facebook. Play it quickly here. You may also download it for Android and iOS along with hundreds of millions of users.

You may permute two adjacent fruits in a grid. Such a move must create at least a triplet of identical fruits in a row or column and they disappear which is a good thing. I've spent hours with games based on the same idea although not this particular one.

Toby Walsh from a university in Sydney turned this popular software into a piece of interesting computer science by offering a non-trivial proof.

Czech left-wing priest wins Templeton Prize

A reincarnated Jesuit who would burn books 300 years ago

The Templeton Prize has been distributed by the Templeton Foundation annually since 1973.

The winners of this GBP 1.1 million accolade should enhance the spiritual dimension of life. Dalai Lama – a religious leader who just endorsed gay marriage last week – won 2 years ago. For a long time, I would parrot the kind of "Dalai Lama is a saint" education I've been immersed to but later insights such as those in Penn and Teller's Bullshit, "Holier Than Thou", can't be erased anymore (the Dalai-Lama segment begins around 19:50). Yes, I came to the belief that the current regime in China is much more human and enlightened than what Dalai-Lama would impose if he could.

Physicist-winners include Carl von Weizsäcker, Paul Davies, Freeman Dyson, John Polkinghorne, George Ellis, Charles Townes, John Barrow, Michal Heller, Bernard d'Espagnat, and Martin Rees. You may see that the list boasts some top names in physics and many more names that are not top names, to put it mildly. Their main achievement was their ideological compatibility with the goals of the foundation.

But in 2014, the foundation picked a non-physicist whom I know well because he is Czech. See Google News.

Misreporting on spin ices and 3rd law of thermodynamics

Laura Bovo and 7 equally British co-authors published an article on spin ices in Nature Communications:

Restoration of the third law in spin ice thin films (full paper in HTML)

First thin films of spin ice reveal cold secrets (London Nano press release)
They created thin films out of a spin ice, a cute form of matter, and observed that their large entropy goes away at 0.5 °C above the absolute zero. They argue that a necessary condition for this loss of entropy in their setup is that the atoms of the spin ice are strained by the underlying substrate. This general research direction could improve hard drives and other technologies that depend on a "high concentration of magnets" in materials even though the relevance could be more indirect than some writers suggest.

At any rate, this loss of entropy means that the third law of thermodynamics is restored. After all, the word "restoration" is the first word in the title of the paper in Nature. So even a linguist should be able to understand that the physicists claim – and claim for the first time – that they may show that the third law of thermodynamics actually does hold again when something is done to the spin ice.

Crazily enough, some journalists writing about this paper got up upside down. Once again. Ladies and Gentlemen, which part of the word "restoration" do you misunderstand?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Where is the MH370 aircraft?

Pilot Amelia Earhart and her plane disappeared on July 2nd, 1937, and her disappearance has been a topic of mysterious theories for 75+ years. Now it seems likely that she ended near an island in the Republic of Kiribati.

Do you understand why the trajectory of the MH370 flight seems broken and why the unsmooth point is exactly the point where the airplane was lost? Or is the discontinuity just an artifact of an imperfect drawing of the map? I've seen the same discontinuity on other maps, too.

On Saturday, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared, too. The aircraft went sharply off-course, lowered the altitude abruptly, stopped communicating just as if all the electricity suddenly disappeared from the airplane (or it was physically destroyed within a split second) or just turned off by someone. It carried more than one famous woman; there were 227 passengers plus 12 crew members. It was going from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing (towards the Northeast, and maybe in the opposite direction, such details are not too important for Asian officials so nobody really knows and no TRF reader was carefully watching the realtime air traffic maps at the moment; with news like that, The Onion will soon go out of business).

In the middle of the sea, the pilot said "Alright, good night" and the communication was lost. (Maybe the pilot wanted to turn off the lights for everyone to sleep but he mistakenly turned off the whole airplane.) No one knows where the airplane is and lots of weird things have occurred. Or at least some of them because people have invented some weird and untrue stories.

Barycentric climatology was never a good science

In a new blog post titled

Death blow to Barycentrism: ‘On the alleged coherence between the global temperature and the sun’s movement’
Anthony Watts talks about the publication of a July 2013 preprint
On the alleged coherence between the global temperature and the sun's movement
by Sverre Holm of Oslo in the April 2014 issue of Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics. Holm concludes that claims by Nicola Scafetta about the "impact of the Jupiter- and Saturn-affected motion of the Solar System's center-of-mass relatively to the Sun on the Earth's climate" are not only unsupported by any plausible physical mechanism.

They are also unsupported by significant evidence – the evidence used as a justification seems to be all about some random flukes that are fully compatible with the word "noise". And Holm's words "...due to a combination of model overfitting and smearing" suggests that he also thinks that the noise was slightly "helped" to emerge.

World Science U: Brian Greene's online learning

Hours ago, I received a (mass?) e-mail from Brian Greene, string theorist and Columbia University professor who was and probably will also always be a co-founder of the World Science Festival and now is becoming a co-founder of the World Science U. The letter "U" is probably a cool New York nerds' slang for a university of a new kind.

Because it seems to me that Brian sent the message to his whole addressbook, it follows that he probably wants people to talk about the shining project, and I am just going to do so.

This video describes itself as "non-public". I wonder whether it makes any difference when I embed it.

In this introductory video, Brian Greene says that he didn't have the satisfactory feeling of a "full understanding" of special relativity in the college courses, something I found surprising given his extremely high IQ and achievements. He needed mental images. Well, sometimes the right images are completely non-visual. As an instructor at my Prague Alma Mater used to say, but I only appreciated the real wisdom of the quasi-joke later: the best picture is an equation.

At any rate, if the video or words have already convinced you that it is a project you can't resist, you should

register to World Science U (click).
It seems that some courses are already out there at WorldScienceU.COM.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Could two dark matter particles be discovered within a year?

Yes, it is as likely as that they arrive 15 years after one another.

Matt Strassler has joined Jester and me and noticed the intriguing excess of the \(3.5\keV\) X-ray line in the galaxy clusters that resembles a dark matter particle of a sort (sterile neutrino, axino, axion, moduli, we may ultimately learn).

But here I want to focus on a cute sentence that Matt wrote in parentheses. After he noticed another, possibly decreasingly convincing, gamma-ray line near \(130\GeV\) in the Fermi data, he wrote:

You can invent types of dark matter that would give you both signals – but it would take a small miracle for two signals of the same dark matter particles to show up in the same year.
It's an amusing argument against the possibility that "both signals are real dark matter" but is the argument valid? I am sometimes making similar arguments (or at least tempted to do so), too. So the logic may deserve a few words.

John Kerry, climate, and constants of human behavior

Back in 2004, I probably didn't know most of the things about John Kerry and his way of thinking that I know today. Today, it looks utterly insane to me that so many people in the U.S. – and perhaps 95% of Harvard faculty – would vote for this guy who is completely detached from reality.

Today, Kerry declined a meeting with Putin. It's probably not an important enough work for the U.S. Secretary of State these days. Or perhaps, Kerry believes that Putin will be so sad that he isn't allowed to meet Kerry that he will order all the Russian and Crimean troops and self-defense units to commit seppuku. After Putin suggested a meeting with Kerry, Kerry rejected it and his spokesgirl explained the step by saying that Kerry first wants to see evidence that Russia wants to be engaged in diplomacy. Huh!? ;-)

The events around Ukraine are not sufficiently interesting for Kerry so he just revealed his #1 priority: over the weekend, all U.S. diplomats were ordered to press case for "climate action". It's apparently not enough that no one else than the U.S. Secretary of State seriously believes the decadent postmodern religion about the need to "fight climate change". All U.S. diplomats will probably be required to unanimously parrot this complete pseudoscientific idiocy, too.

Monday, March 10, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

The missile defense system was promised not to be directed against Russia, Mr McCain

Senator John McCain claims that the ongoing reorganization of Crimea should be interpreted as a justification for the resuscitation of the U.S. missile defense system composed of a radar in Czechia and missiles in Poland. The plans were scrapped in September 2009. Perhaps, they were "postponed indefinitely" (or at least through 2015). So far, it didn't make any difference.

When the project was still a hot issue in 2009...

The planned radar site near Míšov, Brdy Hills (Břízkovec, "spot height 718", Google Maps) is located 30 kilometers from my home. As a clearcut defender of the project, I have visited the place about 15 times. At some moment, Greenpeace activists were living in the treetops over there. The landscape is beautiful there; the deep forests in the Brdy Hills were protected from the civilization because they have been a military space for many decades. Since 2015, the place will be open to the civilians (including the cowards who have avoided it so far) so the landscape may suffer a bit...

The picture above shows that I have forced one of them, the Czech Republic's Greenpeace Director for Climate Hysteria Mr Jan Rovenský, to wave the U.S. flag. He argued he wasn't anti-American and to a large extent, I think he's right. Months later, I would accidentally meet him in a radio program about the climate hysteria (as an opponent) and we fully realized that we were friends in the Summer 1988 camp in Sverdlovsk, our Soviet twin city. He would be more or less as anti-communist as I was which made it surprising to me that he would become a top apparatchik of Greenpeace (which he joined just 4 years after the summer camp).

Three interesting hep-th papers

First, a comment about the phenomenological hep-ph archive. Three new "primarily hep-ph" papers among twelve, namely the papers #5, #6, #8, are talking about the \(3.5\keV\) X-ray line that Jester described as a possible dark matter signal. Jester would talk about "sterile neutrinos" but the three new papers try to identify the dark matter particle with a radiative neutrino; decaying moduli; and axinos. If you're intrigued by the \(3.5\keV\) line, maybe you should bookmark the list of followups to the empirical paper by Bolbul et al..

Off-topic: a new colleague of Bill O'Reilly was hired by Rupert Murdoch. His name is Barack Obama and in this first job, he introduces the new "Cosmos" hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson 34 years after it was done by Carl Sagan. Incidentally, Obama is likely to name his law school classmate Andrew Schapiro as the new ambassador to Czechia.

Now, hep-th, theory.

Michael Douglas and two Stony-Brook and/or partially Bonn collaborators talk about 8-dimensional F-theory vacua and the fate of vector multiplets in them. Recall that F-theory has formally 12 spacetime dimensions but two of them are infinitesimal and must be compactified on a 2-torus. That allows one to compactify F-theory on a K3 (which has 4 real dimensions), leaving 7+1 large dimensions, as long as the K3 has toroidal (elliptical) fibers.

The base of such an eliptically fibered K3 manifold is a sphere \(S^2\) or, as we call it in complex geometry, \({\mathbb P}^1\), the 1-dimensional projective space (a complex one, so we mean \(\mathbb{CP}^1\)). On this sphere, there are at most (if you maximally separate them) 24 singular places – because of the extra 7+1 large dimensions, the loci are the places where 24 \((p,q)\) sevenbranes live, and you could expect 24 vector multiplets. However, four of them are effectively "eaten" by some tensor multiplets, they show in detail, in a mechanism known as the Cremmer-Scherk (CS: not to be confused with Chern-Simons or Czecho-Slovak or Computer-Science) mechanism.

George Soros, quantum mechanics, and Ukraine

George Soros is arguably the world's most famous wealthy speculator. He has made most of his fortune by being malicious his whole life; and by being lucky in certain weeks. As a rich guy, he began to do a lot to harm the human society in the whole world. Instead of the term "a major sponsor of terrorist organizations in the whole world", some people often use the insane codeword "a philanthropist" to describe his activities.

I wouldn't count myself as a George Soros conspiracy theorist; the actions and influences that Soros and his hired guns are doing openly are enough for me to be alarmed.

He has paid certain organizations for their key contributions to many "revolutions" across the world, including those led by Saakashvili in Georgia and the 2004 Orange Revolution as well as the 2014 Messy Revolution in Ukraine. When it comes to what is now officially called the global warming Nazism, he may be paying for a majority of income of these "activists" that doesn't come directly from the governments' coffers. I still think that many of the believers and activists are genuinely believing all the insanities they are saying and they are acting weirdly for free (some "clever" guys, however, are getting money both from the governments and from Soros-like sources) but it seems hard for me to estimate whether this particular movement could exist if George Soros were never born.

Sunday, March 09, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Richard Feynman: Los Alamos from below

If you have 70 spare minutes and you are interested in the Manhattan Project or if you want some cool physics-based entertainment, watch (listen to) this:

On Thursday, February 6, 1975, Richard Feynman gave this talk in Santa Barbara.

Saturday, March 08, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

More timid than the Poles

Two days ago, a blogger at The Economist wrote the article

More timid than the Poles
that describes the author's surprise that despite the Soviet-led 1968 occupation of Czechoslovakia, Czech and Slovak politicians avoid loud shouting of "War to Russia" and reject the sanctions, something that is heard from Poland. The article rates this "insufficiently heroic" Czech and Slovak attitude negatively. As you know, I think that in this very context of the Ukrainian crisis, our moderate reaction is a positive thing, and we should perhaps be even less anti-Russian.

But I want to mention a few words about our relations to "Mother Rus" and our national character (e.g. pragmatism and cowardliness) in general. Let me emphasize that – if you allow me to be frank – the author of the text below probably belongs to the 1% of most political heroic Czech citizens, when it came to the opposition to the totalitarian regime(s) and what I was or would be ready to put at risk or sacrifice. This will be a part of the story but the special history of our relationships with Russia will be another part.

Friday, March 07, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

\(P=NP\) is conceivable; there is no partial evidence in purely discrete mathematics

Scott Aaronson of MIT has finally written his new essay

The Scientific Case for \(P\neq NP\)
where your humble correspondent is appointed as the spokesman of the people who suggest that
\(P\neq NP\) is just “a fashionable dogma of the so-called experts,” something that’s no more likely to be true than false.
A fine summary, by the way.

We the doubters can even point to at least one accomplished complexity theorist, Dick Lipton, who publicly advocates agnosticism about whether \(P=NP\), Scott says. (Check that my text on \(P=NP\) and the Erdös problem that was written two weeks earlier is nearly isomorphic to Lipton's.)

I was highly amused by Scott's introduction. His cute formulation that Lipton "publicly advocates agnosticism" tells you something about the atmosphere in the field. What is it? It tells you that he should probably keep these blasphemies in his bedroom instead of coming out of closet and threatening the public morality! ;-)

Dogmatic irrational bullies like Aaronson himself seem to rule their field and the statement that "\(P=NP\) could very well be true" is the same kind of heresy as "climate change may not be a problem" among the climate cataclysmic crackpots.

Is detachment of Crimea from Kiev a victory for Russia?

The Crimean parliament unanimously (this is a popular style in Kiev, Simferopol, and Moscow as well: scary in all cases) approved a bill that removes Crimea from Ukraine and asks for a membership in the Russian federation. A referendum should "confirm" this decision in a week. Crimea is/was the most pro-Russian region of Ukraine, artificially donated by RSFSR to Ukrainian SSR in the 1950s. About 60% are Russian folks, 12% are Tatar Muslims, the rest is mostly Ukrainian.

Western pundits, including those who have a deeper understanding for the Russian attitudes, tend to say that "getting Crimea only" would be a Pyrrhic victory for Russia. See e.g. Jack Matlock, two Russian political science postdocs in Toronto, at Harvard.

Crimea actually produces economic losses and requires subsidies and drink water, among other things; Putin could look silly because he recently said that he had no plans to dissolve another country; his image as an aggressor would strengthen, and so on.

Thursday, March 06, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Two fresh dark matter stories

Randall, Reece link DM and dinosaurs; strengthening DM signal in Central Milky Way

I want to mention two developments related to dark matter. First, Lisa Randall and Matthew Reece of Harvard have finally released a preprint – to appear in Physical Review Letters – linking extinctions and dark matter:

Dark Matter as a Trigger for Periodic Comet Impacts
As the "comments" (an entry in the arXiv form) point out, there are no dinosaurs in the paper so let me offer you a compensation.

Holy crap, we forgot to install a thermonuclear missile shield above Chick-Ku-Klux-Club in the Yucatan Peninsula (65 megayears before Christ).

At least one of the authors has intensely thought about various extinctions etc. at the same moment when she or he was writing the paper ;-), so the "no dinosaurs" comment is much less off-topic than some people might think.

They take one thing for granted, namely a periodicity of 35 million years in the crater record on the Earth's surface. And they try to link it to a model involving the galactic midplane, a hypothetical dark disk in that plane, and tidal effects on the Oort cloud (a far "Ukraine" of the Solar System; just to be sure, if you happen to be brainwashed by the idea that Ukraine has no permanent link to Russia, "Ukraine" does mean "borderland" or "march" [of Rus'] in the Slavic languages, and even Ukrainian scholars agree with that).

Brian Greene's talk on the state of string theory

Stephen and Vincent Della Pietra – who are not Capo di tutti capi because there are two of them; instead, they are fratelli – donated a few million dollars to Stony Brook and launched their lecture series. Recent speakers included (or the coming one will include) Wilczek, Linde, Veltman (and Schwarz).

In October 2011, Brian Greene gave the talk on "The State of String theory" which was finally posted to YouTube and if you can sacrifice 76 minutes (or a part of them), you are invited to watch the talk.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Paper: female scholars of different ranks repel each other

The Australian is among the numerous outlets that were intrigued by a newly published paper on women in science:

Queen bees won’t work with wannabe’s in academia, study finds (Australian)

Rank influences human sex differences in dyadic cooperation (Current Biology, Cell, full PDF)
Benenson, Markovits, and Wrangham of Boston, Montreal, and Harvard looked at psychology papers between 2008 and 2012 and they found a pattern that is rather novel but not completely unexpected when it comes to the issue of "women in science". Senior female scholars are rather unlikely to cooperate with junior female colleagues.

Particle fever: where to see

Particle Fever, the universally praised David Kaplan's full-fledged movie about particle physics, is coming to the movie theaters in the U.S. today.

Lots of news outlets discuss what the movie is all about.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Trade war against Russia would be an insanity

Obama's administration knows that it is not adequate to launch a hot war against Russia just because the two countries disagree about the recent events in Ukraine and what should be done about them to improve the situation. But the White House is apparently thinking about some significant economic sanctions against the Russian Bear and wants the European countries to join. Not too surprisingly, Europe lives in a different world – one that is closer to Russia – so the European leaders mostly disagree.

A car from Marussia Motors. This is what an average car produced in an average Russian village by an average Russian muzhik looks like these days. ;-)

The Guardian mentions that most leaders in Europe, including the German chancellor, consider the trade war against Russia to be a fantasy. Secret documents revealed that the City of London demanded to be exempted from any restrictions to do business with the Russians.

Monday, March 03, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Misconceptions that Lenny Susskind, Scott Aaronson may share

Most importantly, computer science cannot be fundamental in physics

Two weeks ago, I discussed a recent breakthough in proving the Erdös discrepancy conjecture for \(C=2\). The proof is computer-assisted and not really human-checkable. It is long but doable even though you might a priori think that the problem is hopelessly difficult. Consequently, it confirmed my 2013 thesis that short questions sometimes require long answers and proofs.

The solvability of the problem in "realistic" time is a reason to think that \(P=NP\) could hold, too. A "polynomially fast solving" algorithm could be constructed for every "polynomially checkable" algorithm although the former could be much longer and more time-consuming than the letter. But both of them could still require "polynomial time".

Ukraine: the price of internal division

Guest blog by Mr Jack Matlock, former U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia (1981-83) and USSR (1987-91)

With all of the reports coming out of Ukraine, Moscow, Washington, and European capitals, the mutual accusations, the knee-jerk speculation, and—not least—the hysterical language of some observers, bordering on the apocalyptic, it is difficult to keep in mind the long-term implications of what is happening. Nevertheless, I believe that nobody can understand the likely outcomes of what is happening unless they bear in mind the historical, geographic, political and psychological factors at play in these dramatic events. The view of most of the media, whether Russian or Western, seems to be that one side or the other is going to “win” or “lose” Ukraine.

Sunday, March 02, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Gross vs Strassler: Gross is right

See also: Naturalness is fuzzy...

I was told about Matt Strassler's 50-minute talk at JoeFest (click for different formats of the video/audio/slides) and his verbal exchange with David Gross that begins around 35:00.

Matt's talk is pretty nice, touching technical things like the Myers effect, pomerons etc. but also reviewing his work with Joe Polchinski and giving Joe some homework exercises all the time. Matt said various things about the effective field theory's and/or string theory's inability to solve the hierarchy problem even with the anthropic bias taken into account. He would be distinguishing the existence of hierarchies from the lightness of the Higgs in a way that I didn't quite find logical.

They were thought-provoking comments but I just disagree about the basic conclusions. He can't pinpoint any contradiction in these matters because the QFT framework doesn't tell us which QFT is more likely – it goes beyond the domain of questions that an effective QFT may answer. And even the rules to extract such a probabilistic distribution of the vacua from string theory is unknown. If there are no predictions about a particular question – even if it is a "pressing" question like that – there can't be contradictions.

But the main conflict arose due to Matt's vague yet unusual and combative enough comments about the value of the 100-TeV collider.

Saturday, March 01, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Consistency arguments in theoretical physics

Originally written with a different audience in mind

Arguments involving the internal consistency of a theory or a system of ideas have assumed increased prominence in modern mathematical and theoretical physics as well as in other branches of human thought that were or are being inspired by physics.

It is possible to underestimate these arguments; and it is possible to overestimate them as well. And indeed, numerous thinkers err in both ways.

The goals of this essay are to explain the basic logic and assumptions behind these arguments, to present several examples, to show that these arguments are often equivalent to logical steps that may be described without the word “consistency”, to sketch a probabilistic argument suggesting that theories passing a consistency check are more likely, and to clarify both basic fallacies.

Russia can hardly allow Crimea to become militarily hostile

...and the same is probably true for the whole Ukraine...

Relatively to my expectations, Russia remained incredibly calm and peaceful in the wake of the new Ukrainian "revolution". Putin et al. may try to keep their Olympic-inspired image of the saints; or they are just too upset about Yanukovitch's inability to protect his country from chaos; or they know or believe that the more patience they will display, the better for them.

At any rate, in August 1968, Leonid Brezhnev didn't hesitate to invade Czechoslovakia where no violent and no major illegal events were taking place. In fact, even the new leaders were elected according to all the laws and regulations, including all the details. Czechoslovakia wasn't even planning to join the NATO imminently. It was just trying to switch to a more relaxed, diluted version of socialism, especially when it comes to purely internal affairs. Before the age of communism, Czechoslovakia has never belonged to the Russian military sphere of influence. There were virtually no Russians living in Czechoslovakia.

On the other hand, the events in Ukraine have been and still are violent. Ukraine has always been a part of the Russian military sphere of influence and dozens of percent of the Ukranian population are ethnic Russians. Russia itself is threatened. The bandite-controlled parliament in Kiev has already stripped Russian citizens from their previous right to use Russian as the 2nd official language in regions where their percentage is high enough. Putin and Medvedev are sitting calmly (update: were sitting calmly when I was writing this blog post). Can it continue?

120 automatically generated gibberish papers made it to journals

Nature and Fox News (not necessarily a complete list) inform us about a story that is both amusing and troubling but one that sheds some new light on the term "peer review".

If you haven't seen that it really works, you should have a look. Go to the website of David Simmons-Duffin of IAS (but he was at Harvard a few years ago; I sold him some furniture when I was fleeing Cambridge) and find the link pointing to the website sNarXiv.ORG (TRF 2010). It looks like just another competitor or a clone but David's website has one huge advantage.

(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-1828728-1', 'auto'); ga('send', 'pageview');