Sunday, March 01, 2015

Physicist Boris Nemtsov assassinated near the Kremlin

Boris Jefimovič Němcov (don't you prefer this Czech spelling?) was born in 1959. In 1985, he got a PhD from the Gorky State University (he later became a "candidate" of physico-mathematical sciences) and for five years, he worked as a research fellow in the Gorky Radio Physics Research Institute.

He has actually authored over 60 publications (in Russian journals) in quantum physics, thermodynamics, and acoustics, including some papers about the "acoustics laser" that he invented, along with new designs for space-based antennas.

After the 1986 Chernobyl blast, he became an anti-nuclear activist of a sort. In 1989, he ran for a political office for the first time. His biggest election victory came in 1990. A year later, he met Boris Yeltsin who fell in love with Nemtsov. Throughout the 1990s, Nemtsov has held some important positions, including a governor of a region and a deputy prime minister. At one moment, Margaret Thatcher has praised him explicitly.

He was a guy associated with the Yeltsin's 1990s. In the new millennium, when Putin's star began to skyrocket, he lost virtually all political influence.

Nemtsov was murdered yesterday at 21:31 by four shots, near the Kremlin. Putin has named himself the investigator-in-chief of the terrible crime.

Because Nemtsov became a staunch critic of Putin's as soon as Putin became visible, it is not surprising that Putin or "his allies" are naturally being blamed as possible culprits. Equally understandably, it is being suggested that the assassination was a false flag operation meant to create a "martyr" (or a new propaganda meme to attack Putin).

However, other possibilities are also being thought about, including an execution by the Islamic State. I am not aware of some strong positions he took when it comes to the Islam. Nemtsov once served as a mediator in negotiations with the Chechen leaders.

I changed the previous paragraph to bold face on Sunday March 8th because 5 Caucasian people including a Chechen cop (who apparently confessed) were arrested on that day.

The Russian authorities are also investigating the possibility that the murder was due to jealousy or something romantic – because of Nemtsov's 23-year-old model girlfriend, Anna Duritskaya, who is Ukrainian and who met him minutes before the murder. Duritskaya herself is a suspect and her recent abortion that she underwent in Switzerland doesn't help to clean her name, either. Moreover, she was far from being the only woman in Nemtsov's life.

I have no idea how to support one of these obvious conjectures – or some less obvious ones. I don't even know how to "nearly eliminate" either of them. It seems totally conceivable that the Kremlin could have had a motive (Poroshenko immediately claimed that Nemtsov was planning to reveal some evidence of Russian government's involvement in Ukraine: I have no idea whether this claim is supported by anything at all) – but so could someone very different.

The idea that "Putin did it" generally sounds very strange to me because this event is clearly hurting Putin. It is hard to see the benefits that would exceed the costs. Also, I think that the tendency to see Putin behind any bad event in Russia (and beyond) sounds as naive as to blame Obama personally for any murder or another tragedy in the U.S. Both countries are much larger than that; things usually don't work in this way.

Condolences to his 4 kids and everyone who knew him or liked him. RIP Dr Nemtsov.

Off-topic, a kids' Pilsner patriotic music video from Fall 2013 that I only saw today

0:00 All the towns of Bohemia
0:05 are sort of pretty.
0:08 Even the adjacent land of Moravia
0:10 is a nutrient for the eyes... and pleasure.

0:13 They say that Brno is a golden ship
0:15 Walk and meet the girls there
0:17 Why we would need, in the flatland,
0:19 to go with a shalina (streetcar)?

0:23 And I will tell you without restraints
0:26 Pilsen is pretty from all sides.
0:29 And I will tell you without hesitation
0:32 it's a pleasure to look at Pilsen
0:34 yup, it's a pleasure to look at Pilsen.

0:40 Czech Budějice [a town in South Bohemia]
0:43 are very pretty, but...
0:45 But from the beginning of time forever
0:47 they only have two rivers there...
0:49 ...and yucky beer...

0:51 Prague gives you everything
0:53 the mom of cities of a hundred spires.
0:55 But let everyone hear it:
0:58 Pilsen's tower is the highest of all.

1:01 And I will tell you without restraints...

1:19 Also Pardubice
1:21 is a very pretty town but...
1:23 But too few rivers and the flatland
1:25 they try to compensate them with Semtex
1:28 ...and gingerbread...

1:30 Oh, those springs in Carlsbad
1:32 Beautiful women everywhere
1:34 However, the Czech language is under pressure.
1:36 There they speak... Russian

1:40 Basha, Masha, Sobaka [dog in Russian]
1:44 aren't attracted to the colonnade.

1:52 And I will tell you without restraints...

2:08 And who will say that the it [the glance] isn't [pretty]
2:12 will be placed in prison.
2:15 The Bory prison [the most famous prison in Czechia]
2:17 To growl. [Idiom for sitting in the prison]
2:18 Broom, broom [Bears' equivalent of "woof"]


  1. Sad indeed. An anecdote: Nemtsov was the descendant of the guy who order the killing of the Tsar family in 1918, Sverdlov.

  2. I think the most likely hypothesis is Putin. Nemtsov himself recently said he feared an attack explicitly from him. I guess he would know about himself and its dangers, better than us or that all journalists,etc. His mother also feared.

  3. That's terrible! Sverdlov had no emotions, a bloody killer.

    Pilsen's hometown is Sverdlovsk, now Yekaterinburg again, named after him - so I spent 2 weeks there in 1988 LOL.

  4. The problem is Nemtsov is the sort of opposition politicicians that are always "feared" of attack or persecution for decades with few real actions done against them. I remember him talking how some questions are not allowed to be discussed... on the talk-show in the prime-time on one of the central TV channels devoted fully to the discussion of these questions. It is one of regretful degeneration proccesses of the Russian opposition that cost them a lot of support (and what's the most horrible part, they seem to be ok with that)

    Now I don't claim that there was no real threat to his life from Putin and that his fear wasn't real. But this is an example when you can't really separate it from the political tactics.

  5. Nemtsov was scheduled to lead an opposition ( i.e. anti-Putin ) rally the following day. Why was he shot and by whom? If Putin wanted him gone, he'd be gone without a trace. This is way too noisy and Putin is far too deft and clever.

    The shooting may have been set up to look like Putin's work.

    Nemtsov might have known too much and was silenced. Maybe he was a loose cannon, maybe started wandering off the reservation.

    He was with his young Ukrainian girlfriend, yet she was not hurt. Did she unknowingly lead him that way to his car which was parked nearby?

    Could have been money gone wrong with the mob. Maybe he was taking more than his cut, or owed someone.

    Could have been one or two of the "Five-Eyed" spooks trying to inflame the Ukraine war even more, or maybe their Ukrainian mobster friends are behind it.

    Could have been many things, but Putin ain't one one of them.

  6. If Putin did this (and I don't know like the rest of the world), he chose perhaps the most sensational way to kill an a potential political opponent.

    This is an LA gangland style killing.

    Why not fake a car accident? Why not an accident while traveling (i.e. accidental drowning)? No one would know the real story. Russia's finest professional intelligence could easily pull this off.

    Instead, the narrative fits perfectly into the media's hands and Putin is portrayed as a street level gangster.

    It also fits perfectly into the hands of the anti-Kremlin minority.

    I'm not saying that Putin is not guilty.

    I'm saying that he would be very, very, very stupid to orchestrate such a killing, in such a sensational style, and at the perfect moment to inflate upcoming protests. Why play that hand?

  7. Other sites are reporting that Nemtsov was one of the oligarchs that looted Russia under Yeltsin, and that he has ties to criminal organizations.

    As to who killed him, the principle of cui bono suggests it was someone other than Putin. It might have been a CIA or MI6 falso flag operation or maybe his criminal associates.

  8. I wouldn't call him an oligarch, mainly because he wasn't the one who got the big piece of loot. Nemtsov surely had some scandals. Moreso I don't think there was any single politician in the position of power in the 90s Russia that had no ties to criminal organizations or didn't participated in looting. Everyone was obsessed with taking before someone took it already and even after that.

  9. For me this news were quite shocking. I never was particularly fond of Nemtsov (speaking lightly) but he was very prominent political figure, especially in my childhood and even after he was influential in the opposition movement. Hope that the investigation will go unaffected but bringing politics surely will do no good.

  10. Easy... Sverdlov was only bolchevik ;-)

  11. If Putin did this (and I don't know like the rest of the world), he chose perhaps the most sensational way to kill a potential political opponent.

    Polonium is expensive, hard to make, difficult to transport.

    Lead is cheap.

    They got that depression on in Russia.
    Got to make ends meet.

  12. The murder of Nemtsov, to me, is about two things. First, it's a transparent false flag. It's a pathetic attempt to create a martyr. Who benefits? Scare the Europeans and "blame Putin." Who would want that? I find the timing interesting. This will be played up in the upcoming rally in March. Second, it's smacks of desperation. Someone is in a panic. Things aren't going according to plan for the Fourth Reich. Frankly, though, I couldn't be happier. I expect more false flags shortly. Perhaps they will go for broke and pull one in the "Homeland." Justify DHS and "blame Putin." They are liable to try anything. And I mean anything.

  13. I'm smelling a whole lot of "they" coming from your comment.

    Who is "they"?

  14. Putin is too smart and subtle a geostrategist to commit such a blunder.

    This is what happens when the CIA decides you are worth more dead to them than alive.

    Obviously Putin is the real target here.

  15. Again, grasping at straws - or, should I say, conspiracy theories - in order to whitewash Putin, Lubos. Similar to the conspiracy theories meant to excuse Politkovskaya, Magnitsky & Nemtsov's executions.

    Because - how did you put it - Russia has a positive influence in the world.
    A sample of Russia's not so benefic influence in the world:

    As for the benefits to Putin - he eliminated an opponent, and sent a clear message about what will happen to anyone else who opposes him - killed on the street, near the Kremlin.

  16. I understand that Pell's equation was thus misnamed by Euler, who was not aware of its long history before Pell.

    It is actually one of the examples of mathematics having existed in other cultures. It was studied by Brahmagupta in the 7th century and Bhaskara found the general solution in the 12th century. Brahmagupta even said that “a person solving this problem within a year is a mathematician," referring to the x^2-92*y^2=1 equation.

  17. You seem to like conspiracy theories involving the CIA, but it would be a most unlikely move for the CIA, since the benefits to the US are anything but clear, while the price of potential failure enormous. Making Putin look bad is hardly a major prize for such a risky venture.

    The most likely possibilities are: some sort of Russian nationalist organization not connected to Putin; secret service connected to Putin, but acting without his knowledge; secret service connected to Putin and acting with his knowledge.

    CIA? Not a chance, except for those who believe that the CIA brought down the twin towers in 2001. Are you one of those believers? And while we are at it, do you believe that NASA really landed on the Moon?

  18. Putin is indeed too smart, but that doesn't mean that everyone around him in the Russian authorities and/or services is so smart. I don't know how possible is some secret service in Russia to act on it's own but it cannot be excluded.

  19. kashyap vasavadaMar 1, 2015, 8:01:00 PM

    Thanks Swine flu! You know quite a bit about contributions of ancient Indian mathematicians .It took a long time for west to realize that zero and the decimal system originated in India; they were not discovered by Arabs. Arabs brought this knowledge to west, so it became Arabic system! There is some indication that Indians knew quadratic equation, summation of series ,value of pi and Pythagoras theorem. Also they were quite good in astronomy. They believed that the earth and planets went around the sun, rather than the other way.No Indian ever believed that universe was 6000 years old!! Talk about multiverse was routine!

  20. Olga Romanova, a prominent opposition activist and a close friend of Nemtsov, said, “There are more cameras in that spot than there are grains in a packet of grain.” When I called her last night, she had just come from the scene of the crime, where her friend still lay on the ground, surrounded by laughing policemen. “It’s the first time I’ve seen a very close person murdered, lying on the pavement,” she said. “It’s terrifying.”…

  21. "More cameras in that spot than there are grains in a packet of grain"

    Sounds like a conspiracy to me.

    It would pretty much have to include Putin.

    It's not surprising at all, I mean human rights watches all list Russia as the most dangerous country to be a journalist in.

    Russia with their strick gun control.

    Looking at this list;

    the thing that jumps out at me isn't the assassinations by gun, but the amount of admitted murders committed by Police, government officials, agents of the state.

  22. Obama is more worried about his golf score than the politics of the Russia/Ukraine conflict.
    Now if Boris Nemtsov had swiped Barry's putter, sure. I could see him contemplating (just thinking about it -not the same as doing it) a revenge type of thing.
    But that would be a far as it goes. The CIA doesn't do contract killings for the POTUS.
    It would be too risky for him politically to have them do so.

  23. I have seen a claim that the series

    tan^(−1) x = x − x^33/3 + x^5/5 - x^7/7 + · · ·

    was discovered by Madhava in the 15th century, and that his Kerala school also knew the series for sin(x) and cos(x) before 1540 if not before 1500.

    On the other hand, according to Wikipedia, "In the Liber Abaci (1202), Fibonacci introduced the so-called modus Indorum (method of the Indians), today known as Arabic numerals," so you are mistaken that the Europeans had been unaware of the origin of this invention.

  24. "Obviously Putin is the real target here".

    There's nothing obvious about it unfortunately. Anna Politkovskaïa shot dead in October 2006, Litvinenko poisoned in November 2006, Natalia Estemirova murdered in July 2009, Stanilas Markerov and Anastassia Babourova killed in January 2009, Boris Berezoski found dead in March 2013 (possible suicide), his friend Serguei Iouchenkov shot dead in April 2013, and now Nemtsov murdered yesterday. However you put it, being an opponent of Putin is not good for your life expectancy.

  25. kashyap vasavadaMar 1, 2015, 8:57:00 PM

    OK! I stand corrected!

  26. √2 is obviously rational because it can be asymptotically approximated so. Fermat's last theorem has an exception,
    (3,472,073)^7 + (4,627,011)^7 = (4,710,868)^7. (pi)^4 + (pi)^5 = e^6; (1/4)(n^5 - 133n^4 + 6729n^3 - 158379n^2 + 1720294n - 6823316) generates prime numbers; e^[pi(sqrt163)] = (640,320)^3 + 744...

    ...and SUSY is true, it merely lacks discovery of its last parameter. "8^>)

  27. You have got to be joking. What opponent? With Putin's ratings at 86% he has no opponent (unless something like this happens which may lower Putin's approval ratings). Nemtsov's support was at about 0.5% -- he was a failed politician from the worst period in Russia's recent history. To kill this useless guy just before the opposition march???

    With Politkovskaya, it's the same story -- those people do much more damage to Putin dead rather than alive. Note that she was killed on Putin's birthday.

    You're basically assuming that Putin is a sadistic moron -- "kill kill kill even if hurts me".
    And this could not be further from the truth.

  28. You would have never heard of those names (apart from Berezovski) if they had not been murdered and Putin's perception in the West would have been much more positive.
    Just an example - to kill somebody with Polonium (which allows you to track all the relevant persons and routes) is just utter stupidity. Especially since its use immediately points to Russia. Just who exactly benefits from that?

    Putin has upset a lot of oligarchs by cracking down on corruption, hence plenty of enemies (and they are not exactly friends among themselves either). On the other hand, people like Politkovskaya being a genuine character criticised authorities as well as corrupt businessmen, Chechen generals, etc. That made her a target.

  29. It would be a strange pattern, however, to be killing Putin's opponents just to make him look bad. And it does seem to be a pattern of sorts.

  30. What's strange about it? It works!

  31. You claim near certainly where you only have a hypothesis. I take a more cautious view of all the pro and con arguments.

  32. It has certainly worked in the past. And it seems to be working now.

  33. The belief that Putin couldn't be responsible for this assassination because he's "far too deft and clever" only reveals the believer has a very flawed understanding of human nature. It isn't mathematics.

    "It was worse than a crime; it was a mistake." This famous saying refers to the execution of the duc d'Enghien on trumped up charges. A very grave political mistake by someone once considered "far too deft and clever" to make the mistakes that mere mortals make; Napoleon Bonaparte.

  34. Random, politically incorrect sexist thoughts:

    1) Damn (looking at pictures of Anna Duritskaya), do all 23 year old sweet looking Ukrainian girls have a daddy complex? If so, it may deserve a dangerous trip to a war zone.

    2) I am trying to imagine an American opposition politician, say an Independent candidate, who is 56 years old and is dating 23 years old smoking hot model. Not possible here. His chances would be 0 due to sexual PC.

  35. What are the "certain" examples? I mean the ones were it is known who the perpetrator was.

  36. He knew how to live:

  37. Our pragmatic 'friend' Putin working his magic once again!
    I suppose anti-Putin politicians have too much fear and/or decency and/or too much of a deluded dedication to democracy, to pay him back in kind.

  38. Again, learning at straws - or, should I say, fringe movement concepts - to be able to whitewash Putin, Lubos. Just like the fringe movement concepts intended to reason Politkovskaya, Magnitsky & Nemtsov's accomplishments.

    Fourneau Bruleur de Graisse

  39. Th one thing they don't have is guns.

    Hard to shoot back without them.

    I looked it up and Russian civilians can’t own handguns or rifles. They’re restricted to using smooth bore musket style long guns with a barrel length not less than 20 inches, and overall length not less than 32 inches.

    It’s laughable the way they describe these as “personal defense” weapons.

    I guess for shooting snakes bears and such.

  40. Fer137, I have trouble to see how a victim could be the most informed person when it comes to the looming murder. Did Putin send a letter saying "Dear Boris, it's a pleasure to inform you that I will kill you by the end of February"?

    The acronym for the Soviet Union is USSR, not URSS.

  41. Ha ha - awesome.. :D

    You're not familiar with the fact that a convergent Cauchy sequence doesn't have to attain a limit in the original space then? So all of standard mathematical reasoning about Analytic and Algebraic closures is simply wrong then I guess.

    I should have guessed you were a Rational Numbers/Cantor Crank (TM) as well, (my favourite kind ;-) )

    I don't mean any offense, but I'm sure you're aware that your scientific opinions are a little left of field...

  42. With approval ratings through the roof the death of his political opponents doesn't hurt Putin at all, at least not in Russia.

    I am not saying he personally ordered the killings, I find that unlikely as well. But the idea that this is a campaign against Putin (possibly even by outside forces) is way more ridiculous. That "strategy" does obviously fail spectacularly.

  43. Dear Uncle Al, in that case, you must also be rational because many rational people are reading your comment and try to observe the difference between your knowledge and that of a dog.

  44. The absence of the CIA, MI6, or the Kiev junta on the list of potential whodunits makes this list meaningless. Didn't Obama announce he sought "regime change in Russia?" The assassination is merely part of his action plan.

  45. I don't get one thing. The West considers Putin to be a sophisticated KGB spy by heart. He used Polonium to kill that guy in London etc. And now, he ordered a kill such like this one. What a chess player, this Putin.

    Kinda makes you suspicious, doesn't it?

  46. Forgive me of my ignorance regarding recent Russian History. They had a President Yeltsen, then all hell broke loose, and (dramatic pause) Putin.

    The other day I was skimming political assassinations of Russian reporters, and saw some sort an incident of street violence, terrorist event, period of unrest, alluded to, that Mr. Putin rode into power on.

    What were the events encapsulated within the dramatic pause above, and how did they help Putin?

  47. That's a weird word "oligarch". Are business man, boss, ceo, such foreign terms to former communists that they have to invent language to avoid injury to the ear?

    Oligarch - it sounds like the speaker wants to smear the subject with a wiff of royalty.
    Sometimes Democrats (all the time with Progressives) will use this type of language, particularly when they are intent on stealing money, goods, or the means of production, from an honest businessman through targeted malcious legislation.

    Do you think this is why some other sites do that, in order to justify Putin's murderers?

  48. Making money through trade isn't scandalous or criminal. In fact it is the only honest non scandalous way to do it. Every other way is theft and coersion at the pointy end of a stick, be it government stick or street hood.
    Swear to God. it's like talking with people from the middle ages.

  49. Obama has done and said a lot of things. He drones on and on. Monotonous, hypnotizing, like a muslim chant at times.

    But one thing he hasn't done is call for, allude to, suggest, or threaten, regime change in Russia.
    That would be a headline if he did.

    Show me a video of Barry saying that, not a link to Russian sources saying they believe Obama wants to do this - who devined his intent from tea leaves and goat entrails - but an honest to God straight from the HNIC video or quote.

  50. What strikes me about this murder is that it seems almost insane for Nemtsov to not have had security. No wealthy and political figure of his ilk can ever wander the streets of any major city without protection from the threats their position always exposes them to, from crazed fans to political or business adversaries. A midnight stroll with his arm-candy in Moscow may be romantic, but there should have been a carload of muscle following at a discrete distance.

    His arm-candy, as you say, is also a "smoking hot model," which makes me think that she may have been on assignment, as a delicious honeypot.

  51. I am just vaguely aware of this unrifled rifle.
    We don't even have a word for it in America. That's how weird it is to my ear.
    Smooth bore long gun?
    What does it look like?

    Could you link me to an example?

  52. Slut shaming from the girl who once called Marcus Bachmann a fag.

    I can barely believe what I am seeing.

  53. The Boy King may have never called for regime change in Russia, but he has certainly acted upon that notion. As they say, actions always speak louder than words.

    Watch, Porky will be the next one 'Putin' kills.

    If this doesn't whip up passions at home sufficiently, that is, I wouldn't put it past them to kill someone like Hunter Biden, in their bloodthirsty desperation for 'effective' propaganda, with the goal to effect regime change in Russia.

    From what I can tell by the timing alone, the CIA must employ some media/polling algorithm before their false flags. "Was our last murder 'sehr gut' for Der Homeland opinion poll?"

    It's downright sickening.

  54. The polonium murder was designed so that the Brits, Americans, the whole world, would know who was the author of the hit, instead of the idle wondering (maybe because his girlfriend was super model; maybe walked in the wrong part of town; maybe Obama did it;...)

    There isn't a court convened by man that can touch Putin.

    Putin did it that way to show his followers that he has their back. The guy carrying the polonium, he ain't getting in trouble because everyone knows Putin did it.

  55. The Boy King may have never called for regime change in Russia,

    Thanks that's all I needed.

  56. Some advice from Charley Chan; "when there are too many fish in the flower shop, even the flowers smell like fish."

  57. Whatever the facts are in this case, it will provide a great plotline for a new Women's Murder Club mystery novel and maybe even a movie. God knows, that lousy "Shades of Grey" movie could use some competition.

  58. Hmmm, no chance the CIA was involved?...Look at Victoria Nuland's phone call with Geoff Pyatt during the Maidan coup. I doubt they did it, but I also doubt that Putin ordered it.

  59. Do you actually think that the CIA takes orders from Obama or even talks to him?

  60. Are you trying to be smartass? I'm saying you are not correct. According to Federal law of RF about weapons you can buy a rifle if you already in possession of smoothbore gun (most of the shotguns) for 5 years

  61. You should inform yourself more about what meant making business in the 90s Russia.

  62. Shotgun - of course.

    No as it turns out I'm being the opposite of smartass. Being a dumbass.

    Shotgun was the word I was looking for.

    I could snark and go "why didn't you say so"

    Dumbass - thats the word you're looking for.

  63. Save me the trip and just tell what you mean.

    I'm going by back in the day once upon a time before there were such a thing as Soviet Union, American businessmen were attacked in this way, called robber barons, Kings of industry and such, just prior to the shameful break up of their business to be transformed into public utilities to the detriment of all, customers and retail vender alike.

    Obama is still practicing this theft by government edict

    Bad thing then and now.

  64. Certainly, Cynthia. Nemtsov threatened someone’s fiefdom; that’s for sure, but the level of corruption in Russia, although declining, is still high enough for there to be numerous possibilities.

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  66. Everyday, well the CIA waits for him to call first.

  67. Lets see. Victoria Nuland says, 'Fuck the EU. They're worthless.'
    That's the common opinion downtown fella.
    Just proves she's got a pulse.

  68. You know who else is real popular with their people. Kim Joug Un - most popular man in North Korea - just ask him.
    Even the starved to death people love him.
    Other guys that were really popular in history.
    Saddam Hussein.
    Chairman Mao

    All those guys scored in the 80-90s of public opinion polls.

    Public opinion polls taken by the newspaper in a country with the worst record with regard to newspaper opinion takers being shot down, blown up or beaten to death.

    Whatever. I know if I were taking a poll on Putin's popularity in Russia , my thumb is going to be on the scale. Better believe it..

  69. You would think Putin would be more surreptitious in executing any murder. If he i responsible then he wishes to send a message to prevent others from trying to move against him.

  70. Vlad's promised to search every golf course in Russia for 'the real killer'. :-)


    Maybe he can pick up the Jihad John while he's at it.

  72. The Desperate Western Men Hunting For Wives In Ukraine

  73. In the Politkovskaya case, the perpetrators have been found and jailed (Gaitukaev et al.). In Litvinenko's case, nothing is clear. Regardless of who that was, Putin's reputation has been irreparably damaged. This one can say with pretty much absolute certainty.

  74. The 'discovery' of the place-value system—whether decimal or otherwise—and the digit zero are glaringly inherent in the abacus which long predates it. As for the number zero, its notion is inherent in that of the digit zero. The only surprising thing to me about all this is how long the acknowledged discovery took.

    My guess is that it had been long discovered many many times beforehand, all of them quite independently. It is such a trivial thing that all it would take is for a merchant to consider* a convenient way of recording his transactions or other business amounts. Moreover this facility would perhaps likely put him at some advantage over his competitors, at least in terms of efficient use of his time and perhaps in 'thinking on his feet' in competitive situations. But whether so or not, he would be unlikely to disclose it—except, say, to family members on oath of secrecy—in case others might improve on it and outclass him in some respect.

    I've never understood all the fuss made about it by some, and that includes opinionated, posey, and barely numerate teachers.

    * Plenty of time for such considerations during all those dark long nights under canvas out on The Silk Road with nothing better to do than shagging a few goats, say.

  75. Yeah, you just forgot to mention Putin=Hitler.

    I don't think I can counterweigh such a long sequence of "blah", but let me just say the following anyway.

    Putin was not popular when he came to power. People were very sceptical of him since they had lost trust in the authorities (thanks to Eltsin et al.) What turned people around is that he didn't promise too much, but achieved a lot. Life in Russia changed completely due to his policies. Hence his approval ratings went up.
    What kills his opposition is that he makes tangible positive changes. No other moves on his part are needed.

  76. I agree that his approval ratings in Russia are unlikely to change much (in the West they are likely to drop further). By the same token, he would not gain anything by killing Nemtsov. Back to square one.

    I find it more likely that either some radical group without an elaborate political agenda (apart from "Putin is a dick") is involved (e.g. there are enough nutheads in Ukraine these days) or this murder has to do with his private life or business.

    The point is whatever happened most people in the West immediately jump to conclusions that Putin did it. They need no explanations -- it's just a done deal. Knowing that, it's very easy to manipulate public opinion.

  77. As if, being at the peak of his popularity, he suddenly realised how fragile his position is :)
    In that (highly unlikely) event, I would have shut down "Echo Moskvy" and "Dozhd'" -- they do infinitely more damage than some failed politician from Eltsin's era.

  78. I apologise. Please add one more "blah" to my sentence above.

  79. NO. You're totally wrong.

    I mentioned Adolph right after Mao.

  80. Oh, so Putin killed Nemtsov since he feared that somehow Obama et al. had forgotten that Putin a ruthless tyrant. Right after he annexed Crimea. Yeah.

  81. Thanks for solving this murder case so quickly! You probably know something others don't.

  82. Mathematical abstractions can be surprisingly resistant to invention and adoption. Even something as obvious to us as negative numbers took a long time. Scholars would separately treat equations like
    5x^2+5x = 30 and
    5x^2 = 30 + 5x just to avoid having to write a negative term on either side. It's always possible that shopkeepers knew something the best mathematicians of the day didn't, but then there's no way to know. I have my doubts.

  83. Is it known what their motive was in killing her?

  84. Mumbler.

    Take a breath, then use the edit function to make a coherent thought.

  85. Let me make a guess and tell me if I am wrong. The west has been buying his oil, selling him technology and showing positive images on the media and such(also wheeling and dealing in the UN) for the past 10 years.

    Do you thing he got to be too strong for his own good. He sheltered Snowden, won't budge on Syria..etc. In another word he strayed from the barn and now its time to push him back in and lock the gate.

  86. You just cant get such informative entertainment anywhere else on the internet! Thank you both!

  87. Hi Kashyap! Nice to see you here!

    Here is my all-time favorite Hindu multiverse story. For those who haven't seen it, it's highly recommended!

    Best wishes,


  88. I was sarcastic Qsa. Somebody would have to pay me, and significant amount of cash at that, to want to deal with Ukrainian or Russian woman in her early twenties.

    Sex is not everything and she certainly wouldn't be content to knit while I read physics and mathematics PDFs on my Kindle.

  89. I was kidding of course. Funny, my wife is fanatical about knitting. I have spent endless hours getting my theory into shape. I will be presenting it in the ongoing FQXI contest, which the likes Lee Smolin, Woit and Tommaso have already submitted their essay, I am sure I will beat them.
    However, I do question my sanity once a while though!

  90. "Mathematical abstractions can be surprisingly resistant to invention and adoption."

    I'm happy to go along with that as a general statement — indeed I recall often saying that the obvious is often only obvious if one happens to be looking at the thing in the right way. And I mean that! I can't think of an example offhand but on more than one occasion I've had the dumbarse/joke experience of knowing something to be obvious and then having to stop and make the effort to think as to why it's obvious. Doh! :)

    But for me the decimal system is an exception as there is so much pointing straight at it. Thinking of my own experience with it, it's very clear to me that even as an infant it just struck me as obvious right from the start. I don't even remember learning it — it was just there and seemed as if it had always been that way. So I know that one hardly needs any depth to his thinking to appreciate it. Combine that with—and this really is important in my view—any kind of even very basic experience of how an abacus works (which I know I had since, as like all infants, I had a toy abacus) and all it takes then is the idea, or better, the perceived need to be able, to put it in some kind of symbolic form so that one can write it down, and bingo — there it is!

    I just find it unbelievable that such an idea would not have occurred to vast numbers of people.

    Look, I don't KNOW that, but I DO need a very good reason to think otherwise. And the thing is I've never seen one. Yet I'm still happy to entertain a contrary view on this and be persuaded otherwise, if anyone can do it. With respect though, as I say, I do regard this as an exception to your general rule for the reasons I've given above — especially the potential need of merchants and the like, a bunch prone to strong selection for smarts, although few are needed in this case, and certainly no general mathematical ability is required.

    Incidentally, the negative numbers thing you mentioned is a nice one. It's quite shocking how long that took! :) But the bare fact of it, I would say, indicates that practical need played a very important part in the genesis of these things. Combine that with the fact very few in historical times could sit around on their arses all day long on state benefits contemplating their navels ... and QED, I rest my case, m'lud! :)

    Here's a direct question for you: do you (or any others here who might care to answer) not find my case convincing? I'd be grateful for any response. I'd like to know what others think of it.

  91. Hi Luboš,

    shockingly and surprisingly, I think this is the first post ever that I can fully agree with. With so many articles, this was probably inevitable :-)



  92. Also, I haven't made any statement, in one way or another, which makes it easier to agree.

  93. Luboš,

    yes, not statements made, but sensible and balanced article anyway.

    Feel free to insult my "IQ" (or celebrate yours), I don't care and occasionally will read your analyses in the future.



  94. Very shortly. Already in late USSR the experiments with private sector were plagued with criminals gaining power and apparatchiks using their position to privatize illegally government's assets.
    First large scale, voucher privatization had several specifics that made it pointless for most of the population. Of course the most hurtful was the ignorance if the population but there were several real issues. The preferentials for workers of the asset allowed the directors (who were given their position earlier by the party) to use their power and manipulate the auctions to get the property for themselves. More accessable were trying to use voucher through investment funds but a lot of them turned into scams. Mafia also controlled large part of the speculations however some people were also able and lucky enough to get a fortune from the voucher trade.
    What I was talking about is that as result with corrupted and weak governmental ptotection practically every bussiness and politician happened to be somehaw related to criminal organization. So we had not a real free market but a market heavily regulated by protection racketeers and raiders. A lot of would-be successful bussinessmen were simply killed or lost their property.
    And after that most prominent oligarchs of the era gained large part of their fortune later thanks to their proximity to Boris Eltsyn in extra privatization proccess that was definitely designed for such a transition.

    So these were the issues that made the images of successful bussinessmen in post-Soviet Russia rather doubtful. The falling standards of life of general population didn't help. This was why Putin's propaganda was centered at stability and stripping oligarchs of wealth (though in actuality it differed a lot) Still 90s were a time of great opportunity but required a lot of luck.

  95. Dear Alexander, there is no need for others to insult you - you do a better job than anyone could if you keep on writing stuff.

    BTW do you still predict $140-$200 oil in the near future?

  96. kashyap vasavadaMar 3, 2015, 2:43:00 PM

    Don: Good to see you here! I think everyone will agree with this. This blog is the most unique blog for intellectuals. It is something you want to look at first thing in the morning!

  97. Luboš,

    as we know, in 2008 GFC crashed the global economy, and as a result price of oil crashed too (so 140-200 dollars was in fact too optimistic!). Now we have another oil price crash underway, somewhat bottoming out. I think oil price will stay quite low (or may go even lower, see oil inventories at a record levels) for a while and will rise after that (say in 6 months to 1 year).

    We all learn by writing and today I know more than I knew in 2008 (regarding finances and debt in general). I still stand with my concerns about peak oil, since the peak conventional oil is behind, fracking being just a short-term stop gap on the way down.



  98. Dear AA, you were writing about $500 oil when the downturn was already well underway

    You surely understand that no one with a brain cares about your predictions and what you "think" - everything you have "thought" in this life so far has been shown to be complete garbage and there's no reason to expect anything else in the future, except for coincidental agreements.

  99. This is the kind of exchange that keeps me coming back. It's like watching a favorite movie.

  100. Me too! It's hilarious.

  101. Luboš,

    you are misrepresenting what is written in the blog-post. But in a way you are right, I am hopeless, but not for reasons you think.


  102. Scooby, friends make the worse enemies.

  103. kashyap vasavadaMar 3, 2015, 4:48:00 PM

    Well. I doubt if decimal or place value system was obvious and it occurred to many civilizations independently. Hind sight is always 20/20! Just look at the Roman numerals! I do not know how people (Chinese?) used abacus before knowing about zero and decimal system.I just wanted to straighten out historical records on decimal system.Although as Swine Flu mentions that Fibonacci knew this in A.D.1202, even to this day people call them Arabic numerals, because west learnt about them through Arabs.Some years back I read a book on cosmology which credited Arab mathematicians for the zero and decimal system and did not mention at all that ancient Indians discovered it and they always maintained that universe was billions of years old.This was in spite of the fact that Carl Sagan had clearly mentioned it in his book on Cosmos.The author must have or should have read it. When I wrote to him about this, he said, someone else also had mentioned this to him, but he forgot about it while writing and editing the book!! BTW I am not saying that Arabs did not have good mathematicians. In fact the name *Algebra* comes from Arabic!

  104. Sarcasm, Luboš, except for the SUSY part (and quantum gravitation - sooo close). Don't calculate Fermat's last theorem disproof. Modulo the last digits, then add. Heegner numbers, Ramanujan's constant, etc.

    13^5 + 16^5 = 17^5 + 12
    13 + 16 = 17 + 12

    HP15C: exact by explicit multiplication, 12.009 by logs. Beware the method.

  105. We have the same disease in the States. Crony capitalism.

    It's what keeps the global warming movement alive.

  106. The total amount of recoverable hydrocarbons is still increasing and will continue to increase for many decades or even centuries. Recovery technology has not stopped advancing and there are vast quantities of hydrocarbons awaiting exploitation.

  107. That’s a curious statement. Are you OK?

  108. Don't worry about Alexander, Gene. It is not the first time he drops such a desperate message. It is his little secret weapon.

  109. During those days math was done in descriptive language and using geometric methods(nothing like today's equations), so I guess it was hard for them to conceive the zero.
    BTW, those scientists usually lived comfortable life paid for by the rulers. I don't think they had any problem with sex. In those days it was legal and recommended to shag your slave or maid-:)

  110. Kashyap, the culture of the middle east has multiple influences from India, China and Europe. As a matter of fact fasting and going around holy sites were originated in India.

    The Muslim scientist were very good scientist with minimum use of speculation and giving prompt acknowledgment,

    here is a quote from Omar Khayyam.

    Many of the Muslim scientists were from greater Persia, the word Arab came because Arabic language was the language of science in those days.

  111. I am hopless optimist. I think humanity has future. In my darker days I come here to realize, it has not...


  112. Obviously... :·p

  113. That's pretty depressing. I mean considering your reputation of being right.

  114. kashyap vasavadaMar 4, 2015, 1:43:00 AM

    Thanks QsaTheory for the link to Omar Khayyam's writing.I knew about him as a great philosopher and a great poet. But I did not realize he was a mathematician also! Any way, I just wrote Arabic as a generic name for muslims in middle east. I suppose, even in those days Persian (Farsi) and Arabic cultures were different.