Monday, February 23, 2015

Hawking wins the "best male actor" Oscar

Eddie Redmayne did a great job in "TOE"

The Theory of Everything (2014) is coming to the Czech movie theaters this week. Those of us who have mastered the space and time have already seen the picture. The touching film is based on "Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen" by Jane Wilde Hawking, the famous physicist's first wife, which is a reason to expect fewer path integrals and more of the social stuff.

Even Stephen Hawking himself has pointed out that Eddie Redmayne was almost as handsome as himself (Hawking) so you shouldn't be surprised that this actor added the Oscar for the "best actor" last night, next to his Golden Globe for the "best actor" as well similar awards from SAG and BAFTA.

In this way, Redmayne almost became more famous than Hawking himself for a while. Before I would allow something like that, I would carefully test Redmayne's abilities to compute path integrals and emitted radiation within quantum field theory on curved backgrounds. Would he continue to be as great as Hawking himself?

The $15 million budget movie has earned $100+ million so far, not bad, and I must say that this success is impressive for the writer of the book, Jane Hawking herself. In some sense, you could say that the first woman who marries a young Stephen Hawking is a "random educated woman" and the random educated woman's ability to write a book that produces a $100 million box office movie seems like a coincidence. Well, I admit that the fact that she has a famous man to write about may have helped, too.


Stephen and Jane meet during a party and they fall in love, and after he loses his balance for the first time, they quickly learn that he has a serious disease. (A former boyish and corrupt Czech prime minister Stanislav Gross has the same disease, and so does Marián Čišovský, a Slovak player in FC Viktoria Pilsen, Czechia.) The prognosis doesn't seem good.

Even though she is told that he won't live for more than a few years, she marries him, while his disease is getting worse at the same time when Hawking is completing his most famous discoveries. They have a son and lots of other things in their family life are shown in detail.

Sometimes the plot runs into other physicists such as Dennis Sciama, a supervisor of Hawking's, and Roger Penrose. You may hear several pretty much correct claims about physics of the Hawking radiation and other things – but they're clearly not the focus of the movie.

Concerning Hawking's having babies, you may learn some biology from the film, too. A friend asks Hawking whether – because of the limited propagation of signals in the nerves – he can do, you know what, and Hawking answers that Yes, he can because those things are connected to a "different system". ;-)

Felicity Jones stars as Jane Hawking. Well, I would say that she is (even?) more beautiful than the original Jane Hawking, I hope it's OK to express this opinion (actors are often idealized in this way, aren't they?).

Stephen gets his wheelchair and later the electronic voice (that speaks in the U.S. English).

Jane meets Jonathan, a widower, who teaches Hawking Jr to play the piano but it's clear that this family friend's relationship to Jane is more important than his relationship to Stephen Hawking. (We only learn that Jane and Jonathan got married later when the movie is almost over.) And they also hire Elaine, a helper, who was going to become Hawking's second wife.

That second marriage didn't work too well. But I think that we may trust the movie that Elaine was doing things that were more sexually exciting for Stephen than what he was getting from Jane. She (Elaine) was going to abuse him, too. But the movie mostly shows all the pure things in Hawking's love life.

That doesn't mean that I think that the movie distorts the reality. As far as I can say, it's essentially accurate. Jane's and Stephen's marriage didn't last indefinitely, so it wasn't the neverending love from the fairy-tales as the beginning of the movie would suggest. But the whole movie doesn't really claim otherwise!

And is it so terrible that they later divorced? I am not sure. The divorce had several reasons. But I think that it's likely and understandable that when Jane Hawking was getting married, she was "more than prepared" to expect that her nontrivial life with a physically restricted husband whom she loved would only last for a short time. To extend the plans by more than one order of magnitude may be hard.

The movie is no science-fiction picture, of course, it is a romantic movie. But science and fantasy do enrich the plot at several places. Jane's and Stephen's audience with the queen is one of the happy successes of their life together. And during a lecture, Stephen dreams about the analogy between the evolution of the Universe from the big bang and the evolution of their life since he and Jane met.

"The Theory of Everything" is a romantic film recorded in three listed languages, English, French, and Latin, and the last one is pretty cool.


  1. Did you cry during the movie ? ;-)

  2. Yes, but that's not "quite" rare. ;-)

  3. I didn't see it yet (my daughter did and she did cry). I still haven't seen the Imitation Game yet :-(

  4. I didn't see the movie yet, but I liked very much one previous release covering similar aspects of Hawkins's life and very well played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

    Very funny the sandwiched interview to Penzias and Wilson in Stockholm in 1978 speaking about their discovering of CMB.

    By the way, Jane Hawking has been in Spain few days ago promoting her book (or the movie), and she speaks a very decent Spanish (she got her PhD in medieval Spanish poetry) and seemed like a pretty sensible woman.

  5. Wow, a truly talented woman. Can she touch her nose with her tongue too ? :-)

  6. I don't claim that what you said is wrong but I think bolbteppa is right about Landau.

    Page 1 : "In principle, we can obtain complete information concerning the motion of a mechanical system by constructing and integrating the equations of motion of the system, which are equal in number to its degrees of freedom."

    Then he says it is useless.

    Page 33 : "The question of the physical foundations of the law of monotonic increase of entropy thus remains open: it may be of cosmological origin and related to the general problem of initial conditions in cosmology; the violation of symmetry under time reversal in some weak interactions between elementary particles may play some part. The answers to such questions may
    be achieved only in the course of further synthesis of physical theories."

  7. I enjoyed his oral PhD thesis defense: the first three chapters were either wrong or full of holes but the last one was pure gold. Is this really the way it was. I also liked that three gentleman could read it over in their spare time and arrive at such verdict. I guess that proves that physics is real science, however arcane to everyone else, and that its best practitioners are something else!

  8. No, Landau doesn't contradict anything I say.

    "We assume that classical physics is valid everywhere" just means that the part of the book explains how classical physics works but classical physics does *not* imply that someone has to know the precise microstate.

    The Liouville equation for the probability distribution on the phase space is a dynamical equation of classical physics, too, and its very purpose is to solve situations when the precise microstate is not known.

  9. Dear Eclectikus, thanks for your interesting comment. Please, the name is Hawking. Hawkins is the funny guy from the Vinetou movies and a word that gives you 5 points in the crackpot index. ;-)

  10. Exactly, Dilaton.

    I know Moshe from Rutgers, and then from some visits in the Boston area etc. He is of course very smart and very modest.

    (I know Carroll from a few encounters only, plus from his lectures at TASI 99 where I was a student etc.)

    Still, I am confident that Moshe must realize that he's doing real hard science while Carroll is mostly selling soft topics to cheaper audiences (which includes all the atheist activism and weird proclamations about many worlds, Boltzmann brains, arrow of time, and others), and Moshe could do it as well if he lowered his standards.

    But this loudmouthing and followers among the laymen does give people some power that even fine scientists such as Moshe seem to be impressed by.

    It wasn't always like that. I am convinced it's right to say that, for example, Brian Greene has never abused his visibility - at least until rather recently, but probably not even now.

  11. Oops! Sorry, I accept the five points as righteous (8()

  12. About 70,000. Some like Marilyn Vos Savant don't do jack except make fools of themselves. Some who don't even come close to being one out of 100k do a hell of a lot in physics and every other endeavor.

  13. Dear Lubos, I agree with your points and see no problem with second law of thermodynamics. I have taken a course based on Shannon's approach to Information Theory and read one or two papers of Jaynes'. I can see how people assume wrong posterior probabilities in the context of second law of thermodynamics.

    However the thing I disagree with you is that these things are well described in standard undergraduate textbooks. Most of them say correct things, but don't discuss common misconceptions. Undergraduate books should assume that student are likely to make mistakes that many professors make.

  14. I actually agree with both points of yours, John. The failure to discuss a common misconception is a strong enough contribution to the misunderstandings...

  15. Of course you are right, I meant prior probability. I confused the definitions.

  16. When people argue that entropy should be higher in the past, they implicitly assume that all microstates in the past have same prior probability. In essence they exclude macrostates with low entropy. This is the most common mistake I think. Do you agree ?

  17. I read it some time ago and found it a bit too dense for me. This site:

    has other articles, as well as PDF of Griffiths book on QM, which is a much gentler (and detailed) introduction to consistent frameworks and histories, for my taste and capabilities.

    The book is also a great intro to QM in general, in my opinion. It covers all the best known 'paradoxes' and how they get resolved in the framework.

  18. Yes, I do. They assume that every microstate is equally likely. But this is only true for the microstates in the future, after thermalization has taken place.

    In the past, the priors can't be determined absolutely, but viable priors must give the same or comparable chance to all macrostates - all qualitatively different hypotheses - regardless of the number of microstates that each of these hypotheses incorporates.

    So a low entropy beginning (a "hypothesis") has a perfectly large chance to be true and by adding the usual arguments about the evolution, one may derive the "H-theorem", i.e. that the evolution towards higher entropy is vastly more likely than the inverse evolution towards decreasing entropy.

  19. I'm sorry that it is a giant waste of time for you to correct your
    fundamental misunderstanding of basic classical statistical physics, but what you've said still makes no sense, Landau is there waiting to correct you, until then enjoy your religious beliefs...

  20. And Al Sharpton isn't too happy that Eddie Redmayne is a white guy. Which is why he has declared an emergency meeting of his Diversity Panel since all of this year’s Best Actor/Actress and Best Supporting Actor/Actress nominees are white. He added, "the movie industry is like the Rocky Mountains, the higher you get, the whiter it gets."

    Must I remind the race-baiting Reverend that blacks only make up 15% of the US population. Statistically there is no news here. We have spoiled blacks into assuming if they make a movie, apply for a job/school they should get it, no matter what. If you want to REALLY be equal, get used to life. It's full of competition!

  21. Should the actor starring as Hawking be black because he discovered a radiation of the black holes?

  22. It is not just about physics or science. Most of the people on the earth can't say what he/she believes.

  23. IMHO, The multiverse is only testable by an extended experiment already
    doen by Benjamin Libet!
    Benjamin Libet measured the so called electric
    Readiness Potential (RP) time to perform a volitional act, in the brains of his
    students and the time of conscious awareness (TCA) of that act, which appeared
    to come 500 m.sec
    behind the RP. The “volitional act” was in principle based on the free choice
    to press an electric bell button. The results of this experiment gives still an
    ongoing debate in the broad layers of the scientific community, because the
    results are still (also in recent experiments) in firm contrast with the
    expected idea of Free Will and causality. However in this essay I propose the
    absurd but constructive possibility that we are not alone for decision making
    in a multiverse as an individual person, but we seem to be entangled resulting in
    the possibility to initiate but also Veto an act which is even a base for
    Considering, Revolve, Meditate, or Ponder. Even Max Tegmark suggested already
    about the multiverse: “Is there a copy of you reading this article?” We could
    be instant entangled with at least one instant entangled anti-copy person
    living inside a Charge and Parity symmetric copy Universe. In that case we
    could construct a causal explanation for Libet’s strange results. New
    statistical difference research on RPI and RPII of repeated Libet experiments
    described here could support these ideas. Wikipedia says: “Democracy is a form
    of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally”. Free will in
    a multiverse seems to be based on: all entangled copy persons living in all CP symmetric
    copy universes, have the same possibility to Veto an act and participate equally.


  24. How such a stringy multiverse cyclic big bang could work.
    The cyclic big bang inflation epoch starts if the decreasing
    (Casimir-Higgs field) vacuum pressure onto the Big Crunch nucleus equals the
    increasing Higgs particle elasticity inside the Big Crunch black hole nucleus.
    The Big Bang nucleus is supposed to contain all particles of the former multiverse and is
    called Big Crunch nucleus.
    The Inflation epoch is mainly the evaporation and splitting
    of the BB nucleus into evaporated
    oscillating Casimir-Higgs vacuum and splitting black holes. ( see also images )

  25. Lumo, I would just like to add that the H-theorem is incorrect. See here:

  26. Pavel, the problem with this idea (or, should I say, one of the problems -- Luboš, Adrian Kent and others have pointed out several other objections to this program) is the following. Say you have a wavefunction for the whole universe and have it evolve unitarily according to the Schrödinger equation. Say for simplicity that it started out in a pure state. Then unitary evolution guarantees it'll stay forever in a pure state. In other words, there is no decoherence and no solution to the measurement "problem". There is no basis in which to decompose the wavefunction into "worlds".

    This means that if it ever made sense to talk of "many worlds" in the way you suggest such a description would be necessarily specific to a single observer with only limited access to the Hilbert space, and other observers would in general disagree -- in other words, you're back to something that's fundamentally equivalent to the Copenhagen interpretation.

    This is not surprising, because the Copenhagen interpretation is correct. Any equivalent description has to be *equivalent* and not predict things that aren't really there.tion has to be *equivalent* and not predict things that aren't really there.

  27. Please, Leandro, give me a break with these silly counter-arguments.

    Particular versions of the H-theorem may make some idealized assumptions to simplify the calculation or make it more explicit.

    But the essence of the proof is always there. And it is there in the *unassailable*, most general proof of increasing entropy that I always like to present.

    One considers the transition from ensemble of microstates A to ensemble B, and the T-reversed (or CPT-dual) evolution from B* to A*.

    Because the transition probability involves summing over the final state and averaging over the initial states, there is a 1/N = exp(S_B - S_A) multiplicative difference in the two probabilities, and this difference guarantees that only one (or at most one) of these two transitions, one from lower entropy to higher one, may have a nonzero probability.

  28. Luboš, I agree with your qualitative description of the physics. Perhaps my original comment was overly terse: I have absolutely no doubt that anyone claiming that the second law is incompatible with time reversal dynamics is simply confused :)

    My only contention is that what you typically find in books under the name "H-theorem", with its questionable and unnecessary dynamical assumptions is a less than ideal mathematical realization of this simple fact, with known counterexamples.

    I think that Gibbs' formulation of the theorem is superior to Boltzmann's in the sense that it better encapsulates the epistemological content of the second law, without leaving any room for Loschmidt's paradoxes and other related nonsense obtained from nitpicking the dynamical assumptions. Would you agree?

  29. Thanks, Leandro. Yes, maybe Gibbs' is deeper - but Boltzmann's may be better as a path towards more explicit calculations of how much the entropy is actually increasing in various situations.