Wednesday, April 30, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Hinduism for physicists

Or why non-Abrahamic Eastern religions do not have any conflict with science

Guest blog by Kashyap Vasavada, professor emeritus of physics, Purdue/Indianapolis universities

First of all, I thank Luboš for giving me an opportunity to express my views on this guest blog. I think, most of you, like me, read his blog to understand recent developments in physics. Luboš does an outstanding job in explaining these matters from a technical point of view and fills the gap between popular articles and original papers admirably. Social and political issues are also discussed here often, but you may be wondering whether this blog belongs here. I am hoping that you will find it interesting. At the very outset, let me make it absolutely clear that there is no question about the great success of scientific method during the last few hundred years. As is well known, the scientific method consists of making observations with the sense organs (mainly eyes with the help of devices like telescopes, microscopes, electronics etc.); making models using our brains and checking if these models agree with the observations. This trivial statement will be important when we talk about the other method. By following the scientific method, we now know unbelievably large amount about the universe we live in. It will be foolish for anyone to suggest that scientists should abandon this method for investigating the universe. Thus I would be arguing for, not science or religion, but rather for science and religion. In my opinion both science and religion have limitations and both are useful for the good of the mankind.

Carl Friedrich Gauss: a birthday

Johann Carl Friedrich Gauß – one of the history's best mathematicians – was born on April 30th, 1777 (thanks, Moinak), to a poor working-class family in Northwestern Germany. If you are intrigued by the high number of "sevens" in his birthday, let me mention that he died when he was 77, too.

Gauß on the ten-deutsche-mark banknote became an early victim of the euro (the banknote was worth 5.113 euros).

His contributions are huge: you may spend an hour just by enumerating things named after him – including things used by physicists every hour. The Gaussian distribution, Gauss-Bonnet theorem, the CGS unit of the magnetic field \(\vec B\) (one gauss is \(0.0001\) tesla where tesla is an SI unit), the 19th century CGS "Gauss" units, and tons of other things – not to mention dozens of theorems in mathematics – number theory, algebra, statistics, analysis, and differential geometry.

He would be married twice. The first wife died very early which made him rather bitter. Nevertheless, he has had 6 children. Wilhelmina had a chance to be a good mathematician but she died early. He insisted that the sons wouldn't become mathematicians because their subpar qualities would damage the brand "Gauß". Some of his job-related arguments with his sons forced one of the young boys to emigrate to America where he was successful.

Gauß didn't believe in a personal God or the Bible, he was a deist (God is fully seen by observing the natural phenomena) who promoted religious tolerance.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Gerald Guralnik (1936-2014)

Gerald Guralnik, a senior physicist at Brown University, died on Saturday: PBS. Along with Carl Hagen and Tom Kibble, he wrote one of the 1964 papers that introduced the Englert-Brout-Higgs-Guralnik-Hagen-Kibble mechanism, or the Higgs mechanism for short, into particle physics.

I was giving a talk at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island in March 2002 (on the bus, it's 50 minutes from Boston, if I am not mistaken) and I believe that he came to the talk but it's a long time ago and I don't remember for certain.

Iveta Bartošová (1966-2014): murdered by tabloid hyenas

Once best Czech female singer a victim of greedy tabloid journalists

I admit that this sad event fills me with much stronger emotions than the death of Gerald Guralnik – who had an appropriate age to die.

Buttons of Love, 1983

Iveta Bartošová (CZ, YouTube search) – who was voted the best Czechoslovak female singer (The Golden Nightingale) three times, in 1986, 1990, 1991 – committed suicide after a decade in which it was hunted by scum journalists from the tabloid media. She jumped under the train in Uhříněves (a village on the Southeastern border of Prague) today.

She was born in Čeladná, the Beskids Mountains, in 1966. This good child athlete etc. entered the popular music around 1983. At the beginning, her most successful songs were sung along with Mr Petr Sepéši, check this 1983-1985 playlist. I hope you didn't expect some Stalinist-style music. Despite the advanced socialism, this genre wasn't far from the mainstream pop music of the 1980s.

President Zeman criticizes "solar madmen" and "green loons"

Including the EU officials who want to increase the share of "renewable" sources of energy

Well, this excerpt from a speech that the current Czech president Miloš Zeman gave on the today's Forum of Žofín (an island on the Moldau River in Prague) is one of the clearest reasons explaining why your humble correspondent didn't hesitate much before he endorsed the self-described left-winger Zeman as the successor to Václav Klaus.

Sunday, April 27, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

NPR releases its own anti-SUSY rant

The recent Lykken-Spiropulu anti-SUSY diatribe in Scientific American has sparked some echoes. One of them was published on the NPR website. The piece titled

Are Physicists Ready To Give Up The Chase For SUSY? (NPR)
was written by Marcelo Gleiser. I had the feeling that I have already seen the name somewhere. Well, a TRF search shows that this name has already appeared 4 times. In pretty much every single case, the story implied that Marcelo Gleiser is an aggressive idiot. And believe me, I didn't impose this coherence. Unfortunately, this story is no different.

First, the title is preposterous because, as Gleiser admits, we are waiting for the 2015 LHC run that will probe higher energies and that will have "completely new chances" to find SUSY which are uncorrelated to the null results of the 2012 run. In fact, Maria Spiropulu was hired to search for SUSY and extra dimensions, so if she still works as a CMS member next year, it's likely that the search for SUSY will represent most of her work.

But this [beep] Gleiser repeats many of the laymen's misconceptions about how science works.

Saturday, April 26, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

LHC black hole: a catastrophic movie

It was sort of inevitable that tonight, I would be watching a catastrophic movie on TV Prima (in Czech dubbing) about the LHC black hole. The original name of the 2013 German-Austrian film is

Helden – Wenn dein Land dich braucht (Heroes: When Your Country Needs You, IMDB)

Trailer in German: click here
The movie by the commercial TV station RTL that got mostly negative reviews is 140 minutes long – a big movie, indeed. The budget was €8 million i.e. $11 million – a lot. The very topic, the deadly LHC black hole, was silly so I had known that it would be scientificially implausible. But what surprised me that the filmmakers also hold manifestly Luddite, anti-scientific and anti-technological sentiments. Technology has surpassed the humanity a long time ago. It is a sin for humans to continue the research like that, and so on. All this stinky crap.

Also, some captions in the movie say that "it is no science-fiction". Instead, "it may really happen". Well, it can't.

Pictured are the heroes who manage to win the fight against the arrogant villains, the CERN physicists, and save the world.

Spoilers: beware

A group of small schoolgirls is visiting the world's largest collider. It isn't called the LHC in the movie – probably because the filmmakers were afraid that they could be sued – but the collider happens to be in Geneva, too. It is huge but a little bit different than the LHC. So the beams – looking like two blue laser beams – collide in front of your eyes. They claim to collide atoms, not protons (it's probably not easy to accelerate them) but they are just upgrading the energy to \(14\TeV\), too.

A girl on the excursion suddenly sees that some M&M's are floating in front of her eyes. Later, we see two brothers whose countryside house (along with the legs of one brother) is destroyed by an object from space. I was afraid that it would be a "piece of a black hole" but fortunately, it turned out to be a satellite whose trajectory got deflected by a new force. Another satellite destroys the Reichstag; it is not a big deal because soon or later, a Bulgarian activist would have to do this job, anyway.

Airplanes in Berlin start to crash, and so on. You get the picture. So an ingenious heroic (obviously female) physicist, formerly employed by CERN, called Sophie recalls her theory and immediately gets in touch with the (male) German chancellor. He has no clue about physics (unlike Merkel) but he is quickly asked to turn off the LHC. I didn't know that it's the German chancellor who is turning the LHC on and off but this improvement of the legal status has probably pleased the patriotic German TV audiences. ;-)

Chernobyl, 28 years later: birds mostly benefit

Off-topic: Geneva hosted a joint conference of theoretical physicists and rhythm-and-blues artists on the nature of forever. Among the panelists, Edward Witten had the most intelligent remarks.
Exactly 28 years ago, on April 26th, 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear plant exploded. I remember those weeks rather well. There would be a nearly complete silence for several day. Afterwards, the socialist media began to cover the story. My favorite journal, VTM (Science and Technology for Youth), would offer quite detailed maps showing the propagation of the radiation etc.

Chernobyl reclaimed: an animal takeover (2007)

Chernobyl has been mentioned in dozens of TRF blog posts. You may watch lots of frustrating documentaries about the accident, and so on. It was the last environmental issue in my life in which the official interpretation was "less alarming" than the reality. Since that time, all the bias was going in the opposite direction. It shouldn't be surprising: in 1986, we were still governed by folks who derived their authority from their ability to produce steel and energy, among other things. Afterwards, we would be mostly led by people who make their living out of environmentalist and similar politically correct clichés.

Friday, April 25, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

John Kerry vs freedom of press, Russia Today

John Kerry spoke about Ukraine and reserved some "verbal bullets" for the Kremlin-funded TV network, Russia Today.

The full speech is available.

I think that such an overall attack by a top politician against an important media outlet (which has surpassed 1 billion total views on YouTube, for example) is pretty incredible in a free country. Needless to say, I remember pretty much the same attacks against the "seditious transmitters of the imperialists" (including Radio Free Europe) we would hear during communism. (RFE/RL stopped its direct broadcast from Russian transmitters in 2012 when the new Russian bill outlawed the broadcasting of content paid for by foreign owners.)

It would be OK if Kerry – and/or the media that consider him a good politician who is right on important issues – had presented evidence against particular wrong claims and misinterpretations. But for a Secretary of State to try to sling mud on a whole network is beyond the pale.

An anti-ER-EPR paper

Vijay Balasubramanian, Micha Berkooz, Simon F. Ross, and Joan Simon are very good physicists who have written many nice papers about quantum gravity. Nevertheless, I don't know how to learn anything from their new paper

Black Holes, Entanglement and Random Matrices (hep-th).
It is a sort of a criticism of the Maldacena-Susskind ER-EPR correspondence that works with random matrices in the context of the AdS/CFT correspondence.

Maldacena and Susskind proposed to identify ER (non-traversable wormholes i.e. Einstein-Rosen bridges) with EPR (entanglement). The former is a universal geometric visualization of the latter – which may become "simple" in special cases, just like in the case of a duality.

Just like you could expect even if you knew nothing about the content of ER=EPR, Vijay and pals offer a "double debunking" of the equivalence. They say that
  1. ER (wormhole) may exist even without large correlations/entanglement (EPR)
  2. EPR (high correlations) may exist even without ER (a wormhole)
You would think that they are presenting evidence of both kinds because the abstract contains the word "conversely" and these two possible statements are the only pair that may be "converse to one another".

Thursday, April 24, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

A quantum proof of a Bousso bound

An aspect of holography is demystified. Perhaps too much.

In the early 1970s, Jacob Bekenstein realized that the black hole event horizons have to carry some entropy. And in fact, it's the highest entropy among all localized or bound objects of a given size or mass. This "hegemony" of the black holes is understandable for a simple reason: in classical physics, black holes are the ultimate phase of a stellar collapse and the entropy has to increase by the second law which means that it is maximized at the end – for black holes.

The entropy \[

S = k \frac{A}{4G\hbar}

\] (where we only set \(c=1\)) is the maximum one that you can squeeze inside the surface \(A\), kind of. This universal Bekenstein-Hawking entropy applies to black holes – i.e. static spacetimes. The term "Bekenstein bound" is often used for inequalities that may involve other quantities such as the mass or the size (especially one of them that I don't want to discuss) but they effectively express the same condition – black holes maximize the entropy.

Is there a generalization of the inequality to more general time-dependent geometries? The event horizons are null hypersurfaces so in the late 1990s, Raphael Bousso proposed a generalization of the inequality that says that the entropy crossing a null hypersurface that is shrinking everywhere into the future (and may have to be truncated to obey this condition) is also at most \(kA/4G\); yes, \(k\) is always the Boltzmann constant that I decided to restore. I remember those days very well – my adviser Tom Banks was probably the world's most excited person when Raphael Bousso published those papers.

Various classical thermodynamic proofs were given for this inequality. I suppose that they would use Einstein's equations as well as some energy conditions (saying that the energy density is never negative, or some more natural cousins of this simple condition). Finally, there is also a quantum proof of the statement.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

There's probably no industrial civilization on Kepler-186f

Yesterday, the environmentalists-Leninists were celebrating Vladimir Lenin's birthday once again – or the Earth Day, as these watermelons (green on the surface, red inside) like to call it in order to superficially look hip and modern. We would hear that there is no Planet B again, and so on.

Well, just a few days earlier, NASA's Kepler spacecraft announced the discovery of Kepler-186f which is pretty much nothing else than such Planet Earth B, the most Earth-like habitable-zone planet discovered so far. The alternative home is located 492 light years from us. At the current speed, Voyager spacecrafts would get there in (20,000 times 500) nine [thanks, Gene] million years (which is still short relatively to the lifetime of a star or a planet) but let's hope that in the future, we will have speedier spaceships (and ETs should have faster ones, too).

Their mother star, Kepler-186, is a main-sequence M1-type dwarf star whose radius as well as mass is 1/2 of the Sun's values but the luminosity is 1/25 of that of the Sun. The surface temperature, below 4,000 kelvins, is cooler than the Sun's temperature and all these numbers combine to the fact that at the orbital radius of 0.5 AU (4 light minutes), Kepler-186f is in the habitable zone. The temperature should allow liquid water which seems "enough" for those who believe that ETs are almost everywhere. The size of the planet exceeds the Earth just by 11% – so it's almost a twin sister.

Hontas Farmer thinks that the probability that an industrial civilization is thriving over there exceeds 50%. Not bad (he or she even claims to see some intelligent pattern in some electromagnetic noise). I suppose that the reasoning is that life has to exist there sometime in the future or the past and we might be more advanced or less advanced than them, with the chances for both options at 50%. Count me as a skeptic, my guess would be well below 1%.

Neutron spectroscopy constrains axions, chameleons

Tobias Jenke of Vienna and 11 co-authors from Austria, Germany, and France have performed an interesting experiment with neutrons in the gravitational field (although they have done similar experiments in the past) and their new preprint was just published in the prestigious PRL (Physical Review Letters):

Gravity Resonance Spectroscopy Constrains Dark Energy and Dark Matter Scenarios (arXiv, PRL)

Semi-popular: APS, ArsTechnica, Huff. Post
Recall that neutrons' wave functions in the Earth's gravitational field have previously been mentioned on this blog as a way to debunk the "gravity as an entropic force": LM, Archil Kobakhidze.

Click to zoom in: outline and results.

What have they done?

Max Planck: a birthday

Click here to read the text at 450 words per minute without moving your eyes. Tell me how quickly you may comfortably read, please.

Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck was born in Kiel (near Hamburg) on April 23rd, 1858, to a family of theologians and lawyers with many children. He spent some early years in Munich.

A devoted yet moderate Christian, he is the father of quantum theory. How did it happen? Well, in 1894, he was hired by electric companies to create energy-efficient light bulbs. ;-) So he had to study their spectrum.

Looking at the black body

In 1900, he was able to interpolate in between two formulae (the low frequency classical Rayleigh-Jeans law and the high frequency Wien's law) describing the radiation of a black body. A few months later, he was even able to derive the resulting formula from a funny assumption that the energy of an electromagnetic wave is not continuous but rather a multiple of \(E=hf\).

(The factors of \(2\pi\) are arranged in the old way because it was easier to type it, even including this explanatory sentence, but with MathJax, \(E=\hbar\omega\) is easy, too.)

Textbooks often say that Planck wanted to solve the ultraviolet catastrophe, i.e. the high-energy divergences of the Rayleigh-Jeans law. While it is a theoretically natural story, it is historically misleading because Planck's goals were different. Planck has been looking for heuristic ways to justify the novel, quantum, exponential Wien's law since 1899. Finally and happily, Planck came to "an act of despair ... [he] was ready to sacrifice any of [his] previous convictions about physics." And he introduced the quanta ("a purely formal assumption"...) at the end of 1900.

Einstein gave Planck's assumption about quanta a more real meaning when he explained the photoelectric effect in 1905. Only in the 1920s, Arthur Compton convinced the people that photons were real when he observed his photon-electron scattering.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

21% of Americans believe the Big Bang

Lots of media (e.g. CNET) bring us the gospel about a survey organized by the Associated Press and GfK among 1,000+ Americans. They were asked about their beliefs in various claims made by the scientists.

Only 4% doubted that smoking causes cancer; over 80% actively claimed it does. Only 8% doubted that cells contain a consequential genetic code; almost 70% actively argued that they did. The reality of the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago was the least believed proposition, getting about 20%. That's vastly lower than the number of Americans who believed in various religious insights such as the resurrection of Jesus Christ or the claim that the weather patterns get less favorable in the wake of the human sins (the so-called "climate change" religion is bought by nearly 1/3 of Americans).

Two string pheno papers

I hope you have survived the Easter if you had to undergo one. There are at least two interesting hep-th papers on string phenomenology today. Alon Faraggi wrote a 35-page review

String Phenomenology: Past, Present and Future Perspectives
which focuses on the old-fashioned heterotic string model building, especially the free fermionic ones. Those were the first research direction that convinced me more than 20 years ago that it had everything it needed to have to become a TOE.

Faraggi doesn't discuss inflation at all and it's questionable whether good inflation scenarios have been studied within the compactifications he prefers. That defect of his paper is more than compensated by the other paper I want to mention.

Sunday, April 20, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Islamofascists take over the "secular" school system in Birmingham

Yesterday, the Telegraph published quite a shocking story

State schools isolate non-Muslims
about a leaked official report uncovering the Islamist Blitzkrieg takeover of schools in Birmingham. Not surprisingly, it is the most widely read article in the Telegraph now and it has received almost 3,000 comments.

The latest, 2011 U.K. census says that only 3 million (5%) Britons are Muslims; they are mostly immigrants from Pakistan and their descendants, as the well-known semi-joking map above shows.

The largest Muslim population, over 200,000, lives in London but Birmingham has almost 200,000 as well. While it's the home to the second largest community of Muslims in the U.K., the concentration is much higher than it is in London. Still, you would expect that a group of something between 14% and 22% would behave as a... minority. You would be wrong.

Saturday, April 19, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Lawrence Krauss brings some lively insights and delusions to Czechia

A visit that the narcissist had to like

Tonight, people called me to remind me about a program on the ČT24 channel of the Czech Public TV:

Hyde Park Civilization (1-hour interview with Lawrence Krauss, Czech video) at "English version" at the bottom of the page above to watch dze Czenglish version of the program (around 5:30, English starts again, after a few minutes in Czech only)...
A one-hour interview on the public TV isn't a negligible thing. Note that the Hyde Park Civilization program was previously mentioned on this blog in 2013 when they discussed the LHC.

Holy Body Chapel in Olomouc's convent, now a part of the Palacký University, is where AFO initial and concluding ceremonies take place...

In 2006, I got used to the U.S. journalists' obsession with not very good physicists and downright crackpots such as Lawrence Krauss and Lee Smolin. You could think that one may escape from this pseudointellectual populist shit to Central Europe but you know, we've been a part of the Western civilization for 1,000 years so it shouldn't be shocking that Czechia isn't safe enough.

Cosmologist and especially professional anti-Christian exhibitionist Lawrence Krauss is attending the 2014 Academic Film Festival AFO (previously discussed on TRF) as the main guest. He has filled a hall in the historical capital of Moravia.

The page presents Krauss as a "top world-class scientist": not bad for a mediocre cosmologist. On Friday, they would screen his and Richard Dawkins' film "The Unbelievers", a more intelligent version of a concert of Pussy Riot in the churches across the world (I haven't watched it yet; Woody Allen and Stephen Hawking appear there, too). The movies got poor rating from critics for its sloganeering replacing a substantive debate and the self-glorification of the stars – and it has earned a funny $14,400 in the box office. But in Czechia, it may be sold as the ultimate achievement of cinematography.

Friday, April 18, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

David Mermin on Quantum Bayesianism

Many physicists, when they get older (and, in some unfortunate cases, long before that), have the tendency to reduce their powerful brains back to the era of Newton or ancient Greece and "undo" their knowledge of quantum mechanics. People like Gerard 't Hooft – and even, to a much lesser extent, Steven Weinberg and Leonard Susskind – start to pay lip service to fundamentally deluded ways to squeeze the laws of quantum mechanics into the straitjacket of classical physics, using one (or many!) of the several popular, comparably misguided strategies: hidden variables of one kind or another (including the Bohmian pseudoscience), collapse mechanisms (including GRW), the many-worlds interpretation (with some parallel universes that "really exist" just like other planets), and others.

David Mermin is an optimistic counterexample. His views have been evolving. Mermin is the actual originator of the "shut up and calculate" dictum often attributed to Feynman. But I think that when he said it for the first time, he coined it in order to humiliate Feynman's – and generally orthodox – positivist attitude towards these questions. Over the years, he got fully converted to the Copenhagen school's positivist, intrinsically subjective understanding of the quantum phenomena. He learned how to love Bohr. He realized that Einstein was just wrong in his debates with Bohr, and so on.

Thursday, April 17, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

The mild civil war in Ukraine

Thankfully, the number of the new casualties in Ukraine remains relatively low. Whether we call the confrontation "a civil war" is a matter of terminology and only with the hindsight we will acquire in the future, we will be able to decide whether it is an appropriate word for the recent events.

The attitude of the would-be mainstream Western politicians, institutions, and media (and the brainwashed hundreds of millions of average citizens who never question anything they are fed) looks staggeringly hypocritical, cruel, and just plain idiotic to me. My overall sentiment concerning the U.S. interventions has been positive until recently. You know, I live in a city that was grateful to the U.S. army for the liberation from Nazism. (Unfortunately, this liberation wasn't enough to give the words "Western Bohemia" the same ring and political meaning as the words "West Germany" LOL.) This positive sentiment has survived doubts about the U.S. excursions to Yugoslavia – where I would already notice a significant anti-Serbian xenophobia of the U.S. approach – and neutral or counterproductive interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.

The U.S. had the moral right to "do something" in Afghanistan after 9/11 while, as we know today, it didn't have a sufficient justification for its operations in Iraq a decade ago. However, I think that with the hindsight, the results in Afghanistan are worse than those in Iraq. Afghanistan is really "unfixable". It is foolish to expect that Afghanistan may be turned into a productive capitalist democracy similar to the Western ones. It is a highly undeveloped nation on drugs which has no real chances to be "like us". Iraq is different and the intervention may already be seen as a net positive.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Another anti-physics issue of SciAm

High energy physics is undoubtedly the queen and the ultimate reductionist root of all natural sciences. Nevertheless, during the last decade, it has become immensely fashionable for many people to boast that they're physics haters.

The cover of the upcoming May 2014 issue of Scientific American looks doubly scary for every physicist who has been harassed by the communist regime. It resembles a Soviet flag with some deeply misleading propaganda written over it:

A crisis in physics?

If supersymmetry doesn't pan out, scientists need a new way to explain the universe. [In between the lines]
Every part of this claim is pure bullshit, of course. First of all, there is no "crisis in physics". Second of all, chances are high that we won't be any certain whether SUSY is realized in Nature. Either SUSY will be found at the LHC in 2015 or soon afterwards, or it won't be. In the latter case, the status of SUSY will remain qualitatively the same as it is now. Top-down theorists will continue to be pretty much certain that SUSY exists in Nature in one form or another, one scale or another; bottom-up phenomenologists and experimenters will increasingly notice the absence of evidence – which is something else than the evidence for absence, however.

But aside from this delusion, the second part of the second sentence is totally misguided, too. Supersymmetry isn't a "new way to explain the universe". It is another symmetry, one that differs from some other well-known symmetries such as the rotational or Lorentz symmetry by its having fermionic generators but one that doesn't differ when it comes to its being just one aspect of theories. Supersymmetry isn't a theory of the universe by itself (in the same sense as the Standard Model or string theory); supersymmetry is a feature of some candidate theories of the universe.

Years of Living Dangerously

An expensive, $20 million superstitious program on drought and CO2

Update, April 16th (blog post originally released on April 12th): Nielsen ratings concluded that the premiere of "Years of Living Dangerously" was only watched by 294,000 people (compare with 16+ million for The Big Bang Theory), confirming my 04/12 predictions below that the ratings would be poor. If you divide, you see that an average TV viewer (or those paying for the commercials) would have to pay over $68 for the TV series to become profitable.
By most quantitative criteria, James Cameron is the world's most successful film director and film producer. He has earned almost $1 billion just for himself and some of his works are blockbusters – like Titanic and The Terminator; let me not include Avatar here. He's also a deep-sea explorer. You can have some unusual hobbies if your worth approaches a billion.

However, when it comes to issues like the climate, he is just batshit crazy. He's much more religious about this nonsense than Osama bin Laden was religious when it came to the Allah doctrine. So he also decided to shoot a completely unoriginal, redundant, 9-part TV documentary (9 hours in total), Years of Living Dangerously.

The first episode, included in the video above, will be aired tomorrow. I have actually watched it – partly in the background because I had other work. It is a collection of unnecessary repetitions of footnotes from An Inconvenient Truth. What seemed incredible to me was how boring the "documentary" was. I can't understand why the creator of Titanic just can't make a more persuasive documentary.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Podcast with Lisa Randall on inflation, Higgs, LHC, DM, awe

I want to offer you a yesterday's 30-minute podcast of Huffington Post's David Freeman with Lisa Randall of Harvard

Podcast with Randall (audio over there)
The audio format is thanks to RobinHoodRadio.COM.

They talk about inflation, the BICEP2 discovery, the Higgs boson vs the Higgs field, the LHC, its tunnels, and the risk that the collider would create deadly black holes.

Monday, April 14, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Andrei Linde: universe or multiverse?

Some time ago, before the BICEP2 discovery (in July 2012, weeks after the Higgs discovery), Andrei Linde gave an 82-minute talk at SETI, a center to search for ETs.

Because Linde and his theories – even some more specific theories – seem to be greatly vindicated by the BICEP2 announcement, it may be interesting to listen to his more general ideas about the subject. Linde is a pretty entertaining speaker – the audience is laughing often, too.

Sunday, April 13, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Stanislaw Ulam: 105th birthday

I didn't have enough time in the morning but the 95-vs-105 numerical error is still very painful because my late maternal grandfather was born in 1909, too

Stanislaw Ulam was born in Lviv, Galicia, on April 13th, 1909. His broader family, the Ulams, was a very wealthy one in the region. His immediate family was doing fine but not great. He would study at the Lviv Polytechnic Institute which was a Polish school. It's useful to keep these nationalities in mind when you think about Western Ukraine – where Lviv belongs today. Achievers like Ulam would be Polish Jews for quite some time. But Galicia didn't belong to "Poland" at that time; it was a part of "my country", Austria-Hungary.

He was invited to the U.S. by Hans Bethe and has been affiliated with the IAS at Princeton, Harvard, U. of Wisconsin, U. of Colorado, U. of Florida, and Los Alamos National Laboratory at various moments. He became a U.S. citizen in 1941 – before he began to work on the Manhattan Project. He did quite some important calculations over there – both on hydrodynamic calculations of implosions, and the statistics of multiplicative processes. He was the boss of a group of female computers. Female computers are constructed out of women; at that time, they contained less silicon than they contain today. ;-)

Friday, April 11, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Harvard professors' fossil fuel divestment letter

I was told about a letter signed by some Harvard faculty urging the president and the Harvard Corporation to eliminate the fossil-fuel investments from the endowment and to otherwise harass and discriminate against the fine folks who work in that industry and the other investors:

HarvardFacultyDivestment.COM (open letter)
Fortunately for Harvard and the system (because Harvard is considered a role model by many others), Drew Gilpin Faust – the new president that replaced Larry Summers – continues to be sensible. See what she recently told the brainwashed babe at the Harvard Yard.

This is not an actual Harvard-University-affiliated logo. Instead, it is a notorious Czech one but I won't be sued for having used that, I guess. ;-)

There are over 4,000 academic employees at Harvard and this letter has been signed by 97+20 or so professors so far. So they represent a tiny fraction. I am sure that this blog post itself will help to add some more signatures. It is surely not my goal ;-) but I don't really care much because I believe that the petition will remain extremist and it won't get above the 2,000 signatories when one could talk about a majority opinion.

Needless to say, the first thing I have checked was the list of the signatories. How many people do I know? What is the composition?

Sheldon's farewell to string theory: a fun episode with some serious problems

For almost 7 years, I have been an enthusiastic fan of The Big Bang Theory. The CBS sitcom is in its seventh season. Each episode lasts 20 minutes or so. So far, 155 episodes have been aired. I am pretty sure that I've seen every single one of them – on average, I've watched an episode of TBBT 3 times – partly in the original, partly in the Czech dubbing which I started to love pretty soon. The initial seasons have a higher number of views than the newest ones.

So you may see that I have spent something like 155 hours of quality time with the sitcom. This figure vastly understates how important the sitcom has been in the scheme of my cultural inspiration. Last week, on April 3rd, they aired the 154th episode, The Indecision Amalgamation, which was the last problem-free one. Sheldon was deciding whether to buy XBOX or a new PlayStation, Raj had to simultaneously deal with two potential girlfriends, and Penny got a useless advice from a frustratingly nostalgic Wil Wheaton on whether she should accept an offer in a bad movie.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Lessons of the heartbleed bug for open source software, \(P=NP\)

Two days ago, Neel Mehta of Google’s security team as well as a team of security engineers at Codenomicon have found a dangerous vulnerability of versions of OpenSSL – 1.0.1 and 1.0.2 beta – called the Heartbleed bug that allows the attacker to read pretty much any information from the vulnerable server (keys to encrypt and the actual user passwords and data) in 64-kilobyte packages. See Google News.

It means that the safe "HTTPS" actually makes things more insecure than the ordinary "HTTP".

About 17% servers allowing encryption are running the bad versions of OpenSSL. The most publicized server whose users should surely try to change the passwords as soon as possible (probably in the past) is Tumblr (owned by Yahoo, so probably Yahoo passwords may also be in danger). I really hope that it is really true that Dropbox, Gmail, Facebook etc. are unaffected; try this tool or this one to check the security of particular servers; Jesus Christ, it says that is vulnerable.

Kaku, Krauss, Tegmark: stars of a pro-geocentrism movie

With their hype, they have waited to be abused

Update: It was clarified later today why Krauss ended up in the documentary. He signed a release form and cashed a cheque. So Krauss' pretended surprise shows that he is a greedy liar.
Cosmologist Lawrence Krauss wrote a Slate piece about his role in the movie called "The Principle" that promotes geocentrism. Try the impressive video-based website of the movie.

As the trailer shows, he as well as Michio Kaku and Max Tegmark found themselves in a rather motley company (the adjective has nothing to do with your humble correspondent).

Their comments about the coming revolutions in cosmology are being alternated with equally sounding monologues by morons who believe now, in the 21st century, that the Earth is the center of the Universe. (The filmmakers – led by a religious maverick Dr [from Vanuatu] Robert Sungenis – also seem to believe that the Holocaust was a myth.)

Now, I am confident that neither Tegmark nor Krauss nor Kaku believe that the Earth is the center of the Universe. Still, I think that their "participation" in the film isn't quite a coincidence.

The narrator of the movie is Kate Mulgrew ("Captain Janeway") who says not to be a geocentrist and she is unhappy about the movie. It is not entirely clear to me how she could narrate the movie in that case. See also stories at Google News.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Alan Guth's 1979 handwritten notes

First, let me mention that the CERN accelerator complex is in the middle of the Two Years' Vacation which is the right moment to begin its reawakening. See LHC begins long road to restart at the Symmetry Magazine.

They first restart the source, then the smaller rings and boosters etc. – the chronology of the restart pretty much mimics the 6-minute video above that describes the CERN rings etc. culminating in the LHC itself. In one year, e.g. in April 2015, the collisions at 13 TeV should begin. Because of the quantitative leap in energy, all "null results" may be instantly forgotten and there will be a completely new chance – but not certainty – to detect previously undetected physical phenomena.

But I want to mention another article at the Symmetry Magazine that was posted in 2005.

Monday, April 07, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

People's Republic of Donetsk

The Donetsk region of Ukraine has declared the independence from the Maidan government in Kiev, under the new brand People's Republic of Donetsk, using the standard Maidan algorithm: people took over some key government buildings (five-minute video of the muscle game) and announced that they are in charge. Well, there are differences.

The activists in Donetsk are pro-Russia and disagree about many things with the Maidan folks. Another difference is that there are no hardcore fascists and Nazis among the Donetsk separatists – which is also why they haven't murdered dozens of (pro-Maidan) cops and even more of their own people (at least so far).

The new republic may look tiny but the region has 4.6 million people, just like Ireland, almost matching Denmark, Finland, Slovakia, Norway, and Georgia, and beating Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Macedonia, Slovenia, all three Baltic states, Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, and Luxembourg. So it's not a "ludicrously small" region. Be sure that if you live in a country like mine, with 10 million people, it's a pretty big country. The population is able to cover almost all human activities, in some cases, at the global top level. You must walk for a hundred of miles to get to the border, and so on. So if the Americans think about countries of this size as "tiny specks of matter", they really don't understand what's going on.

The new republic – not recognized by any other state right now – wants a Crimea-style referendum by May 11th and asks Putin to send "peacekeepers" to the region.

Sunday, April 06, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Roger Penrose continues his weird anti-ïnflation jihad well as anti-quantum, anti-string...

For more than 30 years, Roger Penrose would be offering many irrational and wrong criticisms of the cosmic inflation. He didn't stop after the publication of the discovery of primordial gravitational waves by BICEP2. On Friday, instead of hiding somewhere in a closet, he went to Ira Flatow's show, Science Friday, and displayed more self confidence than ever:

Sir Roger Penrose: Cosmic Inflation Is ‘Fantasy’ (click this and click the "LISTEN" button)
In the 27-minute interview, he reminds us about the book "Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy" about "string theory, quantum mechanics, and inflation," respectively, that he has been writing for a decade. Whenever he is asked a technical question, he laughs and closes it with the suggestion that it is surely silly to talk about such questions on a science show.

Instead of a single counter-argument, we hear lots of things "it must be wrong because I say so". The discovery by BICEP2 is probably OK, he says, but the interpretation is completely wrong. It cannot be because of gravitational waves because there should be no gravitational waves in the early Universe.

Saturday, April 05, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Hooperon dark matter may be boosted by dwarf galaxies and even LUX

Exactly one month ago, I wrote about two dark matter stories: the proposal by Randall and Reece to link extinctions to dark matter; and some unusually strong (formally 40-sigma) signals supporting the existence of the hooperon, a WIMP dark matter particle candidate with mass between \(30\) and \(40\GeV\). (See Jester's classification of the tantalizing dark matter particle clues.)

Some sources of the gamma rays seem to clearly shine near the Galactic center (but almost 5,000 light years from the center) even if the known sources are removed.

Lisa Grossman of Nude Socialist (and Phys.ORG, among others) has summarized the story with a one-month hindsight now:

Best dark matter signal yet hints at heftier particles
Just to be sure, there is this signal near the Central Milky Way whose statistical significance is a staggering 40 standard deviations. However, this significance is useless if there is an alternative, so far overlooked explanation of the bright spot that is able to emulate the annihilating dark matter particle. This bright spot is discussed in the previously mentioned (at this blog) February 2014 paper by Hooper and 6 co-authors.

Friday, April 04, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Paper: It's valuable to lie and cheat in the name of AGW

Climate Depot has informed us about a new remarkable paper in American Journal of Agricultural Economics

Information Manipulation and Climate Agreements by Hong (Nanyang) and Zhao (Hong Kong).
The paper discusses a simple mathematical model in "game theory" of a sort and concludes that if you want many countries to join the climatic hysterical treaties, it's a great idea to lie and manipulate/varnish the information. They explicitly state that "Al Gore, the IPCC, and the mainstream media varnish their reports to accentuate the damages of climate change" and they ask why it is so. Their shocking answer is that such "manipulation of information has a great instrumental value". Yes, they lie, Hong and Zhao write, and it's great that they do!

More precisely, they say that the lies are only calculably effective once a sufficient number of countries has already joined the climate hysterical treaties. For the initial countries, the effect cannot be distinguished from zero at this moment. These two different predictions are described by the Latin phrases "ex ante" and "ex post" for the authors to sound smarter.

Thursday, April 03, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

U.S. bans astronauts

Political fanaticism based on geographic ignorance turns America into a loser

NASA's 2014 budget is $17.6 billion which is something like 0.6% of the federal budget or 0.1% of the GDP. These percentages are much lower than in the 1960s when America was feeling humiliated by the USSR and the budget reached as much as 4.5% of the GDP. But it's still a lot of money. You would expect the country that has arguably been the #1 leader – well, at some critical points, #2 – to be able to send astronauts to space.

You would be wrong. The space shuttle program looked like a great idea and maybe it was. However, it ended up as an unsuccessful dead end – partially because of the two lost space shuttles and the crews – and it was retired in Summer 2011. Since that time, except for low-orbit flights that are being privatized in the U.S., America relies on Russian rockets. Last year, the price of one seat in Souyz increased from $63 million to $71 million. It's a lot of money; however, with its budget NASA could still afford 250 such seats each year.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Circumcision is a cruel ancient ritual

Circumcision increases the population growth rate by killing masturbation

The percentage of newborn boys in the U.S. who are circumcised has dropped from 83% fifty years ago to 77% today. The U.S. mainstream media present this nearly undetectable change as the end of the world (one of fifty ends of the world that they frequently cover). MSNBC's title reads

Circumcision Rate Falls Despite Health Risks (MSNBC)
while others offer even more dramatic summaries:
Circumcision Benefits Exceed Risks 'a Hundred Times Over' (IB Times UK)

Circumcision should be seen 'in the same light as childhood vaccination': study (CTV News)
You may see that this hysteria is largely generated by real physicians with real degrees, MD. You may imagine that I find this propaganda stunning because I would subscribe to Penn and Teller's Bullshit, episode Circumcision (30-minute video).

In fact, even though I have spent 10 years in the U.S., I just didn't know that most American newborn boys were being mutilated in this way until I returned back to Europe – if I remember well. If I look back, I am surprised that the American women were not more thrilled by the gift of God – meaning boys and men from Europe – assuming that they realize that most American men are cripples.

Matthew Schwartz: new textbook on QFT

Matthew Schwartz – whom I knew quite well when he was a student – is an associate professor at Harvard and he has also been teaching a very popular introductory graduate course on quantum field theory.

A few months ago, he released his new 900-page-long textbook on Quantum Field Theory and the Standard Model. I have only read some portions of the book so far but I may happily recommend this book to you. With some promotion, it could become the new superior standard that could beat Peskin and Schroeder and others.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Laymen's allergy to the holographic principle

Leslie Winkle isn't excited about key modern physics because she has no clue about it
But The Big Bang Theory often describes patterns that are seen in the real world, too

An overwhelming majority of the best and good theoretical physicists and formally oriented particle physicists would consider the insights about the holographic principle (and AdS/CFT) as insights belonging among the five most important developments of theoretical physics of the last 20 years and a very large part, possibly a majority, would place it at the very top. Your humble correspondent's views coincide with those near the boundary of these two (overlapping) groups.

For many decades, we have wanted to know something profound about the "quantum aspects of spacetime" and "quantum gravity" and holography showed us a – partially unexpected – detailed version of the principle that becomes about as important in quantum gravity as the uncertainty principle is in quantum mechanics and the equivalence principle is in general relativity.

Click here for the SciAm's "Is Our Universe a Hologram" video...
The excitement isn't shared by the laymen at all. Leslie Winkle showed us that the laymen's allergy towards the holographic principle may sometimes be incredibly intense:
Do we live in a hologram? Really?? (An article)
Her reaction was sparked by the innocent Scientific American video above – it's one of the rare products by Scientific American that actually tries to bring science closer to the somewhat broader public, instead of trying to sell various ideological delusions of parts of the public as science (and it is not just the global warming pseudoscience in which Scientific American became excessively active).

Let me go through Leslie Winkle's "dialog". At the beginning, we learn that she had to "endure" many articles about holography in the past. Poor girl.

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