Sunday, January 04, 2015

Does it make sense to impose standards for notation and conventions?

It often does but each reform should be a separate struggle

At the end of 1928, big Czechoslovak companies teamed up and created the Czechoslovak Normalization Society (the word "normalization" only acquired its terrible new meaning 40 years later), ČSN, which was telling members what shape nuts and bolts should have, among millions of analogous things. Since 1964, ČSN has been used to label individual "Czechoslovak State Norms".

Just to be sure, we still use the acronym ČSN for the Czech technical norms, despite the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, because doing otherwise would violate about 1,000 norms. ;-) Aside from Czechoslovak and Czech ČSN norms, we are being regulated by millions of DIN German norms, EN European standards, and ISO international standards.

"Germany" and "standardization" rhyme very well ;-) which is why it was so natural for someone to write a blog post about this topic, Your \(g\) is my \(e\) – Has time come for a physics notation standard?.

Norms and unified systems really seem to be extremely important and natural for the Germans. For example, the Summer 2011 TV commercial for a Slovak beer brand, Golden Pheasant (see the video above), says:
To have a system and to be proficient in it, it is the German way. Not to have a system and to be proficient in it, it is the Slovak way.

Not to know where Slovakia is, it is the U.S. way. And to know where Slovakia is, it is the Slovak way.

To have $50 in your pocket and pretend that one has $1, it is the Czech way. To have $1 in your pocket and pretend you have $50, it is the Slovak way.

To build an accelerator, it is the European way. Not to be in a hurry, it is the Slovak way.

To want to borrow from everyone, it is the Greek way. But not to want to lend to Greece, it is the Slovak way.

To marry a Slovak babe, it is the English, Italian, Austrian, as well as the United Arab Emirate way. But to marry a Slovak chap, it is the Slovak way.

To boast exceptional cuisine, it is the French way. But to have the exceptional appetite, it is the Slovak way.

To go out with friends in the evening, it is the Slovak way. And to serve the Pheasant to them, it is the world-class way.

Golden Pheasant, the world's Slovak beer.
Incidentally, the current Czech president Zeman thinks that the Golden Pheasant is tolerable. However, another Slovak beer, one from Poprad (the High Tatras), is only good for cleaning dentals while the American beer is just filthy water.

I report, you decide – fortunately, I am completely impartial because the beer from my hometown is one in its own league. ;-)

I found this commercial witty. You can see that Germans are those who like to operate within a system. This has been the case for centuries, regardless of political regimes that existed within Germany.

Now, standardization certainly brings us lots of advantages. Our gadgets and components of devices bought somewhere work elsewhere. We save some time and avoid confusion. Several airplanes and spacecrafts don't crash because of standards.

There are tons of examples in contemporary technology that I could describe and where I wish the players to agree on standards. I am happy that microUSB cables have been agreed to be the standard for similar actions – including the charging of mobile devices – by everyone except for the world's most valuable company, of course. There are many small examples like that, in the world of electronics, software, mechanical engineering, and so on.

Also, I could mention lots of industrial standards that are unlikely to be unified anytime soon. For example, I would find it sensible if the U.S. switched to 230-volt electric grids – no, I don't want to switch to their 110 volts. And the same shape of power outlets. Such a big unification is unlikely to take place because there are just too many "wrong" power outlets and devices in the U.S. To switch would mean to pay immense expenses. Even though it is clear that the final result – the same grids and outlets in the world – would be more effective for the whole mankind, it won't happen because the one-time expenses would only be repaid after many years. Moreover, it is not clear which side would "surrender".

But let me get to physics. We have the international units, SI, and it's a good thing even though these units don't really enjoy the monopoly in the Anglo-Saxon world that they were supposed to enjoy. I think that the SI units are clearly better than the medieval imperial units still popular in the U.S. and the U.K. Inches, feet, miles, gallons, barrel, ounce, pound, Fahrenheit, WTF? Note that the translators and linguists must learn to multiply and divide pretty well. ;-)

The basic mechanical units, meter, kilogram, second (MKS), are mostly considered "more modern" than their smaller, centimeter, gram, second (CGS) counterparts that would rule in the 19th century. And of course, they are more modern than the units in the previous paragraph. But these are trivial aspects of the units. Then there are less obvious problems one faces.

Coulomb's law says that the electrostatic force in the vacuum is \[

F=\frac{kQ_1 Q_2}{ r^2}

\] The force \(F\) and the distance \(r\) are normal mechanical quantities that are expressed in terms of MKS (or CGS) units only. Possibly, you need new units for the charges \(Q_1,Q_2\) and you need to choose the right value of \(k\) which will make it work.

In the SI units, we have \(k=1/4\pi\epsilon_0\) including the factor \(1/4\pi\). It's the "rationalized" way of dealing with the factors of \(4\pi\). You may say that \(4\pi r^2\) in the denominator is more natural because it's the area of the sphere over which the electric field lines are spread. Equivalently, with this \(1/4\pi\) included in \(k\), Maxwell's equations tend to have a simpler form, without \(4\pi\).

In the 19th century, when the CGS units were more popular than larger MKS units, it was also a tradition to use the non-rationalized units. It means that there was no \(1/4\pi\) in Coulomb's law. However, one needed to add similar \(4\pi\) factors in Maxwell's equations which sucked. Let's stop this discussion. Yes, I think that someone should force the whole world to learn how to use the rationalized units with \(1/4\pi\) in Coulomb's law because it's the more natural way. Analogously, it is more natural to use \(\hbar,\omega\) etc. when we deal with \(2\pi\) in periodic functions and frequencies etc. – however, I sometimes use \(h,f\) myself and it often has a good reason, not just a bad habit. (Well, to say the least, Latin letters are easier to type and easier to understand for the general readers than the Greek or slashed letters.)

There are additional questions. In SI, \(k=1/4\pi\epsilon_0\) with a new universal constant \(\epsilon_0\). Similar laws for magnetic forces (between currents, for example), depend on \(\mu_0\), a similar constant, and because light arises as an electromagnetic wave from these equations, we may see that \(\epsilon_0\mu_0 c^2=1\). These three constants, including the speed of light \(c\), are related by this simple relationship.

Because we had the freedom to introduce a new independent unit for the charges \(Q_1,Q_2\) – or one for the currents or some other electromagnetic quantity – we could have actually chosen the units so that \(\epsilon_0=1\). That's effectively the CGSE (centimeter-gram-second-electric) units. Or that \(\mu_0=1\), as in the CGSM (...magnetic) units. Electricity and magnetism are "equally fundamental" from some point of view (like the electromagnetic duality: however, I understand you if you think that the electric charges are more fundamental and magnetism is "derived", too) so none of these two choices is "clearly better" than the other.

The SI system sets neither \(\mu_0\) nor \(\epsilon_0\) equal to one. Instead, it introduces a new independent unit, ampere, to parameterize all electromagnetic units. And the value of \(\mu_0\) is chosen to be exactly \(4\pi\times 10^{-7}\) of the right SI units (volt-seconds per ampere-meter). The fact that \(\mu_0\) has a simple numerical value is linked to the close relationship between the electric units in SI and those in the CGSM system.

This international system, SI, is pretty good, but we have clearly entered a territory where the "superiority" of one system over another is not "quite clear". You will certainly find lots of people who will say that CGSE or CGSM is a better system and fight for it. Some people are used to these systems and they will even claim (mostly preposterously) that these systems are important for a good thinking.

Lots of additional comments apply to conventions surrounding one mole, kelvin, candela as well as angles in radians and degrees, and so on, not to mention the conventions to define the precise numerical values of the universal constants. We've covered many of these topics many times.

Again, the standardization is a good thing when we only think about the outcome. But the expenses of switching to a new system simply can't be overlooked and they're the most typical reason why people resist the standardization – and they often have a very good point.

Units and places where to write \(4\pi\) were simple issues that intelligent people may understand without any real expertise in physics. But the situation becomes much more complex when we discuss notation and conventions in "advanced" physics. That blog's example of \(e\) vs \(g\) for some elementary electric charge is a relatively trivial example, however. Should we standardize that?

I don't believe it's possible. We often need both letters. We often deal with theories that have several coupling constants. To save time, we actually want to use different letters for them. So \(e\) is more likely to represent the elementary electric charge while \(g\) is more likely to be chosen for the non-electromagnetic couplings. The latter may also be distinguished by subscripts, and so on.

My broader point is that the notation is often chosen "locally" and even one individual physicist is used to switching between different notation systems – and he or she has to be. If one deals with lots of equations or expressions of the same kind, it is often very useful to choose a "not quite standard" notation just for one scientific paper. Or dozens of papers in a particular "research direction".

For this reason – a local deviation from the standardized notation often makes a paper more efficient – I think that the "complete standardization of the notation" isn't really a holy goal. It's sometimes the inferior system. And that's why students shouldn't be trained to assume that the notation is standardized. Even in an ideal world, as I imagine it, there will inevitably exist different conventions for notation. And the students simply have to be prepared for this diversity in notation and potential confusions. In the real world, different systems of notation and conventions exist and it is not always because the world is a šitty place. Sometimes the diversity has highly rational reasons!

So even though I endorsed the rationalized SI system when it comes to \(4\pi\), to mention an example, there simply exist papers in which it is much more sensible to write the electromagnetic Lagrangian as \(-F^{\mu\nu}F_{\mu\nu}/16\pi e^2\) instead of one with the factor \(-1/4\). Some internal logic that the author of the paper wants to highlight may be more manifest with this notation. It's simply the case that some "points" are easier to be made with one notation and not another which is why people should have the freedom to change the notation.

There are numerous other questions. For example, what about the signature of the metric tensor \(g_{\mu\nu}\)? We usually talk about two major conventions, the West Coast or \(({+}{-}{-}{-})\) convention, and the East Coast or \(({-}{+}{+}{+})\) signature. Why are the signs correlated with the coasts in the United States?

It's because particle physics was "more closely" associated with the West Coast – think about SLAC. In particle physics, you need things like the momentum 4-vector \(p^\mu\). For physical particles, those have to be timelike, so it's natural that for this "prevailing type" of the 4-vectors, you want the squared norm to be positive, which is why we choose the timelike (timelike is positive) signature.

On the other hand, the East Coast would be associated with the general relativists – think of the loop quantum gravity "thinkers" around Ashtekar in Pennsylvania, for example. From their viewpoint, the 4-dimensional spacetime is just a "slight" extension of the 3-dimensional space, and because we had the positive sign in the 3-space (the Pythagorean theorem had no minus signs), they just choose the "mostly plus" signature.

String theory unifies quantum field theory and general relativity. This fact is also reflected to the "popular signatures". I would argue that string theorists are almost equally split when it comes to their preferred signature. Of course that all of them have learned how to deal with this confusing detail!

Truth to be told, the two choices of the signs aren't the only two possibilities, even though people usually like to say that they are. When Einstein was presenting general relativity 100 years ago, he would actually prefer to use the \(({+}{+}{+}{+})\) signature. How is it possible? Isn't it a fact that one spacetime dimension has a different sign than the remaining three? In some sense, yes, it is. But you may choose all signs to be the same – all of them may be plus or all of them may be minus – if one of the dimensions (or three) is pure imaginary. So Einstein would routinely talk about coordinates\[

x_1,\, x_2,\, x_3, \, x_4=ict, \\
ds^2 = \sum_{i=1}^4 (dx_i)^2

\] This differs from the normal conventions by some factors of \(i\) and it's perfectly OK in special relativity although it becomes awkward in general relativity where the 4 coordinates don't have any a priori relationship with time or space, so there is no reason why one of them should be imaginary.

Here, my broader point is that the number of possible conventions or notations may be greater than what average people know.


I could continue for hours and present my views on the conventions and proposals to standardize them in hundreds of different contexts. The punch line is that while standardization usually seems to be a more effective outcome, there exist reasons why people often oppose them, and their hardwired habits and stubbornness are not the only reason why different conventions are being used.

For this reason, I would find it dangerous if someone who doesn't possess a sufficient understanding for the diversity of the existing conventions would be imposing his or her standardized opinions on everyone else.

Some diversity in the notation standards will exist forever and one of the things that students have to learn is to survive in this potentially confusing world. After all, the skill of converting claims from one set of standards to another are very useful, not just for their own sake, because they are the simplest part of the skill to find out whether two proposed scientific theories are equivalent (or dual) to one another, and that's a very important topic in (especially modern) physics.

The equivalence between theories in two papers is sometimes as simple as the conversion of units and renaming of the physical observables or locations of \(4\pi\); in other cases, it is much more subtle and hiding (sometimes immense) mathematical wisdom. People must become familiar with these things and to protect the students from the multiple ways in which some physical laws may be formulated also means to "protect" them from much of the genuine, deep wisdom of modern physics.

So while we often admire the German obsession with a "standardized system", it is counterproductive to try to impose standardization everywhere, as a matter of an ideology. Each particular thing that may be standardized deserves a separate discussion.

Before the Second World War, Germany would be the global headquarters of theoretical physics. The epicenter moved to the U.S. after the war. We usually say that it's because America has absorbed lots of brains – including the scientists from the Third Reich, of course. It was an important reason but maybe it wasn't the only reason. I find it plausible that the recent 70 years in theoretical physics required a greater amount of flexibility and pragmatism and that's another reason why the contemporary American theoretical physics is so much more important than the German one.

Excessive, mindless focus on standardization may be harmful.

One more Pheasant ad about globalization (2009). Germany is linked to "precision" here:

I am being woken up by British pop from a Taiwanese alarm clock. I dress American jeans, Italian T-shirt, and Chinese shoes. I walk the Hungarian dog [some HU dog breed]. My French boss demands German accuracy although my work is a Spanish village for him (in English: it sounds Greek to him). I eat a Norwegian fish with a Greek salad and I still feel craving for something. But at work, I am only allowed Brazilian coffee boiled on Russian gas. After the training of Japanese judo I finally park my Korean car and I have... a Slovak beer. Every day, I am meeting the whole world. But in the evening, I am looking forward to something that is ours. Golden Pheasant, the world's Slovak beer.


  1. When I was studying civil engineering back in the 60's, we had to learn several systems of units:
    1. cgs (then still dominant)
    2.mks (then relatively new)
    pound-force, pound mass, foot, second (the US standard)
    poundal, pound mass, foot second (an academic system)
    pound force, slug, foot, second, (another academic system).

  2. "... is a Spanish village for him (in English: it sound Greek to him)" LOL, in Spanish: it sound Chinese to me.

  3. It sounds arabic (for italians)!

  4. Incredibly I heard also some people using the "furlong"! Crazy.
    Anyway, I fully agree with Lubos' observations about standardization and notation in physics. Sabine this time is a victim of her own citizenship!

  5. On topic to start with, sort of, but then wandering completely off track.

    This subject—or rather just the more mundane everyday issue of the metric system v imperial—is a perennial in the lowbrow English press. [The word lowbrow is redundant these days. Ed.] The articles and comments are mostly incredibly inane on both sides. People who can barely count their fingers and toes suddenly become experts with strong opinions — and the more innumerate, the stronger the opinion. On the one hand you get all sorts of stuff about the divisibility of 12 and why 16 ounces in a pound and 14 pounds in a stone are "natural". On the other, you get equivalently inane justifications from the fuckwit 'sophisticated' metric brigade. I don't know which I despise most. (Actually, I do know — it's the metric bunch, since they're all pretty much lickspittle pro-scumEU scum.)

    Anyhow, I very much think in imperial, especially in miles and mph, but whenever I fix or make things that require a measurement of length or weight I mostly use metric for pure convenience as it makes the sums and reading the scale easier. It does feel very foreign though and I still balk at it even though I've been at it for well over half a century. I'm all the time having to convert between the two. This is a slight nuisance but nothing to write home about.

    For instance, I have a really good grip on what the following fractions of an inch look like: 1/32, 1/16, 1/8, 3/16, 1/4 and 5/16, a grip which is far better than that on their rough metric equivalents. (When I was a boy one had to make his own model aeroplanes out of balsa wood, tissue paper and crappy expensive circuit boards, and those fractions were the standard widths of sheets of balsa — nowadays I see one can just go out and buy the whole thing for tuppence ready made. Less than half the fun.)

    If someone were to ask me how big, say, 7mm was I could make a pretty good guess at it straight off, but I'd still convert it to inches (7/25.4 = 28/101.6 = 0.2755* = 1/4 + about a 1/10th of a 1/4, so an ignorable shade over a quarter of an inch) just to be sure.

    Of course, you only have my word that I'm any good at guessing a 1/16th of an inch etc. But I have the same problem too — I only have my word for it. Not good enough? Faced with this personal conundrum I thought I'd better check. :)

    But finding an immediate and accurate way of recording and measuring my finger-and-thumb-gap stab at it seemed like too much effort. So I chose a different problem instead: naturally, if the problem isn't easily resolvable within two seconds then look for some related displacement activity! So I did. :)

    I thought: I need a bigger, more convenient gap. At the same time I was wondering how good I was at guessing in metric. Result: arbitrarily, I chose to guess 37cm. A quick conversion gives roughly 14 inches. So, being fickle, I again decided to test that instead. I set down two oranges at a distance that I reckoned was my best guess. Then I measured it. I got 14 and 3/8th inches (36.5cm). Hey, not bad, eh! Only out by about 2.5%.

    Phew! I'm good to within a 1/40th. That's a relief!

    I'd be interested to know how that compares to others'. Anyone care to volunteer a result?

    * Quick binomial approx ignoring quadratic terms and above: 28/101.6 = 0.28 - 0.0028 x (1 + 0.5 +0.1) = 0.28 - (0.0028 + 0.0014 + 0.0003) = 0.2755. [Actual is 0.2756.]

  6. There are (and yes, I optimistically prefer to say that "there were") also yards, rods, and chains.

  7. In Czech, we tend to use some sort of Arabic for unreadable scripture. We call it "klikyháky" which I like to transcribe as "clicky-hacky" (it means press-ups-[and]-hooks, or something like that), and at least I think that most people imagine the Arabic scripts to be the main representative of that.

  8. You don't go horse racing then?

  9. i think Luboš should ban you from TRF. Are you having some kind of fit ? My advice: find an exorcist, quickly.

  10. You are mixing christianity and catholicism. Protestants and jewish are closed together and represent this modern decadence, not catholics. We are a world apart. So please keep yours with yours.

  11. david, may I point out that you are actally saying that his talent was like piss ? ;-).

  12. John, are you sure that it is pedagogically helpful to explain furlong In

  13. so all of the boy fucking priests aren't Catholic?
    and all of the dioceses in the States and Ireland and Canada who shipped these pedophiles to other parishes so they could continue to bang young boys butts are protestant as well?
    When religious orders of nuns in Ireland kept women as slaves and profited from their labor for DECADES those nuns were lutherans?

    Keep your kid fucking priests away from our kids, and we can get along.

  14. Shannon...I would never dream of asking Lubos to ban you from the TRF...its important for us all to see just what the writings of an ignorant hateful pile of excreta look like.
    Have a blessed day.

  15. NO, Im saying his urine contained more talent than the entirety of your being, that his bodily wastes were more worthy of consideration than you. You should learn to read

  16. Having spent my entire professional career on the boundary between physics (SI units) and engineering (pound, foot, deg. F, etc.) I am unusually proficient at doing the conversions.

  17. " American beer is just filthy water" One pays extra for the filth (Budweiser, Miller), or buys Coors. Samuel Adams, Anchor Steam, and any number of craft beers are excellent. As for national power supplies: 230 VDC, 400 Hz. 50 Hertz is terrible for giving fluorescent light flicker and needing large transformer cores.

    BTW, Mr, Archer, how many fluid ounces are in a cubic mile? What does a cubic mile of water weight? A cubic kilometer is 10^15 ml and 10^15 grams. This is vastly convenient if you are gasping for air and freezing your buttocks atop IceCube. The Imperial System, like prior English currency, is unforgivably smartless in design and significant figures

  18. You took a modern course. In 1958 I was a teaching assistant in a civil engineering class at Berkeley that employed only English/US units. To me, “ksi" still means thousands of pounds per square inch. We used “Mechanics of Materials” by E.P. Popov, who left Kiev after the bolsheviks won.

  19. What? Samuel Adams is not related to Eotvos experiment?

  20. I will pit our best American beers against any in the world. Your president needs to get around a little more. Admittedly, our mainstream beers are uninteresting but our best would fare well in any competition in the world. My favorite is Old Rasputin, made by North Coast Brewery. It makes Guinness taste like dishwater.
    I will equally challenge the French in bread quality. My favorite, made by Boudin Bakery in San Francisco, is simply unmatched. Boudin has been baking bread in San Francisco for 165 years.
    And we will challenge anyone, including France, for the finest wines on the planet. We can equal Australia's Penfolds Grange, which is usually better than anything from France or Italy.

  21. 95% standard rejected by Naomi Oreskes

  22. I don't think you represented Nancy Hopkins fairly. Larry Summers said something like women might be less interested in science, might be more emotional. Nancy Hopkins merely responded that the idea of women being more emotional was a heresy, and said that the sound of it made her hysterical, she wanted to leave the room, and felt like vomiting.

    Is there a description anywhere of the actual charges against Lewin?

  23. That's all irrelevant friend. The power and insight of Nietzsche's ideas is the issue here, not his physical or mental health.

  24. 20 fluid ounces in a pint. In round numbers, a pint is 568ml*. So 28.4ml to the fluid ounce — about a 1/40th of a litre plus about 13%. A mile is about 1609m ....

    But I'd stop well before that and use metric - a tonne (a ton close enough too) is about a cubic meter of beer. Besides I couldn't drink a cubic mile of beer even if I wanted to. Not in one sitting anyway, so the question is purely academic for me. Currently. :)

    Oh, all right then. I'll play a little. A cubic mile of water? Weighs about 1.609^3x10^9 tonnes, say about 4.2x10^9 tonnes. Convert to fluid ounces: 4.2x10^9 x 1000 x 40 less about 13% = (1.68 - 0.24)x10^14 = 1.44x10^14 fluid ounces. By the way that's a gross of 10^12-fluid ounce buckets, if anyone were to make 'em.

    "The Imperial System, like prior English currency, is unforgivably smartless in design..."

    No. Because it wasn't really designed — I'd say it just 'emerged' out very basic living conditions and was probably well fit for the purposes intended at the time but then you get stuck with it. No one would do it that way starting from scratch today though. Rather like the QWERTY keyboard. We don't have those mechanical constraints any more but we're stuck with it. (I am anyway. I'm not changing.)

    Probably the same for the currency. By the way, in my view too much was made by some people about the calculations with shillings and pence. Just do it all in straight decimal and if needed convert the loose-change part back and forth to shillings and pence. 20ths and 12ths. That's all. It was easy. Also it wasn't that long ago when a pound was a lot of money and pennies meant a lot more. Most sums weren't big and the calculations were simple. I remember the farthing well. I used to buy sweeties with them. As for bookkeeping ... well who the fuck would want to be a bookkeeper anyway? But yeah OK, I'll give you that one. It's probably what made accountancy exciting for those drawn to it. Scintillating!

    I never got to use a groat though. Such a shame!

    "...and significant figures": I don't know what you mean. You can have as many as you want in any system.

    "...if you are gasping for air and freezing your buttocks atop IceCube.": you lost me there too. I googled it and got some black? That's quite enough of that!

    * All good piss artists should know this. It tells one exactly how much short of a full pint those cheating 500ml cans are. It's much better to get a crate of 660ml bottles. :)

    P.S. If it turns out that I've fucked up on any of the arithmetic here I'll blame it on that filthy foreign beer. The magistrates just LOVE that one. :)

  25. I can well imagine. Do it a few times and it sticks, and over time one picks up a few tricks.

    Hey, for no other reason than that it just occurred to me, here's a handy one for the distance to the horizon at sea. Feet above sea level times 1.5 then take the square root of that. Gives miles. So if your 6 ft 5* and standing on the shore line you can see three miles.

    The main mast on HMS Victory was about 200 feet above sea level. Get right up there on a clear day with a telescope and you could see the French and Spanish (and you Yanks at one time) coming from about 28 miles off (2x14). Of course the buggers could see you too. Golden Cap in Dorset is over 600 feet. So you could probably see the Armada coming from about 35 (25+10) miles off, except I hear the seas were conveniently a little choppy that day. Tee hee.

    Very useful! :)

    I have some personal ones too. E.g. using my booted foot for better estimation of small distances and my outstretched fingers and hands for angles. Incidentally, such things, if used discreetly, come in very handy for making bets. :)

    * 6ft if you're built like a crab. :)

  26. Sorry, it isn't possible to understand what about Hopkins you seem to think that I represented "not fairly".

    She definitely *left* the room during those comments, not just "wanted to leave", and she left during comments on abilities, not just about "emotions", see e.g.

  27. Haha! I'd say it's probably about as 'helpful' as most of the ground-breaking pedagogical 'innovations' that our phucked-up commie ejerkayshun establishment has come up with since the 1960s. For instance, it might make "maffs more relevant", or some shit like that.

    So to answer your question: FUCK NO, not all! :)

    But it would be quite in keeping with the rest of their crap.

  28. If serious, Hopkins was a veteran of gender politics compared to the naive uncle larry. This article by Cathy Young goes into details of her grumblings at MIT half a decade before the Summers lynching.

  29. you see insight...I dont.I merely pointed out that it is thought that either: nietzche was a syphilitic crank, suffering from brain damage due tot tertiary syphilis, or a raging schizophrenic. that see see genius in his rants reveals more about your own twisted views of the human experience than anyhing else.
    transcendental genius...yeah sure him and farrakhan effing geniuses i tell you.
    Oppenheimer, now he was a genius...linus pauling a genius. Nietzsche? a man butt banging fraud.

  30. Hi Lubos,
    thanks for an interesting discussion!

    There seems to be agreement that Greece would be better off outside the Eurozone, like your country and mine.

    By the way I don't think you are right when you say 'Banks are lending
    the money they have' - or at least it's a misleading way of expressing what
    happens. As I understand it, when commercial banks want to make a loan, they
    use money borrowed from another bank - usually their own central bank. Their
    profit comes from lending at a higher interest rate than they borrow at. They
    are generally required to have a certain minimum amount of capital to play this
    game, but it's not the capital that gets lent out.

    In exchange for being allowed to operate this fairly easy way of making a buck,
    banks are expected to carry out due diligence on assessing the risk that the
    loans they make will not be paid back and that any security put up as backing
    for the loans is actually worth what it is said to be worth. A bank that
    fails too often in that due diligence task is likely to go under.

    There's a saying 'It takes two to tango'. A few years ago banks in my
    country seemed to be keen to lend large sums of money to part-time
    workers and other poorly paid people to enable them to 'buy' houses. The
    banks' due diligence consisted of little more than asking for a letter from an
    employer stating that the woould-be borrower was employed by them. I know because I signed such a letter. My company was indeed employing the person concerned, albeit on a part-time and temporary basis. Her lender didn't seem to want to know
    about those other details. As far as I am aware, she got the mortgage and
    has had no difficulty paying it off. Her bank was lucky that time.

  31. I haven't mixed anything. I was talking about Nietzsche's thought, to my best understanding. Not mine. Please read carefully.

  32. Lubos did you notice that the Oberster Führer of Syriza now started to backpedal furiously ?
    Th Euro is not so bad after all , so told he to the German.
    We are not in a hurry to leave the EU.
    He didn't say exactly that he won't pay debts back, it must be a misunderstanding :)
    I infer from that that he doesn't even have the right balls to be a real Führer (the same is valid for the Podemos gangsters).
    I am a firm believer in accountability. If a majority of Greeks sends Syriza to power, it is their absolute right.
    But then they are accountable for all the consequences - like you (and Dr Schäuble - you are in an impressive company :) ) rightly said, the rest of the civilized Europe can democratically tell Syriza "go to hell" (well I suspect Dr Schäuble wouldn't express it exactly like that).
    Actually even Hollande, the worst president in French history, has declared that he was "not sure that a constructive dialogue with Syriza was possible" - how nicely is that said !
    It would be actually an interesting case to observe what happens in all details with the economy and ultimately with the democracy when a Syriza like programm is really implemented with a psychopath at the helm..
    Would they create labor camps à la Pol Pot ? Put barbed wire on the frontiers to avoid that the litterate people flee ?
    Ban banks and install a barter economy ? Introduce small pebbles as currency ? Start a war against Turkey and loose it ?
    Vote a law that on 1 May everybody is obliged to march in the Streets, wave small red paper flags and shout "Glory to the working class" ?
    In any case for all of us, non greek or spanish taxpayers, it would be rather good news if these totalitarists were elected because it would mean that we won't throw our money in there anymore.
    I have calculated how much Greece has cost me personnally (assuming proportionality) because our banks had to abandon half of their loans to the Greek government - you would weep if you knew.
    I would have rather gifted all that to you.
    So I have a personnal message to Syriza (and Podemos) : " GO F.... YOURSELF !"

  33. Exactly agreed, Tom! Well, except that I think that Tsipras *always* wanted to remain in the eurozone - because it's the right way to keep on getting money for free.

    He's not a natural Führer, I guess. He is a lookalike of Marcos Marino, find it on Google Images, an amusing women-attracting string theorist who is a hardcore Marxist, too. And I wouldn't expect Marcos to become a Hitler. ;-)

  34. the english system was designed for use in the field...ever try to divide a meter into 1000 equal parts in the field Al?
    On the other hand, given a reference yard, one can easily divide it into equal thirds...then into tweths to get inches, merely by folding a pice of rope on itself. the same of gallons- four quarts, each quart into quarters for cups...
    its clear that you haven't applied your superior jew hating intellect to this problem.
    I suppose you support not only french systems of measurement, but french police practices as well.

  35. from metal working...1 mm is approximately 40 thousandths of an inch.

  36. u sure?

  37. That sir, is funny.

  38. Wow, this is very good stuff. I am impressed. Thank you.