Saturday, November 01, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Ebola is overhyped

A minor disease should be treated as business-as-usual

Ebola has been everywhere in the media for several months. If you look at Google Trends, you will see that the amount of media coverage dedicated to Ebola surpassed that of tuberculosis and even AIDS by an order of magnitude.

If you trusted the media as an honest reflection of the danger, you could conclude that the number of deaths from Ebola has been approximately 10 times larger than that from AIDS or tuberculosis. Is this estimate a good one?

Friday, October 31, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Parts of wave function trapped in helium bubbles

Even Leon Cooper caught as saying completely wrong things about quantum mechanics

In the world of genuine physics, nothing has changed about the quantum foundations of the discipline since the mid 1920s or the late 1920s. In the media world, we are told about a revolution at least once a week. Less than a week ago, the fad would be all about the many interacting worlds. All of it has been forgotten by now. The new fad is about a mysterious electron's wave function shockingly divided and stunningly trapped in helium bubbles.

All of these wonderful echoes in the media echo chamber boil down to the Brown University press release announcing a paper in a journal

Can the wave function of an electron be divided and trapped? (also at Phys.org)

Study of Exotic Ions in Superfluid Helium and the Possible Fission of the Electron Wave Function
by Prof Humprey Maris, a senior experimenter, and collaborators.

Now, let me make it clear that I do believe that he is a good experimenter and these are actually good and interesting experiments performed with interesting and probably expensive cryogenics devices. But the shortage of a good theoretical background and a scientifically solid interpretation of their observations is striking and it guarantees that the press release, and especially its echoes in the media, is completely detached from the scientific substance.

Thursday, October 30, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

NPR releases another anti-SUSY rant

Exactly half a year ago, Joe Lykken and Maria Spiropulu printed an unwise anti-physics diatribe in Scientific American. In order to prove that it's not weaker in similar fashionable attacks, NPR published its own rant written by a professional critic of science named Marcelo Gleiser:

Are Physicists Ready To Give Up The Chase For SUSY?
It was at the end of April 2014. Now it's the end of October 2014 and NPR printed an anti-SUSY article written by a man named Marcelo Gleiser:
Can Scientific Belief Go Too Far?
If your child couldn't understand what "deja vu" means, maybe you could use these two articles as an example. You may also use these articles to explain the slogan by Joseph Goebbels, "a lie repeated 100 times becomes the truth".

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Maldacena's fairy-tale on exchange rates, gauge theories, and the Higgs

Juan Maldacena wrote a popular essay on gauge symmetries and their breaking:

The symmetry and simplicity of the laws of physics and the Higgs boson (PDF).
It's sometimes being said that Einstein's discovery of the special theory of relativity was helped by Einstein's work with the patents dealing with the train synchronization. I think that it's not really true (Einstein was stunned by the apparent contradiction between Maxwell's field theory and Newtonian mechanics long before he worked with the patents: sorry, Peter Galison) but it's good enough as a fairy-tale.



The next Maldacena may arrive from Zimbabwe.

Analogously, we learn that Maldacena's work with gauge theories was helped by the chronic inflation in his homeland, Argentina. The persistent monetary inflation and currency reforms – something that many of us consider to be "once in a century" painful event – became as mundane in Argentina as a gauge transformation. In fact, as Maldacena shows (and he is not the first one, I guess), it is not just an analogy. The switching to another unit of wealth is a special case of a gauge transformation.

With this experience, a European or North American gauge theorist facing Maldacena must feel just like a European soccer player facing Argentina, if we recall another observation by Juan at Strings 2014.

Separate elections in Ukraine speed up the dissolution of the country

The bulk of Ukraine held parliamentary elections on Sunday.

On Wednesday, we still don't know what the final results are. But we're very close and it seems that six parties will surpass the 5% threshold get into the Parliament:

  1. Yatsenyuk's Scientological People's Front (22+%)
  2. Poroshenko-Klitschko Bloc (22-%)
  3. Self-Reliance (11%)
  4. Opposition Bloc (Party of Regions artifacts) (9.5%)
  5. Lyashko's Radical Clown Party (7.5%)
  6. Yulia Tymoshenko's Fatherland (5.5%)
First, let me mention that the results differ from the pre-election estimates in many respects.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Distance between quantum field theories

The first and most interesting hep-th paper today is

Relative Entropy and Proximity of Quantum Field Theories
by Vijay Balasubramanian, Jonathan J. Heckman, and Alexander Maloney. They use the notion of relative entropy\[

D_{KL} (p||q) = \int \dd\mu (z)\, p(z)\log \frac{p(z)}{q(z)}

\] that is well-known to folks in machine learning (Kaggle anyone?) and related fields to quantify how far two quantum field theories are, how much information you lose when you run from the ultraviolet to the infrared.

Monday, October 27, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Tiny dark energy from co-existence of phases

There are some interesting hep-ph articles on the arXiv today. I will mention two of them – both papers are available on sciencedirect.com owned by Elsevier (so their title pages are almost identical). First, there is the paper

SUSY fits with full LHC Run I data
by the MasterCode Collaboration (represented by Kees Jan de Vries). They present the state-of-the-art fits on simple supersymmetric models. Unless one relies on a significant amount of good luck, the anomalous value of the muon magnetic moment can only be satisfactorily explained by the superpartners – without contradicting the current bounds imposed by the LHC – if one sacrifices the usual grand-unification-inspired relationship between the MSSM couplings.

But I want to spend more time with
On the smallness of the cosmological constant
by Froggatt, Nevzorov, Nielsen, and Thomas (they have written similar papers in the past). They want to explain the small value of the cosmological constant – and perhaps also of the Higgs mass – in the Planck units using their "Multiple Point Principle" (MPP).

Second alarming explosive in Doubravka in 10 days

The greenest neighborhood of Pilsen where I live, Doubravka (Pilsen 4, the Eastern neighborhood; the name is a "little" variation of "Doubrava", an archaic Czech word for an oak forest), would also be viewed as the most peaceful one, despite an occassional acid attack. However, that image may have changed in this month.



The renovated interiors of the "Centrum" department store and sports and cultural center

While we are nowhere close to Donetsk, Ottawa, or Marysville, the inhabitants and especially the local police have had some fun with explosives here in the recent 10 days.

Sunday, October 26, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Interstellar: the best visualization of black hole's environment

I wrote about the Interstellar (2014) movie and Kip Thorne's role as a star in the movie more than a year ago.



But the premiere of Christopher Nolan's film is rapidly approaching now. Next Wednesday, London will see the world premiere and it will be followed by the U.S. premiere exactly one week later.

Saturday, October 25, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Many interacting worlds approach is an original, equally flawed cousin of Bohmian mechanics

All the major "realist" attempts to reform the foundations of quantum mechanics – de Broglie-Bohmian mechanics, Ghirardi-Rimini-Weber-like collapse theories, and Everett-style many worlds – are known to suffer from serious diseases. To a large extent, "realism" itself is the problem.

Off-topic, physics: In Physics World, Sylvester Jim Gates Jr explains why he is Sticking With SUSY. Doing something else would be as unwise as to conclude that giant sequoia trees don't exist after looking at the U.S. East Coast only. Supersymmetry, a Bose-Fermi symmetry, is really needed to "deeply" explain the established fact that the quantizations of fermions and bosons are so analogous; and to cancel lots of destabilizing divergences.
I am still willing to admit that there is no truly "rock-solid proof" of the statement that "there cannot be any realist reinterpretation or 'improvement' of quantum mechanics". This sentence is composed of words and we don't really know what the "most general type of a theory we would naturally consider realist" looks like. We can't define it. Maybe a way to reformulate quantum mechanics "smells" realist and all the "novelties" of quantum mechanics are traded for another feature of the reformulation that seemingly does something else than to refute realism. I find the existence of such a "realist" reinterpretation – even in this vague, generalized sense – extremely unlikely but I can't really "prove" that it doesn't exist.



So I am always open-minded when I read about a "completely new" approach to the reform of the foundations of quantum mechanics. Every such an approach may only be abandoned after we actually identify its lethal flaw if it exists. Of course, the lethal flaws are well-known for the most notorious "alternative approaches" and most articles about such matters share these flaws. However, when something is sufficiently new, one has to look at it with a "new dose of potential enthusiasm". That was also the case of the "new interpretation of quantum mechanics" (note that before this sentence, I've managed to avoid the word "interpretation") that was hyped in Nature yesterday:
A quantum world arising from many ordinary ones (Nature, popular)

Quantum Phenomena Modeled by Interactions between Many Classical Worlds (by Hall, Deckert, Wiseman, Physical Review X, PDF)
I must have heard of "Physical Review X" ("X" probably stands for "XXX", or porn for short) but the shortage of meaningful papers in that outlet has made me forget about the existence of the journal again.

Friday, October 24, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Warren Buffett's vicepresident donates $65 million to UCSB visiting theoretical physicists

Charles Munger, the vice-president of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., donated over $65 million in stocks to the University of California in Santa Barbara. It's the largest individual gift to UCSB ever, beating the previous record $50 million in 2012. The university doesn't quite understand the concept of "holding stocks" so it immediately converted them to cash.

Munger wants the money to be used to house visiting theoretical physicists – probably to build a new dormitory for guests. He is impressed by the achievements of the physicists over there.

EU 40% CO2 reduction by 2030 is a plan to destroy the whole system twice

A damp rag nicknamed Herman Van Rompuy (yes, check what is the most popular YouTube video about him) and his apparatchik friends have finally agreed about an insane 15-year plan (a 3 times more ambitious time scale than Stalin liked to "command")

EU leaders agree CO2 emissions cut
It's an atrocious piece of communist planning. Poland and others probably agreed with this insanity because they were promised a few bucks (negligible $3 billion dollars over a decade in the case of Czechia) as a compensation.

Thursday, October 23, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

House and energy, a conference

I just returned from Bohemian Budweis – just to be sure, my dear American readers, it's the town that gave the name to the beer and if someone tries to convince you about a different story about the origin of the name, you're being had! ;-)



The town is nice, a smaller Pilsen of a sort, a town with some extra traces of the rural Czech aristocracy. Unlike the cities in Northern Bohemia which used to belong to the Sudetenland, there is no obvious "traumatic feeling" of a post-war decline associated with the depopulation and repopulation.

Linguistically, Southern Bohemia was defined as the "healthy (rural) core" of the Czech nation so the people over there define what the Czech language without any accents or dialects looks like. They have the credentials to make fun of the accents and dialects of everyone else, and of course, they did exploit this capital in some friendly conversations with your humble Pilsner correspondent. ;-)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

POLARBEAR announces detection of B-modes

Focus of the March paper is mostly orthogonal to the BICEP2-Planck dispute

You are often being told that polar bears love the chilling weather and thick ice but POLARBEAR is a CMB experiment located in a desert in Chile (although the altitude is over 5 kilometers). Californian cosmologists from Berkeley and San Diego are the main members of the collaboration.



A few hours ago, it announced a "breakthrough" that was reported in the media:

POLARBEAR detects B-modes in the cosmic microwave background: Mapping cosmic structure, finding neutrino masses (Science Daily, news)

A Measurement of the Cosmic Microwave Background B-mode Polarization Power Spectrum at Sub-degree Scales with POLARBEAR (Astrophysical Journal, arXiv)
A problem with the hype is that the paper producing the story is nothing else than the March 2014 preprint that many of us have seen a long time ago. But let me discuss this as if the story were really new because no blog post has been dedicated specifically to POLARBEAR yet.

They describe themselves as the most accurate ones, and so on.

Peter Thiel talks to Glenn Beck

Peter Thiel is arguably the world's most ingenious venture capitalist. He is a co-founder of PayPal, the first major Facebook investor, a hedge fund boss, a libertarian, an excellent chess player, and one of the most influential folks in Silicon Valley.



He believes that there is an education bubble and he actively (by significant felllowships) encourages smart kids to escape from the conventional, left-wing-politics-dominated academic system, and become builders of an independent, competing, more pro-freedom framework for the elite.

I admit that my discussions with him in Nice may make me a bit biased. As far as I remember, no other dollar billionaire has ever invited me to a luxurious place for a week and no other billionaire has asked me so many good questions about the expectations at the LHC etc. (Those 4 years ago, I happened to have a "flu" over there which, I became almost certain later, was always caused by Candida, not by viruses or bacteria. I have pretty much chased those "flus" from my life.)