Monday, January 26, 2015 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

A reply to an anti-physics rant by Ms Hossenfelder

S.H. of Tokyo University sent me a link to another text about the "problems with physics". The write-up is one month old and for quite some time, I refused to read it in its entirety. Now I did so and the text I will respond to is really, really terrible. The author is Sabine Hossenfelder and the title reads

Does the scientific method need revision?

Does the prevalence of untestable theories in cosmology and quantum gravity require us to change what we mean by a scientific theory?
To answer this, No. Only people who have always misunderstood how science works – at least science since the discoveries by Albert Einstein – need to change their opinions what a scientific theory is and how it is being looked for. Let me immediately get to the propositions in the body of the write-up and respond.

Here we go:
Theoretical physics has problems.
Theoretical physics solves problems and organizes ideas about how Nature works. Anything may be substituted for "it" to the sentence "it has problems" but the only reason why someone would substitute "theoretical physics" into this sentence is that he or she hates science and especially the most remarkable insights that physics discovered in recent decades.

The third sentence says:
But especially in high energy physics and quantum gravity, progress has basically stalled since the development of the standard model in the mid 70s.
This is an absolutely preposterous claim. First, since the mid 1970s, there have been several important experimental discoveries – like the discoveries of the W-bosons, Z-bosons, Higgs boson, top quark, neutrino oscillations; non-uniformities of the cosmic microwave background, the cosmological constant, and so on, and so on.

But much more shockingly, there have been long sequences of profound and amazing theoretical discoveries, including supersymmetry, supergravity, superstring theory, its explanation for the black hole thermodynamics, D-branes, dualities, holography, AdS/CFT correspondence, AdS/mundane_physics correspondences, and so on, and so on. Many of these results deservedly boast O(10,000) citations – like AdS/CFT – which actually sometimes beats the figures of the Standard Model. Which of those discoveries are more important is debatable and the citation counts can't be treated dogmatically but some of the recent discoveries are unquestionably in the "same league" as the top papers that have led to the Standard Model.

It is silly not to consider these amazing advances "fully important" just because they're primarily theoretical in character. The W-bosons, Z-bosons, Higgs bosons etc. have been believed to exist since the 1960s even though they were also discovered in 1983 or 2012, respectively, and they were "just a theory" for several previous decades. The beta-decay was known by competent particle physicists to be mediated by the W-boson even though no W-boson had been seen by 1983. Exactly analogously, we know that the gravitational force (and other forces) is mediated by closed strings even though we haven't seen a fundamental string yet. The situations are absolutely analogous and people claiming that it is something "totally different" are hopelessly deluded.

One can become virtually certain about certain things long before the thing is directly observed – and that is true not only for particular species of bosons but also for the theoretical discoveries since the mid 1970s that I have mentioned.
Yes, we’ve discovered a new particle every now and then. Yes, we’ve collected loads of data.
In the framework of quantum field theory, almost all discoveries can be reduced to the "discovery of a new particle". So if someone finds such a discovery unimpressive, he or she simply shows his or her disrespect for the whole discipline. But the discoveries were not just discoveries of new particles.
But the fundamental constituents of our theories, quantum field theory and Riemannian geometry, haven’t changed since that time.
That's completely untrue. Exactly since the 1970s, state-of-the-art physics has switched from quantum field theory and Riemannian geometry to string theory as its foundational layer. People have learned that this more correct new framework is different from the previous approximate ones; but from other viewpoints, it is exactly equivalent thanks to previously overlooked relationships and dualities.

Laymen and physicists who are not up to their job may have failed to notice that a fundamental paradigm shift has taken place in physics since the mid 1970s but that can't change the fact that this paradigm shift has occurred.
Everybody has their own favorite explanation for why this is so and what can be done about it. One major factor is certainly that the low hanging fruits have been picked, [experiments become hard, relevant problems are harder...].

Still, it is a frustrating situation and this makes you wonder if not there are other reasons for lack of progress, reasons that we can do something about.
If Ms Hossenfelder finds physics this frustrating, she should leave it – and after all, her bosses should do this service for her, too. Institutionalized scientific research has also become a part of the Big Government and it is torturing lots of people who would love to be liberated but they still think that to pretend to be scientists means to be on a great welfare program. Niels Bohr didn't establish Nordita as another welfare program, however, so he is turning in his grave.

Ms Hossenfelder hasn't written one valuable paper in her life but her research has already cost the taxpayers something that isn't far from one million dollars. It is not shocking that she tries to pretend that there are no results in physics – in this way, she may argue that she is like "everyone else". But she is not. Some people have made amazing or at least pretty interesting and justifiable discoveries, she is just not one of those people. She prefers to play the game that no one has found anything and the taxpayers are apparently satisfied with this utterly dishonest demagogy.

If you have the feeling that the money paid to the research is not spent optimally, you may be right but you may want to realize that it's thanks to the likes of Hossenfelder, Smolin, and others who do nothing useful or intellectually valuable and who are not finding any new truths (and not even viable hypotheses) about Nature.
Especially in a time when we really need a game changer, some breakthrough technology, clean energy, that warp drive, a transporter! Anything to get us off the road to Facebook, sorry, I meant self-destruction.
We don't "need" a game changer now more than we needed it at pretty much any moment in the past (or we will need it in the future). People often dream about game changers and game changers sometimes arrive.

We don't really "need" any breakthrough technology and we certainly don't need "clean energy" because we have lots of clean energy, especially with the rise of fracking etc.

We may "need" warp drive but people have been expressing similar desires for decades and competent physicists know that warp drive is prohibited by the laws of relativity.

And we don't "need" transporters – perhaps the parties in the Ukrainian civil war need such things.

Finally, we are more resilient and further from self-destruction than we were at pretty much any point in the past. Also, we don't need to bash Facebook which is just another very useful pro-entertainment website. It is enough to ignore Facebook if you think it's a waste of time – I am largely doing so ;-) but I still take the credit for having brought lots of (more socially oriented) people who like it to the server.

So every single item that Hossenfelder enumerates in her list "what we need" is crap.
It is our lacking understanding of space, time, matter, and their quantum behavior that prevents us from better using what nature has given us.
This statement is almost certainly untrue, too. A better understanding of space, time, and matter – something that real physicists are actually working on, and not just bashing – will almost certainly confirm that warp drives and similar things don't exist. Better theories will give us clearer explanations why these things don't exist. There may be some "positive applications" of quantum gravity but right now, we don't know what they could be and they are surely not the primary reason why top quantum gravity people do the research they do.

The idea that the future research in quantum gravity will lead to practical applications similar to warp drive is a belief, a form of religion, and circumstantial evidence (and sometimes almost rigorous proofs) makes this belief extremely unlikely.
And it is this frustration that lead people inside and outside the community to argue we’re doing something wrong, ...
No, this is a lie, too. As I have already said, physics bashers are bashing physics not because of frustration that physics isn't making huge progress – it obviously *is* making huge progress. Physics bashers bash physics in order to find excuses for their own non-existent or almost non-existent results in science – something I know very well from some of the unproductive physicists in Czechia whom the institutions inherited from the socialist era. They try to hide that they are nowhere near the top physicists – and most of them are just useless parasites. And many listeners buy these excuses because the number of incredibly gullible people who love to listen to similar conspiracy theories (not so much to science) is huge. And if you combine this fact with many ordinary people's disdain for mathematics etc., it is not surprising that some of these physics bashers may literally make living out of their physics bashing and nothing else.
The arxiv categories hep-th and gr-qc are full every day with supposedly new ideas. But so far, not a single one of the existing approaches towards quantum gravity has any evidence speaking for it.
This is complete rubbish. The tens of thousands of papers are full of various kinds of evidence supporting this claim or another claim about the inner workings of Nature. In particular, the scientific case for string theory as the right framework underlying the Universe is completely comparable to the case for the Higgs boson in the 1960s. The Higgs boson was discovered in 2012, 50 years after the 1960s, but that doesn't mean that adequate physicists in the 1960s were saying that "there wasn't any evidence supporting that theory".

People who were not embarrassed haven't said such a thing and people who are not embarrassing themselves are not saying a similar thing about string theory – and other things – today.
To me the reason this has happened is obvious: We haven’t paid enough attention to experimentally testing quantum gravity. One cannot develop a scientific theory without experimental input. It’s never happened before and it will never happen. Without data, a theory isn’t science. Without experimental test, quantum gravity isn’t physics.
None of these statements is right. We have paid more than enough attention to "experimental quantum gravity". It is a vastly overstudied and overfunded discipline. All sensible physicists realize that it is extremely unlikely that we will directly observe some characteristic effects of quantum gravity in the near future. The required temperatures are around \(10^{32}\) kelvins, the required distances are probably \(10^{-35}\) meters, and so on. Max Planck has known the values of these natural units since the late 19th century.

So we have paid more than enough attention to this strategy.

It is also untrue that the progress in theoretical physics since the mid 1970s has been done "without experimental input". The amount of data we know about many things is huge. To a large extent, the knowledge of one or two basic experiments showing quantum mechanics and one or two experiments testing gravity is enough to deduce a lot. General relativity, quantum mechanics, and string theory largely follow from (subsets of) these several elementary experiments.

On the other hand, it is not true that scientific progress cannot be made without (new) experimental input. Einstein found special relativity even though he wasn't actively aware of the Michelson-Morley experiment. He could have deduced the whole theory independently of any experiments. Experiments had previously been used to construct e.g. Maxwell's equations but Einstein didn't deal with them directly. Einstein only needed the equations themselves. More or less the same thing occurred 10 years later when he discovered general relativity. But the same approach based on "nearly pure thought" has also be victorious in the case of Bekenstein's and Hawking's black hole thermodynamics, string theory, and in some other important examples.

So the idea that one can't find important things without some new experiments – excluding experiments whose results are old and generally known – is obviously untrue. Science haters can say that this or that important part of science "is not science" or "is not physics" but that doesn't change anything about the fact that certain insights about Nature may be found and have been found and supported by highly convincing bodies of evidence in similar ways. Only simpletons may pay attention to demagogue's proclamation that "something is not science". This emotional scream is not a technical argument for or against any scientifically meaningful proposition.

I will omit another repetitive paragraph where Hossenfelder advocates "experimental quantum gravity". She thinks that tons of effects are easily observable because she's incompetent.
Yes, experimental tests of quantum gravity are farfetched. But if you think that you can’t test it, you shouldn’t put money into the theory either.
This is totally wrong. It is perfectly sensible to pay almost all of the quantum gravity research money to the theorists because whether someone likes it or not, quantum gravity is predominantly a theoretical discipline. It is about people's careful arguments, logical thoughts, and calculations that make our existing knowledge fit together more seamlessly than before.

In particular, the goal of quantum gravity is to learn how space and time actually work in our Universe, a world governed by the postulates of quantum mechanics. Quantum gravity is not – and any discipline of legitimate science is not – a religious cult that trains its followers to believe in far-fetched theories. The idea that you may observe completely new effects of quantum gravity (unknown to the theorists) in your kitchen is far-fetched and that really means that it is extremely unlikely. And its being extremely unlikely is the rational reason why almost no money is going into this possibility. This justification can't be "beaten" by the ideological cliché that everything connected with experiments in the kitchen should have a priority because it's "more scientific".

It's not more scientific. A priori, it is equally scientific. A posteriori, it is less scientific because arguments rooted in science almost reliably show that such new quantum gravity effects in the kitchen are very unlikely – some of them are rather close to supernatural phenomena such as telekinesis. So everything that Ms Hossenfelder says is upside down once again.
And yes, that’s a community problem because funding agencies rely on experts’ opinion. And so the circle closes.
Quantum gravity theorists and string theorists are getting money because they do absolutely amazing research, sometimes make a medium-importance discovery, and sometimes a full-fledged breakthrough. And if or when they don't do such a thing for a few years, they are still exceptional people who are preserving and nurturing the mankind's cutting-edge portrait of the Universe. The folks in the funding agencies are usually less than full-fledged quantum gravity or string theorists. But as long as the system at least barely works, they still know enough – much more than an average human or Ms Hossenfelder knows – so they may see that something fantastic is going on here or there even though they can't quite join the research. That's true for various people making decisions in government agencies but that's true e.g. for Yuri Milner, too.

As Ms Hossenfelder indicated, the only way how this logic may change – and yes, I think it is unfortunately changing to some extent – is that the funding decisions don't depend on expert opinion (and on any people connected with knowledge and progress in physics) at all. The decisions may be done by people who hate physics and who have no idea about contemporary physics. The decisions may depend on people who are would-be authority and pick winners and losers by arbitrarily stating that "this is science" and "this is not science". I don't have to say how such decisions (would?) influence the research.
To make matters worse, philosopher Richard Dawid has recently argued that it is possible to assess the promise of a theory without experimental test whatsover, and that physicists should thus revise the scientific method by taking into account what he calls “non-empirical facts”.
Dawid just wrote something that isn't usual among the prevailing self-appointed "critics and philosophers of physics" but he didn't really write anything that would be conceptually new. At least intuitively, physicists like Dirac or Einstein have known all these things for a century. Of course that "non-empirical facts" have played a role in the search for the deeper laws of physics and this role became dramatic about 100 years ago.
Dawid may be confused on this matter because physicists do, in practice, use empirical facts that we do not explicitly collect data on. For example, we discard theories that have an unstable vacuum, singularities, or complex-valued observables. Not because this is an internal inconsistency — it is not. You can deal with this mathematically just fine. We discard these because we have never observed any of that. We discard them because we don’t think they’ll describe what we see. This is not a non-empirical assessment.
This was actually the only paragraph I fully read when I replied to S.H. in Tokyo for the first time – and this paragraph looked "marginally acceptable" to me from a certain point of view.

Well, the paragraph is only solving a terminological issue. Should the violation of unitarity or instability of the Universe that would manifest itself a Planck time after the Big Bang, or something like that be counted as "empirical" or "non-empirical" input? I don't really care much. It's surely something that most experts consider consistency conditions, like Dawid.

We may also say that we "observe" that the Universe isn't unstable and doesn't violate unitarity. But this is a really tricky assertion. Our interpretation of all the observations really assumes that probabilities are non-negative and add to 100%. Whatever our interpretation of any experiment is, it must be adjusted to this assumption. So it's a pre-empirical input. It follows from pure logic. Also, some instabilities and other violations of what we call "consistency conditions" (e.g. unitarity) may be claimed to be very small and therefore hard to observe. But some of these violations will be rejected by theorists, anyway, even if they are very tiny because they are violations of consistency conditions.

I don't really care about the terminology. What's important in practice is that these "consistency conditions" cannot be used as justifications for some new fancy yet meaningful experiments.
A huge problem with the lack of empirical fact is that theories remain axiomatically underconstrained.
The statement is surely not true in general. String theory is 100% constrained. It cannot be deformed at all. It has many solutions but its underlying laws are totally robust.
This already tells you that the idea of a theory for everything will inevitably lead to what has now been called the “multiverse”. It is just a consequence of stripping away axioms until the theory becomes ambiguous.
If the multiverse exists, and it is rather likely that it does, it doesn't mean that the laws of physics are ambiguous. It just means that the world is "larger" and perhaps has more "diverse subregions" than previously thought. But all these regions follow the same unambiguous laws of physics – laws of physics we want to understand as accurately as possible.

The comment about "stripping away axioms" is tendentious, too, because it suggests that there is some "a priori known" number of axioms that is right. But it's not the case. If someone randomly invents a set of axioms, it may be too large (overconstrained) or too small (underconstrained). In the first case, some axioms should be stripped away, in the latter case, some axioms should be added. But the very fact that a theory predicts or doesn't predict the multiverse doesn't imply that its set of axioms is underconstrained or overconstrained.

For example, some theories of inflation predict that inflation is not eternal and no multiverse is predicted; other, very analogous theories (that may sometimes differ by values of parameters only!) predict that inflation is eternal and the Universe emerges. So Hossenfelder's claim that the multiverse is linked with "underconstrained axioms" is demonstrably incorrect, too.
Somewhere along the line many physicists have come to believe that it must be possible to formulate a theory without observational input, based on pure logic and some sense of aesthetics. They must believe their brains have a mystical connection to the universe and pure power of thought will tell them the laws of nature.
There is nothing mystical about this important mode of thinking in theoretical physics. It's how special relativity was found, much like general relativity, the idea that atoms exist, the idea that the motion of atoms is linked to heat, not to mention the Dirac equation, gauge theories, and many other things. A large fraction of theoretical physicists have made their discovery by optimizing the "beauty" of the candidate laws of physics. People like Dirac have emphasized the importance of the mathematical beauty in the search for the laws of physics all the time, and for a good reason.

That's the most important thing Dirac needed to write on a Moscow blackboard.

And the more recent breakthroughs in physics we consider, the greater role such considerations have played (and will play). And the reason why this "mathematical beauty" works isn't supernatural – even though many of us love to be amazed by this power of beautiful mathematics and this meme is often sold to the laymen, too. One may give Bayesian explanations why "more beautiful" laws are more likely to hold than generic, comparable, but "less beautiful" competitors. Bayesian inference dictates to assign comparable prior probabilities to competing hypotheses and because the mathematically beautiful theories have a smaller number of truly independent assumptions and building blocks, and therefore a smaller number of ways how to invent variations, their prior probability won't be split to so many "sub-hypotheses". Moreover, as we describe deeper levels of reality, the risk that an inconsistency emerges is high and ever higher, and the "not beautiful theories" are increasingly likely to lead to one kind of an inconsistency or another.

Sabine Hossenfelder's denial of this principle only shows her lack of familiarity with physics, its logic, and its history.
You can thus never arrive at a theory that describes our universe without taking into account observations, period.
Whether someone has ever found important things without "any observations" is questionable. But it is still true and important that a good theorist may need 1,000 times less empirical data than a worse theorist to find and write down a correct theory, and a bad theorist will not find the right theory with arbitrarily large amounts of data! And that's the real "period", that's why the mathematical beauty is important for good theoretical physicists – and the others have almost no chance to make progress these days.
The attempt to reduce axioms too much just leads to a whole “multiverse” of predictions, most of which don’t describe anything we will ever see.
I have already said that there is no relationship between the multiverse and the underdeterminedness of the sets of axioms.
(The only other option is to just use all of mathematics, as Tegmark argues. You might like or not like that; at least it’s logically coherent. But that’s a different story and shall be told another time.)
But these Tegmark's comments are purely verbal philosophical remarks without any scientific content. They don't imply anything for observations, not even in principle. For this reason, they have nothing to do with physical models of eternal inflation or the multiverse or even specific compactifications of string/M-theory which are completely specific theories about Nature and the observations of it.
Now if you have a theory that contains more than one universe, you can still try to find out how likely it is that we find ourselves in a universe just like ours. The multiverse-defenders therefore also argue for a modification of the scientific method, one that takes into account probabilistic predictions.
Most people writing papers about the multiverse – more precisely, papers evoking the anthropic principle – use the probability calculus incorrectly. But the general statement that invoking probabilities in deductions of properties of Nature is a "modification of the scientific method" is a total idiocy. The usage of probabilities was not only "allowed" in the scientific method for quite some time. In fact, science could have never been done without probabilities at all! All of science is about looking at the body of our observations and saying which explanation is more likely and which explanation is less likely.

And of course that a theory with a "larger Universe than previously thought" and perhaps with some extra rules to pinpoint "our location" in this larger world is an OK competitor to describe the Universe a priori.

Every experimenter needs to do some calculations involving probabilities – probabilities that a slightly unexpected result is obtained by chance, and so on – all the time. Ms Hossenfelder just doesn't have a clue what science is.
In a Nature comment out today, George Ellis and Joe Silk argue that the trend of physicists to pursue untestable theories is worrisome.
Please not again.
I agree with this, though I would have said the worrisome part is that physicists do not care enough about the testability — and apparently don’t need to care because they are getting published and paid regardless.
I don't get paid a penny but I am still able to see that the people whose first obsession is "testability" are either crackpots or third-class physicists such as Ms Hossenfelder who don't have an idea what they are talking about.

The purpose of science is to find the truth about Nature. Easy testability (in practice) means that there exists a procedure, an experimental procedure, that may accelerate the process by which we decide whether the hypothesis is true or not. But the testability doesn't actually make the hypothesis true (or more true) and scientists are looking for correct theories, not falsifiable theories, and it's an entirely different thing.

One could say that the less falsifiable a theory is, the better. We are looking for theories that withstand tests. So they won't be falsified anytime soon! A theory that has already resisted some attempts to be falsified is in a better shape than a theory that has already been falsified. The only "philosophical" feature of this kind that is important is that the propositions made by the theory are scientifically meaningful – i.e. having some non-tautological observable consequences in principle. If this is satisfied, the hypothesis is perfectly scientific and its higher likelihood to be falsified soon may only hurt. If one "knows" that a hypothesis is likely to die after a soon-to-be-performed experiment, it's probably because he "knows" that the hypothesis is actually unlikely.
See, in practice the origin of the problem is senior researchers not teaching their students that physics is all about describing nature. Instead, the students are taught by example that you can publish and live from outright bizarre speculations as long as you wrap them into enough math.
Maybe this is what Ms Hossenfelder has learned from her superiors such as Mr Smolin but no one is teaching these things at good places – like those I have been affiliated with.
I cringe every time a string theorist starts talking about beauty and elegance.
Because you are a stupid cringing crackpot.
Whatever made them think that the human sense for beauty has any relevance for the fundamental laws of nature?
The history of physics, especially 20th century physics, plus the Bayesian arguments showing that more beautiful theories are more likely. The sense of beauty used by these physicists – one that works so often – is very different from the sense of beauty used by average humans or average women in some respects. But it also has some similar features so it is similar in other respects.

Even more important is to point out that this extended discussion about "strings and beauty" is a straw man because almost no arguments referring to "beauty" can be found in papers on string theory. Many string theorists would actually disagree that "beauty" is a reason why they think that the theory is on the right track. Ms Hossenfelder is basically proposing illogical connections between her numerous claims, all of which happen to be incorrect.

I will omit one paragraph repeating content-free clichés that science describes Nature. Great, I agree that science describes Nature.
Call them mathematics, art, or philosophy, but if they don’t describe nature don’t call them science.
The only problem is that all theories that Ms Hossenfelder has targeted for her criticism do describe Nature and are excellent and sometimes paramount additions to science (sometimes nearly established ones, sometimes very promising ones), unlike everything that Ms Hossenfelder and similar "critics of physics" have ever written in their whole lives.

Add to Digg this Add to reddit

snail feedback (191) :

reader John Archer said...

No problem. I understand. I'm sure it's not your fault.

Most of us are born with a sense of moral proportion but many are simply unaware that it requires regular exercise to keep it in good shape.

Mine, of course, has been honed to perfection on the daily assault course our 'betters' have kindly laid out for us.

There's no need for you to go quite that far though. Handy supplements are available to keep one's cynical gland in tip-top condition, via YouTube for example. Just watch anything to do with the EU for a few minutes each week and you'll be up to speed in no time.

Good luck. :)

reader Terence said...

Einstein, Bohr and others have pointed out a long time ago that there is no logical path from experiments to theories/concepts. The concepts are logically related to each other, not with experiences. Theories can be compared with experience, but they cannot be deduced from experience. Another point is that if new ideas make old ideas more intelligible, that is sufficient to make them legitimate and interesting to investigate. It is not necessary that every new idea must have some immediate new experimental data to confirm it. The existing data, the existing ideas, if they are made more intelligible by the new idea, are enough to support that idea.

reader Bee said...

Well, nice that it sparked your interest :p The first sentence is a joke, as the second sentence should illuminate. You're kinda making a fool of yourself picking around on it.

I'm not going to reply to this in detail, it seems pretty pointless. Let me just say that I have been the one in the pheno qg community who has been pointing out over and over again that if you have a supposed qg effect that is easy to come by it's almost certainly wrong. Somewhat disingenuous to criticize the one sane person in the field ;)

And if you'd care to look at my recent papers you'd figure out how ridiculous the rest of your accusations are. Ha det så bra.

reader Cogniscentum said...

And Syriza says that these "wonderful ideas" don't have any impact on the budget. Holy cow. How stupid someone has to be to believe such a proclamation?

Obama says the same kinds of things all the time and he gets re-elected.

reader Cogniscentum said...

There sure is a lot of racism by Greeks in the defense of Greece all over the web today.

I am sure it will all turn out great for you. Greeks have been running their economy by stealing from the neighbors since ancient times. But then you guys had the better armies.

reader Cogniscentum said...

That will work. Insult the people you want to pay for your full retirement at 45.

reader JollyJoker said...

One thought I find a bit amusing; if the Higgs had been predicted in 2005 no one would see a problem. Theory and observation would go perfectly hand in hand. But the failure of theory since the Higgs prediction to predict new particles seen at the LHC is somehow a problem with theory although the experiments are the ones showing nothing new. Does this mean theory since 1970 is not science, since colliders lag theoretical predictions by more almost 50 years?

Of course there are other experiments; CMB observations etc that narrow down newer theoretical work. What's needed for that to be science and why isn't it science now?

It seems to me the complaints always boil down to the fact that recent observations confirm very old theory and the fact that theory predicted these things long ago is somehow twisted to claim it's theory's fault.

reader Nemesis said...

Oh. in Greece we see Tsechia as a cultural and economic appendage of Germany, nothing more. Twetny five years after the end of communism you are still behind us ine every way, even in our difficulties. Your personal knowledge of greek cultural history is very limited, so I forgive your ignorance about our contribution to european history after antiquity, when Tsechs were still an undifferentiated slavic tribe. A final remark: your brain works too much through stereotypes about peoples, persons e.t.c. This means a very limited capability of grasping the reality of the world, but also means a huge amount of capability of distortion and propaganda in the old soviet way! Thank you for your hospitality in your blog!

reader John Archer said...

Is that you, Travis?

reader Cogniscentum said...

The difference in an American city is that the workers can leave, go live in another state. Easily fit in, speaking the same language and largely sharing the same cultural values, so Americans can just abandon a city like Detroit, for example, until it gets so cheap that people can move back in to build it anew. The Euro has no such mechanism to allow for economic adjustments.

reader Tavrik said...

Please remember the basic economic principle: Debt that can't be paid back, won't be paid back.
I admire your very well written and logical thesis which is truly representative of scientific thinking. However, you are only looking at one side of the situation. Why was all this money loaned to Greece, a country which has defaulted several times in the last two hundred years, or so? Greece did not force these people to loan them the money. The money was "given" to them to promote the political goals of the EU (Germany!).
The EU constitutes a spurious conception of reality ( apparently initially designed to prevent total US 'vassalization' of Europe) which is now a busted system. The EU should take its losses and not give Greece anything else. Greece will then have to make the best deal it can get with Russia-China, etc. The problem is that what was done in Greece was also done in the other "Club Med" countries and they are all unable to pay the money back!

reader Nemesis said...

well, you've deleted my response. ok. there is always fb to expose, little Lubos

reader Ann said...

I am not a physicist, but I don't understand why certain people who consider themselves in that field spend most of their energy discussing their beliefs about what the field is. Why not just come forward with one's own model/theory about some piece of nature and put it out there for critique? And, for what it's worth, the notion of beauty wrt life forms seems to be relevant to the nature of those forms, i,e,, symmetry (a type of beauty) is often an indication of health and reproductive viability. I'm not qualified to speak about mathematical beauty and its importance for scientific theories, but a lack of beauty in human discourses I can understand usually coincides with messy, obfuscating and misleading language. So maybe beauty is just a shorthand way of describing clarity and insight?

reader Nemesis said...

keep dreaming, dear. Thousands of Bulgarians are still living in Greece as immigrants. They live a better life, they don't want to return, even now.

reader fbgb said...

I think that category theory and other branches of math are important in physics. For example , you can study homology theories using categories and then use homology to study physical phenomena but the question that category theory can play a fundamental rule in string theory is another question.

reader John Archer said...

True. But that's not quite right in the case of the EU.

What happens is that the fallout can adversely affect other countries in the EU, not just the zerozone and not just in terms of debt default.

Unlike in the USA, the resulting 'refugee'/free-movement problem then gradually helps to fuck up the social amenity and particularly the social cohesion in the recipient countries, affecting the native 'lower orders' mostly, and not just in terms of local job competition/availability causing further knock-on affects. The EU of course regards that as something of a silver lining furthering its grand plan to bust up national identities. So it's not all bad from their point of view. Just bad for everyone else.

reader SirCanguro said...

Since you are posting some graphs, you should at least verify they actually agree with reality. Spanish debt is below 100%.

reader Cogniscentum said...

It never occured to me before now, but the US has a proxy for regional currency devaluation, real estate prices. Of course once the local tax regime becomes too oppressive, that relief valve is gone as well. You can pay off a home loan, but you can never pay off property taxes.

reader John Archer said...

"The EU constitutes a spurious conception of reality (apparently initially designed to prevent total US 'vassalization' of Europe) which is now a busted system."

I very much agree with you on your general point but I'd put it a lot stronger than merely spurious.

However, I do not agree with your parenthetical hypothesis, although some are hell-bent on seeing things that way. The EU was conceived well before WWII so that conception had nothing to do with America's post-WWII involvement in Europe.

Another misconception is that Europe/EEC/EU kept the peace after WWII. It didn't. NATO did. It was the only thing that stopped a Soviet invasion. And Europe/EEC/EU took a free ride.

I'll grant that NATO has gone off the rails lately though — Yugoslavia, Ukraine.

reader Cogniscentum said...

The rest of Europe is going to have to tamp down the democratic will of their own populations so that the Greeks may enjoy the full expression of their own.

reader Luboš Motl said...

In this sequence of your sentences almost none of which is right, it is impossible to distinguish which sentences are wrong because you are deluded and which are wrong because they are supposed to be a "joke" which is however not witty or funny.

It is disingenuous for you to call yourself the discoverer of the fact that QG effects are almost certainly unobservable. It's been known since Max Planck's calculation of the (Planck's) natural units in the 19th century.

Even if you are aware of this fact, it makes it even worse because most of your text flagrantly contradicts this insight that you claim to know - when you call for experimental quantum gravity as the right focus of the discipline.

I insist that my appraisal of your papers including the recent ones is accurate.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Exactly, the actual theories - and even candidate theories - and how they fit together and how they may explain some features of observations of Nature are so interesting and exciting.

Why do some people find it more intriguing to invent bizarre ideological, purely linguistic exercises whose goal is to eliminate some theories of conjectures even without looking into what they are actually saying, predicting, and how they justify it?

True, beauty is a good sign in biology, too. It would be interesting to write a careful essay about the similarities between the reasons why beauty is helpful in biology *and* in the search for the laws of Nature.

There is at least correlation between beauty - and the ability to see it - and clarity or the ability to see some patterns and deduce insights from them. Some of these philosophical comments may be vague but they are never relied upon in papers that are meant to be convincing or solid.

reader Bee said...

Well, actually you are the one who called me "discoverer" of this fact, while I just said I've been repeating the well-known to those who'd rather engage in wishful thinking.

Anyway, the point of my essay was that philosophy isn't science, which seemed to have escaped your attention. You're a little out of the loop, yes? I read you've been ill, sorry to hear, hope you're getting better.

Yeah, you have an amazing ability to appraise papers you haven't even read the abstract of o_O Again you've missed my point due to ignorance, seeing that the last paper starts with a praise of AdS/CFT and the previous one is on statistical mechanics, not to mention the firewall thing, and so on. Maybe do some background check next time - you have way missed the target.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Well, some of them are also living out of the welfare paid by the money that the Greek government managed to steal from Germany and a few others up to 2015.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Again, to you and your equally illiterate compatriots, the right spelling is "Czech", not "Tsech".

Indeed, almost from the beginning and nearly for 1,000 years, the Czech nation has been the main Slavic appendage inside the broader German civilization space. And what?

Germany is the strongest European nation which, among other things, managed to feed you in Greece for several additional years.

Despite the fact that we were decimated by full-fledged communism for 42 years and despite the fact that hundreds of billions euros haven't been pumped into our country like they were pumped to Greece, we already have the same GDP as you have. This is a reason to realize what kind of amazing losers you are. And I am not mentioning the dramatic fall that awaits you with your new Marxist "leaders".

reader JollyJoker said...

Would you consider work on N=4 SYM not science, since the theory doesn't describe our world? It's still an activity aimed at understanding QFTs better, which makes it possible to (in the future) extract predictions from theories that could describe our world.

It seems weird to me to use a definition of science that demands such immediate ties to experiment that people like Witten or Arkani-Hamed would not be considered scientists.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Philosophy isn't science but philosophy (or cheap populist demagoguery) is exactly what you present as science and science is exactly what you present is philosophy. Your whole world is upside down.

I have read numerous paper of yours, and people at your level, but indeed, I became able to predict the content and rate similar papers after having read the abstract, too. It is just you who would suggest that it's anything else than a waste of time to read the body of the paper.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Exactly, the bulk of the process of finding new theories occurs and has to occur at the level of thinking - and this part of the process is increasingly difficult.

It's likely that this insight - that laws of physics can't be directly deduced from experience - only became understood in the era of modern physics. At least that's how historians of science and Einstein himself interpreted e.g. Isaac Newton's "hypotheses non fingo" - he thought that he didn't need any "speculative work" or "guesswork" while constructing theories, but that opinion was clearly wrong.

reader Bee said...

Jolly: That's all fine by me. Mathematical investigations can lead to fruitful science in the future, I think we all agree on this. My issue with the present situation is not that these studies are done, but that a) the balance to phenomenology is totally off in quantum gravity - it is almost exclusively math and basically no pheno. This is not good for the development of the theory. And b) that many people who call themselves physicists don't even aim at making contact to observation. I can understand if one wants to argue it will take time, but I want to see at least the intention.

I clarified these points here:

reader oceanographer said...

Yes- thousands of unemployed people are WORKING in Greece because the superior Greek ubermensch don't wants to (well the hard work is reserved to slavic subhumans according to some of Your compatriots).

But this may change surprisingly soon: interesting things happen:

reader Luboš Motl said...

There are extremely good reasons why quantum gravity research is almost purely formal theoretical research and everyone in that field knows what the reasons are.

reader stevenjohnson2 said...

"Colorado potato beetles" are a reference to a popular pejorative the neofascists and their conservative allies in Ukraine apply to the opposition. It was chanted for instance by the people who set fire to the trades union building in Odessa, killing officially forty-six. So although there is a superficially slighting reference to Golden Dawn, the article is saying that neofascists and conservatives should overthrow the government and kill any opponents to their new government.

reader Bee said...

No shit! And let me guess, the reason is that it's hard, if not impossible to test. Alas, if you can't test it, it's not science. So now you have a choice, you either agree with me that we need qg pheno, or you agree that quantum gravity isn't science. Your call.

reader scooby said...

Not to worry. I was in Boston almost exactly one year ago and the city was already buried in snow.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Every scientist who is sane knows that nothing about the black hole information puzzles, black hole thermodynamics, topology change of the Universe, and so on, and so on will almost certainly not be tested in the lifetime of anyone who is alive today, and probably not for centuries or much more.

But every theoretical physicist who deserves to be called in this way also knows that information science or thermodynamics of objects that demonstrably exists and are fundamental in physics is a part of physics - and an important part of physics - and he actually knows quite a lot about these matters because they are among the most important problems that are sufficiently fundamental and that haven't been "totally" settled yet.

The fact that your and your "intellectual" peers scream that it is no science is completely irrelevant for science. This is demagogic and philosophical rubbish that contains no physical argument for or against anything and that only impresses complete idiots.

Incidentally, I must add something concerning your boasting that one of your paper starts by praising AdS/CFT. I can also show you numerous texts of yours, e.g.

where you have been bashing AdS/CFT. You praise or bash whatever you find convenient. In combination with the political correctness in the scholarly circles, this totally spineless opportunism of yours has been enough for you. You have been doing the same thing with Smolin. When he was above you, you were crawling under him, and when someone else became important, you began to trash him. There is no coherence or morality or robust scientific foundation underlying your attitudes.

reader TomVonk said...

Dear Lubos
I trust that Dr Schäuble (that you already interpreted in one blog in the context that "Greeks are free going totalitarian and we are free to tell them not to count on our money") is not and will not be ready to forward a single € to Syriza.
I can also assure you that my mother, myself (and surely your uncle(s)) as well as almost all German taxpayers are not ready to contribute with a single € of their taxes for the Syriza racket.
In the end the ultimate decision are neither states nor banks - it is the taxpayers, companies and voters because without them any state (even Germany) would go in bankrupcy.
When things become really criticall, it is our voice that counts and not the wishes of some Greek gangsters.
I think that it became irrelevant whether Greece will want to steal the whole debt or only a part of it.
The only thing that becomes relevant is that they don't get a single € from us anymore regardless what blackmail they imagine concerning the current debt.
Of course I exclude the only sensible thing which would be to repay the debt to the last penny - I do not think that the current Greek majority is sensible in any meaning of the word.
300 billions is an amount but it's better to cut out this festering tumor once for all and then forget the whole cesspool.
I must also say that I really feel compassion for about 1/4 of the Greeks who didn't want this, worked hard and probably even paid taxes.
But as the 3/4 were unable to understand what their real problems were, they will need a few years under Syriza to be taught the lesson that marxist miracles never work and that things can still be worse than what they are.
And while the Greeks are going through the experiment that they so ardently wished, I really prefer them out of € and out of EU so that the rest of us can go after more important matters.
There could be actually something positive too - people in other countries which could have a sympathy for Syriza like behaviour will see with their own eyes how such illusions finish and will learn a lesson too.

reader Bee said...

Actually, I have been much nicer with Lee since I hear less of him, but then you have already made it clear that you're not very interested in facts.

Sure, I am "bashing" whatever deserves to be bashed, in that case it was string theorists making big promises and then not living up to it. You seem to have missed the update on this though:

Don't bother reading it, I already know you think it's all wrong and you hate it.

Do you think it is good scientific practice to praise everything a research area produces just because you like the idea?

reader Uncle Al said...

Bee, Luboš, Newton: Products of rigorous derivation can be no more empirical than their founding postulates. Newton was fabulously wrong re GR and QM. Now,

arXiv:1501.01919 "Paradoxes Of Cosmological Physics In The Beginning Of The 21-St Century"

Any empirical major falsification of contemporary physics is rejected for being impossible at face value. If the Emperor appears to be naked, it is because his clothes do not have transitions in the visible spectrum. Or, he is naked. Opposite shoes non-identically fit into reality. Green's theorem denies that. Don't assume, Look. Mathematics is not a science.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Your realization that Smolin isn't interested in facts is the silver lining in this exchange. I could still show you particular examples of your being negative about something that you were seemingly happy about while at Perimeter. Do you really need examples?

String theorists haven't been making any "big promises". At most, at various points, they had either expectations that turned out to be too optimistic or, much more often, expectations that turned out to be too modest relatively to the future. The future of the research (or anything this complex) can't be predicted and there were usually very good reasons for the optimism or pessimism.

In 1985, Witten would think that the masses of elementary particles etc. would be calculated from the first principles within weeks. It may look silly today but I think it was perfectly reasonable with the existing knowledge and "recent trends" at that moment of 1985.

I don't praise anything because of any clumping. But I praise everything in string theory because it is a single, robust, unified, and inseparable theoretical structure. When it comes to derivable, purely formal theoretic, properties of string theory, they're simply unavoidable. That's why one can't "cherry-pick" string theory. It's one consistent theory. At most, it may be right or wrong as a theory of the Universe around us. But one can't say that "this is quite right" and "this is wrong". If you don't understand this basic point, be sure that it is because of your complete incompetency and ignorance about what string theory actually is, not due to any dishonesty of any string theorist.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Steven, I don't know how the bug was used specifically in the Ukrainian propaganda. For me, it was just a colorful example of a parasite.

The post-war Czechoslovak propaganda presented it as the American (imperialist) bug, see

reader Bee said...

Yes, I do sometimes change my mind as I learn more.

There have been plenty of string theorists going about trying to argue that the LHC will test the AdS/CFT duality, then they backpedaled when it turned out not to fit the data all that well. There have been string theorists arguing that the LHC will test for extra-dimensions, which was supposedly somehow also testing string theory. Then they backpedaled. Do I have to mention susy and cosmic strings and similar things, none of which would actually have tested string theory, and none of which has been observed? Any Google search will bring up examples for this.

Not that this hype is particular to string theory, as I wrote, it's just more popular so it's more visible.

Yeah, sure, string theory may well be a consistent theory, and thus be mathematically "right". Yes, sure, it's an interesting theory. That's all fine by me. If it's not a theory of the universe we inhabit though it's not science, it's mathematics.

reader John Archer said...

"In the end the ultimate decision are neither states nor banks - it is the taxpayers, companies and voters because without them any state (even Germany) would go in bankruptcy."

"In the end"? Not the beginning then, where such decisions should be taken? Oh well.

In any case, clearly German taxpayers were happy that Greece should join the zero, otherwise they surely would have done something about their political leaders [all of them?] who were in favour of Greece joining—an a prior clear basket case if the ever was one—and who are still keen that it remain in the zone.

Presumably they were also happy with that jar of total-idiot salve, namely the smoke & mirrors of the so-called "convergence criteria", again otherwise they surely would have ensured their feelings on the matter were acted on.

In my book, German taxpayers and voters, as every where else in the EU, are just as culpable and stupid as the debt-defaulting Greeks.

And so on it goes, heading straight for the abyss.

BTW don't take any of what I've just written as personally or nationalistically targeted — our taxpayers and voters are no better, just a shade luckier in this regard, so far.

reader JollyJoker said...

Well, if you start out with the intent of doing QG phenomenology, in a way that can be tested with current or near future technology, and are certain no such QG effects exist, what exactly can you do?

Perhaps that means QG is not science according to your definition of the word, but I don't see why I or Lubos should accept that definition. Even pure mathematics is considered science by some. In addition, you're not arguing that "it's not science" would mean "it's not worth doing". Are we really talking about anything other than semantics?

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Tom, thanks for this comment that made me a bit happier!

Of course, I do folloow Dr Schäuble and I find him wise enough, unlikely to play according to the Syriza program of the show. There may be compromises but I think that even if Syriza would be helped to slash 1/3 of the debt plus achieve 1/3 of the promises, it would be way too unacceptable.

I also agree with you that EUR 300 billion is large but may be sacrificed because the potential risks for the future are greater yet. It's my understanding that the EFSF was established in 2010 - and took the debt - exactly with the purpose of consolidating most of the debt into one big pile that may be sacrificed if needed.

It seems totally obvious to me that the Syriza plan would lead to new budget deficits of EUR 50+ billion a year if fulfilled. So in a few years, the country could suck new EUR 300 billion again. And once more. And *this* is the main financial threat that must be prevented.

Some EU skeptics - perhaps including Klaus - are trying to blame the eurozone, and so on. I find this largely silly. It doesn't matter whether the debt is in euros, dollars, marks, or drachmas, whether Germans arrive as a separate nation or the most important nation of the eurozone, along with some less invested friends, or in the EU etc.

The essence is that the Greek citizens have borrowed a gigantic amount of money from... as you correctly say... German taxpayers, workers who did work and who lended according to some rules of the contract that should be respected. So whether the EU or the eurozone or anything is here or not, it is a debt between the same two groups of people, and it must be repaid if Greece is supposed to continue to be a tolerable partner of Germany and others.

The only thing that the EU helped was that 1) the Greek currency couldn't drop, 2) Greeks got easily used to that they can get away with this behavior. But 1) would still not eliminate the huge debt - even with drachmas, they would have accumulated a huge debt-to-GDP ratio because the interest rates demanded by the lenders would grow by the inevitable inflation etc.

And 2) is true, the EU helped to convert the Greeks to spoiled brats, but this is really a bad thing and obviously they must be "reeducated" in some way. So if the EU or the eurozone officials help to reeducate them, they will play a positive role - undoing some mistakes that the EU and eurozone has contributed to in the past. In this sense, the "troika" and other EU institutions are now working to revert some of the inappropriate aspects of the European integration, and that's the right thing.

I spent some time looking who could be a problem - and help Tsipras to realize his Ponzi scheme. Schäuble is great. And many people also say similar things. Finnish PM won't forgive a penny of debt. This can be heard from various places in Germany, the boss of the German central bank, Dutch minister, and so on, and so on.

This is nice but I still feel that the outcome may be totally different due to the obvious people. Merkel hasn't been clear about these matters. And Hollande sent numerous warm French kisses to his Greco-French comrades, looking forward to the wonderful cooperation with these great people etc. ;-) I exaggerate just a little bit.

I am really afraid: if Hollande and perhaps others will effectively cooperate on the realization of Syriza's program, that will be a huge mess, especially because it is clear that there are politicians who will be against.

If France wanted to be "really on the same ship" as Syriza, it may be a good idea to expel France from the EU, too! ;-) This union should better decay in that case. And I would personally have just limited problems with staying in the same bloc with Germany and perhaps several other appendages ;-) of Germany aside from us.

reader Luboš Motl said...

...Greece should join the zero...

The currency is still called the euro although it's unfortunately not too far from what you wrote. ;-)

reader Luboš Motl said...

Great point, JollyJoker. Even pure mathematics may be called science.

And even if it is not called science, it's clearly something that respectable intelligent scholars legitimately studied.

So if string theorists were moved to mathematics departments, great, it would be a purely sociological, bureaucratic change.

It's much more logical that they are in physics departments because it's vastly more obviously physics than anything that most pure mathematicians do. It *is* about the real world - and perhaps its cousins, different solutions of the same general equations.

What the critics also do all the time is that they arbitrarily pick winners and losers. Someone may promote bizarre definitions that make the internal structure of the electron "not science". But if she does it consistently, she must agree that if string theory (describing a stringy or similar substructure) is not science, then quantum field theory (which says that the particle is exactly pointlike) isn't science, either, because we can't experimentally prove that the electron is exactly pointlike etc. (but be sure that it is not). At any rate, the "status as a science" of quantum field theory and string theory is exactly the same.

reader JollyJoker said...

I suspect the most practical rule for deciding whether string theorists should be in physics or maths departments is who they interact with more in their daily work. For some, that might really mean switching.

reader John Gonsowski said...

Math models certainly are part of the scientific method in an "abductive logic" sense. In other words, it can be used to narrow down the possibilities.

That said, there can certainly be lousy funding policies in any business. I'm surprised there aren't more experiments looking into strong gravity aka looking into the nature of the gravitational constant.

I mentioned once to you Lubos that there should be more people working on GUTs for string theory after you had posted about someone who was doing that (the idea being that it could keep people away from Anthropic Landscape wasted time/money if there was good GUT progress).

I think both of you (Lubos and Bee) had enough of hearing about Garrett Lisi to last a lifetime but really there should have been tons of people starting with a MacDowell-Mansouri based GUT and there still should be.

String theory could use more people down at the GUT level and LQG could use more people up at the GUT level (thinking about more than just gravity).

The real problem is that GUTs haven't gone anywhere since the 70s to the point where one guy (Lisi) could cause way more excitement than it should have been possible for him to cause.

reader Gordon said...

I have a lot of time for Richard Dawid. Unlike other philosophers making sweeping statements about physics, Dawid has a strong physics background, including string theory.
If we had applied the "empirical confirmation only" criterion for "science", we would never have developed the atomic theory of Democritus, and Dalton would have been silenced.
Consistency and explanatory power, explaining many seemingly unconnected and diverse results etc ARE imo experimental validation of theories. I suspect that Bee's definition of scientific method is driven by an underlying dislike of or insecurity about
string theory...

reader Luboš Motl said...

Right! There are nontrivial tests - in atomic theory and string theory - and the encouraging result simply isn't guaranteed a priori. So any success of this test increases the likelihood that the hypothesis is correct and it is an empirical validation. Atomic theory and string theory have gone through many of these success stories.

The elementary building blocks in string theory are very limited and economic - we can't add fields and interactions one by one, like in QFT - so the question whether this theoretical structure with economic starting points may agree with the experiments - more concisely, with the fact that it should agree with both GR and QFT at low energies - is a priori nontrivial. Because it can and because these approximate theories have previously been established, this ability of string theory to pass the test as well obviously *is* a successful empirical test of string theory.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear JollyJoker, there *are* string theorists affiliated with mathematics departments.

Brian Greene has both physics and mathematics. David Morrison as well, primarily mathematics. I could continue.

The main difference between the two groups is really about their background. The mathematically oriented ones are really at home with bundles, sections of bundles, perhaps even categories, sheaves, and so on, and so on. This background usually allows them to study high-dimensional compactifications in detail.

Physics-educated string theorists, and it's most of them, prefer fields with indices ;-) over sections of bundles, and so on. Sometimes it's just a difference in terminology, sometimes it's difference in thinking or even motivation.

The math-trained string theorists - and maybe even Witten could be counted here - have achieved nice things. But I still think that a majority of progress in string theory has been made by physics-trained string theorists for which string theory is an incremental upgrade to GR and QFT, and this is also reflected in their language and notation.

reader JollyJoker said...

Well, Bee is a phenomenologist so it's not that strange that she thinks it's important.

reader JollyJoker said...

Interesting, I didn't know that.

reader John Archer said...

"I didn't understand the reasons why you think that the German taxpayers are equally "culpable" as Greeks. It's obvious nonsense."

Dear Luboš,

I suspect you don't entirely agree with my take on the huge con and utter lunacy of whole single-currency project (including the laughable "convergence criteria"), so we're probably working from a different premisses. :)

Could Greece have run up anything like its phenomenal amount of debt without being in the euro and thereby borrowing at such low rates of interest? I don't think so.

Such fears were well voiced before the introduction of the euro and not just about Greece but also the rest of the PIGS and others.

I take "German taxpayers" as synonymous with "German voters".

From my point of view those who voted for politicians who promoted, endorsed or in any way assisted in the birth of the eurozone, including the admission of later entrants (Greece in particular), share in the responsibility for its inevitable outcome. It's a similar culpability to that of a speed supplier whose 'client' goes off on a drug-induced criminal spree. The fact that the supplier might claim he didn't know what he was selling or the effect it might have cuts no ice with me.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Come on, John. Newton's constant is just one number. What do you want to study about the constant only? Measure it with a better accuracy? It's hard because small objects have too weak, and hard-to-measure, gravity, while big objects with strong gravity have largely unknown mass. ;-)

Strong gravity? Strong gravity in the classical sense requires something like the vicinity of black hole horizons. They're far away, we observe them. You don't want to have one at home. What do you want to study more about it?

Strong gravity in the quantum mechanical sense? Its tests probably can't be realized in practice. That's a core of my exchange with Bee.

There are lots of overstudied or understudied problems but I am sure that GUT models - and GUT vacua in string theory - are studied by a reasonable number of people. String phenomenology as a whole is arguably understudied but it's much more than some string-inspired GUT model building, especially because many interesting string vacua violate GUT.

reader Johannes said...

It is completely presumptuous to state a priori what science is supposed to be like, especially if these statements come out of the armchair. If we knew what science were like beforehand, we wouldn't need to research it. No, science is a human enterprise, and physicists decide what is physics and what is not!

reader Luboš Motl said...

The problem is not the changing of your mind itself but its correlation with the opinions of your bosses.

It's ironic that you boast that you sometimes change your mind and then you criticize some other people for changing their mind about the relevance of AdS/CFT for the LHC collisions. That's a couple of people who may have been excited about such possibilities - I never was - and they may be wrong. Or they may be shown correct later. I have no idea what you want to achieve here.

I have no clue what you mean by your excited criticism of "SUSY and cosmic strings". Neither SUSY nor cosmic strings have been observed yet. Both of them exist or existed outside and independently of string theory, too. Both of them are surely observable in principle and in many widely studied models, they make predictions for experiments in the near future.

SUSY has a significant probability of being observed in 2015. No one is promising it will have to happen. No one knows. No one has ever known the masses of the superpartners.

What's remarkable about your obsessive "testability" religion is that the parts of string theory - like string-inspired models of low energy physics, astrophysics, or whatever - that are more testable than others are actually making you more upset than the formal string theory. So which way it goes?

Your criticism makes absolutely no sense. You could immediately shake your hand with Peter Woit or any crank of this type because the junk you keep on emitting is virtually identical.

reader Nemesis said...

Dear Lubos, thank you again for your generous hospitality, although we have different views. We seem to agree that there is no distinct Tsech culture differentiated from the German one. Greece had and has her own ancient, medieval and modern cultural stigma and a part of it is what brings millions of tourists every year to our free, lovely country with its friendly people. For your benefit I must remind you that the Eastern Roman Empire didn't fall, but became transformed through the power of Greek civilization into the Greek Medieval Empire, known as Byzantium, the only civilized place in Europe during the dark centuries of barbaric German (again!) tribal rule in Western Europe. Two Greek brothers from Thessalonika invented the alphabet for Slavs and we invented also the east branch of Christianity, Greek- Orthodox, now spread among half the slavic people, like Russians or Bulgarians. When in Konstantinople our monks copied the ancient manuscripts from generation to generation, your people was nothing more than some dialectal differences in the slavic speaking continuum. This is not the dark prehistory, just 1000 years before: you didn't exist as a nation even then and we had already thousands of years of history. You see history is more complicated than your simple knowledge and understanding of it. Greetings!

reader john said...

Dear Lubos, I want to ask you a question.

I will denote in states and out states by IN and OUT (in Heisenberg representation, I won't write subscripts mostly). In qft we ultimately want to calculate S-matrix which is defined as (OUT,IN). However IN state can't be what is prepared in experiments because it is an eigenstate of full hamiltonian so nothing interesting happens. But if we consider a superposition of IN states (denote by INITIAL) which is highly peaked around IN_a then this may be what is prepared in particle experiments.

We can consider a similar combination of OUT states (denote by FINAL) highly peaked around OUT_b and product of this two states (one is superposition of IN states other is superposition of OUT states) (FINAL, INITIAL) which may be amplitude for particle experiments. Now if we consider the limit where INITIAL->IN_a and
FINAL->OUT_b, then (FINAL,INITIAL) -> S_(ba) .

Is this interpretation of S matrix correct ? I can't see what is an IN state clearly, I think it is a superposition of common eigenvectors of hamiltonian and momentum which have same energy but have different particle content.

By the way can't you enable latex here ?

reader Nemesis said...

We have a proverb in Greece: no one is more ungrateful than the man whom you have benefited. The same proverb is valid for the Bulgarians in Greece. After eating bread and butter now you bite the hand that has fed you. Well. anyway, my country has received more than a million poor immigrants from the ex Soviet countries and nobody, even now, wants to return back!

reader Swine flu said...

"But if you think that you can’t test it, you shouldn’t put money into the theory either."

Observable or not at present, if there's a chance that that's the nature of reality, what is one supposed to do, stop thinking about it and force one's imagination to focus on inventing a better mousetrap?

reader Nemesis said...

I agree with you about parasitic foreigners benefited by the Greek state and being ungrateful after that... The money of prosperity was not stolen from Germans, it was lent willingly by greedy bankers of the big european banks to show fat profits in their balances. By lending us money in 2012 Europeans just saved their banks with money stolen from their peoples. That's the bitter truth, dear Lubos. Merkel doesn't dare to tell this truth to her voters

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear John, DISQUS can't allow LaTeX - and it can't be reprogrammed in any other way - because since 2012, it is always being displayed via independent iframes that can't be configured externally.

It's hard for me to understand what the real beef of your question but maybe trying to fix what I think is wrong about your claims may be a start to begin.

No realistic in-states in scattering problems are exact eigenstates of the full Hamiltonian. The in-state with one particle is an eigenstate but if you place at least two such particles in the initial state, they have a nonzero probability to interact - sometime near t=0 - which changes the particles' momenta or annihilates particles and/or creates new ones etc.

The point is that the "full Hamiltonian" is composed both of interactions that act "inside each particle separately" and then additional interactions that make the two or more particles interact with each other and do other things. The latter seems to be a part of the Hamiltonian that you seem to be overlooking. This interaction is usually assumed to be adiabatically turned off for t=-infty and t=+infty, the asymptotic conditions in the far past and far future.

But you may be doing so at all times. Then the S-matrix would be trivial, of course. So the interactions between the several particles have to be adiabatically turned off in the vicinity of t=0 where the interactions occur.

You may also produce the particles from eigenstates of the free Hamiltonian, so that you adiabatically turn on the interactions even "within" each particle separately, and so on.

But the nontrivial part of the S-matrix elements always comes from the vicinity of t=0 where all the interactions of all types are turned on, and that's where the multi-particle state is complicated and surely isn't an eigenstate of the exact Hamiltonian.

Independently of that, I don't fully follow why you play with the limits and peaks. Any wave packet may be written as a combination of plane waves because both the initial and final Hilbert spaces are linear vector spaces - do you realize that? So we often work with fixed momenta of the particles, just to have a convenient basis. But the S-matrix may be calculated to compute scattering of N1 particles in the initial state - that are hugely separated at t=-infinity,so that there is a natural chance, by the classical momenta, that they meet near t=0, and similarly in the final state.

In practice, like predicting the LHC, the adiabatic turning off of the interactions is almost exactly describing the reality, anyway. The differences are undetectable. In principle, renormalizable QFTs also describe the exact Hilbert space and finite-time evolution. The infinities may be subtracted in all these finite-time evolution operator's matrix elements but they're rather awkward quantities.

There's some sense in which the off-shell Green's functions know "everything" about all evolution - including finite-time evolution of any states - in a QFT. And these off-shell Green's functions are just the modest, off-shell generalization of the scattering amplitudes.

The slow adiabatic turning off of the interactions while calculating the S-matrix are not supposed to make things tougher and more confusing. On the contrary, this idealization is made to simplify things! ;-) So it's unfortunately if you have the opposite feeling.

reader Swine flu said...

Depressing, and even more so when one looks at their demographics.

However, the more immediate question is whether Europe goes all Canadian on them and decides to pay them in perpetuity to stay in the EU, or whether it will let them live the consequences of their choices.

reader LK said...

"Quantum gravity phenomenology" sounds really as an oxymoron to me. Sabine, you might be a good physicist but sometimes it looks to me you feel the marginality of your field of research. This is also reflected in the many grant refusals, lack of students etc. I do not think this happens because money is directed towards wrong things. I really think your field has almost nothing to say, right now. It sounds really funny talking about phenomenology and at the same time aknowledge that there could be hardly any experiment! In particle physics phenomenologists are at least full of data and even if they develop BSM physics they are full of experimental constraints. Honestly, looking at "pheno" quantum gravity papers depresses me end they look even less interesting than the "pure" QG ones.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Your ideas about economics are utterly illogical.

A lender only makes profit once the money is repaid. If it is not repaid, he makes a loss.

Even if a manager is lending other people's money - or bank's money - and if the sheet shows the earnings with the expectation that the money will be repaid, he still runs the risk the borrower will default and it will be bad for the responsible manager, too.

The risk that the borrower won't be able to return the loan is reflected in the interest rate that the lender demands from the borrower.

Your conspiracy theory that lenders only earn and benefit when they lend money to problematic borrowers is ludicrous. I am sure that this is the kind of crackpot economics that people and Syriza are actively spreading in Greece.

By lending us money in 2012 Europeans just saved their banks with money stolen from their peoples.

Right. The Europeans - the peoples of the European continent, the taxpayers, etc., why do you call them in five different ways - just extracted the bonds from one pocket and inserted it to the other pocket.

The only change was that a big portion of the interests was forgiven. In 2012, the haircut subtracted 1/3 of the remaining debt again.

After these haircuts and bailouts, Greece owes to the European peoples or banks - it's really the same thing because the banks are ultimately needed, created, used, and saved by the same peoples - almost exactly the same it has borrowed - without any interest at all. That's why it is the minimum that almost all the people from the lender side will demand to be returned.

Greece may also default - fail or "refuse" to fulfill the already reduced commitments - but default is a bad event that violates the rules etc. So even if the lenders won't send armies to Greece to get what they are owed, it will still mean that Greece will have to be ejected from the eurozone, maybe from the EU, and more importantly, it will be recognized as an unreliable borrower who has to pay much higher interest rates to get any loans at all.

reader Nemesis said...

Oh, we don't want more money. Germans can keep their dear euros in their pillows. Scrooge Merkoschauble can have, if he wants it, a pound of raw flesh too. There was Greece before eurozone, there will be after it. Who cares? We must leave the eurozone, so that the real EU problems be apparent: Italy, Sapin, France and many others who are hiding now behind us. You know we made the same in the case of Turkey. For years we were blamed that we didn't want them in EU and that we were the real problem. Then we changed our politics. We said that Turks are our friends and then suddenly Germans, French and all the others were all against Turkey becoming a full member of EU. European hypocrisy hiding behind Greece...

reader etudiant said...

Dear Lubos,
It can be strongly argued that the fraud goes much deeper than that.
Mario Draghi was Vice Chairman at Gold Sachs International when that firm created the multi billion derivative scam that allowed Greece to meet the EU entry criteria. Fraud 1.
The creditors to Greece, Spain, Ireland etc are overwhelmingly the German banks, firms whose market smarts falls way short of their capital resources.
Those dumb banks should have gone under, but they were able to use the German government to have the EU force the borrower countries to nationalize these debts. Fraud 2.
So now Mario is printing money by the trillion to bail out the dumb speculations of well connected banks and finance firms. Fraud 3.
Why would the average Greek, or the average European, accept to be governed by such sleazes?

reader Luboš Motl said...

I have never agreed with the preposterous claim that the Czech culture is just a reflection of the German one.

I said that in the politically civilizational sense, the Czech kingdom has been recognized and tolerated as an autonomous part of the greater German-speaking realm.

If you're unaware of the distinct, especially modern Czech culture, and its being vastly greater and richer and more advanced than the modern Greek culture, than you are a savage who should be transferred somewhere to Patagonia because you are blocking the space in Europe which is supposed to be a place where cultural people live, and you are not one.

I won't discuss your dumb anti-German and anti-Slavic delusions in any detail. You only help to prove how Marxism and Nazism are close to each other. These ideologies have really teamed up to "achieve" what we see in this post-election Greece.

All of the civilized Europeans respect - and to a large extent know - the ancient Greek heritage and we've respected Greece as a nation in Europe - and the EU and the eurozone - but with attitudes like Syriza's, Golden Dawn's, and yours, this can't continue.

European nations differ but most of them, whether there is an EU or not and what it is, can live in a sufficient respect and sufficiently objectively evaluate the history and other things. You are unable to resist the temptation to rewrite the history in childishly nationalist ways that are stupid and hateful towards other nations, and while šitting this dumb Nazi propaganda all over the Internet, you expect others to send you up to EUR 100 billion a year in subsidies. Have you lost your mind completely? Is it some mad cow disease that has infected all the Greeks?

reader Luboš Motl said...

Bulgaria is not an ex-Soviet country, stupid Nazi.

reader NotEvenWoit said...

The reason why physics is in a huge crisis is *because* of
Ms Hossenfelder and Lee Smolin.
Because Ms Hossenfelder is a leftist feminist, Lee Smolin used her to displace true physicists. While she has absorbed millions in taxpayer dollars, she has produced naught but hype and failure. Here one can witness "Bee" hyping another one of Lee Smolin's multitudinous failed physics campaigns of hype, lies, and deceit, which of course, Smolin later backtracked from and denied: Ms Hossenfelder's greatest "claim to fame" is having been one of Smolin's useful idiots. This is what she has received millions for--lies, hype, deceit, and failure. Regarding the epically failed Lisi hype, Bee conlcuded, "I think Garrett's paper has the potential to become a very important contribution, and his approach is worth further examination." And then Bee wonders why physics is failing, after she takes millions of dollars to *make* physics fail.

reader Luboš Motl said...

According to Syriza's program, you need something like 50-100 billion euros each year from the external world in subsidies. Just read this damn blog post if you don't know what nonsenses Syriza has promised. Estimate how much extra money it needs for an average citizen and multiply it by 11 million.

Syriza effectively promises to change Greece to a house of 11 million cripples who are completely dependent on compassion of others.

Others in Europe may adapt to various kinds of larger EU, smaller EU, or no EU, deeper or shallower EU, various setups. But they can't get used to the situation in which 11 million people may suddenly declare themselves cripples who are entitled to living out of other people's money - simply because everyone else could do it, too.

When Greece leaves the EU, the EU will still have all of its structural problems leading to stagnation, lack of democracy, and so on. But it will no longer have any explosive nation whose majority can buy as cheap unsophisticated lies and promises as Syriza's.

reader NotEvenWoit said...

In related news, Smolin is now writing crackpot books with LAWYERS instead of physicists. Smolin can no longer find any physicist who wants to write a book with him? The book represents such crackpottery that even Woit hasn't mentioned nor hyped it (not yet). I love how it seems there is no sense of honor nor integrity between Woit, Smolin, Lisi, and Bee. It is as if they use one-another when convenient, to promote this or that falsehood or failed theory, and then they abandon one another, and Smolin is onto his "it smells like Truth!" publicity campaign. Are there even any equations in Smolin's new book? Bee-certainly you received a copy or two. Could you please let us know? Or has Smolin finally given up on physics? There should be a limit of failed theories that one is allowed to hype--perhaps a couple dozen or so. Smolin has surpassed this and ought be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.

reader Swine flu said...

Leaving the eurozone might be the right move for Greece, and not only Greece, but the question is whether the major EU powers are actually prepared to see its dissolution commence, or whether they are just bluffing.

reader NotEvenWoit said...

Apparently Smolin's new book contains no physics nor math, but only more of Lee Smolin's arrogant "Messiah complex" which Bee worshiped while also displacing true physicists:

Ronald S. writes, "In frustration, I hunted through the book for evidence of the author's grasp of modern physics. I expected him to use examples familiar to formally trained physicists and then layer his new insights. Instead I found page after page of assertions without data to back them up. I expected to see evidence the author was intimately familiar with Special and General Relativity and Quantum Field Theory. How can he claim better ways to understand physics if he does not understand the Standard Model? The book read like a self proclaimed Messiah had come down from the mountains with scrolls containing God's wisdom and preached them to us. Not what I wanted."

Hey Bee--how could you work for Smolin and then pretend to wonder why physics is failing?

reader Eclectikus said...

Graphs are credited in the picture (Source: Eurostat, before 2013, and afterwards by previsions coming from Ernst&Young using data from Oxford Economics). And here the article in Wikipedia:

In any case I do not think your patch change the substance of my comment, correct me if I'm wrong.

reader John Gonsowski said...

What I was vaguely remembering was this from 2000:

Gravity at the Submillimeter Scale

Another team of scientists at the University of Washington has
succeeded in measuring gravity at the submillimeter scale for the first
time. The force has long been studied over planetary distances but is
more difficult to gauge at the terrestrial scale, where intrusive
electric and magnetic fields, many orders of magnitude stronger than
gravity fields, can be overwhelming. Nevertheless, Eric Adelberger and
his UW colleagues have managed to measure the force of gravity over
distances as small as 150 microns using a disk-shaped pendulum carefully
suspended above another disk, with a copper membrane stretched between
them to help isolate electrical forces.

The subject of
short-range gravity has recently attracted much theoretical and
experimental interest owing to a relatively new model which supposes the
existence of extra spatial dimensions in which gravity, but not other
forces, might be operating. According to Nima Arkani-Hamed of LBL, this
is why gravity is so weak: it dilutes itself in the extra dimensions. In
other words, ordinary particles are tethered to our conventional
spacetime, or "brane," while gravitons are free to roam into otherwise
unseeable dimensions.

back to me: Off the top of my head I was just surprised I had never come across any more information in this area (not that I've ever looked for it specifically).

Even for overly GUT interested me, it hasn't been all bad. U(N) gauge theory via D-branes was very interesting for me.

reader john said...

Dear Lubos, thanks for your reply.

I think what you call in states and what i call in states are different. I learned in and out states from Weinberg's book (volume 1, chapter 3). He defines in and out states as exact eigenstates of full hamiltonian. Then he defines amplitudes in experiments as (OUT,IN). But here IN and OUT states are exact eigenstates of full hamiltonian so they can't be exact states in experiments. Therefore S-matrix defined as S_(ab) = (OUT_b,IN_a) can't be exactly amplitude for experiments.

Therefore I considered superpositions of IN states which are not eigenstates of Hamiltonian as the input states in experiments. So amplitude for an experiment would be :
(int g(b) OUT_b , int f(a) IN_a ). If f(a) and g(b) are peakes around some particular values of a and b, then the amplitude would be approximately S-matrix elements, in the limit f(a) -> delta(a-A) etc. would be exactly S matrix elements.

I believe I understand what you said about turning interactions off. I try to make those arguments more rigorous. you can find weinberg's definition of IN and OUT states at in the section Definiton in quantum field theory/from free particle states

reader davideisenstadt said...

I want to express my own outrage over the Greek nation's attempts to hold you guys hostage for yet more money in the guise of WW2 reparations. When is enough enough? how long should the German people be forced to support those who are simply unwilling to work?
At what point will the german people say "no more!"
Many in the US feel as I do, and wish the good people of Germany, along with the rest of the northern EU, success in dealing with this group of irresponsible moochers, as it were.
This jew looks at the German people with admiration for dealing with a problematic history, making the best of a half of a century of military occupation by both the US and the USSR, sacrificing for the reunification of Germany and trying to bring a bunch of lazy sponging A-holes into the modern world.
The kindest thing you guys can do now is cut them off from any more money. Better to write the debt off, its uncollectable, and just stop the financial blood bath now.

reader davideisenstadt said...

2000? try 2500 years ago.
now, they're reduced to being recognized as a crude euphemism for anal sex...which, when you look at what there trying to do to Germany, seems apt.

reader davideisenstadt said...

In the US we view Greece as a little country, with a smaller GDP than New York City, a country whose immigrants to the US probably are responsible for more wealth and prosperity than all of Greece today.
Here greece is seen as the home of the Gyro sandwich, and shwarma, and feta cheese.
Science? Technology? Medical advances? Feeding the world, like Canada, or the Ukraine, or the US? hah.
Good luck getting more money out of the German people.
Slavery might have worked for you guys 2500 years ago, but that party os long over.

reader davideisenstadt said...

Maybe the Germans will, after they tire of you guys fucking them, that is.

reader stevenjohnson2 said...

Thanks for the clarification. For my part I was only familiar with the most recent usage.

reader davideisenstadt said...

tens of millions of greek are living in the US They live a better life, they dont want to return, even now" not only that, they earn their own way.

reader davideisenstadt said...

look in the mirror. Greece is lower than the wild beast, even the beast recognizes he who feeds it. But not the greeks.

reader Nemesis said...

By ex soviet I just meant ex communist, that's all. Bulgarians indeed do a great job in the criminal sector of economy: black market, porn,theft, smuggling and other ...charities. Prisons are full of them. Nazi, mr. Lubos, is your stereotypic treatment of a whole nation or a culture or a religion. You did the same thing in the case of Muslims. Your audience here is very very poor intellectually and most comments are comments of idiots. I don't have the time to responde to all this nonsense

reader Nemesis said...

Come on, dearest of all Davids, don't pretend to be a real Jew. A real Jew would never express such nazi wording about another people.You seem more to be a retarted member of some extremist WASP group in US. To me you are like a fly on the neck. Stop bothering me. You will not get another answer .

reader Nemesis said...

Well, to be honest, I just don't care about Tsech (or Chech, or Chzech, or Tsetsen, whatever) existential problems. Be proud about your german heritage. It's not so bad, apart the 100 000 000 deads of two WWs.

reader MikeNov said...

That is what they are saying, but I wonder if they come to the brink, whether they will place a priority on union. Kind of like how the Palestinians can get whatever they want just by threatening to walk away. This was how Russia got itself favorable baseline for the Kyoto Treaty, and the repeated theater from China and India at every subsequent negotiation.

reader MikeNov said...

Obama may be planning something similar for US debt. His budget blueprints have a tendency to report a long term goal of balance if you exclude interest on the national debt.

reader john said...

According to Weinberg, in states IN_a defined to satisfy following relation as t -> - infinity

int f(a) exp(-i E_a t) IN_a= int f(a) exp(-i E_a t) F_a

Where f(a) is any smooth localized function and F_a are eigenstates of free hamiltonian : H_0 F_a = E_a F_a. Also IN states satisfy :
H IN_a = E_a IN_a. Weinberg defines in states this way. Then he says scattering amplitudes are (OUT_b , IN_a). Maybe now you can see what troubles me.

Since IN_a and F_a are eigenstates of H and H_0 respectively the first equation I wrote at the beginning translates into :

exp(-i H t) int f(a) IN_a= exp(-i H_0 t) int f(a) F_a

as t-> -infinity

That is any smooth combination of IN states looks like equivalent combination of free states at far past.

But still IN_a eigenstates of full hamiltonian and can't be exactly initial state in an experiment. Then Weinberg formally says:

IN_a = exp(i H t) exp(-i H_0 t) F_a

reader kuyghioh said...

Hi John Asshole, how deep is you head in Lubos's ass?

reader SirCanguro said...

The fact that you posted a graph with wrong values (~10% extra debt) is, by itself, significant. It says that your analysis might not be appropriate, since your references are not faithful. The real numbers can be found here:

On the other hand, when you say there are "symptoms of an increasingly palpable economic recovery", I'd really love that was true. Unfortunately this sentence reveals a huge misconception on the current state of the spanish society.

reader Tony said...

Since the entanglement of late with early Hawking radiation was mentioned in one exchange, can anybody explain this heuristically?

I mean, I have no problem understanding conceptually the entanglement between pairs, of which one particle escapes as part of Hawking radiation, while another falls into the black hole.

reader kashyap vasavada said...

Hi Lubos: Looks like
some people will never give up on criticisms of ST even when they do not have
any alternative! BTW do you have time to write a technical blog on quantum
gravity as part of ST with few equations etc. for understanding by people like
me who follow your blog? I am not sure
if it is possible because of the immense difficulty of the subject. But I
thought I would ask anyway. Is there a review available of the subject?

reader PlatoHagel said...

Knowledge can be, A priori and a posteriori knowledge. The distinction here is important. Especially, if one wants to "gain knowledge by experience," then they have to gain knowledge by experiment.

If one wants to gain knowledge without experience, then they need to be a rationalist who uses reason A priori.

Any self evident moment is a place where a "leap of mind" takes place. It is a inductive/deductive regress in order to arrive at, "an answer to the question." How do you know what you know?

You need an idea, to have the ideal.

reader Bee said...

If you are certain there are not testable effects, then the research isn't science, and it should not be done by people who call themselves "scientists".

I am not certain there are no testable effects, and I am not aware of any theorem proving it. I think that every proposed experiment has to be investigated. What I am saying is that if you don't propose any, then you can't find any. It's plain cowardice that people don't even try to look because they are afraid to fail. Yes, I know quantum gravity effects are tiny. No, that doesn't mean they are in principle unobservable.

That is right, mathematics is not a science, at least not in the way the word is commonly used in the English language. As I have explicitly pointed out in my post, if you use it in German, then mathematics is a "Wissenschaft".

Yes, I am talking about semantics, indeed. As I have made very clear, all I want is that people who do mathematics say that they do mathematics, people who do philosophy say that they do philosophy, and not go around and claim they do physics. That is the whole point of my essay, and of the 2nd one too.

reader Bee said...

Yes, in fact, it is for "purely" bureaucratic reasons that I point this out. It's sales pitch that is bluntly a lie.

reader Bee said...

I have not criticized anybody for changing your mind. Actually, you are the one who criticized me for changing my mind.

What I do criticize people for is if they first go around and make big promises, and then when nothing happens, they are quiet and just hope nobody notices. Maybe some have changed their mind, I certainly hope they did, but can you point to anybody who actually said they did? It's like first claiming the Titanic can't sink and then somehow not being available for comment when it does.

I do not have the faintest clue what you think is "making me upset".

Besides, as we have noticed on earlier occasions, you have a remarkable ability to not understand the simplest things I am saying. Since you seem to have a brain, I always suspect that you at least partly do this on purpose, but maybe that isn't so, and it is the fault of my writing. Be that as it may, the vast majority of my readers understand me just fine, luckily.

reader Bee said...

Well, the reason that I work on this is that few people do it. Because there is much to do and it's both interesting and promising. If quantum gravity makes any sense, it must eventually be experimentally testable - I want to be part of that, even if people only come around to understand the relevance in 50 years from now.

It is not correct that the field has almost nothing to say. It certainly has more to say than, say, Loop Quantum Gravity, at least if you ask me.

It is correct that there isn't much funding in it, and that's a problem. I get plenty of requests by students. Alas, I work at a no-teaching institution, we have no PhD program and I can't supervise students.

reader Luboš Motl said...

It is irrational to work on something that can't work just because there aren't many people working on it.

Almost no people are building a spaceship to Jupiter out of snakes and cinnamon which doesn't mean that one should fill this "hole" and work on it.

I didn't approve several comments where you repeated the same lies and insults that you have written about 10 times here.

reader OON said...

Dear Bee, you sound as if e.g. stringy phenomenology didn't exist at all. And with late CMB data not all of it is in safe from observations zone.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Sorry, SirCanguro, you haven't presented any superior evidence that would indicate that Eclecticus wrote anything inaccurate. Unlike Eclecticus' links, your website is obscure and the references to the actual source are completely missing. Please don't make similar accusations if you don't have any evidence.

Even if your numbers were more accurate than his, it doesn't change anything qualitative and you are just spreading fog.

reader Luboš Motl said...

A sensible person cannot evaluate the importance of XY purely by XY's relationship to some word - in this case phenomenology - that was decided to be "important" a priori.

A sensible person must know what the word - here, phenomenology - means in general and in the given context. And if it means somethiing nonsensical or something that cannot be achieved, a sensible person simply doesn't waste his time with that, and surely rejects grant proposals of others who want to waste money for that.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear John, I think that you are on the right track and more careful about these things than others, but at the end, it works.

Just try to define the Hilbert space of all states at "t = minus infinity" which contain huge - more than 2 meters - isolated elementary particles with well-defined momenta. So this will be an eigenstate of the full Hamiltonian and the momentum operator at the same accuracy with which one separated the particles.

These wave packets which are sufficiently spread yet have sufficiently exact momentum vectors per particle may be scattered, so there must be an answer to their scattering, and it can be used to define the corresponding matrix element of the S-matrix.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Tony, when an early Hawking particle is emitted, the antiparticle goes inside the black hole. Their quantum numbers like the spin are entangled.

So whatever remained out of the black hole is entangled with the early Hawking radiation because of the previous paragraph and because the black hole now "contains" the infalling dual Hawking particle. And whatever is left from the black hole will radiate later as the late Hawking radiation, so the late Hawking radiation is clearly entangled with the early one because it came from a half-evaporated black hole that was entangled with the early radiation.

reader Eclectikus said...

C'mon SirCanguro, Spain, unlike Greece, is in the average debt area of the eurozone, which is ultimately what those graphs show. Additionaly, Spain has never suggested stop paying the debt (except Podemos), so qualitative considerations (variations of 10%) are totally irrelevant in the context of my comment. For your amusement, here's a clock with the debt actualized per second:

You yourself can check that estimates of Ernst & Young were not bad at all, just a bit pesimistic, now we are in a 96.6% as percent of GDP, and their previsions were around 105%, pretty good for a three-year forecast.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Etudiant, you must have missed it but Syriza promised and Greeks approved their "sure" staying in the eurozone, so in this sense, they love Draghi.

I find your comments to be silly conspiracy theories. Greece was accepted to the EU and the eurozone because it was a political order - it's great if the union grows and everyone is a friend blah blah blah - that was stronger than anything else so the methods by which they were made to "fulfill" the criteria are completely irrelevant.

The primary problem is that insane ideological ideals in the EU are more important than the valid enforcement of sensible rules.

And I think it's just complete bullshit that some "derivatives" may be the reason why Greece should or shouldn't have joined the eurozone. It shouldn't have joined because the real economy is fucked up, the governments can't create and don't want to create market-friendly conditions, and people are lazy animals expecting to live like in paradise without much efforts or useful work.

I don't care whom Greeks want to live with. I surely prefer to have the likes of Draghi in charge of finances than *anyone* of Greek nationality who is alive and whom I know. He is a sensible guy who understands what works and what doesn't work in economics, Greeks are not, and no amount of insults against the Super Mario can change these facts.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Swine Flu, it's not so automatically wonderful to increase exports.

If a country - like China, you know - artificially weakens its currency, it will have better export and GDP numbers. But the employees will only get salary in the weaker currency, so they will be able to buy less foreign products for that.

So the higher export or GDP figures *do not* translate to higher living standards. The German nation wasn't really helped by that much. At most, they were led to do more work than they would do otherwise.

reader Leo Vuyk said...

I believe that OUR COMPLEX WORLD can not be described by EQUATIONS ALONE.
Because we don't know why the universe is as it is.
An example: “Finetuning”: Why are the "fundamental constants" constant?
My suggestion: because the sub-quantum FORM of particles and the Higgs vacuum lattice have a certain form and play a game with us..
So I designed simple convertible shapes for real QUANTUM particle information use.
At the same time I realized that black holes should also have some nuclear form and as a result I found that dark matter is related to black holes and Higgs particles have only energetic mass inside an oscillating Higgs vacuum lattice.
Multiverse based mirror symmetric consciousness (entanglement) is assumed to be the base for all particle- wave -and human guidance or wavefunction collapse.

reader SirCanguro said...

Hi Lubos. I can't see how my website is obscure, with an interacting graph and tables where it is explicitely written the value of the debt (along with the corresponding percentage of the GDP) with respect to time.

With respect to the source, this is just the official data published by "Banco de España", which is the bank responsible of managing the spanish debt. The data is public and available to anyone.

In the graph posted by Electricus, it is claimed that the source is Eurostat, before 2013, and afterwards by previsions coming from Ernst&Young using data from Oxford Economics. First, we are already in 2015, so there is no need to use predictions for 2013 and 2014. And second, most importantly, the graph shows the value 94% by the end of 2012, claiming that this is not a prediction, but the proper value. This is plainly wrong. The real value at that moment, that was made public by Banco de España, was almost 10 points less.

Appart from that, I also said that it is inappropriate that there are "symptoms of an increasingly palpable economic recovery". At least this is not what a vast majority of the spanish people think. According to the last survey published in november by CIS (an institution that depends on the goberment), 85,8% of the population describe the economical situation as bad or very bad. Also 88,3% of the people think the economical situation is equal or worse than a year before.

reader SirCanguro said...

That web is quite nice, indeed. It is a pity that the number is also wrong. Spanish debt went over 1.000.000 millions (€) in last augost. Appart from that, the web is cool.

Of course, I agree with the fact that Spain is in the average debt area of the eurozone. I just pointed out the mistake.

With respect to other points where we don't agree and the predictions of Ernst & Young, please read my answer to Lubos. I just can add that almost 10% in the debt is a huge difference.

reader davideisenstadt said...

2% of their wealth...what about its debts?
Really? You guys are playing with fire, only this time when the Germans get pissed, there will be a really good reason. Just why do you feel entitled to continue borrow others' money?
At some point greece will have to learn to produce on its slaves, no bullshit loans you never intend to repay, no more working until full retirement it 50, at the expense of docile hard working German people.

reader Angry Bob said...

Tegmark is a fucking idiot. Sometimes I think that someone like Max is so desperate for fame that he puts out a meaningless idea like every mathematical structure exists. Sometimes I think he is a troll because it trolls on the landscape idea which is a small subset(infinitesimally small perhaps) of his "every mathematical structure exists." I am surprised that Lubos seems a slight bit respectful of Max. What's going on?

reader Eclectikus said...

Well, about your insustancial correction of data I have nothing more to say, it's just irrelevant.

And about the economic recovery, maybe it's no so palpable for common people, but many macroeconomic indicators point to that. Try a quick search at Google:

In any case, 35 years of socialism do not heal in a legislature (or in a generation, either) so we are still in the abyss of buying more socialist or Bolivarian smoke, and finish sinking altogether. Of course, "we can"... but my bet is "we won't". You are free to make your bet.

reader QsaTheory said...

Kashyap, There is no fundamental difference between say QFT and ST as Lubos mentions many times. ST is some generalization of already known physics. This paper is simple and deep at the same time.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Angry Bob, I still think that he views me as one of his harshest critics who care about the beef. ;-)

Maybe I am more friendly towards him because I've met him several times - and invited him for a seminar - and he just seemed fine.

At the end, I *do* share the Platonic viewpoint that all of mathematics exists "somewhere", in some kind of a "universe", although the relation of this broadest universe to the real Universe around us is so vague that the desire to use this Platonism as a foundation of physics is totally vacuous.

But there is something that tells me that this kind of - empty - philosophizing that Tegmark does is correlated with some sort of spiritual enlightenment I don't really despise at all. ;-)

reader QsaTheory said...

Instead of name calling can we have your rational argument as to why is he wrong. Thanks.

reader SirCanguro said...

When someone looks at a few macroeconomic indicators, he takes naive conclusions. I'd recommend you to also pay attention to more indicators, such as distribution of salaries, poverty indices (specially in children), budget of the national health system, total amount of working hours, youth unemployment, corruption, emigration statistics...

With all the information in your hand, you can only say that there are signals that the economic situation has stopped getting worse. This is not a recovery.

Your last paragraph is just incoherent, and it seems you are talking about a different country (35 years of socialism?!).

reader John Archer said...

Dear Luboš,

Instinct, supplemented with copious past experience with friends, tells me this is a big conversation — it's one of those that could go on for hours, taking in everything including the kitchen sink! :)

Incidentally, I say that not because it's about the single currency as such, but because for me it's one of those topics that impinges on so many things.

So I need to cut my response here to the bone in some way. Not easy! :)

💡Hang on! I've got it!

I don't agree. :)

Best wishes,

reader John Archer said...

Dear Luboš,

OK. I couldn't resist the temptation. :) I still need to cut this down to the bone though.

"But the invisible hand of the free market is able to restore the equilibrium in any conditions if the market players are really compatible with the market. It always works."

Good old Adam Smith. Yes, I fully agree. Freedom and rational self-interest etc ✓. Let's have tons of the stuff! :)

But I think the meat here is the self-interest part.

And that depends on how one defines 'self'. For me, as for most, it includes family on an equal basis, if indeed not higher, but it naturally extends out to others, diminishing gradually as a function of 'distance'. I don't want to be too categorical about this but that 'distance' is essentially genetic, or racial maybe. Yeah, racial — I like racial! That'll do. In fact I REALLY like racial! :)

Whoops! I fear I might moving away from the bone! More discipline!

OK. For me the economic aspects are very important because they're tied up intimately with freedom, which is even more important. But they are by no means everything, and none of these is the most important. 'Self' trumps everything. After all, freedom is entirely dependent in the first place on having a 'self' to exercise it.

And on that theme:

Am I happy that the South-East of England supports the once industrial North, Wales etc?

Yes, I am. (Sure, one can argue about the effectiveness or misdirection of current and past policies in that regard but those considerations don't affect my support in principle.) One might say that that's 'socialist' thinking. Fine, he can call it whatever he likes. I'm an arch-red-in-tooth-&-claw 'socialist' in my family then! :)

Am I happy to support similar regions in other countries?

#### NO! :) I am NOT — not when those resources allocated overseas could (should, I say) have gone to Britons. We have enough problems of our own. Screw markets, screw everything else. 'Self' first!

A single currency implies central fiscal control, and therefore central political control, and free movement of people among other things. I'm happy for those things within Britain but that's the limit. No further.

The above is very simplistic but gets to the core. I think our difference is that you see the question largely in economic terms whereas I see it pretty much in terms solely of the political — indeed the 'self'. :)

Actually you touched on so many things here that I'd like to talk about, but I'd still be typing at Christmas if I started! So I won't. :)

I will say this though: I'm delighted you currently don't want your country to join the zerozone. I hope you never do. :)

One final thing. I don't feel antagonistic to the Greeks in any way. In fact I feel kinda sorry for them. I'm not making excuses for them but they haven't had the luckiest of histories and I'm sure theirs has a lot to do with the state they're in now. Just saying.

reader Gordon said...

Lighten up, Bob. He is a lot of fun, and his mathematical universe stuff was in his
"crazy ideas" section of his webpage.
Sure, he spouts stuff I disagree with (some) but it isn't in a Smolian way, and seems more in a "Hey, what do you think of this idea?" way. And he does do mainstream "real" research.
Also, like Lubos, I am a reluctant Platonist, and do agree that every mathematical structure
"exists", but not necessarily in a "real" universe. There, how is that for clarity?

reader Swine flu said...

"The German nation wasn't really helped by that much."

Could that depend on the goals? For example, if higher employment were the goal, rather than just higher "living standards", maybe "the German nation" was indeed helped. One does read that German retirement benefits are fairly modest, that they are more of a nation of renters (as opposed to homeowners) than one might expect for the size of German economy, etc. Frugal habits seem helpful, if not essential, to an export-based economy, otherwise you wouldn't have a trade surplus.

And does your argument about exports leading to weaker currency apply to exports within a single-currency area, like the eurozone?

reader Gordon said...

Well, so is Lisa Randall and I don't see similar statements from her.

reader Leo Vuyk said...

imho, If we care about the beef, I suggest to believe that OUR COMPLEX WORLD can not be described by EQUATIONS ALONE. So I designed simple convertible shapes for real QUANTUM particle information use, with rational series of quantum knots. The math however of such convertible knots is not available jet.

reader Bee said...

I never said it can't work. I said it's difficult. I like a challenge. How about you?

I will discontinue this discussion now since you are deleting my comments when I point out that you are putting words into my mouth I never used. Have fun with your, uhm, followers.

reader Bee said...

If you think that's what I sound like it's probably because you read what Lubos wrote rather than what I wrote.

reader Luboš Motl said...

A higher employment doesn't seem to be the ultimate goal of most nations, at least not those - like Greece - who enjoy good enough advantages while unemployed.

I hopefully haven't written that "exports lead to a weaker currency". Trade surpluses mean that the currency will probably strengthen, to reduce them.

reader Giotis said...

First clash with EU, Veto for new sanctions probably will follow

reader AngularMan said...

I don't quite understand the need for a clear distinction between experience and thinking. If we assume that we are part of the universe, then logical thinking uses the physical laws in our brains to physically simulate problems and arrives at (more or less likely true) conclusions. We "experience" these conclusions and parts of the process.

It's a different subject, if the "laws" we find in this way are widespreadedly applied in nature as relevant physical laws are, but assuming we used correct logic they are certainly realized once, that is in our brains.

In the same way mathematics must surely be somewhat "physical". While certain mathematical objects might not fully "exist" in our universe, some of their properties must be realizable or we could not be able to find out about them.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Even Syriza may have a great silver lining LOL.

reader Eclectikus said...

Of course we are still hospitalized SirCanguro, and for many of you it will be so until PSOE (or the "Frente Popular") comes to power and follow impoverishing the country and generating morons, which ultimately is what they has made the past 35 years. And then everybody will be happy, in the same way that nobody said anything when more than 3 million jobs were lost while the crisis was denied between 2008 and 2011. Very funny, isn't it?

And yes, 35 years of socialism in media, education (no other educative law has been in democracy), and almost in economy because PP is just socialdemocracy on this matter.

And finally, we're bothering other people with this off-topic, insubstantial and surreal thread, so please, relax and go to any of the thousands of Spanish blogs that give you the reason. Thanks.

reader Tony said...

Thanks Lubos!

Seems very logical, once you wrap your mind about it.

I was about to say: and what about the monogamy?

And then I thought: don't piss off Lubos Tony, he must have mentioned it in past posts.

So I searched the blog and there it was.

Still, you know, as they say: 'repetitio is mater studiorum'.

reader Tony said...

I told ya:

Tsipras's first meeting with a foreign ambassador since being elected Greek PM was with Russia's Andrey Maslov #Greece #ekloges2015

reader PlatoHagel said...

Experience is gained by doing experiments. This is one form of knowledge but it is not the same as being a rationalist using an inductive/deductive method in order to get to the next step.

The supposed opinion about the theoretical uselessness of ratinonality requires a method to get to that next step once the experiment is done. From this point of view some thing becomes self evident, as an answer to the question, and then indeed one may ask how is it we know what we know.

It is not a frivolous task with which to make the journey of knowledge apart from the experiential one alone, "knowing" and being apart from accounting for that experience.

As an example and I have repeated this else where today on how is it we come to believe what we do about a theory. It requires a meta-cogitive view over the whole process (inductive-deductive,) so this has to be accounted for when you are asking the question and at the same time making the judgement. How can you comment on what you do not know?

While it may be right that philosophy cannot be called science, the issue here is what you are doing while you are doing science or being a theoretician.


reader M.Omerbashich said...

G deciphered:

reader SirCanguro said...

First, I assume you recognized there is not an economical recovery.

Second, now I realized your brain is completely confused. Sorry, but saying that PP in economics is socialdemocracy reflects a misunderstanding on what PP and socialdemocracy are. It is like saying that String Theory and LQG are the same thing.

PSOE is closer to socialdemocracy than PP, but still very far. The ideology that best suits PSOE is social liberalism, while for PP it would be conservative neoliberalism.

Your position can just be described as "political crackpot".

PS: Thanks for the advice, I have already relaxed and gone to hundreds of spanish blogs (and also from other countries). I've carefully read all the information and, you know, I found something really astonishing: PP and PSOE are not socialdemocracy! Wow.

reader Leo Vuyk said...

Dear Tony/Lubos.

I think that Hawking did not calculate with the
possibility of a chiral oscillating Higgs field vacuum lattice combined with
propeller shaped Fermions. Electrons and positrons both pushed away from the BH horizon at
different distances, forming two charged separated spheres. With quark ( plasma) formation in
between So Black Holes could be charge splitters violating the 2e law. With a micro
big bang plasma creation process!

reader Dilaton said...

Obviously Sabine Hossenfelder neither likes not has any clue about the newer achievements of theoretical/fundamental physics.

She not even understands the scientific method.

I would suggest her to change field, but maybe by copying and selling low-level anti-science statents as they can be found everywhere in the internet these days on sell them on her blog, she probably already has ...

In the past, I sometimes liked to read some of her text, but she has obviously now really gone over the top ...

reader cynholt said...

Throughout western Europe, the growing opposition to the EU bankers and bailout is labeled “far right,” Lubos. So why is the same opposition in Greece called radical far left? Syriza happens to be saying what the people are saying and expressing what they want; Alexis Tsipras is not going to back down when he’s in office.

reader TomVonk said...

The French finance minister Sapin said on radio this morning "It is absolutely excluded that there be any kind of transfer from Greek taxpayers to French or for that matter German taxpayers. Greece will have to fulfill its engagements."
As France is for 48 billions (loans and cautions) in the 300 Greek debt, it is a reassuring statement for French taxpayers.
And it also shows that France is on a very similar line like Germany.
Will Putin want to waste some money ?

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Tom, you were discussing transfers of money from Greece to France - that indeed sounds unlikely! :-) Was it a typo?

reader oceanographer said...

Dear Nemesis,
It is very difficult for me to understand why anyone from Your neighbor countries should be grateful? I don't know much about let's say the activities of the immigrants from soviet countries in Greece but I do know something about the bulgarian immigrants in Greece (I am born a few km from the border with Greece and my grandmother is greek and therefore I do have relatives in Greece). The bulgarians in Greece are generaly NOT working in the public sector, but mainly in the agriculture and tourist sector (btw the number of the bulgarian tourist in Your resorts was 1.2 milion people back in 2013 which is a direct contribution to Your economy). So the immigrants from Bulgaria and possibly Romania, Serbia, soviet countries are generating GDP!!!
One thing that is important for You to understand quickly is that Greece is not superior culturally or otherwise to any other EU country. The history of the Ancient Greek land and the Eastern Roman Empire is nice, however the modern Greek state has little do with any ancient or medieval states and their culture. Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia etc. are a direct product of the disintegration of the Ottoman empire during the 19th century and so the modern Greek or Bulgarian or any other Balkan nation (and our nations are formed during the 18th and 19th century in an oriental empire) has a long way to go in order to reach the level (even the cultural achievements) of the other European countries and get rid of our common oriental past. Once You understand that You are not superior to anyone else and forget about any stupid historical arguments when it comes to economy or politics, than it will become much easier for You. But now I am afraid that You are going quickly to where we (Bulgarians) came from ... back in the 1990 and 1996 our leftist governments decided not to pay debts and so in 1997 after hyperinflation the incomes went down to less than 50$ (!!!) and after that the recovery was long and difficult and because of that our incomes are still the lowest in EU. And now I can see how You are doing precisely the same mistakes as ours. I am afraid that You will learn what we learned in a very hard way ...

reader NumCracker said...

Despite of its great mathematical beauty and consistency, I understand Superstrings are not a Theory in the same sense that Standard Model or General relativity are. Theory is a very strong and so restricted word to be used in the world of physics, but not in the world of science in general. Hence, in physics, theories are mathematical models (Hypothesis) who have already been exhaustively tested (and not refused) by experiments. However, it is a common usage to call theories and models in an equal and interchangeable way. In a more strict sense, Newton's theory of gravity or even Maxwell's equations are nowadays "just" old models ...
Maybe, the fact is that Superstrings will be forever just a model (out of reach to experimentalists), or in a best scenario, this will be a fact till theoretical physicists are able to find the due (and unique) compactification that proves that SM emerges as a low-energy QFT. Here I would like to let it clear that I think (while keeping a sceptic viewpoint) that Strings is a possible way to unify physics, maybe the only one available nowadays ... but since it makes no observable predictions, it is just natural that some "disbelievers" offer radical opposition to the idea. "Availability" is not a criteria to judge correctness. Let us just remember that even Darwin's theory has found such oppositions, despite of it is a currently well accepted Theory in science ... however, as correctly mentioned by creationists (it can be only a joke, guys!), at least in the sense of human evolution, it has not been able to "predict/localize" the common ancestor among Man and Apes ;-)

reader Luboš Motl said...

Sorry, at any metaphysical, philosophical, or conceptual level, string theory is exactly as much a theory as GR or the Standard Model - it is just much more complete and accurate than its approximations.

What you wrote makes absolutely no sense.

reader Eclectikus said...

Dear SC, you are making imbecile precisions well bellow of resolution of the own graphics, and even if those precisions were correct (spanish debt is bellow 100%), this "correction" reinforces my argument (Spain is not Greece), plus the references I have used above to support this assertion (that Spain is not Greece, also in terms of debt), are pertinent and good enough. I'm waiting for a real counterargument out of the field of surrealism if possible.

The rest of my original comment have nothing to do with the graphs, or with the debt, it's just a personal opinion about the degeneration of the society, and happily, you have ended becoming a perfect example of this in real time. Thanks.

I also have to explain that for these kind of "analysts" as, I presume, SirCanguro, the "neoliberalism" is all that is not Socialism (euphemistically, the shy, speak of socialdemocracy), and often it's also identified with "fascism", they are so "smart"... The problem is that it's not real, the percentage of liberalism is very similar in both PSOE and PP (I would estimate it by 25%, not more). You can find multiple resources and check out the increasing tax revenue in the last years, and the tax hikes in the last few years (pure anti-liberalism), and that is why the liberals in Spain do not vote PP or PSOE. We corroborated year after year, that their economic prescriptions are identical in both big parties, just change the makeup, which is probably all SC can see.

PS. I don't care of your conclusions, opinions and analysis, I've heard the same crap for years with slight variations and do not convince me (or to anyone with a minimum of sanity), I hope you respect my opinion... Or you're already preparing Gulags and Checas (the premises in which the left murdered all kind of people who were not leftist during the Spanish civil war) to eliminate us?

liberals = libertarians (not in the USA sense of "progressive")

reader Luboš Motl said...

A good monologue on the history of the Balkans etc.

Just a lighter comment on the origin of Bulgaria. I had a Bulgarian classmate and friend in the Rutgers graduate school, Evgeny Vitchev, and I remember the day when he found out that according to the Oxford Dictionary of English, the word "Bulgaria" is related to "Bugger" because everyone arriving to Turkey from that side seemed to be, or something like that.

He was devastated and wanted the Oxford Dictionary of English to be banned etc. ;-) I was pacifying him.

The same issue of buggery arose when I was leaving Rutgers for Harvard - and he happened to be the guy who bought my (female) bike, a very cheap one for the quality. Of course his worry was whether he would look like a homosexual with that bike but I reduced his worries, too. ;-)

reader SirCanguro said...

Just LOL!

To your first paragraph: In your graph there is a number within resolution of 1% assigned to every year. Do you understand your own post? Do you understand a 10% precision is way too much significant, for a resolution of 15?. Once you are prepared to answer positively to both questions (take your time), let's continue.

With that precision, my point was to show that your reference was wrong, and that you were not able to realize this fact before I told you. Only that. With that precision I didn't try to invalidate the rest of your

reader oceanographer said...

It is pity that people like Your classmate are devastated due to such reasons and Yes bugger and the french "bougre" clearly is related with Bulgaria due to the so called "Bulgarian" heresy (see here that was spread in western Europe and the propaganda by the church authorities (correct or not-a normal PR of the church) that the members of the heresy are homosexuals among their other "sins". So Your classmate was not very patient with his history lessons at school (or indoctrinated by some nationalistic history books- a common problem in the Balkans but mostly in Greece).
Anyway- it will be interesting to ask our Greek friend how old is the first greek university (and I mean university and not anything ancient) before making any claims that Greece is somehow more important that Czechia ...

reader MikeNov said...

Syriza has also been pro-Russian in their actions.

reader TomVonk said...

No typo. A word missing. Duties.
Sapin was talking about a transfer from Greek taxpayers duties (e.g a duty to finance their economy and their debts) towards French taxpayers duties (e.g a part of French (or German) taxes serves to finance Greek economy).
Actually every French from newborns to oldest people has a claim of 800 € on any Greek. Symmetrically as they are less, every Greek owes 800 € to 6 French.

reader Eclectikus said...

SirCanguro, please, measure the thickness of the line in the graph (1% resolution...? LOL c'mon, we are speaking of economy!), realize that from 2013 are only estimates, read my comment again and observe its qualitative character, and now tell me if your "precision" is not plainly idiotic (actually it is double idiotic because it reinforces my assertion).

Please, stops emitting smoke, I already said that the phrase "Spain is not Greece", refers to a specific context, in the sense of elections in Greece and about the possibility of idiocy contagion between Tyriza and Podemos. Do you understand? No, you don't, but is obviously no my problem but yours, and perhaps of your psychiatrist.

"there is not an economical recovery" I say (everybody says, in and out of Spain) that there is macroeconomics signals pointing out economic recovery, or if you want, that the recovery may be coming. It's all what I said, it's all what I say. And this self-evident paragraph hopefully resolve your insipid strawman.

"Does that mean that they can be described as "socialism"?" Simply mean that their economic policy are socialists (i.e. increasing debt, more taxes, more state, more interventionism ... or ... less free market, less liberty, less individual freedom, less facility to create companies...), that is to say, no "neoliberalism" (no libertarianism in the USA sense) which was the slogan that you specifically use to differentiate both parties. Probably you neither understand this, well, you can still think about, you should do it indeed.

PS: Yep! I do not mind at all, but at least I have to do something to dissipate the smoke you've thrown over my humble comment. And that's what I've done, each one draw their conclusions.

reader Luboš Motl said...

I see, a missing minus sign does the job, too. ;-)

This €800 looks modest.

The overall government debt of Greece is worse. It's about 9 trillion crowns, in crowns, so it really ends up being almost a million crowns per capita including infants.

In our currency, the liability sounds truly impressive. In some recent elections, some anti-debt parties would be sending an invoice to everyone, saying "pay CZK 160,000 of your debt", or something like that, to make people think how big the debt actually is.

A million CZK invoice would be more impressive! ;-) Of course, I would pay it right away if needed, but what about others?

reader SirCanguro said...

Congratulations, you must be the only person in "The Reference Frame" who can't understand a graph. I see you needed a bigger hint: Take a look at the numbers above the line. The line is drawn using those numbers. The thickness of the line is irrelevant, unless otherwise specified. I am forced to repeat my words: Do you understand your own post? Do you understand a 10% precision is way too much significant, for a resolution of 1%?. Once you are prepared to answer positively to both questions (take your time), we will be prepared to continue.

Obviously you were not prepared to continue, so I'll pospone further debate until you show you are capable of understanding such a simple object (yes, I mean your graph). You may not like this break. Unfortunately I feel forced to set a minimal level: Once you prove you are intelligent enought to understand a graph, I'll be willing to continue talking. I do this because the matter we are discusing is more complex than just a graph, and I want to make sure you can understand small things before continue talking of bigger topics.


reader Eclectikus said...

Hilarious, there is no numbers in the Eurozone average line (the reference in the comparation), so that 10% is irrelevant for my assert about the "Spain is not Greece" in terms of diferences with the eurozone average debt. Do you understand the issue?, calm yourself, breathe deeply, take your time, disconnect yourself of the opium dispenser and tell me, are you aware that a 10% of the Spanish debt is irrelevant in the context of the differences with de EU average with the same value of the Greek debt? Do you know the meaning of the word "qualitative" (cualitativo en español) Are you aware that a 10% of lesser Spanish debt reinforces my argument? Where the hell did you come from? Please stop drinking, or at least of drinking and trolling.

Dear clown, you can't break the conversation because there is no conversation, you are only a pathetic troll with which I will not waste another minute, unless you start to say something reasonable, relevant, related to my comment, something I sincerely doubt watching your background.

F*ck you!

reader SirCanguro said...

Oops, wrong answer, you failed again.

Don't change the topic. It seems you are designing a straw-man army. My precision was about the spanish debt, not about the difference between spanish and eurozone mean debts. Even a fool could see that. Maybe you didn't see it, so come back and read the conversation again ;).

I guess you need help to realize this fact. I am forced to copy here what I wrote a few lines ago:

"With that precision, my point was to show that your reference was wrong, and that you were not able to realize this fact before I told you. Only that. With that precision I was not saying that Spain is Greece."

Are you sure you completely understand the previous paragraph? If the answer is positive, I'll be glad to move to the next topic.

PS: You are funny.

reader Eclectikus said...

My dear retarded, by nth time, your "precision" was both ludicrous and fallacious (straw man) because I was speaking (everyone can check it out above) about the comparation of both debts. So if the wikipedia graphs shown us a difference of 65 points of percent of GDP (170 - 105), and with your correction we have a difference of around 75 points (170 -95), you can say in relation to this surreal discussion:

1) Accepting your correction (why not?) differences in terms of debt of both countries are higher than those shown in the graphs, so better for my argument, isn't it? (do the maths please, specifically it is a 15.4% (*) better for my argument).

2) Graphs were placed without too much research, few hours after the election results, and only as a qualitative reference of what I was saying, that "The situation of both countries are very different [...] about debt."

3) There are many ways of calculate the gross domestic product, and of course, they naturally reach to very different values (differences above 10% are usual). So talking about details of a value like this is relatively absurd in general, and specifically absurd as critics to my comment.

And here I am, still discussing with a retarded troll, which can not assume that his review does not hold and has decided to blow smoke without advancing one millimeter in the reality of the matter: that my comment was adequate, that graphic illustrated what I wanted to say, and since then you have only produced noise, fallacies and smoke.

No there is no next topic, first you have to understand this one and do not seem you have taken the appropriate way.

PS.- You are ridiculous. And bored.

PS2.- Why doesn't come warnings to my mail of that this troll has writen a comment? Has installed Disqus some kind of AI soft in order to filter idiocy?

(*) Actualy it is not 15.4% is 15.384615385% :-D

reader SirCanguro said...

This is dissappointing.

I guess at least you tried. You can keep on trying, although I'm afraid you need the hint again:

"With that precision, my point was to show that your reference was wrong, and that you were not able to realize this fact before I told you. Only that. With that precision I was not saying that Spain is Greece."

I know that paragraph is being hard for you to understand (even a fool would understand, maybe you are not even a fool, so you can't understand it), I can try to make it more clear: I have always agreed that spanish debt is much lower than greek debt. Now read the previous paragraph again.

Once you are prepared to confirm you understand that, I can explain you why what you said about the calculation of the GDP is wrong. But this is a more difficult topic, the maths you'll need are more difficult than the computation of a percentage.

I am happy, by the way, that you can calculate a percentage :). I can propose another highschool level exercise for you, so you can keep on learnig with that conversation:

How many digits in the last number you provided, that is 15.384615385%, are actually significant, assuming that the precision of the numbers you used to compute it (that is 170, 105 and 95) is of 1%?

Would you be able to compute also the corresponding precision of your result?

You are allowed to ask for help, I'll be glad to answer.

reader Eclectikus said...

Yeah, right, whatever. You have no solution.

reader SirCanguro said...

Don't you dare to solve the exercise? ;)

reader Swine flu said...

I was talking about Germany, which does seem to care about employment. The policies they pursued during the 2008+ recession seem to suggest that quite strongly.

As for exports and the strengthening and weakening of currencies, the whole point is that with one currency, there is no weakening or strengthening.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Swine Flu, *governments* are naturally trying to reduce the unemployment rate - and the German government has been doing it most of the time. The Greek government not so much, even though it could have had the same goal.

But my claim is that this is not what the *nations*, the averaged opinion of people, take as a priority. If a person gets the same money as unemployment benefits, he's OK with being unemployed.

You can't use the low unemployment rate against Germany by saying that they benefited. If the Greeks were sent the same money from Germany while being unemployed, it's better for them because they got the money *and* they didn't have to work.

Of course, this may be and usually is a short-sighted policy because at some moment, the other nations will stop sending you the money. But that's not a German fault, either.

In every nation, regardless of the degree of skills, current GDP, the industries in which the people are good at, and so on, it is always possible to get a similar unemployment rate by sufficiently pro-business, pro-growth policies. Greece has always preferred anti-business, anti-growth, pro-welfare policies so of course that it has implications. But why you do you try to count it as a fault of the Germans?

reader Swine flu said...

Dear Lubos, I think we may have a misunderstanding, so I am not sure we are talking about the same thing any more.

Several posts above in this discussion I mentioned that I had frequently seen an opinion that the introduction of Euro helped Germany increase its exports to countries like Greece, to some extent to those country's detriment. You replied that Germany didn't benefit from it all that much, to which my comment was that increasing exports at least helps with employment in the exporting country.

In the past, the victors used to force the conquered countries to import their products even if it damaged the losers' own economies. Some claim that Euro did that for Germany to a degree, and with the added convenience of not needing to fight any wars to increase their exports. That's not to deny that Greek society has set itself on the path to absolute doom, at the level of the worst failed states, unless it is willing to undertake a very major course correction, which would be further greatly complicated by its terrible demographic picture. However, that does not in itself prove or disprove the claim whether the Euro made things even worse than they already were.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Swine Flu, apologies, I am not getting your point or your logic but there is still some anti-German sentiment.

I assure you that Greece hasn't imported anything it didn't want to import. The problem was that Greece imported lots of things it couldn't have afforded, but it's purely Greeks' fault, not Germans' fault.

The same is true for the fact that Germany was able to increase the exports while Greece wasn't able to do so. Why do you think it is so? Why wasn't it the other way around, for example?

It's because Germany was more disciplined in avoiding easy solutions, while Greece has been enthusiastic about easy solutions and living beyond their means all the time.

That's the difference and Germany hasn't done an epsilon of a wrong thing or something it would make it morally obliged to pay something to Greece.

Of course that the euro has made this gap more intense. Before the euro, drachma was being devalued all the time which was constantly diluting all the populist policies. They were raising the salaries like mad but drachma was going down, so the competitiveness was being reduced much more slowly.

The gap grew more quickly under the euro. But the euro is a shared currency that was equally adopted by Germany as well as Greece. Its existence only amplified the difference between the disciplined Germans and undisciplined Greeks, but Germans' being disciplined can't be sold as their moral defect - which is what you and others are doing all the time.

Your comparisons with some medieval conquerors etc. is funny. You really sound like some Marxist ideologue. Maybe some colonies were "forced" to import goods from the imperial power, although I can't quite imagine how it would be achieved. But I am sure it wasn't happening in Greece of the recent 50 years so your "anti-imperialist" conspiracy theories are surely irrelevant for the discussions about Greece now.

I do think that they're wrong even as a description of the previous centuries but I don't want to extend our disagreements too much.

Concerning the euro, Greece has lost the liberating assistance of the free markets that used to devalue their currency all the time. But Greece has sacrificed this intrinsic inflation of their currency voluntarily. And they still say to be happy about it. So you just can't say that it's German faults or that Germans owe something to the Greeks for that.

Of course that one gets a more sustainable picture if undisciplined nations such as Greece return to their own, constantly devalued currency. But when it will happen, Germans won't owe a pfennig for this asymmetric euro experience to Greece!

There are simply clear rules - including those in the eurozone - that all the members adopted without any pressure. So the rules define what is the duty of someone and what someone owes.They clearly say that Germany doesn't owe anything to Greece for being able to increase the employment while many others see the opposite trend.

Inventing vague demagogic slogans trying to deduce that Germany suddenly owes something to Greece (tens of billions? Hundreds of billions?) for its being more successful in the eurozone is just pure communist demagogy, exactly the same kind of crap as the crap that capitalists exploit workers (but upgraded to the international level), the same kind of demagogy that is spread by the Syriza scum in Greece, the same kind of demagogy whose real plan is to completely undermine, decompose, and liquidate the capitalist system based on the rule of law as we know it. They have mostly done in Greece which is sad but not too important as it is just 2% of the EU economy - but some people prefer to spread this cancer to all of Europe.

Thank you very much but I prefer to blanket bombard Greece by nuclear weapons and avoid this threat.

reader Swine flu said...

Dear Lubos, while I am truly tempted by your kind offer to drop this particular discussion :), but these matters rile me up so much that I am going to allow myself one more post here. By the way, my friends would find "Marxist ideologue" a most odd label in my case, but perhaps it's the odd nature of the subject matter, the EU, that caused this anomaly.

In a simple world view, the one you seem to favor, two adults, Germany and Greece, enter a voluntary association that entails the use of common currency, and if one of them gets lazy and sh*t happens to him, tough. And we most likely agree that it takes an incredible societal degradation to murder a pregnant bank clerk just because of the existence of this thing called reality. So, we can agree that the Greeks have had it coming.

The disagreement seems to be only whether the major EU powers, Germany included, are entirely innocent. You think they are, but I am less sure, and the reason can be summarized in a Spanish proverb that I like, "no hay que pedir peras al olmo", don't ask pears of an elm tree. Did Germany, France, and whoever else runs the show there actually expect the Greeks and other similar countries to shape up in a hurry? As in really? And if it was entirely predictable how it will all turn out, is it not unfair to say that given that the future was clear for all to see, if they lose money on Greece, no one should be shedding tears for their losses?

It's a bit like the US-China trade. On the one hand, I find the US continuing to run huge trade imbalances to be a disgusting case of egoism (towards our children and their future), and yet, if the US actually ever goes bankrupt and the Chinese find themselves sitting on a huge pile of worthless green pieces of paper, will the Chinese be entirely innocent? It's not like the US inability to control its spending habits has not been there for all to see for a long time now. So, why do the Chinese keep doing what they are doing? Could they be doing it knowing what's coming, but calculating that it's still worth it to them? And in that case, when the bad stuff actually happens, would one not be able to say that they knew very well what they were doing, so they can only whine so much?

Analogies are only that, analogies, but I hope I've at least clarified my doubts about the roles and responsibilities of various EU countries in the Greek debacle.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Sorry, Swine flu, the hopeless mess in Greece wasn't "entirely predictable".

Every nation, including Greece, is in principle able to learn how to deal with the money in a responsible way.

Everyone else, including Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Italy, and others have learned so. By the way, these nations oppose the "debt reduction conferences" with Greece because it would be absolutely scary for their own loans. They can live with their debt of 120% of GDP or so if the conditions and yields remain comparable to what they are. So they surely don't want to scare their lenders by the hypothetical scenario that they may demand some haircut themselves! They don't need it and they depend on people's belief that they don't need it!

Of course that the Chinese will be equally innocent if and when the U.S. goes bankrupt. And of course that I think that China will be justified to seek a military solution or something like that to get their trillions back in one form or another.

Why do you think that China should be viewed as the adult paedophile who abuses the little kid U.S.? It is absolutely ludicrous.

The U.S. just runs policies that are "qualitatively analogous" to the Greek ones, although much less clearly unsustainable when it comes to their extent, but the threat is definitely there. On the other hand, China is choosing careful policies.

But you can't say that China is responsible for the U.S. behavior. It's not responsible, it wouldn't even be able to change the U.S. behavior if it wanted, and most people in the world will think that despite the deficits, the Americans are the "more adult" nation among the two! They are just running more fiscally risky policies, that's all, and it can have consequences. China has nothing whatever to do with this bad behavior - which is ultimately justified by the same kind of populism in the U.S. as the populism that existed in Greece, although a diluted one.

reader SirCanguro said...

I'll answer all of them as soon as you recognize that you, specialized in Applied Physics and with almost twenty years of work in Geophysics and GIS, commited several mistakes when interpreting a simple graph. Actually you already recognized that the graph is mistaked. But I'm worried about the fact that you associated the thickness of the line with the uncertainty in the variable, when there are numbers specifying the values. Does your work depend on intepreting graphs?

PS: If you are curious I can also tell you about my CV ;)

reader Luboš Motl said...

Come on, Swine flu, you can't retroactively invent conspiracy theories about "trade that hasn't been fair" or even demand that China supplies evidence for that.

Of course that it was fair when you paid the money and you got the desired products or services.

Your way of thinking is the thinking of a thief that clearly steals something - like refuses to repay a loan - and then invents stories and excuses that it wasn't "fair" that he wasn't wealthy, or something like that. Are you serious? Why does it matter?

Even if China was artificially weakening its currency, it really had the right to do so. One makes it easier for exporters but harder for those who want to spend the earned money, the employees. It's always a trade-off. The country didn't steal anything by that. You may view China as one monster company that simply has some internal strategies how to sell the products. Of course that they are fair.

The piling debt isn't just a "mistake". It's also something that people happily do because it makes their life *now* easier and more comfortable. The flip side is that they are selling their freedom and financial safety in the future - and the financial safety and freedom of their children and descendants, too. It's something that Greece, U.S., and lots of others did and still do voluntarily.

It's completely unacceptable to blame someone else for that.

reader Swine flu said...

If one googles for things like "retirement age Spain", "retirement age Portugal", and "retirement age Greece", one will learn that the Greek denial of reality is quantitatively larger. :) Perhaps that still doesn't mean that the outcome was entirely predictable, but it certainly should have signaled a greater investment risk.

As for the US-China trade, I would agree with you that the moral responsibility should be 100 percent on the US side, but this assumes the trade has been fair. Maybe it has, but I can't tell without further study. The actual, as opposed to theoretical, accessibility of the Chinese markets would be one area to examine, their currency exchange practices over the years another. Also, the loss of manufacturing jobs helped hollow out the US middle class, resulting in more populist politics. It can yet get even worse.

The US budget deficit has been smaller because the Republicans forced cuts after an ugly fight with the Administration. So, it is half-trillion instead of a full trillion. The problem is that the total deficit is still growing, and the annual budget deficit will begin rising again in 2018:

Some of it may be the inevitable demographics of the retiring Baby Boomers, but whatever the reason, it will be tempting for the populace to give the Democrats full power to "ease the pain" or "invest in the future" or whatever. So, the US future is far from assured. The rosy projections I have seen are typically based on the premise that the US will be in good shape because everybody else, China included, will be in a much worse shape. Not a very positive way to plan for the future. I can't say I am totally pessimistic about the US, but there are plenty of reasons for concern.

reader Swine flu said...

Why would I want to steal anything from China? I hope the US can repay all its debts to everybody. Even if I didn't think it was immoral not to pay off one's debts, and I do think that it is immoral not to pay off one's debts, I would still want these debts to be paid off because if the time ever comes when they can't be repaid, life will suck here.

However, the question whether the Chinese have traded fairly still stands. I am not as convinced as you are that they have, but I would have to read up on the subject to be reasonably sure one way or the other. Even if they haven't traded fairly, it would still be a certainly that they would have done so with the knowledge of the US trade officials, so if the US chose not to take action, as a society we would could only complain about our government and not the Chinese.

And yet, it is possible that if it turned out that their trade practices were sufficiently unfair, I would feel slightly less sorry for them if the US dollar pile they sit on were to lose some of its value, which is a more likely scenario than an outright default by the US. But, this is too much of a hypothetical scenario, so it's a good place for me to stop.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Trade is clearly a consensual activity of two sides and the Chinese-U.S. trade has always been a textbook example of that.

Your retroactive insulting delusions that something was "unfair" about trade puts you square to the category of nasty, below-the-belt critics of capitalism who consider capitalism unfair. Why? Because trade is the essence of capitalism and you are doing nothing else than spitting on it and attempting to deligitimize everything that the economy was based on for thousands of years, especially in the recent century or so.

I am sorry to see that you have these views because I am unwilling and unable to hide that I have always viscerally despised all the people nurturing these disgusting and insulting anti-capitalist views or conspiracy theories.

If two sides do something consensually and one of the sides later invents stories that something was unfair, it's just deeply immoral.

reader Swine flu said...

The essence of capitalism is free trade, not just any trade, and it is entirely possible for an individual to characterize some trade arrangement as "unfair", because the government likely didn't bother asking him before signing a trade treaty.

But you may also be right in that that the bigger issue in this case is probably not whether the US-China trade is "fair", but whether it was of ultimate benefit to the US to handle this trade the way it has been handled. Don't forget that it all got started by the US in order to pull China away from the Soviet Union, so it's not like it was set in motion just out of general love and admiration for free trade.

reader Swine flu said...

Here's an interesting bit of analysis:

reader Tony said...

Meh, classic American BS.

Let's have QE in politically united Europe, because look how well it works in the US.

Yeah, right.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Swine Flu, it's complete nonsense. All trade like this is by definition "free and fair". With 100% indefensible accusations of your kind, it would be possible to claim that *any* trade was unfair and question it. Indeed, that's what Marxists love to do all the time - it's the best way to undermine capitalism. I am flabbergasted that you are behaving in the exactly identical way.

If a government is buying something, the fairness in no way depends on whether the citizens of the country led by the government agree with something or not.

The government is the "head" of the nation, the bunch of people who collect taxes and do other things: the government, and not a random satisfied or dissatisfied citizen, is deciding on behalf of the nation. It's the signature of the government official, and not random citizens, that decides about the validity of a contract.

In general non-democratic countries, the government is just some rich or powerful guy or clan or family or party. It's still 100% fair externally. Trade may be done with democracies and non-democracies, too. In democracies, the composition of the government is determined by elections, and therefore by the populace. Those who decide what the government does - and in democracies, it's the people who decide who the government is - have the responsibility for the decisions, of course, because they decide about all the most important things.

So if a citizen is dissatisfied with something, he must vote for someone else next time or enter politics, that is the maximum he can do. But at the end, every citizen shares the responsibility for what the nation - namely the government - does. The government debt is a collective debt of the nation that has to be repaid by the nation, all of its taxpayers or whatever is the way how the government raises the money.

It seems really amazing to me that you need to be explained these 101 things about capitalism and democracy.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Exactly. It's unbelievable but the Americans have become major drivers of the most pathological tendencies in the European integration.

Most of it boils down to their almost complete ignorance and misunderstanding of the world geography and history - they view and they want to view Europe to be analogous to the United States of America because by coloring the map by this blue color with yellow stars, they may make themselves think that they have understood this part of the world.

But they have understood nothing.

reader Swine flu said...

Stratfor likely stands for "Strategic Forecasting", so their articles make more sense as forecasts, not as opinions on how things should be.

reader Swine flu said...

Well, as just one example, China demands technology transfer for access to its markets. Is that just trade or something more?

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Swine flu, it's a restriction of the market at the beginning; and trade - consensual agreement for you to gain something and give something, one that you can refuse. So it's trade - barter of a sort - and it's also something else. Every trade is also something else.

But they ultimately have the "right" not to allow others to freely access their market. Whether it's a wise policy is a different thing. The U.S., when it accesses the markets and allows the technology transfer, is effectively getting a lower price for its products. But the buyer may always decide what price he pays, and the seller may always refuse to participate.

So there is ultimately absolutely nothing you can claim to be unfair unless China would have previously agreed that nothing like that would occur - in which case it would be violating the treaty.

At any rate, if you start to invent ideas that by this setup, China owes $2 trillion or any other amount, the number is just a pure fabrication and the whole victimist story of yours is conceptually bullšit.

reader Swine flu said...

Dear Lubos, we are in agreement that the US should pay its debts to China. That's not what I am questioning.

I question whether technology transfer the Chinese demand for access to their markets is good for the US in the long term. We already discuss that, but there is also the question of large-scale industrial espionage China engages in to gain access to technologies developed by others. It is pure theft. They are an impressive nation, but they seem not to be above stealing other people's ideas instead of relying on their own creativity.

For these and other reasons, some of them strategic, I would like the US to rethink its trade policies with China.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear SwineFlu, you are not only free to question but you are also free to stop trying to export to China, and that's really the point. It's all up to you, so by doing these things, you agree with the conditions and have no right to retroactively complain.

What's wrong if the Chinese *steal* know-how without contracts. In that case, the theft should be fought against, if that's possible at all, and the estimated overall theft should be used in negotiations about future contracts at the national level. But if those know-how transfers are a part of a contract you may decide not to sign, then things are kosher.

Yesterday, I saw news about some patients in Czech hospitals who have swine flu. ;-)

reader Swine flu said...

I picked the moniker Swine Flu during the last big epidemic/scare and have worried about it sounding too obsolete now. While I wish the patients speedy recovery, I am glad the moniker is still relevant. :)

China does engage in straightforward corporate espionage and theft, not just contractual technology transfers. I have not seen a dollar figure of the cost of such theft mentioned, and I don't know if a plausible estimate even exists.

As to the contractual technology transfers, if a company agrees to the 51 percent ownership by the locals, as well as to technology transfer to the locals, the deal goes through and all is legal and proper. However, one can still ask if it is wise in the long term to accept such conditions. I have my doubts about that - it could be the typical American pursuit of the short-term benefits despite the potential for a long-term harm. Keeping China deliberately poor would not have been a good idea, but letting it prosper at our own expense seems dubious as well.

It's also important to remember that the dollars China has in its possession are not all from trade. They buy US government bonds too. So, they must have either made the judgement that the chaotic by design political system in the US nevertheless has enough resilience in it to prevent a default or a significant devaluation of the dollar, or they are willing to accept the risk. The impression one gets is that some of the buying is driven by the fact that there is still no good alternative to the US dollar.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Swine flu, that swine flu hysteria was crazy, too. But in order to keep your nickname relevant, you need the swine flu pandemics to continue to exist, but also to remain limited because otherwise your laughter would be proven wrong! ;-)|en&tbb=1&ie=UTF-8

My high-school classmates working for Škoda etc. complain about the Chinese stealing of the know-how - one of them would really kill the Chinese if he were provided the tools to do so.

It's of course terrible but at some level, there's reality - laws of Nature - one can't exceed. Laws and justice work when they're enforced. The Chinese are an independent power you can't really control. And another way to say it is that their citizens aren't completely subject to the Western civilized duties and understanding of justice.

I know that such comments are unpopular or un-PC but it's "slightly" similar to the case when a bird (I mean magpie, I think) steals jewelry from you. You can't really sue the bird. Make it pay compensations. At most, you may think about selective shooting of magpies but that will have problems, too. The case of the Chinese stealing know-how isn't quite the same but it's slightly analogous. The world is a šitty place.

It's a part of the story that one may only use the anthropomorphic - or even specific,nation-tradition-rooted - understanding of the legality, morality, and justice for those people who are included in the "demos" that plays the same game.

A way how the EU affects the debt game is that all EU countries are expected to play "roughly the same game". So if the stealing of know-how is impossible in the EU, it will be kind of enforced, at least by sanctions or threats. In the same way, the default of Greece isn't just something one may overlook. The Argentina's default may have been overlooked because the folks in that nation are partly like the magpies - not really your peers, not parts of the same "demos". But thanks to the EU, whether it's good or bad, the Greeks are simply considered parts of the "demos", one that thinks that repaying the debt is a necessary condition for a continued free life on the European territory. That's why one must expect that the Greek commitments won't go quite away if and when Greece just says "bust".

The commitments will be reminded all the time. By the default event, the debt won't be forgiven.

reader Michael said...

I don't believe that China can effectively "buy" the US. If the US senses such a risk they will simply not allow them to buy the big companies. As long as they are the strongest military power they cannot be "taken over" through money.

reader Luboš Motl said...

OK, I don't see how anything you wrote might be true. It would be de facto death for the U.S. to ban the sale of companies - to ban capitalism. I don't even understand what such a ban could possibly mean.

I also don't believe that the U.S. would start a war against someone who just buys up companies. This is so against everything that America has stood for - it sounds crazy, especially if the supposed target is China, a pretty large nation.

The trillions of dollars *do* mean that China has immense potential power to influence the U.S. and rightfully so.

reader Michael said...

You wrote:

"They may take over America on one day when they decide. I don't know what would be the strategy but it could be amplified to enslave the American nation as the ad has claimed."

And I just don't believe the most powerful military power in the world can be taken over and enslaved, but maybe you mean something else. I know China buys lots of American companies, but I think there are *some* assets/companies the US can and will refuse to sell, because it would be considered a problem for national security. If they were seriously worried that they could become "enslaved" some measures would be taken to avoid it.

I agree my comment was bad, because they sell companies to China all the time. But another country owning companies in your country doesn't mean they can enslave anyone or dominate you all of the sudden. You must mean something else I guess. After all a company owned by someone outside would be subjected to the same laws, regulations and taxes and so on. So I agree with you that its silly to claim that they will be refused to buy big companies in general, but I will still claim that some purchases may be refused and they can't enslave the US because of some debt.

reader Michael said...

"The trillions of dollars *do* mean that China has immense potential power to influence the U.S. and rightfully so."
I don't think I fully understand what you mean, they can't "buy" the US, and they can't force them to suddenly become "poor" like someone else owing money. I just don't see what you mean, the US issues the dollar, it can issue as many as it want, and it can't ever be unable to pay. Do you mean that if China dumps dollars on the market they could hurt and disrupt the economy through inflation of the dollar? I just don't see how this debt makes the Chinese so super-powerful as you imply. But I guess you could mean something else by "influence".

reader muhamad said...

You think that category theory is dangerous because it could move string theorists away from physics because there's not much contact with experimentalists. right ?

reader Luboš Motl said...

The word "dangerous" is probably too strong. But yes, I do think that category theory used by (mathematically inclined) physicists drags them away from physics in the usual sense, one ultimately based on empirical evidence, and it is really a cultural effort to make physicists think like mathematicians regardless of the usual type of empirical evidence we expect.

It may be very important for the understanding of physics in the future but I just don't believe that this importance has already been established.

reader muhamad said...

I agree.I'm very mathematically-minded so I find ideas like category theory fascinating but I still think that it's a very useful tool . You're not compelled to reformulate everything using category theory but I think it's worth the effort to learn.

reader James Tarrier said...

My blog to send money online -