Monday, December 31, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Happy New Year 2008


"Happy New Year"

No more champagne
And the fireworks are through
Here we are, me and you
Feeling lost and feeling blue
It's the end of the party
And the morning seems so grey
So unlike yesterday
Now's the time for us to say...

Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have a vision now and then
Of a world where every neighbour is a friend
Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have our hopes, our will to try
If we don't we might as well lay down and die
You and I

Sometimes I see
How the brave new world arrives
And I see how it thrives
In the ashes of our lives
Oh yes, man is a fool
And he thinks he'll be okay
Dragging on, feet of clay
Never knowing he's astray
Keeps on going anyway...

Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have a vision now and then
Of a world where every neighbour is a friend
Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have our hopes, our will to try
If we don't we might as well lay down and die
You and I

Seems to me now
That the dreams we had before
Are all dead, nothing more
Than confetti on the floor
It's the end of a decade
In another ten years time
Who can say what we'll find
What lies waiting down the line
In the end of eighty-nine...

Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have a vision now and then
Of a world where every neighbour is a friend
Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have our hopes, our will to try
If we don't we might as well lay down and die
You and I
In this 1980 video, Agnetha (blonde) and Björn (standing) have been divorced for one year while Anni-Frid (brunette) and Benny (piano) would divorce in the following year.

The leap (and olympic, in Beijing) year 2008 will be the international year of three well-known things:
planet Earth, potato, and sanitation.
It will also be the
Australian Year of the Scout
and the
European Year of Intercultural Dialogue.
More importantly, 2008 will be the international year when the LHC gets activated (in May) and the successor of George W. Bush will be chosen (in November): some people can't wait till 2008.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Concentration of knowledge & funding cuts

Two topics about the relationships of science and society were recently discussed in the physics blogosphere: funding cuts, especially for high-energy physics, and the desire of elite universities to absorb the top research in cutting-edge disciplines. Let me briefly say what I think about both.

Funding cuts

For the year 2008, high-energy physics has seen the heaviest losses in the U.S. but also the U.K. Fermilab is one of the major casualties and the resources will drop by 10 percent or so. Various scientists protest. Generally, I think it is usually good if science is getting enough funding but it is certainly no dogma.

There are at least two basic reasons why funding reductions for facilities such as Fermilab are justified:

  1. Decreasing relative capacity of the facility to make dramatic discovery
  2. Damaged public perception of high-energy physics
Because I think that the society should be deciding about some "microscopic" numbers determining the total resources for science and their separation to a few roughly defined subdisciplines (but not the internal detailed redistribution that should be decided by the experts), these two reasons make it natural that the funding simply has to go South.

Fermilab vs the LHC

Concerning the Fermilab, I find it obvious that when we expect that the facility is soon going to become obsolete and superseded by the CERN's new collider, the calculation whether it is a good idea to invest a lot of money into Fermilab inevitably shifts.

Well, the luminosity and the energy per particle will simply become cheaper in less than a year, unless a catastrophe occurs. The market of ideas and experiments has to respond to this fact. A rational response is that it is probably a better idea to save the money and wait for the LHC that will be able to transform the same amount of money into a greater expectation value of scientific results. Many people are dissatisfied but most of the dissatisfaction is driven by personal interests, not a genuine interest of science.

Public perception of science

The second reason that has almost certainly contributed to the cuts is a deteriorating perception of high-energy physics by the public. The two infamous books and the media campaign surrounding them is a finite part of the story.

As far as I know, every single high-energy physicist - graduate student, postdoc, professor - at every good enough place knows that the comments of people like Peter Woit or Lee Smolin about physics are completely worthless pieces of crap. Peter Woit is a sourball without a glimpse of creativity who only spreads bad mood and confused, superficial propaganda. He has never contributed anything substantial to science and it is likely that he will never contribute anything of this kind in the future.

He's a typical incompetent, power-thirsty, active moron of the kind that is capable to destroy whole countries if he gets a chance to do it: think about someone like Robert Mugabe.

Analogously, Lee Smolin is a prolific, full-fledged crackpot who has written dozens of papers and almost every single one is a meaningless sequence of absurdities and bad science. Once again, everyone in the field knows that. But a vast majority of the people in the field think and say that these two people and their companions don't matter; they don't have any influence, and so forth.

However, in many cases, this slogan only justifies scientists' escape from their broader responsibilities. In other cases, the formulation is a symptom of pacifism after it has lost any touch with reality. The reality is that the two pseudoscientific ideologues - and a few others - have a significant influence on the society. 99% of the public are simply unable to figure out that Smolin's or Woit's writing is just garbage that no well-informed person should pay any attention to. They are unable to do it themselves and they have virtually no channels where they can learn this otherwise obvious fact from the people who can figure it out.

So the public image of high-energy theoretical physics and many of its proxies inevitably deteriorates. The funding cuts are partly explained by this fact even though there are other reasons, too.

Concentration of brains

The second topic I want to discuss is concentration of brains. As Cosmic Variance reported, Drew Gilpin Faust, the new president of Harvard University, said that less elite universities should prepare that they won't have funds to compete with elite places such as Harvard in cutting-edge scientific fields.

Now, I find it obvious that this is what leaders of powerful places probably expect - or at least pretend to expect - and what they want others to expect, too. And it is mostly true, too - at least in the long run.

Skillful and lucky people can occassionally accumulate in a place that is not the most expected one. But these are statistical fluctuations that can go in both ways and that usually average out in the long term. For example, Rutgers University became one of the leading string-theoretical think tanks in the early 1990s. They group was kind of lucky with people and with funding, too. What has happening at Rutgers University could have occurred in some of the Ivy League schools instead.

However, these things are unlikely to last. If a place has superior financial capabilities, it will eventually attract the people it needs to attract to become the top place. Moreover, such an outcome is good for science for the same reasons that make big corporations more efficient than their small competitors in the commercial sector and that makes imperialism work better in most respects than primitive forms of capitalism. A certain critical mass, an increase of helpful interactions, and an efficient self-organizing distribution labor of contribute to exhanced power and creativity of places with a lot of brains and resources.

This result is only to be expected if things work properly. Of course that if they don't, a place with a lot of brains is also able to waste a lot. But once again, in the long run, things should work most of the time so the argument assuming that things work is likely to give at least the right sign of the result.

So I don't believe the ideas that a uniform distribution of places and scientists is the healthiest environment for scientific progress. Just like the concentration of capital is essential for capitalism to achieve many things, the concentration of intellectual capital (as well as ordinary capital that scientists sometimes need) is often necessary to achieve certain results in science, too.

In the case of accelerators, the most extensive experiments on Earth, there is no doubt about it. But even if you look at the following category of scientific activities according to the magnitude of their projects - such as various genome projects - it is still likely that the concentration of experts into a few places will be a superior arrangement that will lead to faster progress for the same money.

What I wrote above might agree with the words of the current president of Harvard University and others. On the other hand, every sane person should also realize that only one of us is making a pure intellectual analysis here. The other one is also playing a game expected from a particular job, attempting to achieve certain goals. Of course that it is expected that the president of an elite university tries to make his or her university more exceptional.

But others have different tasks. In the short term and medium term, there also exist other mechanisms that allow e.g. a prestigious biological center to appear at an unexpected place. So the leaders of places of different sizes will obviously simplify the situation in different way and present different visions about the future of science and technology simply because their roles justify different strategies. It is obvious that different opinions will be heard and one shouldn't be shocked about it.

And that's the memo.

Bin Laden talks again


Part I (5:21)
Part II (6:15)
English subtitles are included. The videos were posted by no one else than an Islamist nutcase. These Sirs are slowly switching to YouTube, an invention of capitalist infidels. ;-) The message is encouraging. Much like his previous video in which Prof bin Laden endorsed Prof Chomsky, his comments are virtually identical to the comments about the war by or except that bin Laden is much more peaceful than they are.

There is no indication that he is capable to do anything. Moreover, he seems to surrender in Iraq because he treats Iraq in a similar way as Israel. Both countries are painted as targets of his holy anger and Israel is supposed to be wiped away off the map. But it is not explained what the methods to realize his dreams could be, except for unsophisticated and weakening murder procedures that they were showing the world for several years.

He assures those who fight for freedom that they will be unhappy even if they win while Osama's side has nothing to lose, except for chains. This slogan shows Osama's conversion to a Marxist notion of class struggle. Again, he wants to take credit for the collapse of the Soviet Union. Also, no one will prevent them from dying an honorable death. Well, he seems to be right. For example, your humble correspondent will certainly not prevent them to do so and I hope it will be not only an honorable but also a speedy one! :-) Osama's speech is full of moralist and pacifist clichés. He also accuses America of plans to steal the Iraqi oil, nothing new for people who have listened to leftists for years.

Sadly, Benazir Bhutto had to sacrifice her life because of some of those fanatics who were still anomalously alive. My main interaction with her was that I received a book about her because my photograph of the Radcliffe Institute where she studied was used in it. See the story.

Saturday, December 29, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Ice skating on Hracholusky dam

It is being said that only once in a decade, it is possible to ice skate on the Hracholusky dam (map) near Pilsen. Most of the time, the ice is either melted or covered by snow. The exceptional time occurs this month. The ice was very smooth so we could skate almost 10 miles without any interruption.

Tomorrow, the Prague Castle - I really mean the Hradčany Square pictured above - will host a cross-country skiing competition organized by Ms Kateřina Neumannová, our 30-kilometer freestyle 2006 Olympic winner. 60 trucks of snow from Šumava were needed to improve the skiing conditions. ;-) See photographs of the transfer.

Friday, December 28, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Colorado potato beetle: the American bug

See a working video here (click).

(read the comments below this box first)

These clouds don't bring us any blessing: they are coming from the West. Using wind and clouds, the American imperialists sent the potato beetle to attack our republic.

A father with his son just saw something. They bend over and find something on the road. That's him: the American bug, the newest criminal gadget of the American barbarianism. This year, we found it even at places where it kind of naturally doesn't belong: on the wood instead of potato crops. We found it on the dumping ground. Another American bug climbs a wall.

A bug distributed by wind and aircraft from the Western and Southern borders, it is also brought here by the U.S. agents in small boxes and bottles. Those who sent the insatiable bug here expected it to find a path to our potato crops. They counted that it would unstoppably eat what was growing for us. They expected it to create thousands of eggs that would transform into red-orange larvae. What do the American imperialists want?

They want the most dangerous foe of potatoes to destroy our advanced potato industry in order to strangle our nutrition, food production, and the industry that uses potatoes as a resource. These larvae are the culture of the war-loving atomic packers.

However, the imperialist Sirs were writing a bill without a waiter. They were computing and they have miscomputed once again. Our government has established strict policies to protect us against a disgraceful attack by our enemies. Even those who live in the West should already know it: in our country, words and acts are close to each other.

All of us, and especially the youth and pioneers, are beginning to fight. We will find every single American bug and destroy it. Each place where they are found will be disinfected. Each place will be properly identified. Technology will help us to fight the intruder. [Tons of DDT are poured over the land.] We invest all of our strength to save the fruits of our work. This is our immediate defense against the attack by our enemies.

We won't let them become a pupa under the ground. Even in the depth of soil, we will find them and liquidate them. This is our answer to the hostile attackers. We have dealt with [executed] Horáková, Pecl, and their companions. We will deal with the Colorado potato beetle, the American bug, too. We will save and clean our fields and our harvest from the American epidemics. We don't want stuff of others: but we won't sacrifice ours.

This Czechoslovak communist propaganda video from the 1950s is a great example showing that the anti-American environmentally loaded propaganda is nothing new. The videoclip above is almost identical to the contemporary propagandistic movies and news about Americans causing global warming.

John von Neumann: 104th birthday

John von Neumann was born on 12/28/1903 as Margittai Neumann János Lajos to a rich Jewish family of a banking lawyer in Budapest. He was one of the greatest 20th century mathematicians.

János, nicknamed "Jancsi" (Johnny), was the oldest among three brothers and a child prodigy. He entered a German-speaking school at age of 8. Two years later, his father acquired "von" for his services to the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy. His son became János von Neumann, a name later changed to Johann von Neumann. Johann received his PhD in mathematics at age of 23, earning degrees from chemical engineering at the same time (because his father wanted him to be rich, too). By the time he was 25, he had published 10 major papers. Five years later, the figure jumped to 36.

His family moved to the U.S. in 1930. Johann changed his name to John and became one of the first four or five employees of the IAS, Princeton together with Einstein, Gödel, and one or two more. For his first wedding in 1930 to work, John converted to Catholicism and this religion stuck. In 1957, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that quickly took over his body and killed him: it was probably a result of his work in Los Alamos discussed below.

Thursday, December 27, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Patrick Michaels & Ross McKitrick: decontaminating climate data

In this weekly dose of peer-reviewed skeptical literature about the climate, we look at a paper called "Quantifying the influence of anthropogenic surface processes and inhomogeneities on gridded global climate data" by Patrick Michaels and Ross McKitrick that was published two weeks ago in Journal of Geophysical Research - Atmospheres.

Full text in PDF
Ross McKitrick's page with links
Abstract at the server of JGR
Patrick Michaels's summary
Ross McKitrick's explanation in the Financial Post
Climate Audit discussion
Rasmus Benestad's criticism
The question is whether the land surface temperature data are reliable.

The authors choose a McKitrickish strategy whose earlier versions I found kind of amusing but this particular paper looks rather ingenious to me (even though it is an improved version of their 2004 paper).

They start with the following thesis. If the temperature data really measure the climate and its warming and if we assume that the warming has a global character, these data as a function of the station should be uncorrelated to various socioeconomic variables such as the GDP, its growth, literacy, population growth, and the trend of coal consumption. For example, the IPCC claims that less than 10% of the warming trend over land was due to urbanization.

Johannes Kepler: 436th birthday

Johannes Kepler was born prematurely near Stuttgart on 12/27/1571. His grandfather was a mayor of their town but once Johannes was born, the family's fortunes were already dropping. His father was a mercenary and left the family when Johannes was five. His mother was a healer and a witch which has also led to some legal problems.

Johannes was a brilliant child with early inclinations to astronomy. In Graz (1594-1600), he was defending the Copernican heliocentric system. At that time, there was no clear difference between astronomy and astrology. Therefore, Kepler also invented the ADE classification of planets orbiting the Sun. ;-) This attempt resembled, but was not identical to, Garrett Lisi's hopeless attempt to unify. Kepler also wrote that the Universe had to be stationary.

In 1600, Kepler finally met Tycho Brahe in Benátky nad Jizerou (see the picture), a central Bohemian town where Brahe built an observatory. Brahe quickly recognized Kepler's magic theoretical powers. Their negotiations about the new Kepler's job in Prague were accompanied by arguments and tension. Fortunately for the Czech capital, Kepler had more serious problems with Graz where they expected him to convert to Catholicism. Finally, Kepler moved to Prague, including his family.

He became the imperial mathematician of our monarchy, an advisor to Emperor Rudolph II, a predecessor of Václav Klaus and a great sponsor of arts and sciences pictured above, and 11 most productive years of Kepler's life were just getting started. Kepler was also giving his political recommendations to the empire although his common sense was more instrumental than the stars.

In Prague, Kepler established modern optics (he understood geometry of lunar shadows, the inverse-square law controlling the light intensity, and other things). In 1604, he started to observe SN 1604, a supernova also known as Kepler's star, in the constellation Serpentarius, the 13th sign of the zodiac in which your humble correspondent was born. Click at the link and see Kepler's beautiful drawing of Ophiuchus, as the constellation should now be called. It started to be clear to him that the heavens were not as constant as Aristotle used to think.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

John Conway: 70th birthday

John Horton Conway, a famous English mathematician, was born exactly 70 years ago, on 12/26/1937. Congratulations! He has contributed great things to game theory and algorithmics, group theory, geometry (classification of polychora), knot theory (applications of skein relations that led to knot polynomials), and theoretical physics.

Look-and-say sequence

Conway's look-and-say sequence looks as follows:

1, 11, 21, 1211, 111221, 312211, ...
How is it created? The first entry "1" is read off as "one 1", so you write "11". This is read off as "two 1's", i.e. "21". That is read off as "one 2, one 1", i.e. "1211", and so forth.

If you started with "22", it would be a fixed point: "two 2's", "two 2's", and so forth.

Otherwise you can prove that only the digits 1,2,3 will appear anywhere in the sequence. More interestingly, the sequences may contain one of 92 different "audioactive atoms" composed out of 1,2,3 that don't interact with their neighbors. Numerologist Conway has jokingly identified them with chemical elements. For each digit larger than 3, if you allow them at the beginning, there also exist two "transuranic" elements.

Monday, December 24, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

James Joule born 189 years ago

It's Christmas Eve which doesn't mean that physicists are not born. We will talk about two famous people born on Christmas, namely Jesus Christ and James Joule. ;-)

About 2008-2013 years ago, Virgin Mary talked to archangel Gabriel, a boss of God's P.R. department. It is believed it was on March 25th. She remained a virgin legally. Nevertheless, the annunciation has also served as conception biologically. Atheist scholars often argue that Christmas is celebrated around December 25th because Christianity wanted to absorb the Roman cult of the unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus), a paganic holiday celebrating a sun god and introduced by Aurelian, a Roman emperor, in his attempt to establish a new imperial religion.

However, Benedict XVI, the current Pope, offers a different theory explaining December 25th. He starts with March 25th, the date of conception that he represents as a figure from the new Gregorian calender, and adds 9 months. Roman emperors are thus completely eliminated in his approach. You might protest that one unknown number is calculated from another unknown number. But don't forget that the Annunciation is God's revelation that can be used as legitimate input of all your calculations. You might also object that pregnancy didn't have to last exactly for 9 months. But this objection can also be resolved: the Pope said it was exactly 9 months and the Pope is infallible. ;-)

Commercial: Queen Elizabeth revealed her new YouTube channel. She shows a 50-year-old groundbreaking TV speech in which she criticized various crackpots and haters.
From Jesus to Joule

James Prescott Joule (12/24/1818 - 10/11/1889) was born as the son of a rich brewer. He was tutored at home - except for a short course that James Joule and his brother Benjamin received from John Dalton who had to retire soon because of a stroke. Nevertheless, arithmetics and geometry taught by Dalton impressed James Joule tremendously. He was intrigued by electricity, too.

Saturday, December 22, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Consensus buster: a senate report

More than 400 scientists oppose the so-called consensus about climate change. Details of their statements, results, and links have been collected by James Inhofe's office.

Report: intro
Report: full text
Andrew Revkin, The New York Times: moderate, includes a discussion
Pielke's reply to Revkin
DeSmogBlog: a Littlemore than a piece of extremist hateful shit
Grist's Andrew Dessler: consensus, oh holy consensus
Investor's Business Daily: skeptics
UPI, FoxNews
The Telegraph
Boston Herald, Herald Sun
News Max
World Net Daily I, II, III
Javno: Croatia confirms Inhofe's report
Rev Al Gore: it's a rotten apple: 7% of the scientists may have been received nickels from ExxonMobil, Devil's Corporation
News ... Busters
Google search
Thanks, Marc Morano.

Update: Ivo Vegter has independently created a similar picture called Gorebusters. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

As soon as a few more alarmists are caught, the ending will be approaching: look how the manbearpig jumps back and forth.

Chris Horner beats David Roberts and Alan Colmes in a discussion about the report. Mine is bigger than yours, Horner told Colmes, talking about the lists of scientists who actually endorsed something, and Colmes had to agree that Horner's is impressive.

Vladimir Fock born 109 years ago

Vladimir Alexandrovich Fock (12/22/1898 - 12/27/1974) was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia. He has contributed to mechanics, theoretical optics, theory of gravity, physics of continuous medium.

But we primarily know him as an important quantum physicist. In 1926, he independently derived and generalized (to the case of magnetic fields and velocity-dependent forces) the Klein-Gordon equation, also referred to as the Klein-Fock-Gordon equation.

Because he understood that the harmonic oscillators played a crucial role in quantum field theory, he decided to invent a catchy name for the Hilbert space of a multi-dimensional harmonic oscillator that represents creation and annihilation of particles. Today, we call it the Fock space. ;-) The eigenstates of the number operator are referred to as Fock states.

In 1930, he developed the Hartree-Fock approximation and a related quantity, the Fock matrix, is also named after him.

Einstein, Lenin, Stalin

But what I want to talk about is the relationship between communism and general relativity. Throughout his life, Fock was a loyal Soviet physicist. But it doesn't mean that he always agreed with the communist majority or that he was co-operating on the communist crimes. In fact, the Marxist philosophers used to dislike general relativity while he was the main proponent of GR among his Soviet contemporaries.

For most Marxists, it wasn't quite a Jewish pseudoscience but it looked too abstract for their small working-class brains, too relative and free for their hard-line totalitarian approach to life and freedom, and it was incompatible with various Marxist or Soviet expectations and interpretations, for example the expected infinite extent of both space and time. They also disliked that it was again possible to describe physical phenomena in non-inertial frames (such as the geocentric picture).

Friday, December 21, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Czech Republic joins Schengen zone

Blue - current members. Green - will join. Yellow - expressed interest. Click for a Chinese article about the event.

Since the midnight, no passports are needed on Czech borders and probably not even the airport. While this is another step in transmuting our post-socialist country into a full-fledged, standard democracy, I am clearly less excited than during similar events in the past.

Thursday, December 20, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

David Bohm born 90 years ago

David Joseph Bohm (12/20/1917 - 10/27/1992) was born in Pennsylvania into a Jewish family of immigrants from Eastern Europe, 43 days after the Great October Socialist Revolution. As you can expect, this paragraph is probably going to be the most flattering one. That's why I also choose the first paragraph to mention that Bohm's most valuable contributions to physics is the Aharonov-Bohm effect - that showed that the Wilson line is a physical observable in a quantum theory even if the magnetic field strength vanishes - and the Bohm diffusion (of plasma in a magnetic field). He also wrote a decent book on quantum mechanics but this book already had some bias related to his unorthodox interpretation of quantum mechanics. See Chapter 23 where he writes that quantum mechanics cannot exist without a classical theory etc. - things that we surely consider wrong today.


In May 1949, as soon as McCarthy's policies were implemented, he was asked to testify about his (former?) colleagues from the communist movement. He refused to testify and was arrested and fired. I don't dispute that these events look unfortunate and suspicious. And I am not able to say whether Bohm actually had the right not to testify at the time. Nevertheless, I am completely sure that Bohm's involvement with the dangerous organizations is being generally underestimated.

Some people even want to dispute that he was a radical communist. Already in the late 1930s, he became active in the Young Communist League, the Campus Committee to Fight Conscription, and the Committee for Peace Mobilization. All three organizations were classified as communist organizations by the FBI long before McCarthy's era.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Time: Person of year: Vladimir Putin

Sorry for the break. Yesterday I played a high school teacher of English in 3 classes - it was fun - and today we attended a neat picnic full of VIPs in Prague.

Awards are not too important and the Person of the Year is not such a terribly important award but on the other hand, it may turn out to be more relevant than the peace Nobel prize in a foreseeable future. The top eight candidates for Time's Person of the Year 2007 were:

  1. Rowling
  2. Gore
  3. Ahmadinejad
  4. Rice
  5. Jobs
  6. Petraeus
  7. Putin
  8. Jintao

The folks above were sorted according to a poll.

Who could be the winner? The Huffington Post, a far left-wing blog, wrote:

Given former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore's massive passion and visibility advocating environmental causes, it is virtually impossible to see anyone else getting the nod. From carbon footprints to going to Bali, to winning the Nobel Peace Prize, who else?
With a breathtaking combination of arrogance and ignorance, the loon on that blog keeps on explaining that Al Gore is effectively God and that the only competitor could perhaps be Barack Obama. But Russell Shaw is surprisingly able to figure out that Barack Obama couldn't have really been included even in the top eight because he hasn't achieved anything substantial in his life so far. He hasn't even won any primaries so far.

Well, the world fortunately doesn't quite follow predetermined plans of far-left ideologues although they would undoubtedly prefer a world that does follow their desires. The Time magazine has decided that

Vladimir Putin
is the guy whose cool eyes say "I am in charge" and he must become the person of the year. The portrait of Putin is pretty interesting to read. At any rate, Putin is indeed a powerful figure who is certainly very good in calm calculations related to power and strategy. He is an old-fashioned leader who may have learned from Machiavelli.

LHC: silicon tracking detector installed

Click the picture for more details.

Monday, December 17, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Climate debate: Tim Ball vs Andrew Dessler

Eric Berger, the Houston Sciguy who has been sufficiently balanced and correct (but politically incorrect) to trade links with TRF :-), is hosting and moderating

The Great Climate Debate (basic info)
Timothy BallAndrew Dessler

Essential information:
When: Today, Monday 12/17, 3 pm EST (9 pm Central European Time)
Alarmist: Andrew Dessler, Texas A&M
Realist: Tim Ball, University of Winnipeg (retired)
Internet audio provider: Blogtalkradio (ask questions here and listen here)
Hat tip: Papertiger
After the debate: Tim Ball had technical problems and couldn't participate. Dessler was speaking pretty well but he was confined by many of those religious notions that scientists are shamans who are just experts and must be trusted because of their "consensus".

So he failed to answer most of the technical questions - maybe he didn't answer a single one. He just said "It is the holy word that the experts believe so you must also believe it just like you must believe your physician when you have cancer" many times. Several pretty good skeptical non-scientist participants (and scientists from other fields) called and explained him that his words are no arguments and no answers but he really didn't get it.

Lord Kelvin died 100 years ago

William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, OM, GCVO, PC, PRS, FRSE (26 June 1824 – 17 December 1907) was a culminating hero of classical physics.

While his grandfather was a farmer, his father was an engineer who later became a professor of mathematics. At the age of 9, William survived serious heart problems. I would guess that this childhood experience may partially explain why Lord Kelvin became such as a tough and even severe figure as an adult.

As a student, he won a prize for an essay about astronomy. However, he focused on continental mathematics very soon afterwards. Recall that Britain was working in the shadow of Isaac Newton whose approach to mathematics was heuristic or phenomenological, if you wish. On the other hand, continental Europe had been excited about rigor for quite some time.

Thomson encouraged Faraday to make a discovery and the Faraday effect is partially a result of Thomson's moral support. But Thomson's key early contributions occurred in thermodynamics.

At the age of 23, he was already viewed as a mature yet maverick scientist. At an Oxford conference in 1847, Joule tried to debunk the old "caloric" theory of heat that assumed that the heat was a fluid. Thomson was skeptical but started a serious research. He declared himself to be a member of the French clique of Carnot and Clapeyron and analyzed what the non-existence of a perpetuum mobile meant for the dependence of various quantities such as the melting point of ice on the external parameters such as temperature.

Sunday, December 16, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Jan Švejnar: basic ignorance about Czech realities

Jan Švejnar, a professor of economics at University of Michigan and a U.S. citizen, decided that he wants to be the next Czech president who will be elected by the Parliament in February 2008. Václav Klaus remains the likely winner but with the support of the Czech Social Democratic Party and the Green Party, Švejnar becomes a serious contender.

Jan Švejnar vs Luboš Motl: a Google fight
I have nothing against him personally but I find it somewhat strange for a person who has no idea about the life in the Czech Republic to become its president. He has lived in the U.S. since 1970 or so.

A TV program today showed very clearly how detached Švejnar is from the Czech history, Czech culture, and Czech reality. He was asked several questions from the Prague Castle's quiz addressed to children and youth. For example, he was asked:
Which play includes the Czech national anthem, "Where Is My Home?" (Kde domov můj?)
He had no idea. But the faux pas continued. Another question wanted him to say the motto on the official presidential flag. As all children know, it is
Truth prevails (actually "Pravda vítězí" in Czech, which is "Veritas Vincit" in Latin)
He had no clue. What do you mean by a presidential flag? Did you say that truth prevails? I will have to inform myself, he said. One more question was about the famous sculptures or allegories of Virtues and Vices by Matthias Braun.
Where are these sculptures located?
This was a tougher one. The correct answer is the Kuks Castle and he didn't know, of course. He happened to know that Charles University was founded in 1348 and Bedřich Smetana composed "My Country". However, he was also asked
Which ancient tribe that used to live on our territory gave the name to Bohemia?
It was also a hard one. The answer is that these guys were Boii which is a Roman name of an old Celtic tribe, and a Germanic word "boio-haemum" designates their home. Mr Švejnar, of course, didn't know.

Snowstorm: Ontario, Northeast

The highest temperature today in Pilsen was -3 °C and there are some small snow residuals around.

But in Ontario, Quebec, the U.S. Northeast, and, to some extent, the U.S. Midwest, they have more fun. At some places, they received a foot of snow which is not bad even though it is less than forecast. But Southern Ontario still has a chance to see a record snowstorm.

In Boston, the one-foot snowstorm has set a new record for December and exceeded the average amount of snow for the whole December. 400 flights were canceled at Logan.

Reports about the snowstorm:

Google News
Blog Search
By the way, the global sea ice area anomaly is slightly positive right now (graph, more): it means that the total area is higher than the average for mid December. I am afraid that you won't read about it in the media.

Google News finds about 47,000 articles from the last month that contain "global warming" and 16,000 articles that contain "snow storm" or "snowstorm" or "winter storm". But only 70 articles include both "global warming" as well as one of the three versions of a "snowstorm". It seems that these things have nothing to do with each other. However, whenever you have a "warm" event, most of the articles about it refer to global warming. Where does this asymmetry come from?

Walther Meissner: 125th birthday


Fritz Walther Meißner was born on December 16th, 1882. In the early 1920s, he built the third largest Helium-liquifier which allowed him and Robert Ochsenfeld to discover the Meissner (or Meissner-Ochsenfeld) effect, the superconductors' magnetophobia, in 1933. How did he do it?

He simply took a German train and placed it on tracks with superconducting magnets in Shanghai, China (click the picture above to see more details). The superconducting magnets don't allow the magnetic field to penetrate too deeply: it is exponentially dropping as you go deeper. The photon effectively becomes a massive particle and it is no coincidence that the electroweak symmetry breaking is sometimes referred to as electroweak superconductivity because the mathematics is isomorphic even though, in the case of the normal superconductivity, the broken phase is not a vacuum but requires some atoms to be present.

Saturday, December 15, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Kyoto treaty to be superseded by Copenhagen consensus

The participants of the conference in Bali, Indonesia agreed to spend the following two years with an intense schedule of similar meetings.

When I look at the picture above, I wonder why they agreed about such a plan. It is conceivable that even Marc Morano agreed with this great idea! :-)

Henri Becquerel born 155 years ago

Antoine Henri Becquerel was born on December 15th, 1852. How did he become famous? Well, in 1896, he was verifying Röntgen X-ray experiments and studied fluorescence, too. So he wrapped a fluorescent substance (potassium uranyl sulfate) in thick black paper that was inserted in photographic plates. And he saw images of the fluorescent material and the Maltese Cross (and later coins) on the photographic plates: see the picture below. It followed that there had to be a spontaneously emitted radiation that can penetrate the black paper.

Radioactivity was born - one of two Lord Kelvin's dark clouds floating above classical physics. These were times when making important discoveries in physics was rather easy. Becquerel received the 1903 physics Nobel prize.

LIGO: still no gravity waves


Previous related postings:

Rolf-Dieter Heuer will head CERN in its LHC era, starting from 2009. Robert Aymar, the current Director General, described the LHC progress as excellent and mentioned an intensity upgrade in 2016.

Friday, December 14, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Gell-Mann on beauty & truth in physics

TED video with Murray Gell-Mann (16 minutes, originally from March 2007)
What do great theoretical physicists do with experiments that contradict their crisp theories? Well, they laugh at them, of course. ;-)

Gell-Mann, who is in a great mood, explains that a colleague of his, Albert Einstein, was often asked by journalists: What about the experiment of D.C. Miller that contradicts relativity (whoever is D.C. Miller)? Einstein said: it will go away.

Well, Feynman and Gell-Mann were better: they had a theory that contradicted seven experiments. It was a pretty theory and it had to be right. Of course, Feynman and Gell-Mann were right and the experiments were wrong.

Czech trams' journey to Seattle

Inekon Group, a modern upgrade of Škoda Pilsen, has previously sold some trams to Portland and Tacoma. In Seattle, they were choosing the best vehicles for Paul Allen's South Lake Union project - he is building a modern biotechnology center nearby - and the same Czech company just happened to win, too. Washington D.C. should join the family soon.

Andrei Sakharov left us 18 years ago

Andrei Sakharov was born in 1921 and died on December 14th, 1989. His grandfather was a successful lawyer in the Tsarist Russia. But his father was an atheist, private school physics teacher, and an amateur pianist. So Andrei has had all kinds of influences.


His political development is amusing. A triple hero of socialist labor (a communist award for work) from 1953, 1955, 1962, the winner of the 1953 Stalin prize (the most valuable Stalin prize in 1953 was, however, that Stalin died), and the 1956 Lenin prize became a leading Soviet dissident which is why he received the 1975 peace Nobel prize.

Because the Soviet communists behaved much like the climate alarmism apparatchiks who shamelessly censor the ICSC and other skeptics in Bali these days, Sakharov was not allowed to travel. His wife at that time, who was another dissident, was however able to pick the award and give the speech. These were somewhat hard times when totalitarian regimes were crippling a third of the world but on the other hand, the rest of the world, including the Norwegian Nobel Committee, was rewarding true heroes who risked their well-being for truly respectable goals. These days, the Norwegian Nobel Committee rewards hypocritical jerks who fight for despicable ideas and who have already earned hundreds of millions of dollars for these ideas, by brainwashing loads of dopes in the world.

Sakharov's conversion from a hero of communist labor to a heroic warrior for freedom started because of fears of a nuclear war but his political focus became much more comprehensive during the years.

The Soviet megaton-range hydrogen bomb used a designed referred to as "Sakharov's Third Idea" and it was surely no coincidence. Moreover, with Igor Tamm, Sakharov co-fathered the tokamak, the most standard torus-shaped device to confine plasma for thermonuclear fusion.


By far the most famous theoretical physics paper by Sakharov is a 1967 paper on baryogenesis. Sakharov formulated the three necessary albeit somewhat counterintuitive conditions for baryons to be created out of nothing during the very early cosmological eras, namely

  1. Baryon number B violation
  2. C- and CP-symmetry violation
  3. Interactions out of thermal equilibrium.

Thursday, December 13, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Isaac Newton of biology

Because a recent TRF text might suggest that I think that no blonde can possibly know whether France is a country, let us talk about a blonde who probably knows the answer. ;-)

Even though TRF remains the third Google hit for "Garrett Lisi", the fraction of TRF visitors who came because of this particular "new Einstein of particle physics" has fortunately dropped from 80% during the peak day to approximately 2%.

On the other hand, it's a pleasure to see that a more meaningful wave appeared. People are searching for the "Isaac Newton of biology", as

calls her. TRF is the second Google hit for her name (after her lab that only achieved its PageRank because of a redirect from her previous Harvard FAS page) and about 10% of the readers get here because of
our interview with Franziska Michor.
Without much exaggeration, I think - not just because of this Esquire article - that Esquire has a more sensible and science-friendly reporting of science than the Telegraph and the Wall Street Journal. I would still say that it is Charles Darwin, not Franziska Michor (sorry, FM!), who is the Isaac Newton of biology but Esquire's approximation is simply better than others. ;-)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Kitchen unit

Sorry for my being busy but constructing and installing this kitchen unit (Iza Hruška=Pear plus a packet not shown on the picture) takes some time, hundreds of screws, and so forth. ;-)

The Holy Father opposes prophets of doom

Daily Mail (U.K.)
Solutions to problems should be based on evidence, not dubious ideology. Man is more important than other organisms. Read the rest.
See also: Vatican warned of Anti-Christ

Tuesday, December 11, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Blonde American geography

Kellie Pickler may win 25,000 dollars for a charity but there is a big hurdle on her way. Budapest is the capital of what European country?

Buddha's - Booduh Pest? I've never heard of that. I thought that Europe was a country, one that speaks French! OK, so I would think that Budapest might be in France except that France is not a country. What, hungry is a country? I've heard of turkey but hungry? :-)

I listen what you're saying but I only hear what I want to, Kellie clarifies. That's what being a woman means. (PC cows start to boo.) Kellie thinks that the show could be called "Are you smarter than a man?" because she surely is, she thinks. :-) Because the host can't pronounce "Hungary" either, she might be right. And women don't want to hear men's opinion but just their opinion in a deeper voice, Jeff Foxworthy explains. :-)

Douglass, Christy, Pearson, Singer

Book alert: Václav Klaus's book is now sold in Germany
This weekly dose of peer-reviewed skeptical literature about the climate will be rather short because we have talked about similar issues many times. In the International Journal of Climatology,
David Douglass, John Christy, Benjamin Pearson, Fred Singer (full-text paper in PDF, backup)
show, in their article "A comparison of tropical temperature trends with model predictions", that the previously discussed "fingerprint" predicted by 22 greenhouse-dominated models disagrees with the observed data summarized in 10 datasets.

Figure 1: Models said "Good bye" to reality. At the key altitudes, reality is about 6 uncertainties of the mean (measured as the standard deviation of the model ensemble divided by the square root of 22-1) away from the models. If you include "submodels" or "realizations", there are 67 of them and the discrepancy jumps to 10 sigma (this is why copying a model many times, as in the "consensus science", will be used against you by the rules of science). If you count the discrepancy in the experimental standard deviations, they will exceed 5 sigma, too. Regardless of these numbers, the picture above says a lot by itself.

The models and observations are compatible near the surface. However, about 5 kilometers above the surface (where the greenhouse effects starts to become relevant) in the tropical zones, models predict between 2 times and 4 times higher warming trend than what is observed. Above the altitude of 8 kilometers, the theoretical and empirical trends have opposite signs.

Max Born: 125th birthday

On December 11th, 1882, two well-known people were born: Fiorello LaGuardia and Max Born. LaGuardia, nicknamed the Little Flower (a translation of his first name combined with his being a kind of dwarf), was a mayor of the New York City, nicknamed the Big Apple (several explanations of the nickname exist). He was a popular GOP supporter of the New Deal and an early critic of the Nazis and an airport was ultimately named after him. He lived in the Big Time when the Little Flower was a Big Cheese in the Big Apple. :-) See a video.

I am nerdier than 96% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!But because my nerd score was just measured to be 96 (click to get yours), we will obviously spend more time with Max Born.

Max Born was born in Silesia, Greater Germany, to a Jewish family. His father was a biologist while his mother was a daughter from an industrialist family who unfortunately died when little Max was four. He spent some time in Breslau, Heidelberg University, and the University of Zurich. But he came in touch with many great minds in Göttingen, including Felix Klein, David Hilbert, Hermann Minkowski, Carle Runge, Karl Schwarzschild, and Woldemar Voigt (please don't forget the "g"). His ties with Minkowski and Hilbert were very close. Hilbert decided that Max Born was an exceptional guy so Max received the honor to write up the class notes. ;-)

Max Born was able to defend a PhD on elasticity - a favorite subject of Klein - despite some elastic relationships between Klein and Born.

Even though Born's wife was Jewish as well, he converted to the Lutheran Christian belief. The prettiest and most famous granddaughter of Max Born was Olivia Newton-John, a prominent British-born Australian California-based pop singer, drummer, actress, high-school dropout, moral warrior against breast cancer, and ecoactivist. She's been depressed since 2005 when her partner Patrick McDermott went missing during a boat trip. While Olivia's mother was Irene Born, a daughter of Max Born, her father was Prof Brinley Newton-John who wasn't related to Isaac Newton but who took Rudolf Hess into custody when he parachuted into Scotland in 1941. ;-)

"Physical", the aerobic anthem and the most popular song by physicist Max Born's granddaughter (1981). As a kid, I liked the song especially because I could understand one word - it was about "fyzika" (physics). :-) Compare with Kylie Minogue's remake (2000). Unfortunately, both Newton-John and Minogue know what it means to have breast cancer. You may have heard of "Grease" (1978) and "Xanadu" (1980), too. Only the Xanadu song, not the movie, was successful. I was thinking whom her hot energy reminded me of and I think I got the answer: Obama Girl.

Incidentally, Ms Libuše Barková, an enterpreneur, a boss of a brothel, and a friend of former Czech prime minister Gross, became the only international producer of "Grease" (the Czech version is called "Pomáda") who hasn't invited Newton-John.

Monday, December 10, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Carl Jacobi: 203rd birthday

Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi was born on December 10th, 1804. This ancient Jewish Prussian string theorist was one of the greatest mathematicians of all times and one of the most inspiring mathematicians of his times.

As a classical liberal, he was active in the 1848 revolution. Also, he suffered a breakdown from overwork at the age of 39 but he lived for 8 more years.

Jacobi was a true champion of special functions. Jacobi polynomials are those hypergeometric series that actually terminate. Jacobi showed that his elliptic functions are omnipresent as solutions to many equations in mathematical physics such as the pendulum, a symmetric top in a gravitational field, and a freely spinning body. Jacobi also liked to compute the motion of planets. Jacobi's integral gives a limited solution to the three-body problem. The Hamilton-Jacobi equation relates the time-derivative of the classical action with the Hamiltonian and is one of the key insights of modern abstract classical mechanics.

He also applied elliptic functions to number theory. For example, he proved a couple of "simpler" theorems due to Fermat. In a different paper, he introduced the Jacobi symbol, a generalized Legendre symbol involving prime factorizations of numbers. All mathematicians and physicists know him for the Jacobian, the determinant of a matrix of partial derivatives of new coordinates with respect to old coordinates, and for the Jacobi identity relating three double commutators of operators which is a defining formula for Lie groups. Some people remember his iterative Jacobi method to solve sets of equations in linear algebra. The Carathéodory-Jacobi-Lie theorem allows one to patch-wise define coordinates and momenta on each symplectic manifold.

String theorists know him as a colleague primarily for his Jacobi theta functions, appearing in partition sums and correlators of worldsheet fields at one-loop level (toroidal worldsheets). He has demonstrated the Jacobi triple product, the identity that allows you to re-express infinite sums as infinite products. A modern elegant proof of this formula uses a simplified model of the Dirac sea, probably pioneered by Richard Borcherds, and random partitions as defined by Andrei Okounkov, a fresh Fields medal winner and a string-theoretical mathematician.

In 1841, Jacobi reintroduced the modern symbol for the partial derivatives, originally invented by Legendre. It became standard.

But I chose the most string-theoretical result of Jacobi's life as the ultimate punch line. In 1829, he proved a "rather obscure formula" ("aequatio identica satis abstrusa") involving three terms that are fourth powers of a Jacobi theta function which verifies the spacetime supersymmetry at the level of partition sums in the Ramond-Neveu-Schwarz formulation of superstring theory. Mankind had to wait for nearly 150 years, until the late 1970s, to see what is the true physical reason why this fascinating identity holds and to make the formerly obscure formula transparent.

Sunday, December 09, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Climate reconstructions: Loehle vs Schmidt

Gavin Schmidt at RealClimate.ORG tries to criticize the recent article by Craig Loehle (PDF).

Loehle's article was the first published climate reconstruction that has only used proxies that had already been independently calibrated in peer-reviewed literature. It has eliminated tree rings because they don't seem to be good temperature proxies: it seems that the growth of trees is more affected by humidity, precipitation, and directly by the concentration of carbon dioxide, the food for trees. The main result of Loehle's paper was that the Medieval Warm Period did exist, after all.

Gavin Schmidt correctly lists five important issues that a good reconstruction must properly address:

Saturday, December 08, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Crysis: Mass Physics

Videos with "physics" in their title may have 365,000 visits in a week, too. Lots of boxes, tossed around in real time. The song is Aberdeen City, Pretty Pet.

Friday, December 07, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Myths about the arrow of time

Originally published on December 3rd. At the end of this text, I added a textbook example of a postdiction, showing that the whole controversy hides in the Bayesian priors once again.
Certain physicists keep on promoting the arrow of time - a scientific question that was settled between 1850 and 1872 and that became standard material of college physics (and maybe high-school physics) - as an area of active research in 2007.

Because most of the 21st century debates about the arrow of time are profoundly irrational, I will try to reveal and clarify several inherently religious (more precisely, anti-religious but equally metaphysical) myths underlying this debate.

The previous blog articles about this topic or closely related topics were:
Boltzmann's brains
Predicting the past
Is cosmology behind the second law?
The arrow of time is the arrow pointing from the past to the future. This concept is a symbol of the macroscopic asymmetry between the future and the past. Eggs break but they never unbreak, chicks get older but they never get younger, the heat always flows from the hotter object to the cooler one, the friction force slows things down. The reverse processes don't seem to exist. The origin of this asymmetry might be confusing for beginners but it has been well understood for a long time.

After each myth written in italics, I will describe the reality. The first myth will be about the history but I will jump to the essence of the problem right after that.

Arrow of time according to beer physics.

Myth: The arrow of time became very important or confusing in recent years.

The arrow of time has been understood in terms of physical quantities for more than 150 years: Rudolf Clausius formulated the second law of thermodynamics in 1850 even though the idea goes back to Sadi Carnot's paper from 1824. Lord Kelvin, James Clerk Maxwell, Ludwig Boltzmann, Josiah Willard Gibbs, and others have shown that the origin of these phenomena is microscopic (not cosmological!) in nature. Boltzmann proved his H-theorem, a quantitative and rigorous form of the second law, in 1872. Gibbs introduced the key notion of an "ensemble" of microstates (or "points in phase space", using his old classical setup): we will talk about "indistinguishable microstates" later. There have always been people who misunderstood statistical physics but there are no recent scientific results that would justify a qualitative revision of Boltzmann's, Gibbs's and related answers.

Thursday, December 06, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Chimps have better memory than thee

One of the groups that have been discriminated against at universities are chimpanzees. Many white, black, and yellow people have a lot of prejudices against the chimpanzees even though we share 96% of genes.

Figure 1: Click the picture for a FoxNews story. Mr Ayumu who is a 5-year-old Chimpanzee Japanese can memorize the position of nine Arabic numerals in ascending order. You can't do that. Mr Ayumu gets raisins and apple cubes for his performance.

Inoue & Matsuzawa in Current Biology

RSS MSU: November 2007 was the coldest month since January 2000

RSS MSU satellite data (graph, more graphs) for the lower troposphere show that November 2007 was the coldest month since January 2000. Other major teams that measure the global mean temperature have not yet published their November data.

Update: HadCRUT3 data (the first column is global mean temperature) confirm that November 2007 was the coldest month in this century but only since December 2000. The rest of the article focuses on RSS MSU.
The temperature anomaly was -0.014 °C. It means that the whole month was actually cooler than the the average recorded November. It was the first month in this century that was cooler than average.

The previous record low temperature anomaly in this century occurred in July 2004 when the anomaly was +0.053 °C. In other words, the record low for this century was improved by 0.07 °C. The continuing La Nina is the main reason behind the recent cold months; La Nina is expected to disappear in Spring 2008. January 2000, a month that was even cooler than November 2007, witnessed a La Nina, too. November 2007 was also a whopping 0.915 °C colder than April 1998.

Another reason could be an inactive Sun. We are expecting the solar cycle 24 to begin soon but it takes a longer time than expected and there are still almost no sun spots. Via a crucial mechanism, it means that we should be getting more galactic cosmic rays that should create more clouds.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Rube Goldberg meets carbon caps

Leonard Susskind has figured out that Shamit Kachru, the first co-author of the KKLT vacua, is a Rube Goldberg architect.

Senator Kit Bond has determined that Lieberman and Warner are Rube Goldberg architects, too, although in the context of carbon regulation.

Click the picture to see Bond's explanation and a larger version of the diagram.

Plzeň Plaza opens

Click to get to a new Wikipedia page that I just created.

Every time I returned to Czechia for a month in the summer, I could see some new things around. But the changes were not too fast: one year is not such a long time, from the viewpoint of the eternity. However, when they demolished the old exhibition center where "Ex Plzeň", a gastronomical fair, took place during socialism, I was kind of stunned.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Google sets

Imagine that you know a few elements of a set and you want to find the remaining elements. Impossible?

Google sets helps you
For example, try January & February to get the remaining ten items. ;-) Or try Leden & Duben to get the Czech names of the months.

Or enter Edward Witten & David Gross to the first two windows and you get a pretty decent list. Or try Quantum Field Theory & General Relativity. You get various other concepts including their unification. Or Cosmic Variance & Musings.

Try Type I & Type IIA. Among a few low-brow entries, you also get heterotic E8 x E8 and heterotic SO(32) string theories (in Japanese). ;-)

The difference from Alexander Wissner-Gross' Wikiosity is that you may enter several items.

Thanks to: A European guy

Sunday, December 02, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

MIT sketching: Working Model 2D

Update: Phun (click!) might be a better software doing the same things. I've tested it, it's cool.

This impressive show was created with the help of Working Model 2D or maybe a related program described by Zephir (!) in the fast comments. It can figure out what you are drawing, idealize it, and simulate what will happen in the real world of classical mechanics with it.

Michael Dine: String theory in the era of the LHC

Michael Dine (Santa Cruz) has a very nice article in the December issue of Physics Today:

String theory in the era of the Large Hadron Collider
He sketches some basic facts about the physics research that is expected to be relevant for the observations at the new collider. So you are offered some basic knowledge about the Standard Model and physics beyond the Standard Model, especially what has become stringy physics such as supersymmetry, grand unification, large extra dimensions, and warped extra dimensions. But he also talks about technicolor, CP violation, dark energy, and other things. You may read a pretty decent basic explanation of the concept of moduli and the character of the stringy landscape as well as the new tools to predict physical phenomena that it has led to.

One of his goals is to correct massive misinformation about a "gap" in particle physics that is being produced by the blogosphere and by the media that are close to the blogosphere. One basic thing that the "critics of science" haven't told their undemanding readers about high-energy physics is that among the theorists, there are two comparably large groups of people: pure theorists and phenomenologists. Phenomenologists who like to post on their favorite hep-ph archive are always interested in experiments that are doable in a foreseeable future, regardless whether their understanding is fully accurate, justified, and complete, while pure theorists who like to post on hep-th focus on ideas that are firmly rooted theoretically, regardless of their immediate relevance for doable experiments.

Petr Hapka & Jana Kirschner: Bude mi lehká zem

The Czech song "Bude mi lehká zem" (The soil will feel light to me) by Mr Petr Hapka (a Czech composer) and Ms Jana Kirschner (a Slovak singer) is from 2001 or so.

Saturday, December 01, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Stem cells from skin: a breakthrough

Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University (Japan) and James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin in Madison (U.S.) have announced that their teams have independently found a promising method to transform fibroplasts (generic skin cells) to iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells) that were so far only obtained by killing embryos.

Congratulations to both teams. Although, truth to be said, those who have opposed killing embryos, including Christian groups and politicians in different countries, could perhaps take a part of the credit. It is rather likely that the discovery will lead to an expansion of stem cell research in the future. There are already hints that the method could be helpful to cure cancer.

Friday, November 30, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Teppo Mattsson: Dark energy as a mirage

Is cosmological constant zero, after all? (PDF)
If this guy were right, the required changes would be tiny. Dark energy would go away, 90% of the mass would be dark matter, 10% would be baryonic, and the age of the Universe would jump to 14.8 billion years.

He says that as you observe distant objects, the Universe is getting emptier, due to a hierarchical clumping of matter, and in these emptier regions, the Hubble constant increases, mimicking the accelerating effects of the cosmological constant.

2007 Atlantic hurricane season: below forecasts

The 2007 Atlantic hurricane season that officially ends today (and it is no longer possible for an additional named storm to occur in time) was stronger than the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season but much weaker than what we saw two years ago.

Current hurricane info (bookmark)
In 2005, 2006, 2007, the total accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) was 248, 78.5, 67.5. You see a clear decreasing trend here: ACE even indicates that 2007 was even weaker than 2006. The median ACE index and the mean ACE index for the 1951-2005 period are 89.5 and 102.3, respectively. It means that according to ACE, both 2006 and 2007 were below the average.

Figure 1: H. Dean, the angriest hurricane of the season. ACE: over 33. Dean was the first male category 5 hurricane after four previous female ones - Emily, Katrina, Rita, Wilma - in 2005. But the surprise is not so overwhelming because Dean is really a self-described metrosexual. ;-)

The total damage was about USD 130 billion, 0.5 billion, 4 billion in 2005, 2006, 2007.

Klaus: Africa, don't rely on foreign aid

It has been ten years since the so-called Second Sarajevo Assassination, a forced resignation of the Czech prime minister Václav Klaus during his visit to Sarajevo that was justified by a financial scandal, one that was later demonstrated to be bogus.

The times are different now. President Klaus who was just nominated for the next term (the only candidate so far, despite many people who are desperately seeking Antiklaus) delivered his

speech in Lagos, Nigeria.
Klaus advised them to rely on their comparative advantages rather than foreign aid that is never really free, whose magnitude and importance is always overstated, and whose structure is always determined by the interest of donors. East Germany was used as a bad example of aid - a whole GDP of the Czech Republic was pumped to East Germany every year and they didn't make more progress than the Czech Republic that was getting no aid. Aid often makes actual useful developments impossible.

Also, the third world should determine its own optimal environmental, social, safety, labor, hygienic, and other standards, rather than to listen to someone else. Moreover, the best thing that the first world could do for Africa is to open its markets. You should see what Nigerian newspapers and their commenters write about the speech. Klaus's speech is accepted kind of enthusiastically and they seem to understand the main points and their power.

Hep-th papers on Friday

Below you find descriptions of the 17 today's papers on hep-th.

Bert Schroer dedicates 50+ pages to what he calls "significant conceptual differences" between quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. Needless to say, quantum field theory is a standard example of a quantum mechanical theory and the difference between quantum field theory and other quantum mechanical theories is purely dynamical, not conceptual. What defines a quantum theory are the postulates of quantum mechanics (Hilbert space, observables given by linear operators, evolution given by a unitary operator, probabilities given by expectation values of projection operators) that hold everywhere, including quantum field theory, plus a choice of dynamics on the Hilbert space (e.g. a Hamiltonian) that depends on a theory. Quantum field theory is thus just another example. Also, all the features of the uncertainty principle and localization that hold in non-relativistic quantum mechanics of particles may be derived from quantum field theory in the appropriate limit(s). The paper is a nonsensical stream of philosophical misinterpretations, misconceptions borrowed from the "real" algebraic quantum field theory, and buzzwords.

Alikram Aliev shows that the "g=2" gyromagnetic ratio for rotating charged black holes is surprisingly universal in general relativity, regardless of the asymptotic geometry, its curvature etc.: the value remarkably coincides with the value for the electron calculated from the Dirac equation. (Non-relativistic gyroscopes have "g=1".) It becomes "g=4" when two angular momenta coincide.

Arthur Sergyeyev and Pavel Krtouš study the Klein-Gordon equation on a multi-dimensional Kerr-NUT-dS or -AdS background. They find a complete set of many commuting angular-momentum-like operators and prove that they commute. This is done purely in the first-quantized setup because the second-quantized Hilbert space of course can't have a finite complete set of commuting observables. Moreover, it can't really be interpreted in the quantum fashion because the Klein-Gordon equation (or any other relativistic equation) can't really be used as a first-quantized physical Schrödinger equation. So to summarize, it is purely a work in general relativity & classical field theory, the word "operator" should be interpreted as nothing else than a mathematical (differential) operator and it is somewhat confusing why the paper is on hep-th.

Noboru Nakanishi seems to be unfamiliar with conventional renormalization and is troubled by the quadratic divergences of the Standard Model. So he rediscovers the Pauli-Villars regularization and interprets the wrong sign as a consequence of wrong statistics of these new complex fields, rather than a negative sign of the kinetic term. The author doesn't seem to be at home with quantum field theory, as highlighted e.g. by the fact that he or she doesn't use the term "Standard Model". He only cites three (not too relevant) papers besides his own and Pauli & Villars are not among them.

James Hartle, Stephen Hawking, and Thomas Hertog offer a possible solution to a problem of the Hartle-Hawking no-boundary proposal: that it predicts a very short inflation. They show a gauge-invariant, serious, "non-anthropic" calculation whose result is to add an additional factor of exp(3N) where N is the number of e-foldings to the probability of various classical solutions: similar factors may have appeared as results of anthropic hand-waving (or ingenious anthropic prophecies, if you wish). In the relevant physical context of a stringy-like landscape, a lot of inflation, starting near a de Sitter geometry at the saddle point, then follows. Surely one of the most interesting papers today.

Ee Chang-Young, Hoil Kim, and Hiroaki Nakajima construct a matrix representation of a super Heisenberg group that occurred in a stringy two-dimensional N=(2,2) deformed superspace describing D-branes on background Ramond-Ramond fields. Just like a background B-field forces bosonic coordinates to be non-commuting, a background RR-field makes the supercoordinates non-anti-commuting even though the math and limiting procedures are somewhat less clear.

Suresh Nampuri, Prasanta K.Tripathy, Sandip P. Trivedi ask, along the lines of "Dualities versus singularities", whether T-dualities - in their case those of type IIA on K3 times a two-torus - are enough to refractionalize a black hole with large D0-D4 or D0-D6 charges and bring those charges to Cardy's limit. The answer is "Yes" for non-supersymmetric black holes and "No" for generic supersymmetric black holes. The "Yes" answer might imply that the entropy of all extremal but non-supersymmetric black holes may be calculated.

Arzumanyan and 4 more Armenian authors compute the radiation from a charge that moves along a helix. Given the fact that the typical energy they consider is 10 MeV and the topic is more relevant for condensed matter physics (dielectric materials are needed) or something else, I don't think that the otherwise interesting paper should have appeared in a high-energy archive.

Cristina Zambon attempts to incorporate the so-called jump-defect, known from the sine-Gordon model, to the affine Toda field theories which are a complementary integrable description of similar physical systems.

B.M. Zupnik studies harmonic superspaces for three-dimensional theories. Harmonic superspace is a superspace that, in addition to anticommuting coordinates, contains additional bosonic coordinates spanning quotients of groups. His particular interest is in a non-Abelian Chern-Simons theory whose manifest supersymmetry from the superspace is N=5 but is extended to N=6.

Juraj Boháčik and Peter Prešnajder study the zero-spatial-dimensional anharmonic oscillator with a quartic interaction term using non-perturbative methods due to Gelfand and Yaglom. They offer a comprehensible proof of an equation that specifies corrections for such an oscillator. Again, it is interesting but not directly relevant for high-energy physicists.

A.T. Avelar et al. study topologically unusual soliton solutions to models with a single real scalar field. Their potential is a combination of (mostly fractional) powers of the field and the topologies include lumps with flat plateux at the top and lumps on top of another lump. The fact that they mention that the results may have applications to non-linear science highlights that this should probably not be a hep-th paper.

Kwan Sik Jeong studies supersymmetry breaking in KKLT-like models. It is being assumed that the source of the breaking is in a hidden, sequestered sector. The author argues that the impact of this breaking on the visible sector can be summarized in an F-term expectation value that is universal. Ratios of vevs and logarithms of ratios of various mass scales are the only thing that appear in the ultimate key formula.

Albion Lawrence, Tobias Sander, Michael B. Schulz, Brian Wecht look at type IIB string theory on a Calabi-Yau three-fold. Their aim is to find the spectrum of auxiliary fields which is not exactly a physically unique, objective, physical question but a particular natural answer may be useful. Indeed, it is useful and they argue that the expectation values of these auxiliary fields lead to deformed CFTs that add either the H-field (a field strength for the NS-NS B-field) or an SU(3) x SU(3) structure (different tangent bundles for left-movers and right-movers). Once these things are nonzero, generic vacua are non-geometric globally (although probably geometric locally, because of their starting point), a worldsheet argument suggests. Mirror symmetry is argued to hold beyond the (2,2) worldsheet supersymmetry and worldsheet instantons are presented as more important animals when their fluxes are turned on. One of the most interesting papers.

Niklas Beisert, Denis Erkal present the spin chains arising in the AdS/CFT correspondence as very special spin chains with non-nearest-neighbor interactions that nevertheless preserve the integrability of a simpler spin chain with nearest-neighbor interactions only. They can't prove the full integrability for the interesting cases that occur in string theory but they can do so for a seemingly similar gl(n) spin chain model with longer-range interactions. The proof is technically based on checking the Serre relations for a Yangian generator. A very interesting paper.

Borun D. Chowdhury and Samir D. Mathur study the fuzzball model of black holes. Now they look at radiation by these monsters. They derive the classical radiation emitted by these classical solutions (not suppressed by hbar) by combining the Hawking radiation into (very many) unstable modes of their individual geometries. I kind of feel that this was guaranteed to work because of the standard limiting relationships between classical and quantum systems but don't worry. They argue that this means that the information is manifestly preserved in the supergravity degrees of freedom. Well, I don't have any problem with the statement that these fuzzball geometries preserve the information or may behave as ordinary horizon-free solutions. They are ordinary, after all. What is missing for me is a proof that these fuzzball geometries conspire to behave like ordinary black holes in contexts where I want to believe that the black hole description is correct, e.g. after a collapse of a star. Also, I don't see any proof that all the relevant degrees of freedom that store the information about a black hole are geometric in character.

Chris Hull and R.A. Reid-Edwards discuss similar structures as Albion Lawrence et al. above, namely non-geometric compactifications. If the monodromy in such a background is taken from the T-duality group, such a background may be made similar to a geometric one by adding the T-dual coordinates besides the normal coordinates at each point. This has been discussed many times, even on this blog, and Hitchin was the most well-known guy who has advocated this viewpoint. Hull and Reid-Edwards think that one can also construct backgrounds that are non-geometric even locally, by thinking about the double as a Drinfeld double. I don't see this statement justified in the paper.