Monday, December 31, 2018 ... //

2019: the International Year of the Periodic Table

In a few hours, the first TRF readers – probably starting with those in New Zealand – will make the transition from 2018 to 2019 = 3*673. The United Nations General Assembly didn't have a better idea. So it declared the new year to be the International Year of the Mendeleev Periodic Table.

It's surely a better pick than a year celebrating e.g. invaders and terrorists who are flooding and decomposing Western Europe. Here you have the Czech verses that helped me memorize the periodic table.

The year 2019 is a good choice for such a "chemical" year because on March 6th, 1869, i.e. exactly 150 years ago, Dmitri Mendeleev made the formal presentation to the Russian Chemical Society.

Saturday, December 29, 2018 ... //

Roy Glauber: 1925-2018

I was just told that my former colleague Roy Glauber passed away on the Boxing Day, at age of 93 which is a respectable number.

The Improbable Research remembers him as a janitor at the Ig Nobel Prize ceremonies (focusing on paper airplanes) but aside from that important work, he has done some other things in his life as well, e.g. having won the 2005 Non-Ig Nobel Prize. See also The Optical Society for some memories and data.

I remember Roy Glauber from a few dinners at Harvard – and from the celebration of his Nobel Prize. The Nobel Prize was stolen in 2010.

Thursday, December 27, 2018 ... //

Buy the dip: Trump rallies could win him the elections

For the stock markets, December 2018 seems like the worst month since the Great Depression. The Christmas Eve trading saw another big drop of the markets. However, the Boxing Day (Dec 26th) saw the greatest point gain of Dow Jones ever. Those 1086 were almost 5%, Nasdaq gained over 6%, but as a percentage, 5% is nowhere near the greatest percentage gains – almost 15% a day in 2008. A dozen of positive days above 9% have taken place.

The prices are very volatile because traders and investors got nervous. That partly explains the big jump, too. When things can go down dramatically and VIX (a fear index) is above 30 while it's often been below 10, they can sometimes return up and it may be equally dramatic. But why was really a 5% jump? Trump's people assured everyone that they're not firing Mnuchin and Powell (yet). On top of that, Trump said "buy the dip". I actually think that it made difference.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018 ... //

Karel Čapek: 1890-1938

The father of "robots" was a top ideologue of the free interwar Czechoslovakia

Most of you enjoy a relaxed and happy Christmas. But for some people, Christmas may be terrible - or fatal. Top Czech writer Dr Karel Čapek died on December 25th, 1938, exactly eighty years ago, due to pneumonia that he contracted while undoing the harm caused by a flood to his rural villa in Strž.

Čapek and Olga, 1932

To some extent, he was hiding there from the suddenly self-confident violent pro-fascist beasts who were flooding him (the #1 symbol of the old democratic system who was still alive and in the country) with hate mail, nasty phone calls, broken windows, diatribes in newspapers – which is why we may say that the fascists have chased him down as an animal. His brother, a comparably famous painter Josef Čapek, died of tyfus in a concentration camp, Belsen-Bergen, in April 1945 (pandemics killed tens of thousands of people there), days before the camp was liberated by the British and Canadian forces. Their work was semi-censored during communism as well and Karel Čapek's widow, actress Olga Scheinpflugová, was prevented from doing her job.

Saturday, December 22, 2018 ... //

Mundia and Modia

John has linked to a nice fresh Brian London's reading of the 2014 essay by David Boxenhorn, Mundia & Modia: The two worlds in which we live.

Czech Christmas Mass or "Hey Master", by the 18th century Czech rural teacher Jakub Jan Ryba [James John Fish]. Singing from 1966, animations based on pictures by the famous Josef Lada. The elaborate lyrics mostly describes the social reactions to the birth of the Savior – which apparently took place somewhere in the South Bohemian countryside, a healthy region full of milk etc. close to Austria whose dialect was used as the basis for standardized Czech. Those of you who only know "Good King Wenceslaus" should realize that this mass conveys something about the actual spirit of the country previously ruled by Duke Wenceslaus I – but later, in the 18th century.

Boxenhorn mostly invented new names for the world inhabited by the people who prefer the natural-science-based perspective on the world where the laws are fixed and the truth is independent of humans, Mundia, and the world whose behavior and beliefs are all about social dynamics, Modia. I don't know why these exact words were coined. And it takes some time to get used to them. But it might be a good idea to have such special words for the "worlds".

Friday, December 21, 2018 ... //

Why 'Why String Theory Is Wrong' is wrong

Note that "String Theory" is the only unique part of the title – and the unique known candidate for a unifying theory beyond QFT

Six weeks ago, I linked to a PBS video Why string theory is right. As expected, they also released the twin video,

Why string theory is wrong (PBS video at YouTube)
I have listened to those 19 minutes rather carefully and I am pretty sure that the video doesn't contain any glimpse of evidence or an answer to the question "why string theory is wrong". For this reason, I must agree with Niki that PBS has simply chosen a clickbait title.

Just to be sure, this blog post does include an answer to the question in my title: one such answer may be seen in the previous paragraph.

Thursday, December 20, 2018 ... //

Musk's tunnel vision

Elon Musk has just unveiled the Hyperloop, well with the air in the tunnels included. OK, differently, he has disrupted the public transportation in Los Angeles. Tons of media uncritically convey his hype.

Fine, in other words, he has previously bought a boring machine and learned how to turn it on. So why wouldn't he use it to create some hype? What the Californians got may be seen in this 7-minute CBS video. A car – it must be a Tesla – is dropped by an ugly vertical factory-like elevator for cars (30 seconds delay) to some thin tunnel where only one car fits, and is moved at 80 kilometers per hour through a thin tunnel, on an extra plate with wheel. The speed is high enough and the motion is bumpy enough for the passengers to feel unsafe and uncomfortable.

As discussed in wonderfully critical articles at Deadspin, Slate, and Jalopnik – see also Thunderf00t one month ago – the innovative ideas behind all of this are absolutely non-existent and if you compare Musk's vision to the existing solutions – such as roads, road tunnels, subways etc. – Musk's solution is strictly worse in virtually all respects.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018 ... //

U.S., Israel, Hungary, Poland, Czechia against migration compact

Two very related non-binding documents were approved in the New York U.N. headquarters. On Monday, "The Compact For Refugees" was approved. Czechia voted "for" despite the assurances by our authoritative prime minister Babiš just a day earlier that he had persuaded the government to change the position from "abstain" to "against"!

In this situation, even the most fanatical doughnuts (this is how Babiš's stupid voters i.e. almost all voters are generally called because their guru likes to distribute doughnuts among them) could see that there was something... untrustworthy about this guy. He is obviously double-faced. Some people have nicknamed him Princess Scoobike, after a 1984 Czech TV fairy-tale about a clever princess who was both dressed and naked, who was half-walking, half-driving, and so on. ;-)

In 2012, I wrote a simple text saying why the wave function has to be complex.

To preserve the sum of probabilities, one needs something oscillating with a constant absolute value, and $\exp(i\phi)$ is needed for that. That's why $i$ has to appear in Schrödinger's equation. By some Lagrangian-Hamiltonian translation, the same $i$ also appears in Feynman's path integral through $\exp(iS/\hbar)$. And by the Heisenberg-Schrödinger equivalence, the same $i$ also appears in the Heisenberg equations of motion defining the Heisenberg picture. And the commutator $xp-px$ has to be equal to something like $i\hbar$. Here the imaginary unit appears because the commutator of two Hermitian operators is anti-Hermitian i.e. $i$ times a Hermitian operator.

Scott Aaronson wrote a text on a similar problem,

Why are amplitudes complex?
where he presents some different arguments revolving around qubits – because he is a computer science guy. A big part of his text is a demonstration that quaternionic quantum mechanics is a burning excrement. It turns out that lots of readers don't want to hear anything of the sort.

Monday, December 17, 2018 ... //

When terms, phrases, slogans don't repay the time needed to learn them

Most of the interpreters of quantum mechanics aren't natural scientists; they belong to humanities. This proposition holds because they don't search for theories that work and for the ideally quantitative evidence to strengthen such theories. Instead, they prefer qualitative assertions, the nurturing of words, and the reviews of other people who have said such words in the history.

Physicsnut has found a nice example of this talkative approach, a 504-page review of the quantum by Christopher Fuchs, a Quantum Bayesian guy, written in 2001. You may see that it is a historical book that pretends to be a scientific paper. The physics isn't at the center. Instead, "he said she said" plays the key role.

While Fuchs and other QBism guys may say some correct things about the meaning of quantum wave functions, they still push the thinking about the field in a wrong direction.

Belgian PM: let's expel non-Islamic Visegrád from Schengen

I do believe that in recent months, the pro-globalist insanity has slightly calmed down in Europe. The scheduled replacement of Angela Merkel with a less welcoming female successor Frau AKK (I assume you will never memorize the name Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer) has helped this trend, too. Like a more proper conservative CDU politician, AKK wants tighter migration rules and opposes unrestricted abortions as well as same-sex marriage. It seems to me that AKK's Germany could easily become compatible with the Czech mainstream again.

However, the loons still exist. And the most spectacular statement about migration and the EU came from a country that punches above its weight... Belgium.

The Belgian prime minister Charles Michel has said something remarkable: nations, especially the V4 group (Hungary, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia) that don't want to embrace thousands of Muslim migrants, should be expelled from the Schengen area.

Friday, December 14, 2018 ... //

The word salad interpretation of quantum mechanics

Michael Nielsen, an achieved quantum information researcher, just wrote a fun essay

What does the quantum state mean? (CognitiveMedium.com)
I largely agree with his view although he is way more "agnostic" about the meaning of the quantum state than I am.

The essay starts with a quote by Feynman saying that he still felt nervous about the lack of intuition why quantum mechanics was consistent – but suspected that 2 generations later, people would already feel comfortable with quantum mechanics, finding its consistency self-evident. It has surely worked for me.

Thursday, December 13, 2018 ... //

EU lawmakers tough on Czech PM's clash of interests

On December 1st, I discussed a leaked report written by the official EU legal service that has figured out that indeed, the Czech PM has a conflict of interests.

The EU rules about the conflict of interests were rather clearly stated but became much more stringent in August 2018. Whether or not I like the EU policies, I think that every civilized institution like that simply has to have some rules that prevent this behavior. The conflict of interests is ludicrously obvious for Babiš: he is currently the most powerful politician in Czechia, the second wealthiest citizen, and his company Agrofert is the greatest recipient of EU subsidies in the country.

Those subsidies have doubled from some $40 million annually when he entered politics 5 years ago to$80 million. Most of this doubling is almost certainly due to his corrupt interference with the money flows. His wealth has also doubled in that 5-year period.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018 ... //

Fun with entangled near-extremal black holes

Moyses has pointed out that I haven't discussed the July 2018 paper by Maldacena-Milekhin-Popov (Princeton) about a new wormhole solution. The wormhole is traversable. The metastability depends on

• the presence of some charge and the electromagnetic fields
• rotation of the two throats around each other (like in Earth-Sun or the LIGO black hole pairs before mergers)
• the presence of massless Weyl fermions whose motion is described by Landau levels
You can see that there are some "unusual" building blocks that may justify why this kind of a solution hasn't been found before – or why people could have claimed to have proven that some classes of traversable wormholes were impossible.

The object isn't quite stable because the orbital motion emits gravitational and electromagnetic waves, the distance between the throats is decreasing, and the two sides eventually collide and merge.

Monday, December 10, 2018 ... //

Climate hysteria not welcome: USA, KSA, RF, Kuwait

The acceleration of the climate hysteria peaked in 2005-2007 – remember Katrina and all the Nobel prizes for Al Gore and similar disgusting events – and the speed of the building climate hysteria has probably peaked around 2009 during the ClimateGate. But all this new age religion kept on solidifying afterwards – although more silently.

Finally, we have some indications that the climate bubble could start to burst. Last night, the media informed us about a nice beginning of a climate conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland (coverage; Katowice is 45 miles from Ostrava, Czechia – a vital black coal region is in between the two cities). Representatives of the countries were ordered to invent the optimal celebration of a recent IPCC report, the starkest one in many years. That report roughly said:

People can't be satisfied if 2 °C is avoided. 1.5 °C of warming (from an incorrectly, arbitrarily, and vaguely defined pre-industrial era) has to be avoided. With this goal in mind, countries have to completely change how they work, the economies have to be fudged up, and climate liars have to be promoted from millionaires to billionaires. We demand these recommendations to be welcome by the representatives of countries and by the ministers who attend the event in Katowice.
Among other things. Delegates from the countries did something surprising – for the fearmongers. They refused to accept the word "welcome". After 2.5 of disagreements, the word "noted" was used. The latest report was only noted, not welcome. Russia, America, Saudis, and Kuwait teamed up to make this improvement.

Sunday, December 09, 2018 ... //

Interviews with Susskind and Veneziano

Two recent interviews with founders of string theory are out there. A recent CERN Courier published Matthew Chalmers' interview with the founder number zero, Gabriele Veneziano:

The roots and fruits of string theory
Veneziano was a really young boy in 1968, as a photograph demonstrates, and he – and others – were systematically studying the strong force and its apparent and hypothesized properties such as the DHS (world sheet) duality. Veneziano happened to be the guy who wrote down an amplitude, the Euler Beta function, that obeyed this cool property of the S-matrix, the DHS duality.

In Veneziano's presentation, it was all very systematic. The strong force was seen, its precise theory wasn't known, but some properties seemed experimentally known as well and researchers employed some reverse engineering. From that proper historical perspective, it isn't even true that string theory was discovered by an accident. They systematically looked at many properties of the strong force and the existence of the string-like fluxtubes is simply a fact. That's why they investigated a possible string-like description of the nuclear effects, amplitudes with lots of resonances, and why they had to try the amplitudes and Lagrangians describing the string itself.

Friday, December 07, 2018 ... //

A "failed" BSV surpassed the "winner" BCH

I no longer find it too likely that Craig Wright is Satoshi Nakomoto – Nick Szabo could be the right man (which would be somewhat similar, anyway) – but Craig Wright has surely become the most impressive "unexpected late winner" in the cryptocurrency capitalization wars.

If you look at the coinmarketcap.com now, you will see that the total value of the world's cryptocoins is some $108 billion, about 1/8 of the peak value in January 2018. The regular Bitcoin, BTC near$3333, keeps below \$60 billion out of the sum. It is followed by the Ripple and the Ethereum. Ripple did better during the recent stage of the bursting cryptobubble than Ethereum because the former is seen as slightly institutionally backed which was an advantage while the latter is not.

Thursday, December 06, 2018 ... //

It's spin to call 1850-1900 "pre-industrial era"

The climate hysteria has faded away but some people keep on doing their propaganda work as if it were 2007. Tomorrow, I have an introductory talk about physics of the climate change in front of some selected audience, including a young presidential candidate from 2018.

At the beginning of the talk, I mention some elementary-school science such as the days and nights and seasons. Everyone understands why we have days and nights and why the weather changes during the year as well, doesn't she? Well, when I opened a news app in the morning, I could see that the media-savvy geologist Mr Cílek claims that the traditional seasons will disappear.

Holy cow. So I looked inside the article, to check what he actually wanted to say. He can't be this insane. He claims that springs and autumns will shorten and mostly disappear. I think that even this claim is mostly a pseudoscientific superstition. Any "global warming" affects all the seasons almost equally and the differences don't change much. But the worse news is that most of the actual readers who interact with this article will really start to believe that the Earth will stop spinning or its axis will cease to be tilted or that these astronomical facts will stop affecting the weather on Earth. What "helps" them to change the opinion is that they don't feel terribly certain about the spinning Earth or the tilted axis in the first place.

No, these processes really, really won't stop. It's terrible that people are being "de-educated" because believing in bombshell claims such as the disappearance of seasons is helpful for someone's political goals.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018 ... //

Four new LIGO-Virgo BH mergers

Some of them, using 3 detectors, allow to test predictions of polarization

On Saturday, two LIGO plus one Virgo gravitational wave detectors announced the discovery of four new black hole mergers – those from Summer 2017. Why it took 1.4 years isn't entirely clear to me. Their IDs, GW170729, GW170809, GW170818 and GW170823, reveal they arrived in July or August and the first, late July detection is the most massive and most distant merger ever detected.

These two black holes merged some 5 billion years ago – at the same cosmic time when the Solar System was created over here – and out of some 80 solar masses, a whopping 5 solar masses of energy were radiated away in the form of gravitational waves. The collaborations have released some new papers (see also the LIGO paper server).

Bureaucrats have the power to turn a tiny glitch into an insurmountable hurdle

...and in too many cases, they face no consequences when they do so...

As you know, I hate bureaucracy – and some very real and viscerally unpleasant experience with bureaucratic operations is a substantial part of my opposition to the ideals of the Big Government, or almost any government or a left-wing social construct, for that matter. In the U.S., I used to spend a month with the tax forms and immigration documents (not just the visas) during the average year.

It doesn't mean that I really needed 30 times 16 hours of hard work every year. The number of hours filled with some "substantial bureaucratic work" was much smaller. But the uncertainty, meaninglessness of this work, and other partly psychological aspects really depleted my energy for those 480 hours. For a decade, those things have been more tolerable – every year, a few days are partly occupied with some one-hour-long or two-hour-long work.

In the most recent week, I was facing a bureaucratic nightmare that I don't remember for a decade. The main villains was a female bureaucrat who was clearly acting to spite me – and a power of attorney ("plná moc", literally "full power", in Czech). I was recommended by someone to fulfill the task using a power of attorney. It had to be simple. Many others agreed.

Monday, December 03, 2018 ... //

Yellow vest revolution shows the surrealism of decarbonization

Tom Vonk who lives in France has written a concerned message about the Yellow Vest protesters.

They protest against the increased price of fuels from the beginning of 2019 that is scheduled to follow from Macron's version of the carbon tax. The president uses the slogan "Make the Planet Great Again".

Saturday, December 01, 2018 ... //

EU lawyers: Czech PM should return billions in subsidies

Conflict of interests is self-evident to everybody with a brain, Czech culture of the bending laws clashes with different EU habits

Hours ago, Le Monde (FR) and The Guardian (UK) – and now e.g. Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) and Reuters (UK) – informed their readers that the lawyers of the European Commission have determined (according to a leaked report that you can read now) that the Czech PM Babiš is still the actual owner of Agrofert, a 3-billion-dollars corporation in agriculture, food industry, chemical industry, reproduction hospitals, and media, and therefore the billions of crowns (hundreds of millions of Euros) he has received in 2018 violate the EU rules and should be returned.

The European Commission is usually acting according to the recommendation of its lawyers in such situations although it's not quite certain that this will be the case now.