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

Planck all-sky polarization data out: Mon-Fri

Update: For some data announced on Monday, see e.g. Spergel's Twitter

ESA's Planck spacecraft is two orders of magnitude more expensive than the BICEP2 experiment (a telescope at the South Pole) that ignited so much excitement in Spring 2014.

Planck: live broadcast

With various expectations, people are waiting what Planck may say about the polarization data of the CMB – and the foregrounds.

In comparison with BICEP2, Planck should have some advantages. Between 2009 and 2013, it was mapping the whole sky. Also, it should be looking at nine frequencies. Finally, two days ago, ESA promised us results in the coming 5 days:

Conference announcement: Planck 2014 — The Microwave Sky In Temperature And Polarization
From Monday through Friday, the Planck 2014 conference will take place in Ferrara, Italy.

You may bookmark this list of 6 live broadcasts from the conference, assuming that you will survive that those Italian chaps have misspelled the name of Planck everywhere. No, Max Planck was a relative of neither plankton nor Newton.

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

Google breakup: the MEPs are fools

A few days ago, the European parliament voted (75% yes) to recommend the huge search engine(s) to be unbundled from the commercial services – which means to break Google.

These efforts vaguely followed from a 2010 complaint by Google's competitors who argued that the Google search results favor Google-related products and pages. Well, they probably do but they're allowed to use any formula, I guess.

The broader claim is that Google is "nearly" a monopoly. In many European countries, Google boasts 90% of the search engine market; the share is below 70% in the U.S. In Czechia, Google has slightly above 50%. Almost 40% goes to Ivo Lukačovič's (the word means a "list" or a "directory"; the company which runs its clones of many services you know from Google started as a Yahoo-style directory of web pages – I've met the founder during our hike to Ještěd on Liane BBS real-world session over 20 years ago LOL, he almost certainly recognizes my name).

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

The gender imbalance in IT results from laws of Nature

Off-topic, related to computers: ATLAS@home looks for beta-testers at CERN
Someone retweeted a tweet with a hyperlink pointing to The Register,
The gender imbalance in IT is real, ongoing and ridiculous

The Z80 and 6502 generation wore the sexist stereotype, now it's up to them to fix it,
where Mark Pesce – an IT entrepreneur, futurist, and author – blasts the gender asymmetry among the programmers and other IT folks. It was started by the nasty generation of the fans of the Z80 and 6502 microprocessors and they have to fix it, too. He has noticed that the fifth graders are the oldest group in which the girls are visible. It's unacceptable for him which is why he will start to do that: he will refuse to attend conferences that don't fulfill his gender quotas.

His text is quite hysterical and entertaining. Of course, I was mostly attracted by the subtitle that mentioned Z80 and 6502. I've done quite some machine programming for both (and for 8080, more than Z80) which is why I am co-responsible for this "evil" world in which women are underrepresented.

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

Higgs hunters: a weird citizen science project

The ATLAS Kaggle Higgs contest made a lot of sense. Today, some NYU+Oxford folks from ATLAS – working with the Zooniverse – have presented something similar. Except that I have no idea how I could usefully help them:

It's particle-hunting season! NYU scientists launch Higgs Hunters Project (Phys.ORG)
The press release above promotes the website
where you may sign up (with Zooniverse) and start to classify collisions.

This new ATLAS picture isn't really from the contest but it's fun: it's showing a cosmic ray particle going through the magnetic fields in the detector.

An 1985 documentary on entanglement

If you have 40 spare minutes, here is a 1985 documentary about quantum entanglement. It begins with a rather cute discussion of the Einstein-Bohr debates.

I wanted to see what the people were saying in the documentary because it was shot shortly before I began to learn quantum mechanics myself – and it's "in the middle" between the 1950s when the professional physicists were sensible about the foundations of quantum mechanics and the 2010s when the idiocy seems to prevail.

So what will we get if we make an observation in the middle?

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

Kremlin and anti-Brussels parties in Europe

Another reason to be thankful to Russia?

The writers in The Independent, The EU Observer, and many others have agreed on a new story.

Marine Le Pen and Dmitry Rogozin

Putin is conquering Europe by funding anti-EU or far right or populist parties – the descriptions slightly differ in various articles. Most importantly, Le Pen's "Front National" in France received a EUR 9 million loan from a small Moscow bank, The First Czech-Russian Bank. (I would say that the word "Czech" appears in the name in order to beautify the name. It's the second best proposed name they had after "The First Luboš Motl Memorial Russian Bank".)

Various types of less explicit support for Jobbik, a far right party in Hungary, and a pro-Russian party in Latvia, and for FPÖ in Austria (which attended a summit in Moscow) is being mentioned, along with some vague comments involving AfD, the Alliance for Germany (a moderate anti-eurozone party in Germany).

Bell's and sycophants' criticism of von Neumann's hidden-variable no-go theorem is misguided

John Preskill wrote a blog post, Bell’s inequality 50 years later, which argues that "without Bell, the broader significance of quantum entanglement would have unfolded quite differently and perhaps not until much later." Preskill concludes: "We really owe Bell a great debt."

Is every catchy song or paper written using modern tools "intrinsically original"?

Your humble correspondent is much less convinced that the 1964 Bell's paper was either new or pushing the physics research in the right direction. I am closer to Feynman who would say that it is not a theorem that anybody considers of any particular importance in quantum mechanics. Everyone knew that it [the difference between the/any classical local and quantum predictions] would happen, he just demonstrated it mathematically, Feynman says. (See also page 485 here where Feynman just mentions Bell's inequality without even calling it in this way.

It is a nice undergraduate textbook example very explicitly showing the differences between the quantum mechanical predictions and predictions of some simple "local realist" theories a beginner could expect to be relevant. Some people could have still believed that the question whether the probabilistic character of the physical predictions has to be intrinsic would become forever undecidable and that was shown to be wrong.

However, I strongly believe that

  1. the fathers of quantum mechanics could collectively solve the particular thought experiment and see the incompatibility of the quantum vs local realist predictions; even without that, the amount of evidence they had supporting the need for the new, quantum core of physics has been overwhelming since the mid 1920s
  2. much of the explicit findings and slogans about entanglement had been known for 29 years, since the 1935 works by Einstein, Podolsky, Rosen; and Schrödinger
  3. Bell's results didn't really help in the creation of the quantum computing "engineering industry" which would only start in 1970 and which has little to do with all the quasi-philosophical debates surrounding entanglement
  4. most frustratingly, Bell's correct results were served in a mixed package along with lots of wrong memes, unreasonable expectations, and misleading terminology and the negative price of these "side effects" is arguably larger than the positive price of Bell's realizations
Concerning the last point, Bell really remained a champion of the fundamentally flawed Bohmian ways to think about – or classically model – quantum mechanics. He was the man who made it popular for the laymen and deluded physicists to think that quantum mechanics was new because it was "non-local" even though the truth is that the quantum laws controlling Nature are local, thanks to relativity – but they are "non-classical" or "non-realist", if you wish. He has proved that "locality" and "realism" couldn't have been simultaneously true – but he kept on making the fundamental error in deciding which of these two principles is actually right and which of them is wrong.

In some sense, while the anti-quantum movement should have been almost completely killed by Bell's results, it was actually re-energized because one of its members, the quantum mechanics hater called John Bell, was able to write a moderately famous paper. So a cult of personality of a sort was created around this mediocre physicist. The fact that the paper was just another piece of evidence that the main idea underlying the movement is fallacious wasn't a problem for these folks.

More generally, Bell was arguably the main person who helped to degenerate much of the physics culture into the popular-book-driven and media-tainted contest between media fads of the current, postmodern type whose success is being decided by millions of readers who don't have a clue and who routinely interpret physical results exactly in the opposite way than what the results actually imply.

Petr Hapka (1944-2014)

A top Czech composer of dozens of film music scores (e.g. The Virgin and the Monster or Boys the Masters), Petr Hapka, died at age of 70, due to Alzheimer that has annoyed him for a year. The lyrics for his songs were usually written down by Michal Horáček. November 2014 is a negative month for Czech music – Petr Skoumal, another composer, died a few weeks ago.

This duet, "May the earth rest lightly on me", is unfortunately the most natural summary of the sad event. Hapka himself was singing – which is what those Czech composers and actors, who are not professional singers but who are not tone-deaf, do rather frequently. My English translation was obtained from Czech via an intermediate step in Latin. Latin rules.

We would sometimes sing this song with an ex-GF of mine which made sense because I was Czech and she was Slovak, like Jana Kirschner who sings in the video above. Just the age difference was exaggerated by the factor of \(\pi\) or \(2\pi\).

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

PRL: life in 90% of galaxies is killed by GRBs

Science Magazine describes a provoking paper by Piran (HUJI Jerusalem) and Jimenez (U. Barcelona, Harvard) accepted for publication to prestigious Physical Review Letters two weeks ago:

Complex life may be possible in only 10% of all galaxies (Science)

On the role of GRBs on life extinction in the Universe (arXiv, PRL)
The basic claim is rather simple.

This extraterrestrial citizen works with and and spreads tablets and other things all over our homelands. The negative feedback suggests that the Czechoslovak folks may suffer from green xenophobia, after all.

The extraterrestrial ethnic minorities face another problem: (long) gamma-ray bursts, likely to be close to centers of small enough galaxies, take place too often and kill (the ozone layer and) complex life too early. Only 10% of galaxies – typically those that are large enough and sufficiently metallic, similarly to the Milky Way – has a chance to pass this cataclysmic test, and life seems to have a chance far away from the center only.

Kuperberg and a physician vs a thinking smoker

Scott Aaronson has reposted a "parable" that mathematician Greg Kuperberg posted on his Facebook profile. Kuperberg wants to repeat the usual story that the climate alarmists' recommendations are just like the physicians' advises to their patients.

In the parable, a doctor wants her patient to stop smoking but she's unable to answer any questions (clearly meant to be quantitative questions) about the degree to which smoking is harmful. Surprisingly, although Aaronson's is a far left blog addressed to the Cambridge MA Lumpencafé, most commenters seem to realize that

  1. the certainty about the harmful impact of smoking is vastly higher than the certainty about any harmful impacts of CO2 in the atmosphere
  2. most readers seem to be "climate alarm solution skeptics", i.e. they don't think there exists a good rational basis or justification to "fight CO2-caused climate change"
  3. most of the readers actually seem to agree with the patient-smoker, anyway.
This discussion has lots of aspects – whether the particular technical claims about smoking and/or CO2 are right; what the impact actually is; how to behave in the typical situation when the scientific conclusions are statistical in character – and uncertain, too; what is legitimately included in people's and nation's decision making; whether experts' opinion is always the superior one; whether physicians and climate policy experts may be considered full-fledged scientists, and many others.

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

Anton Kapustin: Quantum geometry, a reunion of math and physics

I think that this 79-page presentation by Caltech's Anton Kapustin is both insightful and entertaining.

If you are looking for the "previous slide" button, you may achieve this action simply by clicking 78 times. Click once for the "next slide".

If you have any problems with the embedded Flash version of the talk [click for full screen] above, download Anton's PowerPoint file which you may display using a Microsoft Office viewer or an OpenOffice or a LibreOffice or a Chrome extension or Google Docs or in many other ways.

Spoilers are below.

UN: Ukraine, Canada, and U.S. officially endorse glorification of Nazism

Yesterday, we were allowed to learn (from the news or Vineyard) about a rather stunning Friday vote in the United Nations. A group of post-Soviet, Latin American, African, and other countries proposed a resolution (initiated in early November)

Combating glorification of Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (full PDF text, 7 pages)
You may read the whole thing, it's not too long, and as far as I can see, the bulk matches the title perfectly. The U.N. members are aware of the harmful impact and rise of the pro-Nazi groups such as skinheads, the celebration of Waffen SS, the destruction of memorials remembering the anti-Hitler coalition. It encourages them to outlaw racially motivated crimes, and so on.

What was the result of the plentary vote? It passed, of course, and will be adopted by the U.N. general body in December (not that such things matter too much). 115 countries including BRIC, Israel, Argentina voted Yes. 55 countries including all EU members, Switzerland, and Japan abstained. (Serbia, an EU candidate, voted Yes.) And 3 countries voted No: Ukraine, Canada, and the United States of America.

I find it shocking that such a standard sequence of comments against Nazism became so controversial. I am flabbergasted by the fact that the U.S. and Canada teamed up around the heart of the pro-Nazi axis of the current world, Ukraine, to create the new axis.

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

Chilean telescope finds a "mysterious" 2.5-sigma alignment of black holes

I think it's unlikely that there's something really new in the observations

Two days ago, the Daily Mail (plus colleagues) has excited many readers by the following esoteric article:

Mystery of the 'spooky' pattern in the universe: Scientists find that supermassive black holes are ALIGNED
The Very Large Telescope has found some weird pattern in the locations of quasars and the rotation of the central supermassive black holes. And these patterns are far-reaching – seem to correlate objects that are billions of light years away from each other, i.e. distances comparable to the size of the visible Universe.

This is just an artist's depiction of an alignment.

The probability that such patterns emerge by chance – according to the current models with their probability distributions defining chance – is said to be 1 percent.

WaPo's meddling with allies' internal affairs is despicable

One month ago, I discussed a U.S. entry ban for Hungarian officials, an intervention into an ally's internal affairs that I find unacceptable.

During the following weeks, it was becoming increasingly clear that my own country is a target of this "activism", too. The main underlying reason for these anti-Hungarian, anti-Czech, and other assaults is the widespread opposition against the trade war with Russia in these Central European countries. One could argue that in all the countries of the former Austrian-Hungarian monarchy (and perhaps also in Italy, if not Germany), most people and business interests prefer constructive relationships with Russia.

Someone doesn't like it. Various actually unimportant events, like the Czech president's expletives voiced in his radio show, are used as excuses to meddle with our internal affairs. Zeman has been an outspoken guy for decades. In a recent traditional interview "Monologues from the Lány Chateau" (which Havel used to record every week), he mentioned that Karl Schwarzenberg, his opponent in the presidential elections 2 years ago, uses the word s*it in every other sentence. He would say that the lawmakers have scr*wed the Public Service Bill. And he said that the Pussy Riot ladies aren't really political prisoners but rather b*tches and puss*es (well, his translation was closer to c*nts) who were arrested for a riot, not for their opinions. As you may imagine, lots of reactions do occur after such words. His translation wasn't "quite" accurate and his pronunciation of "p*ssy" was wrong (pahsy) but the broader point was morally right.

Four days ago, The Ron Paul Institute told us that the NED president Carl Gershman, a de facto U.S. "regime change tsar", is working on toppling of the Czech president. When I participated in a recent public debate with the new U.S. ambassador, my impression surely was that he might be thinking that it's his legitimate job to influence the politics in his host country in similar ways.

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

An evaporating landscape? Possible issues with the KKLT scenario

By Dr Thomas Van Riet, K.U. Leuven, Belgium

What is this blog post about?

In 2003, in a seminal paper by Kachru, Kallosh, Linde and Trivedi (KKLT) (2000+ cites!), a scenario for constructing a landscape of de Sitter vacua in string theory with small cosmological constant was found. This paper was (and is) conceived as the first evidence that the string theory landscape contains a tremendous amount of de Sitter vacua (not just anti-de Sitter vacua) which could account for the observed dark energy.

The importance of this discovery should not be underestimated since it profoundly changed the way we think about how a fundamental, UV-complete theory of all interactions addresses apparent fine-tuning and naturalness problems we are faced with in high energy physics and cosmology. It changed the way we think string theory makes predictions about the low-energy world that we observe.

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

Secret Science Reform Act of 2014: a step towards transparency

An effort to eliminate shamans and would-be scientific pressure groups possessing no verifiable evidence from the EPA decisions

President Obama has threatened to employ dictatorial strategies and completely circumvent the lawmakers during his divine personal mission to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal our planet.

If hired by the government as a researcher, a shaman is enough to serve as an "adviser" and the basis of the EPA decisions as of today.

After all, isn't it enough to control the EPA and to borrow a Michael Mann from the Penn State [I know that the überjerk is elsewhere now] and a Peter Gleick from the State Penn and use this administrator to cripple whole sectors of the economy – while saying that this is what has healed the planet?

CMS releases 1/2 of 2010 data to the public

Hours ago, the CMS Collaboration – one of the two major detectors at CERN's LHC collider – has made a cool announcement via Twitter.

A part of the complete data on the collision became public:

CERN makes public first data of LHC experiments (press release)

CMS releases first batch of high-level LHC open data (an extra CERN news article)

OpenData.CERN.CH (CMS subset, policies)
So far, what we're given are just the high-level data from Run B in 2010. Recall that the center-of-mass energy was \(7\TeV\) at that time.

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

CMS sees excess of same-sign dimuons "too"

An Xmas rumor deja vu

There are many LHC-related hep-ex papers on the arXiv today, and especially

Searches for the associated \(t\bar t H\) production at CMS
by Liis Rebane of CMS. The paper notices a broad excess of like-sign dimuon events. See the last 2+1 lines of Table 1 for numbers.

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

RHIC and a shower: how stand-up comedian Frank Wilczek suffered for science

I think that this 19-minute video at the World Science Festival (the "Moth" series) shows that Frank Wilczek could make the living as a stand-up comedian. At least it seems to me that he is a more natural entertainer than the comedian who introduced him.

The video was posted 3 weeks ago but it was recorded in 2010, I think.

He tells us two stories, a longer one and a shorter one, how he has suffered for science.

RHIC, black holes

First, sometime around 2000, Walter Wagner – the same Hawaiian high school teacher who would sue the LHC later – would question the RHIC experiment in Brookhaven. It was supposed to create a black hole. Frank Wilczek wanted a Nobel prize for some related results so he wanted to be the go-to guy who answers all questions.

So when the P.R. department of the Brookhaven Labs got the complaint, he was asked to write the reply – see e.g. this preprint. The black hole would be too small, too quickly evaporating, and the Earth has survived billions of years of similar collisions. We learned that the "strangelet scenario" was added by Wilczek himself because he wanted to make the threat more spicy and more likely (but still easy enough for him to disprove it). With the strangelet twist, it became a text he was proud about.

Sunday, November 16, 2014 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

CMS: locally 2.6 or 2.9 sigma excess for another \(560\GeV\) Higgs boson \(A\)

And there are theoretical reasons why this could be the right mass

Yesterday, the CMS Collaboration at the LHC published the results of a new search:

Search for a pseudoscalar boson \(A\) decaying into a \(Z\) and an \(h\) boson in the \(\ell^+\ell^- \bar b b\) final state
They look at collisions with the \(\ell\ell bb\) final state and interpret it using the two higgs doublet model scenarios.

You may still buy Matt Taylor's shirt

Matt Taylor's shirt has instantly become one of the modern symbols of the fight between science, achievements, freedom, dedication to one's work, and meritocracy on one side and oppression, bullying, parasitism, feminism, humorlessness, cruelty, and superficiality on the other side.

The feminist bullies have apparently broken Matt Taylor, a scientist-in-chief of the Rosetta mission that succeeded in sending a module to a comet and in drilling it – all the data from the drilling got back before the battery went to the standby mode. But the legend has it that the poor guy said "and yet it moves". And even if he hasn't, you know very well that it moves, anyway, don't you?

Lightnings may increase by 12% per 1 °C of warming

David M. Romps, Jacob T. Seeley (Berkeley), David Vollaro, and John Molinari (Albany) published a report in Nature whose title reads

Projected increase in lightning strikes in the United States due to global warming
that was quoted in hundreds of media outlets.

Let me tell you: I find this number conceivable.

They decided that the lightning frequency is approximately equal to the product of the precipitation rate and a potential energy (CAPE). It probably isn't exact but it's probably good enough for some estimates. Combined with some empirical data, 1 °C of warming adds 12% to the warming strikes. When combined with some nonsensically overrated projections about the rise of the mean temperature in the rest of the century, they may get a 50% increase of lightnings.

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

Zeman: Velvet Revolution started by the rumor about the death of student Martin Šmíd

The student of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics is doing fine

The current and previous Czech presidents, Zeman and Klaus, were debating about the Velvet Revolution and related topics.

Martin Šmíd from my Alma Mater is the main hero of this blog post.

To remind you, the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia – the Velvet Revolution – began exactly 25 years ago, on Friday, November 17th, 1989, when the police used some amount of violence against the peaceful student rally in Prague (where all the events in this blog post took place). The students of the Charles University, my Alma Mater (that was later, I was a high school student at the revolutionary times), would be remembering the 50th anniversary of the Nazi murder of 9 Czech students in 1939.

Is our galactic black hole a neutrino factory?

When I was giving a black hole talk two days ago, I would describe Sagittarius A*, a black hole in the center of the Milky Way, our galaxy, as our "most certain" example of an astrophysical black hole that is actually observed in the telescopes. Its mass is 4 million solar masses – the object is not a negligible dwarf.

Accidentally, a term paper and presentation I would do at Rutgers more than 15 years ago was about Sgr A*. Of course, I had no doubt it was a black hole at that time.

Today, science writers affiliated with all the usual suspects (e.g. RT) would run the story that Sgr A* is a high-energy neutrino factory.

Why now? Well, a relevant paper got published in Physical Review D. Again, it wasn't today, it was almost 2 months ago, but a rational justification of the explosion of hype in the mid of November 2014 simply doesn't exist. Someone in NASA helped the media to explode – by this press release – and they did explode, copying from each other in the usual way.

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

Shocking MH17 shotdown photo passes some tests but failed in others

One hour after I posted it, a commenter's URL convinced me that the photo is fake. See the featured comment below the post.

But you still want to see what I wrote before that, right? ;-) Here it is.

The MH17 aircraft was shot down above Eastern Ukraine on July 17th around 13:20 UTC. A ground-to-air missile or an air-to-air missile are the leading "technical" explanations of what happened. The ground-to-air missile theory (probably using a Buk missile; recently vaguely endorsed by the German intelligence) would leave the question "who did it" and "why" open. The air-to-air missile theory would have clearer implications – the post-Maidan Ukrainian government would be behind it.

Click the picture for a 7406 x 5000 very high resolution photograph.

Hours ago, ITAR-TASS (and later The Daily Mail and a helpful blog; I know it from the Czech media) brought us the photograph above.

Rosetta scientists are allowed to wear their favorite shirts

Sad news: Alexandre Grothendieck, one of the 20th century best mathematicians, died.
Philae was the first man-made object that landed on a comet (thrice), after it made two "unnecessary" jumps (a two-hour jump plus another eight-minute jump). But an important British member of the team (he's really the #1 scientist-in-chief in Rosetta) is already finding himself under some heavy criticism, as BMWA1 pointed out.

Try this video, and go to 1:42, to see an interview with this man. His tattoos are all about Rosetta.

This man was acknowledged to be important enough to be a spokesman for the media as well and CNN wrote a story (!) called
Philae researcher criticized for shirt covered in scantily clad women
Holy cow. Many other left-wing media including The Washington Post and The Guardian wrote hysterically negative "stories" while the center-right Telegraph and The Daily Mail reported on Taylor's appearance mostly positively. Pathetically enough, the far left-wing The Independent attempted a character assassination based on the claim that "Taylor can't park his car".

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

Klaus in EU Parliament: 25 years after the fall of communism

Some readers may find 100 minutes to listen to a talk by Czech ex-president Václav Klaus in the EU Parliament that he gave yesterday:

The technicians at the Parliament were sabotaging the sound for a while but finally they failed and you may hear a big majority of what was said. Klaus and Farage were 22 minutes late – so others (Petr Mach...) speak at the beginning.

The title was "Europe 25 years after the fall of the iron curtain".

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

Rosetta: landing on the comet is underway

European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft has been in outer space since 2004. Minutes ago, it began the maneuvers to send a fridge-sized module, Philae, to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that it's been "orbiting" for some time. (If you evaluate the previous sentence: do you think that Russia is invading Europe or vice versa?)

Note that Rosetta is named after the Rosetta stone, a stony document released by an ancient Greek king from the Ptolemy dynasty, and Philae is an island on Nile where something important with hieroglyphs on it (an object similar to the Rosetta stone) was found.

Rosetta and the space duck

The module should be approaching the comet at 130 kilometers per hour, a speed limit for cars on superhighways, and the comet's surface is 22 kilometers away. So it's just like a short trip with your car. The comet itself is also known as the "whiffy space duck", thanks to its shape. By the size, it's not too different from Manhattan, so today, ESA is planning something like a car trip from New Jersey to Manhattan.

However, ESA can't control the module in "real time": signals travel there (or back) for half an hour and Albert Einstein won't give an exemption from his laws and regulations to anyone, not even ESA! It's almost 4 AU away from us.

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

"Net neutrality" is just another communist plot

Barack Obama has endorsed some rather specific steps towards establishing bizarre principles that have been called "net neutrality".

Mr Obama is a U.S. citizen who contributed his opinion about this fad. FCC, the independent communications regulatory agency, promised not to discard this video diatribe and to add Mr Obama's rant in the queue behind 4,000,000 opinions of other citizens. FCC produced another proof that Mr Obama is not being ignored.

Ten years ago or so, I didn't know what the concept coined in 2003 was supposed to mean. A staunchly left-wing colleague whom I won't name was telling me it was such a wonderful thing. I wanted to know what it was but the answer I got was very vague.

It was some rule preventing the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from changing the flow of packets in any way that depends on the type of the data or servers that are participating in the communication.

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

The recent techni-higgs fad

In recent days, at least 34 news outlets were selling the "story" that the particle discovered by the LHC is perhaps not the Higgs boson, scientists finally realized. It's the techni-higgs, and so on. So the Higgs boson remains undiscovered, and all this amazing stuff.

If you look what these deluded texts are building upon, you find out that it is a September 2013 (!) preprint

The Technicolor Higgs in the Light of LHC Data
by Belyaev, Brown, Foadi, and Frandsen (UK-Belgium-Denmark). And of course that the paper doesn't really claim that it's likely that the particle discovered in 2012 is not the Higgs boson. Moreover, after more than a year, the paper has 2 self-citations plus 7 other citations which surely makes it a below-average preprint among thousands of preprints posted on the arXiv every year.

So why this insane hysteria now? The closest thing to an answer that I can find is that the preprint was "just" published in Physical Review D. However, if you look at that PRD page, you will see that the word "just" is an extreme exaggeration because even in that journal, the paper was published in August 2014.

Khamenei's plan to eliminate Israel

Good news from Italy: an appeal court overturns the 2012 manslaughter convictions for geologists' inability to predict the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake. Only one man is guilty now (an official) and should serve 2 years.
An English-tweeting Persian user of Twitter who only follows three other users – the Arabic and Persian versions of himself as well as Ayatollah Khomeini – has presented his plan to settle the tension between Israel and the Arabs living on and near its territory.

What's interesting about this senile crackpot is that he's been hired by Allah, a non-existent agent, as the mullah-in-chief of Persia. I hope that I haven't used any politically incorrect words when I talked about this m*therf*cker yet and I will try to keep these high diplomatic standards below, too.

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

What drives some negative reviewers of "Interstellar"

At the beginning, the Interstellar movie I would see on Thursday was getting almost entirely positive reactions. Even today, most of the professional reviewers rated it with 73%. But if you search for the reviews at generic websites, you will notice that the most typical rating of self-anointed critics is actually 2 stars. Where does the gap come from?

Well, the gap has – and the negative reviews have – numerous reasons but some of the most obvious ones are not being discussed. Many of the negative reviewers are lazy, intellectually limited, anti-science spoiled brats; and many others are pro-green, left-wing, anti-technology Luddites. There are probably many who fall into both categories.

But let me begin with some "potentially valid" criticisms.

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

A balanced world map: more than cute arts?

Frank Jacobs blogging for Big Think posted (and Sean Carroll reposted) a fascinating distorted map of the world drawn by Gaicomo Faiella:

What's so fascinating about it, Carroll asks? If you want to think yourself, please don't open the rest of this blog post, and/or don't read anything beneath the ads.

Nima's public lecture at Perimeter

Nima Arkani-Hamed is the world's leading particle phenomenologist, at least among those under 45 years and my wonderful ex-colleague (and co-author). He's been mentioned in many contexts on this blog. More recently, he became a highly mathematically sophisticated theorist, too. That's why we would read about the twistor minirevolution that culminated with things like the amplituhedron, too.

But a day ago, he gave a popular lecture at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Canada. Because it's a popular lecture, it spends more time with things that other people have discovered, and not just Nima's own research. You may see the whole 85-minute lecture (the first rectangle), along with the people's comments (the second rectangle), here:

Perimeter Institute Now Streaming (latest live broadcast is here)
He was supposed to talk for only hour only, and then take questions. In reality, all of these 85 minutes were just his talk.

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

Harvard snooped on everyone in classrooms

Students and faculty were not informed

For several days, the Harvard Crimson's most read article was

Bol Authorized Study that Photographed Faculty, Students in Class without Notice
I am not going to be too original in this case but it is creepy. The decision to install cameras in classrooms to monitor attendance by taking photographs – probably with some face recognition software – was approved by a vice-provost (for "advances in learning"), Mr Bol.

OK, these "ladies" wouldn't mind if they were photographed naked. But maybe someone else could mind.

Not satisfied with its status of a training camp of extreme left-wing whackos, Harvard became a CIA playground, too.

Tullio Regge (1931-2014)

Tullio Regge died two weeks ago. Click for an obituary.

Regge, a recipient of many awards including the Dirac medal (1996) and a former deputy of the European Parliament (since 1989), was one of the forefathers of string theory. I will discuss Reggeology later but it was not the only approach to quantum gravity that he has pioneered.

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

Interstellar: a great movie

Well, the actors could have been more emotional but the design is amazing

I just saw Interstellar. Even though there were only 10 people in the cinema room for hundreds, I think it was a great film.

The movie was touching, visually impressive, and boasting a clever plot that depended on time dilation and subtle closed time-like curves. In this blog post, I won't discuss the general relativistic visualization of the black hole and wormhole at all because it was talked about previously and it's a small part of my final impression, anyway.

The blog post below is full of spoilers. Do not continue if you don't want to get spoiled.

A string landscape conference in Madrid

Four weeks ago, there was a conference at ITP of UAM/CSIC in Madrid, Spain. The title of the conference was

Fine-Tuning, Anthropics and the String Landscape (click here for the page with videos)
In the table, columns are describing the timing, speaker name, title, video URL (pairs of the talks are often clumped together), and PDF URL of the talks. The topics covered the most controversial and the least solid aspects of string theory – string cosmology, the string landscape (well, at least the shape of the non-SUSY landscape fails to be solid), and its popular (and hated) anthropic interpretation (and the anthropic "explanation" of the apparent fine-tuning in Nature).

To help you to decide whether you want to open the conference website, it may be a good idea to list all the speaker names: Guth, Hogan, Break (she gave 5 talks, quite a hard-working madam, and I am not counting her brother Lunch Break and their uncle Reception), Vilenkin, Brown, Blanco-Pillado, Randall, Kleban, Meissner, Donoghue, Banks, Bousso, Bena, Sethi, Danielsson, Ruderman, Freivogel, Bousso as the host of the main discussion, Denef, Vercnocke, Watari, Westphal, and McAllister.

Ex-employer won't meet blue LED Nobel prize winner

The Japan Realtime blog at the Wall Street Journal informs us about some bitterness surrounding Dr Shuji Nakamura of UC Santa Barbara who won the physics Nobel prize one month ago.

You should understand that I am among those who consider the invention of blue LEDs to be primarily an achievement of engineering, not physics, and if I had to give a Nobel prize for that, I would probably pick the Nobel prize for chemistry. I realize that there are no "chemical reactions" involved in the operation of blue LEDs. But the kind of "combination of the right elements" to obtain the right "atomic and molecular properties" is fully analogous to what the chemists are doing.

But this "applied" character is something we're used to from many previous science Nobel prizes. After all, Alfred Nobel might have very well considered his dynamite to be a discovery in physics, too, so I am not going to pretend that I am surprised. This kind of inventions is what he would probably want to be rewarded. I would certainly not describe the choice as something that "discredits" the award (in the same sense in which way too many recent Nobel Peace Prize helped to discredit the already pretty unimpressive honor: no, while different Nobel prizes may have been created equal, they are no longer equal today). The invention may be described as a great result of applied physics, too.

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

SLAC, Nature: progress in plasma accelerators

A SLAC-UCLA collaboration has published a potentially important experimental paper in Nature:

Researchers hit milestone in accelerating particles with plasma (SLAC press release)

High-efficiency acceleration of an electron beam in a plasma wakefield accelerator (Litos et al., Nature)
Future plasma wakefield accelerators with the same final energy may be up to 500 times smaller than the existing accelerators. What's the catch?

GOP: landslide victories

iPhone, iPad: Apple users may try to play Lumo Deliveries. ;-)
Six years ago, Barack Obama was elected for the first time and, slightly surprisingly for me, he was also reelected two years ago. But six or eight years is a rather long time for a fad. So despite the very good condition of the current U.S. economy and other positive signs, the Democrats have decided that Barack Obama has become a liability and they tried to hide him in the basement.

I think it has become too self-evident that most Americans disagree with Obama on key domestic topics such as immigration and healthcare. But what do I know? Maybe Ebola-ISIS-Ukraine have played a role, too.

The map of 2014 House elections: Alaska is dark red and Hawaii is dark blue. Click for more BBC maps.

The hiding strategy wasn't too helpful, anyway: the gains of the Republicans are way too obvious. A pig claims that there was a huge gender gap – that Democrats would actually slightly win among women but their deficit among the men was just huge. This gender polarization of politics seems highly unfortunate to me (because the men-vs-women contest is not useful for selecting good ideas: their percentages will always be close to 50%) and I think it's the Democratic Party's policies that should be blamed for this asymmetry.

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

Multiverse and the measure problem: no progress

Off-topic, CERN: former ATLAS spokeslady Fabiola Gianotti was chosen to be the next CERN Director General. Congrats but it's since 2016 and she may very well miss the first big post-Higgs discoveries.

Interstellar: the reviewers seem totally captivated by the black hole blockbuster.
Yesterday, Natalie Wolchover and Peter Byrne wrote an article for the Quanta Magazine:
In a Multiverse, What Are the Odds?
It's the first part of a series. The article has received no comments so far and no other media reacted. My reactions to this silence is mixed:
  1. On one hand, this article refers to many actual big shots in physics research (and yes, I know all the physicists mentioned there in person), unlike most of the "news about science" that inform about the work of assorted cranks and 3rd class physicists
  2. Despite these physicists' being very good and at the top, this whole "measure problem" research program is fundamentally flawed, so it's good news that at least one set of flawed ideas is being ignored by most of the media
Let me summarize the topic by saying that the multiverse – a very large universe or "conglomerate of connected universes" – naturally follows from eternal inflation. If inflation is right, it's likely to be eternal. And inflation is likely to be right, too. And this whole "anthropic" attitude is an additional speculative floor built on top of eternal inflation that wants to calculate the probabilities that we observe something "here and now" from looking at the other, mostly very distant and separated, parts of the whole multiverse. The multiverse is probably right; but this whole "anthropic" level is fallacious.

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

A talk by (and chat with) the U.S. ambassador

A very good communicator with the task to defend a mixed bag of policies

In March 2007, I met the Czech ambassador to the U.S. His secretary called me to Cambridge, MA and told me that (then) Czech president Klaus wanted to meet me (and a few other global warming skeptics including Fred Singer and Pat Michaels) during a lunch in Washington D.C. It was nearly a civic duty to arrive when your president wishes so, I was told, so I bought the air ticket and wasn't sorry about it. It was my only visit to D.C. (so far?), a city I liked (and probably prefer over the Big Apple which is overcrowded to my taste).

Recall that it was one month after I translated an interview with our president about global warming that became the #1 story on for that day. That also allowed Fox News and others to run stories about a European president who questions Al Gore's sanity. One may both underestimate and overestimate the impact of such individual events but if I recall how hysterically afraid the U.S. politicians (even in the GOP) were to question the global warming dogma in early 2007, one could perhaps argue that this Czech role model was rather important for the world to get where we are today – a world with a lot of climate insanity but a world where the GOP as well as e.g. Australian politicians (including their Labor Party) find it normal to be skeptical about the climate panic. So yes, if you wanted to hear my honest opinion, I would admit that my modest contribution has already helped the world economy to save tens of billions of dollars.

But back to 2014. Today, I went to a talk at the University of Western Bohemia by the new U.S. ambassador to Czechia, Andrew Schapiro. This ex-classmate of Barack Obama from the Harvard Law School began his tenure in September, having replaced Norman Eisen. Norman Eisen was an amusing Gentleman who learned to speak some Czech but my understanding is that the internal justification for the replacement was to hire someone who is more active in promoting the current administration's policies. Schapiro's mother was a Czechoslovak Holocaust survivor so his background has links to the target country which I generally consider a plus.

It's very unwise to deny the message of Novorussian elections

One week ago, I discussed the elections in the bulk of Ukraine and mentioned that the separate polls are accelerating the political divergence of the different parts of Ukraine.

Now we know the results of the elections in Novorussia, too. It's probably hard to quantify the precise turnout because almost a million of people have fled or moved somewhere. Nevertheless, we hear that the turnout was about 60%.

Ostrich. To help the EU to satisfy their gender quotas, I chose a female one. Note that it's a myth coined probably by Pliny the Elder (AD 23–79) that ostriches bury their heads to avoid danger.

Albie's First Word

A fairy-tale about a child with a dramatical physical twist

The book (available as hardcover or e-book) is beautiful. While the cute realistic illustrations could lead you to believe that it is a fairy-tale about the Little Red Riding Hood or a similar character, the actual child who is the hero of the story is a boy who would become much more famous than the Little Red Riding Hood.

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

How a paper about dark matter interactions got misrepresented

A potential deviation from ΛCDM described via "eating"

At least sixteen news outlets ran stories about "dark energy that is devouring dark matter" in recent two days. I think that the journalists started with a University of Portsmouth press release that described the recent publication of a British-Italian paper in Physical Review Letters.

The article by Salvatelli and 4 co-authors has been available since June:

Indications of a late-time interaction in the dark sector (arXiv)
It has 6 pages, 6 figures. As of today, it has only collected 2 citations but it's an OK paper, I think.

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

Havel's mentality of a reform communist

Ex-president Václav Klaus gave an interview to The Youth Front Today today [sic], an influential post-Komsomol daily in Czechia, and he proved that he's still capable of igniting a huge storm whenever he likes.

Most of the reactions were unfortunately deeply negative – in particular, the whole pseudointellectual PC front exploded like a nuclear bomb. But I feel that Klaus must in some way enjoy such responses, anyway.

Havel (left), Klaus (right). I am afraid that the readers who needed this caption will find the rest of the blog post below too technical. ;-) Second row: Havel's Prague Castle chancellor Ivan Medek (left), his etiquette guru Ladislav Špaček (right).

Let me say that while I may be similar to Klaus in some respects, I don't really enjoy being in a similar situation. While I realize my own superiority relatively to low-quality critics as well as Klaus does, I still suffer when I am exposed to such things.

But let me return to the interview. In the interview, he described his predecessor, Czechoslovakia's and Czechia's first modern democratic president and ex-dissident Václav Havel (1936-2011). Havel wasn't formally a communist, Klaus said, but Havel's sentiments pretty much coincided with those of the reform communists.

Klaus pointed out that Havel would hate political parties and contributed to the general animosity of the Czech public towards the standard political parties – that's what Klaus will never forgive to Havel, we were told. Havel would prefer some movements or NGOs. And he would also prefer to destroy things – but he would never build anything. Klaus' party was repeatedly recommending Havel as the president, being aware of his influence and his role as a symbol, but it was a "necessary evil".

Ebola is overhyped

A minor disease should be treated as business-as-usual

Ebola has been everywhere in the media for several months. If you look at Google Trends, you will see that the amount of media coverage dedicated to Ebola surpassed that of tuberculosis and even AIDS by an order of magnitude.

If you trusted the media as an honest reflection of the danger, you could conclude that the number of deaths from Ebola has been approximately 10 times larger than that from AIDS or tuberculosis. Is this estimate a good one?

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