Thursday, November 30, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Massachusetts v. EPA

Original text: Today, the U.S. Supreme Court had one of the strangest hearings in many years. The environmental NGOs decided that no act is too ridiculous for them. So they have essentially sued EPA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for causing global warming.

Here is the transcript - thanks to YS!

The environmental organizations have not been regulated at all so they have literally spread like mosquitos which is why I can't enumerate all of them. But you can guess who is the main eco-activist group in this list. Yes: the main dissatisfied environmental organization is called the
  • Commonwealth of Massachusetts

which is why the case is called Massachusetts v. EPA. That's a rather painful name for all people in Massachusetts with some traces of common sense left. What is the sin of the EPA and how did this environmental agency suddenly become the main target of the eco-attacks? Well, according to these environmental groups which includes the elected officials of 12 states of the union, EPA should have protected and failed to protect the atmosphere against carbon dioxide according to the 1990 Clean Air Act. You don't exactly have to be a physics PhD to see that it is a complete absurdity.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Bush and Klaus

Figure 1: Bush and Klaus in Riga before taking a family photo today. You can see a similar picture with the left guy replaced by your humble correspondent. ;-)

The U.S. president has assured his Czech counterpart that he will work on the visa issue that has been annoying for many people including your humble correspondent, despite some expected friction in the U.S. Congress.

More than the required 3% of the visa applications from the Czech Republic are rejected - more precisely, it was above 9 percent in 2005 - which is the technicality in which the member of the EU doesn't satisfy the U.S. criteria for visa-free tourism. Americans can visit Czechia without any visas.

You can see that with the number of visas I had needed in the past, the probability that at least one of them would be rejected was about 50 percent. Add collapsing assets due to market turmoils, harassment by left-wing radicals and by aggressive organized crackpots, and many other things to be sure that no one should have been jealous about my situation. ;-)

I think it is fair to say that it is really the Democrat Party with their labor market protectionism who is responsible for the asymmetric harassment of countries like Czechia. If the security were the only issue, Czechia as a solid ally would probably face no problems.

My additional personal suspicion is that some people in the U.S. also want to avoid a possible inflow of Roma Czechs which was also the primary reasons why the visas for Canada were re-introduced for all Czech citizens in the mid 1990s.

Canada decided to screen itself from such an inflow so that the country could go on to hypocritically pretend that they're such nice people ;-) and that it is surely others who is responsible for any problems that the ethnic minority could might be facing.

See other articles about Klaus and Bush and on this blog.

Choptuik exponent is Regge saturation exponent: maybe

Take two random articles from this weblog:

Such two random articles are expected to have nothing to do with each other. For example, the first one is concerned with a messy classical calculation in GR of a marginal formation of a black hole - essentially some dirty astrophysics - while the second one is some special limit of QCD relevant for some messy nuclear physics. Neither of them seems close to the fundamental equations and they moreover probe very different parts of physics at very different scales. And one of them is classical while the other one is quantum. So they can't be related. Or can they? ;-)

Using the BFKL pomeron exchange in a gauge theory, one can try to calculate some scattering amplitudes in the Regge limit (high-energies, small angle). A linear approximation of this calculation breaks down for some rapidity "y" that is related to the ratio of the sizes of certain two three-dimensional momenta by a scaling law
  • exp(y) = (k1 / k2)^{gammaBFKL}
where one can calculate that the exponent is numerically
  • gammaBFKL = 0.409552...
This breakdown essentially calculates the ratio of the sizes of the two nucleons as seen by the pomeron exchange.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Climate debate: Leckner vs Michaels

Today at 1:30 pm, a debate between the representatives of the climate debate will start in Colorado:

The climate moderates and skeptics will be represented by Pat Michaels who is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a past president of the American Association of State Climatologists. He also wrote geographers' paper of the year 2003.

Florida, Yukon: record cold temperatures

Four days ago, the daily cold records were set in most of the South Florida.

Update (January 3rd 2008): another record or near-record cold temperature, freezing citrus crops etc. Temporarily relevant link to Google News: Florida record cold
Yesterday, i.e. on Monday, the Yukon territory in Canada has seen its coldest November day on record: in -41 Celsius degrees which also happens to be around -41 Fahrenheit degrees, they could test some kinds of superconductors. Congratulations! ;-)

In Calgary, Canada, they're just approaching the record chill in the 110-year history. Nanaimo, British Columbia had a record daily snow for November and 56 cm for the weekend, and they are expecting a deep freeze.

In Vancouver, Canada where they broke the precipitation records two weeks ago, 30 centimeters of snow caused outages, a death, and flight cancellations. With an update, British Columbia that broke the snowfall record has seen four people killed by the cold so far.

Victoria, Canada has seen its record two-day snowfall on Monday and now it's time for a big chill.

Juneau, Alaska has broken the record low from 1985.

Oregon and Washington where they improved the record for the monthly rain in November are preparing for a winter storm and, together with Idaho, a deep freeze. Seattle has broken cold records for 11/29 by four degrees.

Sliding down icy SW 164th Street in Burien, WA, on Tuesday, before the cold really came to the town...

Monterey, California has near-record and near-freezing conditions on Wednesday and a real "freeze warming" is in effect for the interior valleys of San Francisco and Monterey Bay Areas for Thursday morning. Sacramento is forecast to match or beat the 1880 record low of 30 degrees F overnight.

Non-metric gravity and renormalizability

Kirill Krasnov has asked me to debunk his paper

Now, I would really be happier if my reading could end up as an announcement of an important breakthrough ;-) but after having read his paper, it seems that he will get exactly what he asked for: a debunking.

Let me start with some general comments about the whole framework.

General strategy

First of all, there are many papers that attempt to rewrite gravity in different variables, combine them and recombine them, in order to get a better result. As we will discuss in detail, I think that this whole philosophy is fundamentally flawed. A change of variables is one thing but physics is an entirely different thing. In physics, we want to know what is the Hilbert space - the spectrum of particles - and what are the amplitudes (and consequently cross sections) of their interactions.

These amplitudes are completely physical and measurable in principle (up to an overall constant phase) and they cannot depend on your nationality, sex, or your choice of variables. If these people actually ever tried to compute at least one physical observable instead of this mumbo-jumbo with their formalism, they would have to see the same thing that everyone else does: the basic qualitative physical insights about quantum gravity are true and independent of any changes of your variables.

The coupling constant of gravity, Newton's constant, determines the length scale or the energy scale where quantum effects (such as loops in the Feynman diagrams) become as important as classical effects. The relative importance of the tree diagrams and multi-loop diagrams can be calculated by a simple dimensional analysis and the result doesn't depend on any field redefinitions. For example, the characteristic dimensionless coupling constant goes like "G.E^2" where "E" is the typical energy in your experiments and "G" is Newton's constant. Because it becomes of order one near the Planck scale, a better theory is needed as seen from the simple behavior of the "quantum foam" - the violent and topology-changing fluctuations of the metric near the Planck scale.

Monday, November 27, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Relativistic condensed matter physics: chiral QFT inside a pencil

Relativistic condensed matter physics sounds as a contradiction, doesn't it? If it's condensed, it must be low-energy, and whatever is low-energy, must be non-relativistic, if not low-brow, many people would say. ;-)

Andre Geim gave a colloquium at Harvard University in which he convinced us that the converse is true. One can study relativistic quantum field theory in condensed matter systems.

Andre Geim is an Ig Nobel prize winner for his discovery of a levitating frog; yes, it is now the featured Ig Nobel discovery on Wikipedia. He has also made it to the fifth annual "Scientific American 50" even though he is only scientific but not American, as Charles Marcus has emphasized with a strong nationalist - but still decisively leftist - accent. ;-) Geim was born in Russia although he works in Holland right now.

OK. What material do you need in order to study chiral quantum field theories within condensed matter physics systems?


The material is called graphene and it was thought not to exist until 2004 or so when Geim et al. have made their breakthrough. It is a two-dimensional crystal of carbon filled with hexagons. This idealized material couldn't be observed in its two-dimensional incarnation for a long time but if had been observed in all other compactified editions (except for those with 4-10 large dimensions). We classify them according to the number of large dimensions:

  • 3D: graphite - the material inside your pencil - is a lot of layers of graphene
  • 2D: graphene - one layer - observed in 2004
  • 1D: carbon nanotubes may be viewed as graphene with one dimension compactified on a circle
  • 0D: carbon balls may be viewed as graphene compactified on a sphere
Fine. Geim et al. have simply used a better technology based on optics that allowed them to go to one layer of graphite: the graphene itself. Whenever you make a discovery, you should check literature and you will see that some Russian theorists or Japanese experimenters have done it 39 years ago. This was the case of nanotubes that were not discovered in 1991 but in 1952, we were told. Nevertheless, Geim et al. were lucky because they were indeed the first ones to isolate one layer of graphene.

Jan Laštovička: the sky is falling

The added focus of this blog on topics related to Czechia is natural. The newest article on RealClimate.ORG is about an article by a Prague climate scientist RNDr. Jan Laštovička and his team. The article in Science is called

  • The sky IS falling.

More precisely, this is how Gavin Schmidt has translated the original boring title to satisfy the intellectual, emotional, and religious demands of his readers. The original boring title was:

But Gavin's title sounds more progressive, doesn't it? ;-) And it is more or less equivalent, isn't it? Let me mention that "Jan" means "John" while "Laštovička" means a "small swallow".

It should really be spelled "Vlaštovička" but the typo is common enough so that it has been incorporated into the surnames. ;-)

More seriously, the paper argues that the cooling of the upper atmosphere (stratosphere plus ionosphere above it - i.e. everything that is higher than 20 km or so) is "exactly" as predicted by the greenhouse effect and it makes various layers of ions (called the "sky" by Gavin) to "fall". Many comments about the timescale and the numbers seem to be deliberately vague and non-quantitative. We will look at some aspects of the claims and ignore others: for example, I won't discuss strange claims about the "increasing geomagnetic activity".

Saturday, November 25, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Havel at Columbia University

Václav Havel, the last Czechoslovak president and the first Czech president, is spending 7 weeks at Columbia University. His local website

contains a lot of videos of Bollinger, Clinton, and Havel, and many other things, including the movie called Citizen Havel goes on vacation. Be ready that except for three funny sentences, Havel prefers to speak Czech. ;-)

It's been more than 15 years since my admiration of Havel became finite and started to be regulated by various considerations and the realization of his limitations but I still think that his presence is a clearly positive contribution to Columbia University. Whom do you think about these days when someone says "Columbia University"? Years ago, you would realize that Milton Friedman got his PhD there. And today? While there are great people like Brian Greene and others over there, the university has become a symbol of various fringe America-haters, science-haters, crackpots, and similar groups and movements.

Smetana and My Country: Alaska

The video has nice pictures from Alaska and exceptional background music by Bedřich Smetana, the Czech national composer. Nevertheless, their combination may be viewed as a manifestation of ignorance and insensitivity because the true message of the symphonic poem Vltava (The Moldau) is entirely lost.

In reality, the composition describes the Czech national river, Vltava, from its two springs to its junction with Labe (The Elbe). Vltava is the national river because it is largest among the rivers whose whole length fits into the Czech lands.

At the beginning, you hear a single flute whose tones are quickly increasing and decreasing and oscillate like the waves on a heterotic string. That's nothing else than Teplá Vltava (The Warm Moldau), one of the creeks that is finding its zigzag path through the hilly meadows of Šumava (The Bohemian Forest) and that is licking its grassy shores in Southern Bohemia.

Friday, November 24, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Heavy ion physics and AdS/QCD

The Lagrangian of QCD has been written down more than 30 years ago and I think it is fair that say that we have known that it is the correct fundamental description of the strong interactions which includes nuclear physics and heavy ion physics, among other subfields, for many decades. Even the Nobel prize committee has agreed with this assertion for more than two years.

From the viewpoint of a complete idealized theorist, the main questions about the strong interactions have been settled for a very long time. And it has been a good idea for these theorists to re-focus on new physics at shorter distance scales.

But physics is not just about the fundamental Lagrangians as some of the idealized theorists could think. It is about the understanding of all possible phenomena and about predicting of the outcomes of experiments in a wide variety of physical situations. What did the people have to do in order to get a better grasp of nuclear physics, heavy ion physics, and similar "messy" fields that exhibit complex behavior whose essence is captured by QCD?

Well, people had to perform a lot of experiments, find phenomenological laws, and justify these laws from the fundamental equations. The physicists had to think about a plethora of possible new approximations, concepts, and ideas how to visualize what's going on in a more accessible way.

Some of these ideas look like a systematic - and in principle, arbitrarily accurate - mathematical treatment of the fundamental QCD Lagrangian: perturbative QCD and chiral perturbation theory. Others don't. People had to design models with new emergent objects that some of them could see in the mess and they had to think about new phases in the QCD phase diagram. The quark bag model and the color glass condensate are examples.


Thursday, November 23, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 22, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Answering adds fuel

The most distinguished physicist of our time has had something wise to say to many of us in Nature last week:

Although the short text is technically a reply to an article (plus another paid one) about the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF), two ecoterrorist groups that have attacked some biological labs in the northwestern United States, Witten's point is much more general and applies to all of science.

Much like many other famous scientists, he believes that it is counterproductive to answer the critics of science. They passionately believe that they are right and that their viewpoint is unfairly neglected by the establishment. They strike a popular note and introduce technical themes to the public discourse that few can properly evaluate. They are ready to spend a lot of energy and generate astonishing amounts of publicity. We all know examples from our fields and from the media, Witten writes.

Witten means more enlightened counterparts of ALF / ELF who criticize physics from outside the scientific establishment and sometimes even from within.

It is difficult to respond to the critics because they thrive on the "he said she said" situation and any explanation why the elitism charges are unfair is bound to sound elitist to the public. Well, it is still extremely difficult for me to accept this conclusion - the conclusion that the discussion should be suppressed in many situations - but nevertheless, I am clearly a walking piece evidence of Witten's assertion: it is simply a bad idea to get stuck in discussions with frantically believing activists who don't have the appropriate knowledge to discuss their favorite questions rationally.

Numerology in the skies

Maurizio Gasperini, the co-father of pre-big-bang string cosmology (with Gabriele Veneziano) has a very intriguing essay called

on the hep-th archive tonight. His goal is to present some evidence of the gravity-is-the-weakest-force conjecture whose blog description was provided by Jacques Distler. The assertion not only makes string theory falsifiable but also trivially rules out all models of pure gravity, for example all existing competitors of string theory.

Note that the statement that gravity is the weakest force, when properly defined with some mathematical equations, is arguably one of the universal predictions of string theory. Why do I find Gasperini's essay intriguing?

He bravely combines some rather abstract arguments in string theory and quantum gravity with real-life astrophysical observations. In fact, one of his main sources include a paper of Baliunas, Sokoloff, and Soon.

Incidentally, Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon are rather famous climate sceptics from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who can't really exist because, as you have heard from Al Gore, climate sceptics don't really exist in the scientific community and if they do, they certainly don't work at any well-known places. And if they do, it is certainly impossible that you would ever hear about these marginal individuals, or at least not from a source of information composed at a well-known university, and so forth. ;-)

As Steve McIntyre would say: Take a Ritalin, Al.

Anyway, what are the intriguing points in the essay? As you know, we have conjectured the existence of a new scale
  • g.MPlanck
for every gauge coupling "g". This is one starting point. The other starting point are phenomenological power laws satisfied by many astronomical objects. The first one is
  • J = beta Mdelta
in the Planck units that relates the angular momentum and the mass and where all observations seem to be consistent with the exponent
  • delta = 2.
Some sources give "beta = 0.0007" although other sources seem to lead to a higher value "beta = 0.003". Another relation is between the angular moment "J" and the magnetic moment "Mag":
  • J = gamma-1/2 Magepsilon
in the natural units. Again, all observations are marginally consistent with the exponent
  • epsilon = 1
and the experimental determinantion of "gamma" leads roughly to "gamma = 0.009". Now the key, breath-taking hypothesis of the author, and be ready for a miracle, is
  • alpha = beta = gamma = 1/137.036,
i.e. both of these constants from the prefactors, "beta" and "gamma", in the laws above are the the fine structure constant and these relations could be derived by saturating the weak-gravity inequalities. Wow. That's what I call a bold claim. A nearly perfect unification of the Greek alphabet. Alpher, Bethe, and Gamow would be proud, together with Eddington who used to explain all numbers by the fine structure constant. The author seems to view these astrophysical observations as experimental circumstantial evidence not only for the "nearly saturated form" of our conjecture but also for string theory. I would indeed be thrilled if such things could be true.

We report, you decide. ;-)

However, it seems that the people are unable to determine what I think about similar ideas. Well, frankly, I don't believe a word of it. The weak gravity conjecture is about the very high-energy physics. The astrophysical observations are about very low-energy physics. It seems unlikely that there would be any direct link between these two. While it's plausible that the Universe tends to prefer some power laws between various quantities describing localized macroscopic celestial bodies, this rule is unlikely to be connected with fundamental physics: it's kind of emergent and therefore independent of the fundamental laws of Nature.

Moreover, the high-energy physics regime where the weak gravity conjecture is relevant describes not only the electromagnetic interaction but also the strong and weak forces. In fact, we must replace electromagnetism by the electroweak force. The occurrence of the low-energy fine-structure constant - that otherwise runs - in the weak-gravity setup would be a shock.

Also, I seem to disagree with some factors of "4 pi", "8 pi", and others, and the numerical evidence looks unconvincing.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

LHC, ATLAS: huge magnet turned on

The world's largest superconducting magnet, the Barrel Toroid, has been switched on without any problems. It will show its strength to the muons in the ATLAS detector. Click the image to see the P.R. home page of the magnet. How many magnets in the world have their own server?

CNN has an article about the imminent completion of the LHC. Clifford Johnson at is driven up the wall by the term "God article" much like he was exploding when the word "theory" was replaced by "laws". I kind of like the term God particle: God is who gave body mass to Himself via a self-interaction and mass to all other objects in the world, Amen.

Monday, November 20, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Hecke eigensheaves and the Langlands program

Unfortunately I missed Edward Witten's talks in the math department on Friday. The people who look at the world as mathematicians were absolutely impressed by the talks.

The people who look at the world as physicists usually think that the geometric Langlands program is a sequence of technicalities and checks that are guaranteed to work as a consequence of the S-duality of N=4 supersymmetric Yang-Mills - a duality that the physicists know to be true. These checks only cover an infinitesimal portion of the full set of the miracles that emerge from physics but the mathematicians can have fun for centuries by proving all the physicists' prophecies. ;-)

Chris Beasley who is one of 12 people in the world who have read the whole 225-page-long Langlands paper by Witten and Kapustin is among those who are completely fascinated by this topic and he has just made a great job in promoting these results to others, together with Ilya Nikokoshev.

The construct

So what are all these Hecke eigensheaves, derived categories, and similar material? Start with the N=4 supersymmetric gauge theory in four dimensions, more precisely with a topological twist of it. This twist preserves one half of the supercharges: you will obtain a four-dimensional topological field theory. Compactify it on a Riemann surface of genus "g" times "R^2". You effectively get a two-dimensional (4,4) topological but still conformal field theory. The total number of supercharges is eight which is one-half of those 16 you started with; the other half disappeared due to the twist.

Now consider the Wilson loops, the traced and path-ordered exponentials of the imaginary integral of the gauge connection that can be easily visualized in the four-dimensional setup but that also exist in the two-dimensional theory. These Wilson loops will be labeled by a representation of your gauge group (over which the trace is taken) and by an element of the fundamental group of the Riemann surface (on which the contour is wrapped). The precise shape of the Wilson contour doesn't matter because the theory is topological i.e. invariant under continuous deformations of all objects.

There are also the S-dual 't Hooft operators which can be defined in the same way as the Wilson operators if you take the S-dual gauge connection instead of the original one. But there exists an independent definition of the 't Hooft operators.

They are disorder operators that are defined by the discontinuities that they create in the target spacetime and that require you to define some boundary conditions in their vicinity. The 't Hooft operators can be shown to be labeled by an element of the fundamental group of the Riemann surface (again) and by an irreducible representation of the S-dual gauge group (this fact can be shown by a careful analysis of the root lattices, co-root lattices, weight lattices, and co-weight lattices of the two S-dual groups and the relations between these lattices).

UCI: Burning trees cause cooling

What do you think that forest fires do with the temperature? If you were influenced by the recent massive wave of brainwashing, I think that you would guess that you obtain warming. The fire is hot and moreover, you release huge amounts of carbon dioxide that causes global warming, doesn't it?

James Randerson et al. from UCI have looked at this question using the scientific method. There have been previous papers about the subject that came to a different conclusion because they essentially neglected the albedo. Randerson and his collaborators have made the analysis a bit more carefully.

Quantum Graphity

The title is not a misprint. More precisely, it is a misprint but it is not mine. The three authors of

claim that they have introduced a new, roughly 1917th "background-independent" model in which the permutation group of all the spacetime events (points) is the primary principle and the degrees of freedom live on the links of the graph.

Figure 1: Quantum graffiti

The title as well as the first sentence of that preprint are incorrect. Well, this principle has been written down at least by one amateur scientist, Phil E. Gibbs, ten years ago.

Gibbs called the permutation symmetry between the points an event-symmetric spacetime and speculated that it could be relevant for string theory and for the solutions to some Witten's puzzles. The reason why I remember this extremely bizarre hypothesis is that in 1995, at the time when I just slowly started to understand the first chapters of Green-Schwarz-Witten, I was kind of intrigued by this webpage

so that I had copied it into my directory in Prague 11 years ago: you can see how webpages looked like in 1995. There were no serious popular webpages about string theory so don't be surprised by the impact that Gibbs's page had on me.

Allan Medved: slowing down Hawking evaporation

Allan Medved seems worried about the negative specific heat capacity of the black holes and especially the "cataclysmic" outcome that this feature implies in the very final stages of the evaporation. I don't quite understand what is behind these worries but it is very conceivable that there is something I don't know.

He starts with our gravity-as-the-weakest-force conjecture (AMNV) and requires the light particles and their Compton wavelength to "fit" inside the black holes. This leads him to a new inequality written in the Planck units:

  • M > 1/g

So if you have a very weakly-coupled gauge theory in your theory of quantum gravity, there are new light particles whose mass is

  • m < g

and inversely, black holes only behave quite semiclassically if they're heavier not only than "1" (Planck mass) but they must also be heavier than "1/g". I tend to think that this conclusion could be correct although the "cataclysmic" language looks somewhat unfamiliar to me.

The small black holes, once they cease to be macroscopic black holes described by semiclassical gravity, become ordinary heavy excited particles, strings, or branes and one needs the microscopic description of quantum gravity to figure out any details. As far as string theory goes, this description is perfectly well-behaved and avoids any catastrophes.

LHC to start trials in March

The LHC will probably be ready for trials by March.

paint the LHC in terms of competition between America and Europe which is certainly healthy - although misleading because the U.S. contributions of all kinds to the LHC are comparable to the European ones. The physicists who spoke to the journalists estimated the time needed to find the Higgs to be as short as 3 months after the moment when the LHC is fully operational. They dedicate some special time to Peter Higgs who is from Edinburgh.

Sunday, November 19, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Even creationists may be right on the money

Do you think it is possible that I could ever subscribe to every word in an article written by a creationist in an inexpensive tuxedo? You bet. His name is William Dembski.

In the first paragraph, he quotes and endorses a characteristically incoherent and absurd pseudoargument of a critic of physics whose goal is essentially to "prove" that science can never make any progress without knowing the answer in advance and without the guiding hand of an intelligent creator. ;-)

Robert Bussard: IEC fusion

ITER's competitor

The practical peaceful realization of thermonuclear fusion is usually associated with hot plasma confined by strong magnetic fields. See, for example,

However, Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of the scanning television, proposed a different framework to achieve fusion in 1924: the fusor. Hot ions are directly injected into the reaction chamber. This mechanism has already become a practical source of neutrons. Today we call the process inertial electrostatic confinement (IEC) fusion. Recently, a breakthrough was announced within this technology and this talk from the last week offers some details about it:

Saturday, November 18, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Zune vs iPod

See also: Zune ahead of iPod at 2007
I have nothing whatsoever against Apple but I never quite understood why the iPod became such a special product, as opposed to any other MP3/WMA player (and the iPod doesn't even play WMA). And it is likely that even with Microsoft's Zune, the iPod will remain its own category. Despite the fact that Zune means the F*** word in Hebrew: thanks, Paul.

Nevertheless, the Zune is probably an interesting product. Its 30 GB hard disk matches my laptop. It plays various formats and unlike the iPod, it can send music files to other Zunes that are up to 15 meters away from you. The video can also be played in the anthropic landscape mode, with automatic switching from the portrait mode, unlike the iPod. Unlike the iPod, Zune also has an FM tuner, preloaded audio, preloaded video, third color (brown), $14.99 of unlimited downloads a month, XBOX integration, flexible background, WMA and WMV playback.

Concerning the design, I would probably prefer the Zune design if I had to decide. The Macintosh-like design of the windows on the display seems somewhat irritating to me which may be a result of my frustrating experience with a very slow and unstable Macintosh in Santa Cruz more than 6 years ago. Also, the relatively bigger display of Zune seems as a clear advantage and a sign of future. Disadvantages are listed in the fast comments.

In 2007, Zune and iPod may become just child versions of the übergadgets that may become the key players. Nokia N95 for $700 is an extended cell phone that will have a five-megapixel camera, integrated GPS, 802.11g Wi-Fi, HSDPA, microSD, 150MB RAM, and an internal computer. Sony Ericsson and Samsung will offer their competitors.

On Friday, Sony started to sell a couple of PlayStation3 units in the U.S. People were waiting in lines throughout the night, resembling the scenes we know from socialism. In Connecticut, two guys attempted to shoot another PlayStation3 fan who had to be hospitalized. However, reviews indicate that PS3 doesn't beat Microsoft's Xbox 360 that is already 1 year old and costs $399.

Greenland cooled down since 1930s

Greenland is one of the regions that play a crucial role in the global warming theory. The existing climate models predict an amplified warming for Greenland and other high-latitude areas. Moreover, these regions that are far away from the equator should also get more warming because of the vegetation feedback mechanism. Also, we frequently read that the Greenland's glaciers are reatreating: we're doomed. On the other hand, the name of Greenland suggests that it could have been green in the past. Who is right: hysterical journalists on one side or historians and linguists on the other side?

There exists a better method to decide similar questions than both hysterical journalism as well as history: the method is called science. The following peer-reviewed 2006 paper in Journal of Geophysical Research

by B. Vinther, K. Andersen, P. Jones, K. Briffa, and J. Cappelen has looked at the available data and reconstructed the temperatures for winters from 1829 to 2005 and summers from 1855 to 2005.

Friday, November 17, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

17 years after 17th November 1989

Figure 1: a woman, Pavel Bém - Prague's mayor, Přemysl Sobotka - the chairman of the Senate, and Václav Klaus - the Czech president

It's been seventeen years since the students were beaten up and the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia started. This event has been covered on this blog:

Relativistic pinball machine

The folks from NASA's Chandra X-ray observatory claim, using their new images, that high-energy cosmic rays are generated by shockwaves in supernova remnants.

Thursday, November 16, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Milton Friedman died

Sad news for all friends of freedom and free markets. Milton Friedman died because of heart failure at the age of 94. According to George Will, Friedman was the most consequential intellectual of the 20th century. Friedman, an extraordinary decent Gentleman and a well-known winner of the Nobel memorial prize in economics, has also been a well-known Eurosceptic and climate sceptic.

I first learned about Friedman from the former finance minister and prime minister Václav Klaus who is now the Czech president. Incidentally, Klaus just wrote a nice article in the Time magazine about Margaret Thatcher.

Scientific American has determined that string theory is as testable as Friedman's economics. Independently of that, Human Events have argued that Friedman's ideas were as obvious as string theory when his book came out. You could wonder whether it is a compliment and for whom it is a compliment. I personally think that it is a compliment for both sides. ;-)

Neanderthal genes partly decoded

The bone was found in Croatia. About one million out of 3.3 billion DNA base pairs has been mapped out by Edward Rubin et al. in Berkeley. While we share 98 percent DNA with the chimps, our DNA overlaps in 99.95 percent with the Neanderthal guy. Our ancestors and the Neanderthal men probably split 370,000 or half a million years ago. There doesn't seem to be evidence of sex in between the two groups that would take place 30,000 or 40,000 years ago although it can't quite be excluded. Incidentally, mtDNA of twelve Neanderthal humans has already been decoded previously but the normal DNA is needed to answer more detailed questions.

The Neanderthal race or species was tougher, stronger. It was getting mature earlier and was more able to resist the cold weather. Nevertheless, they seem to be gone today. Both species, ours and Neanderthal, evolved from Homo erectus who exploded from Africa about 1.5 million years ago. The Neanderthal guys in Europe comprised the first wave of immigrants that lived in Europe up to 30,000 years ago; the particular individual they decoded lived 38,000 years ago. The second wave of immigration from Africa occured as recently as 40,000 years ago: the Cromagnon people were our direct ancestors.

Even though the number 99.95% may seem high, decoding 0.03% of the DNA base pairs was enough to prove a nearly perfect racial segregation. Incidentally, some evolutionary theorists have recently argued that our species may eventually split into two, an elite and an underclass, by the same mechanisms.

Record cold in Australia

Eastern Australia hasn't seen this November cold for more than 100 years: it was the coldest November day in a century. Recall that "November" in Australian can be translated as "May" in the British or U.S. English. ;-) Nevertheless, they have had mushy snow in Canberra, a blast of Antarctic magic. A goosepimply, teeth-chattering Sydney has another reason to shake its collective head at the weather gods today.

It was the first November snow in Queensland since the records started in 1880. In fact, the latest snowfall registered on any year used to be on October 1st in 1941. Now it's November 16th, more than 45 days later.

In spite of the records, enlightened and concerned journalists immediately explain us that the cooler weather and fewer hurricanes do not lessen global warming trends because weather is not climate, just like religion is not faith. ;-) The climate and the climate change are not only independent of the weather but they are independent of all other things that can be measured, too.

More precisely, weather is only climate when it's getting warmer and when the hurricane frequency increases. Whenever the weather is getting cooler and the hurricane rate is plummeting by 70 percent from the previous year, weather is no longer climate. It follows that the climate is always getting warmer and the global warming is here with us to stay - QED Amen. That's why Kofi Annan can tell us that we, the skeptics, are out of step, out of time, and out of arguments. He is out of tune, out of touch, and out of mind, trying to build the 1984-style global government.

Incidentally, the freezing Australia became another manifestation of the Gore effect. During most of Gore's lectures about global warming, the temperatures break record lows. We noticed it here in Boston in 2004 when Gore was speaking about the imminent danger of world frying while the city had the coldest temperatures in about 50 years. January 15th of the same year was the coldest day in the New York City where Gore gave another major lecture about his pet theory. But I personally don't think that the evidence underlying the Gore effect is too strong: he's just flying too much, emitting more carbon dioxide than the CEOs of all major oil corporations combined, so it shouldn't be shocking that he is also found at places that have just broken record low temperatures.

Michio Kaku: all-out war

The final version of Michio Kaku's article about the "critics" of string theory has appeared in

The stakes are high: a genuine unified field theory...

Dark energy has been around for some time

Tomorrow, on Thursday, at 1 p.m. EST,

will announce that dark energy has had more or less the same value for billions of years which makes it even more reasonable to call it a cosmological constant. I don't know the details but some models of quintessence could be eliminated.

Via Clifford Johnson.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Esquire on Nima et al.

Esquire has a slightly different way of talking about physics:

They describe how Nima Arkani-Hamed doesn't sleep because when they turn the LHC on, it will either show that there is a single theory of everything at all scales, or "it could prove that Arkani-Hamed is full of [something]". ;-)

I actually think that Esquire is not responsible for the colorful choice of language. The article also talks about Witten, Macarena, Maldacena and his [correspondence], Jane Bond whose music from the bathroom describes how the the string theorists [do something], and some people and buildings of the Perimeter Institute. I don't really think it's a great article but at least the atmosphere in it is very different, more creative, psychologically balanced, and more human than in some of the recent texts in the media.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Christopher Monckton & climate

Christopher Monckton, the third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley and the science adviser to the most famous British PM of the last 50 years, is quite an amazing character. He is one of the aristocratic treasures of the British empire. He is known to his wider family as "Mr Knowledge". More importantly, many fans of puzzles know him because of his Eternity puzzle from 1999. The first solver of the new Eternity II puzzle that was released in July 2007, will receive 2 million dollars, more than ever before.

He has also decided to dedicate a lot of time to a widely discussed "scientific problem" and to look at the evidence behind the popular theory of the so-called "global warming" a bit more carefully. The results of his work were reported in The Telegraph:

His conclusions more or less mimic the conclusions of a vast majority of those people whom I know and whose IQ exceeds 120, who are able to think critically and apolitically, and who have looked at the technical aspects of this whole set of ideas: the "global warming" paradigm is based on roughly 10 hypotheses about the climate and its interaction with the humankind. For the policies derived from these hypotheses to be wise, more or less all of these hypotheses must be simultaneously satisfied.

USA TODAY on Fred Kavli

If you want to read about this rich and generous 79-year-old man whose big goals and whose $600 million of cash are having a profoundly positive influence on this and the next generation of science, read this

Kavli who was born in Norway and who has a characteristic immigrant's narrative has earned some money on wooden bricks to fuel cars ;-) and then especially on navigational sensors for the aircraft. He reproduced some of these resources in real estate. He doesn't believe that children should inherit too much money. Instead, he believes that the scientists should attend interdisciplinary gatherings. Besides various Kavli institutes whose momentum can probably be only matched by Mike Lazaridis' PI among the private sponsors, he would like to match or supersede the Nobel prizes.

See also an article about Kavli in the New York Times from 2005.

Monday, November 13, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Carbon emission trading permits may go from 10 EUR to 2 EUR

The carbon emission trading permits look almost like capitalism except that the true value of the product is clearly zero unless it is artificially pumped to a different level by something that has nothing whatsoever to do with capitalism.

LCSFT-MST equivalence

Isao Kishimoto and Sanefumi Moriyama complete their - and our - proof of the

of the Green-Schwarz light-cone gauge superstring field theory (LCSFT) and the conformal perturbation theory treatment of matrix string theory (MST). The paper is a sequence of nice formulae. Their basic starting point is that superstring field theory in the light-cone gauge is fine, and the question is whether the formulation of string interactions via spin fields and twist fields (the DVV vertices) is correct, too. So they compute the OPE of various twist fields from the LCSFT vertices. You may guess that the answer is Yes.

My opinion what is more fundamental has changed since the mid 1990s. Today, these approaches are known to be equivalent, so it doesn't matter. But if it did matter, my answer today would be that the twist fields and spin fields are not only simpler but more fundamental.

Ten years ago, the ideal picture of a quantum mechanical theory would be a well-defined Hilbert space with a nice basis and a well-defined S-matrix, or even Hamiltonian, with calculable matrix elements. The light-cone gauge superstring field theory of Green and Schwarz was an ideal representation of the picture. It was literally an extension of the multi-body Schrödinger system with a more complicated set of internal degrees of freedom. Everything was written in terms of harmonic oscillators and the interactions were encoded in the squeezed states at the three-string Hilbert space.

The real problem to solve, as I was imagining it, was to settle a couple of details about the compactification and compute the parameters of the Standard Model, for example by a brute force treatment of all these harmonic oscillators. ;-)

Of course, we know it is hard to find the right compactification for the real world. But that's not the only reason why I changed my opinion what is fundamental. Today I view the complicated interaction vertices of LCSFT to be an unnecessarily complicated formalism.

It is true that one can derive these vertices from the closure of space-time supersymmetry, treating the SFT just like other field theories. In the light-cone gauge, even the critical dimension arises from the correct closure of the (super)Poincaré algebra.

But in some sense it is not satisfactory because string theory should also describe SUSY-breaking vacua and configurations, so what is exactly the principle that should replace the spacetime SUSY?

Although I still like the light-cone gauge Green-Schwarz variables, I joined the mainstream opinion according to which the two-dimensional conformal symmetry is the most natural and fundamental principle behind all of perturbative string theory and everything else is a consequence or a derived reinterpretation.

So we are really path-integrating over the Riemann surfaces. The twist fields generate an equivalent way to create the genus "g" surfaces. The matrix elements of these twist fields are well-defined and we have a nice dictionary between states and operators in a CFT.

It is simply legitimate to use all this machinery and my old emotions that everything should be built from verifiable quantum mechanical blocks - such as harmonic oscillators and matrix elements - seems too narrow-minded to me today.

Today I think that at the beginning I was overwhelmed, overly impressed by some technicalities, and insufficiently focused on the real physics. And yes, I feel that virtually all people who are trying to look for "alternatives" to string theory are just lost in some unphysical formalism. They're locally working in some "valley" of formulae, thinking that what they do might be important, but others have much more powerful and universal techniques to see that all these discrete gravity, loop gravity, and similar approaches are easily shown to be misguided. Those who believe these unphysical approaches just don't want to listen.

But back to string theory.

All perturbative string theory boils down to conformal field theories coupled to two-dimensional gravity and everything about perturbative string theory is encoded in the subtleties of this calculus. All other approaches to perturbative string theory can be related to the basic one.

The most general principle that defines non-perturbative string theory is arguably a grand generalization of the two-dimensional conformal symmetry although we don't yet know what it exactly is. But I think that perturbative string theory simply is more or less perfectly understood and more or less perfectly well-defined.

Note that the approaches that I now view as "derived" have a lot of interesting mathematics. Kishimoto and Moriyama need to work with all these complicated Neumann matrices describing the squeezed states of three strings. Martin Schnabl finds the Bernoulli numbers or zeta function to be relevant for the description of the tachyonic minimum of the 26-dimensional open string field theory.

But in all these cases, the actual physics can be understood more easily by a formalism that is closer to a formalism with a manifest conformal symmetry. The interactions of strings in the light-cone gauge are easily captured by the twist fields and spin fields, and the tachyon condensation looks almost trivial in the boundary string field theory (BSFT). The appearance of exactly solvable mathematical systems in other descriptions is more or less guaranteed and it may be viewed as a mathematical curiosity whose impact on mathematics is likely to be more important than the impact on physics.

Sunday, November 12, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Crystal ball predictions: flash

Full screen...

Many laymen can't believe that the physicists can make some predictions by pure thought without looking at the experiments. Doesn't the large number of dimensions or the large number of vacua make reasoning impossible? Isn't it clear that mathematics and science must break down when things are hard? Isn't it obvious that science is over? Isn't mathematics another religion, these laymen ask? Maybe it is a religion but it works.

Let me show you an example. Choose your favorite number X between 0 and 99. Add the digits of your favorite number to obtain another number Y. Now you take the difference X-Y. For example, if your number is X=32, the sum of the digits is Y=3+2=5, and you will work with X-Y=32-5=27.

Find X-Y in the table inside the flash applet. There is a symbol next to X-Y. Think about this symbol intensely and click at the crystal ball. Despite the huge landscape of possible symbols in the table, the crystal ball will tell you what symbol you're thinking about. Isn't it amazing?

Microsoft Firefox 2007

That's a pretty entertaining link. Microsoft has bought Firefox and it got better, like seriously.

In the right upper corner, you may also download the program and there is a nice video. Even more seriously, Microsoft joined its forces with Novell to produce Linux (based on SUSE).

Freeman Dyson: the scientist as rebel

Freeman Dyson whose heretical opinions we have discussed previously has a new book called "The Scientist as Rebel". He argues, among other things, that science is an alliance of free spirits in all cultures rebelling against the tyranny of their local cultures. Polemics with famous physicists and ideas about religion can also be found in the book.

String theory books

... or textbooks ... String Wiki includes a lot of useful links for people learning string theory. But let us discuss some basic sources here, too.

Polchinski in paperback. Joe Polchinski, the father of D-branes and many other things, has completed the standard modern graduate student level textbook of string theory in the late 1990s. It offers a detailed and perfectionist treatment of conformal field theory, perturbative string theory, and a sketchier but still invaluable presentation of algebraic geometry and non-perturbative physics. Two volumes.


Green, Schwarz, Witten. The graduate level textbook of three heroes of superstring theory from the 1980s presents perturbative string theory in a more heuristic, intuitive way, and it dedicates more space to differential geometry, light cone gauge, and other topics than Polchinski does. Two volumes.


Becker, Becker, Schwarz. This is an excellent modern update of the books by Green, Schwarz, Witten that includes the newest material including flux compactification and the advanced aspects of black hole thermodynamics in string theory.

Saturday, November 11, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

New physics and the mind

G.J. has pointed out that there is a third recent book about physics that criticizes string theory.

It was written by Robert Paster who has earned his degrees from MIT and Harvard - much like one of the other critics (although Paster only has a master degree from Harvard) - and - much like the third critic of string theory - has taught mathematics. He's also been a successful employee of a major insurance company.

The book is the synthesis of two-year full-time efforts of the author to combine particle physics, gravity, quantum theory, atoms, matter, cognition, mind, brain, and perception, following the footsteps of Roger Penrose. Paster is now working 24 hours a day as a cutting-edge scientist.

The readers who like original ideas about physics and who enjoyed the other two books may want to buy this one, too. He may be the new genuine seer and he is the other authors' peer who goes even further than they did but who has similar scientific standards and the same focus on the conceptual basis of quantum mechanics (and relativity) as one of Paster's colleagues.

Additional books of this kind are promoted in the sidebar. I hope that I have done enough for the weekend to promote independent geniuses and the diversity of ideas in science which is now being manifestly expected from the physicists. ;-)

11/11 11:11:11, 11 years after the birth of M-theory in 11 dimensions

This is not a real posting, just a placeholder. This 1111-th posting on this blog was submitted at 11:11:11 on 11/11 but unfortunately the internal clocks are more than 1 minute and 11 seconds ahead. The Czech counterpart of this blog only has 11 postings so far.

Although the year is not quite 1111, it is actually the 11-th anniversary of 11-dimensional M-theory. The previous comparably intelligent posting was created at 06:06:06 on 06/06/06.

Friday, November 10, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Black-white IQ gap probably stays at 15-18 points

The October 2006 issue of Psychological science contains two articles about the topic of race and intelligence. William Dickens and James Flynn argue that the IQ gap in the U.S. has shrunk by 4-7 points.

However, another article by J. Philippe Rushton and Arthur Jensen in the same issue is based on a more comprehensive source of data. Their result is that the IQ gap has remained between 15 and 18 points which is 1.1 standard deviations (of the normal distribution of the general population). The constancy of this number, first measured during the First World War, is sometimes referred to as the fundamental law of sociology.

Prof. Rushton says that the origin of the differences is 80% genetic and this fact wouldn't allow the IQ gap to shrink by more than 3 points during the era - numbers that the Reference Frame is not able to check or debunk.

Prof. Summers in Financial Times

As you might know, Prof. Lawrence Summers is not only a managing director of DE Shaw but also a new columnist in the Financial Times and you may want to read his thoughtful historical analysis of the midterm elections and their consequences.

Juan Maldacena and integrability

Talks by Juan Maldacena (IAS) and discussions with him are always special. He gave a very nice Duality Seminar about the planar limit of the "N=4" gauge theory. As you should know, Juan is a key person behind many layers of these fascinating ideas, for example (in chronological order)

The focus was on the last topic. He has also explained how the transcendentality calculus makes predictions about the matching of the weak 't Hooft coupling and the strong 't Hooft couplings and what can be extrapolated and what cannot be extrapolated.

At large "N", the planar diagrams of the "SU(N)" gauge theory dominate and the corresponding string theory should be described by a nice weakly coupled string theory on a geometry whose radius is fixed if you keep the 't Hooft coupling unchanged. Almost no one knows how to define this string theory as a conformal field theory because of the technical difficulties with including the Ramond-Ramond field strength into the "mainstream" NS-R formalism. Nathan Berkovits probably knows how to define the theory in his pure spinor formalism but he needs more people who would follow him and derive many more consequences of his approach that could be compared with the work on the gauge theory side.

As we have indicated, you can equivalently describe this theory either in terms of a limit of gauge theory or, using holography, by the hypothetical worldsheet description. It has such a high supersymmetry that many people expect - and have evidence - that this theory is integrable.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Discover's online chat with Lisa Randall: tomorrow

The title should say "today" but let's not break the links.

Incidentally, Lisa Randall's book was just released in Germany - see - which might be interesting for many German theoretical physics fans among the readers. Sure, her "Hidden Universes" are Nummer Eins among the Naturwissenschaften & Technik books, in front of Al Gore's "Eine unbequeme Wahrheit", and in top 20 of all books. See also a Swiss interview with her, a German review, and most importantly an article in Stern (English). You should also try to use Altavista's Babelfish to translate "Randall Sundrum" from German to English: the translation is "Edge Universe Sundrum". ;-)

Discover's online chat with Lisa Randall takes place today, on Thursday, at 2:00 p.m. EST:

Update: Lisa has answered various questions such as why the number of dimensions is three (and not seven - which is also possible in their brane relaxation argument), whether she can imagine extra dimensions, and why the exponential warping can't solve the cosmological constant problem.

The people who are close to London may want to attend

that is a serious celebration of the 11th anniversary of 11-dimensional M-theory. On 11/11 at 11:11:11, it will be just the beginning of a break after a talk about sevenbranes in type IIB supergravity. ;-)

God plays dice with LHC

As Charles Tye has pointed out, New Socialist wrote an unusually reasonable article

about the twistor calculations of the amplitudes as well some usual phenomenological topics such as SUSY, extra dimensions, mini black holes, and so forth.

Jennifer Gratz wins over racism

As a high school senior, Jennifer Gratz was dreaming about the college in Ann Arbor. Instead, she saw several classmates of hers who were not as good at school as Jennifer was but whose skin color was more worthy of encouraging. They were accepted but she was not.

Jennifer eventually studied mathematics at a less prestigious college in Michigan, namely in Dearborn. But the experience with the reverse racism that contradicted everything she was taught about justice was a reason why she decided to sue the university several years ago. The results of the lawsuit were mixed.

That's not the case of the polls today. Jennifer Gratz was the main local person behind the Proposition 2 in Michigan that more or less followed the Proposition 209 in California. The Californian experience of Ward Connerly who is African American was almost certainly helpful. The proposal passed and Michigan will become the third state in the U.S. after Washington and California that bans public institutions from discriminating against certain groups of people by using the so-called affirmative action.

Joe Lieberman wins

Joe Lieberman will remain a senator! That's a very good news because various extreme political forces and hateful websites such as were doing everything they could to eliminate this brave and independent senator: for these forces, a heretic is worse than an infidel. ;-)

They nominated a noname single-issue candidate against Joe Lieberman. This rich candidate whom I found rather unpleasant has wasted millions of dollars of his private money for his campaign. But Joe Lieberman is a different class: if he needs to fight without his Democratic Party, let be it. Congratulations to Joe Lieberman.

Here in Massachusetts, Deval Patrick (D) will become the first black governor while Kennedy is re-elected. Nancy Pelosi said something along the lines that we are on the edge of a new great feed-trough as she is going to become the new House majority leader. (Is this FT word ever used in political English?)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Microsoft Virtual Earth 3D

Google Inc. has created many interesting programs and Google Earth ( is one of them. Imagine that Microsoft Inc. has an answer. What do you think will be the name of such an answer?

Figure 1: San Francisco skyline in Virtual Earth 3D beta. Click the image for more screenshots or look at a finer screenshot. Or try some Boston or L.A. or North America. Or compare Google and Microsoft products' realization of Las Vegas: do you really think that Virtual Earth is not a threat to Google Earth?

You may guess Microsoft Earth. But it would be wrong. First of all, such a name wouldn't be terribly original. Second of all, it is not honest because the Earth on your screen is similar to the real one but it is not quite identical. A more honest name is

  • Virtual Earth 3D

Go to and in the left sidebar, you will find buttons to install this set of utilities that will allow you to view a caricature of the real world whose number of dimensions is closer to the actual one, namely ten, than the most common images were imagining. A fast computer with a good graphics card, Windows XP, and Internet Explorer 7 is recommended.

Monday, November 06, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

String Theory: movie trailer

It doesn't look terribly interesting to me but some readers might be nevertheless interested in the String Theory movie.

Sunday, November 05, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Yahoo videos: physics

Unlike YouTube and Video.Google.COM, the server Videos.Yahoo.COM doesn't collect the videos. It is a search engine that finds videos spread all over the internet. This is why it can find many things that are not available at Google or YouTube. If you search for "string theory", you find a lot of lectures of various kinds, much like Brian Greene's two-minute explanation of string theory.

You may also find a lot of videos by searching for "Richard Feynman". The query "Steven Weinberg" gives you this

The woman is not necessarily the brightest person in the world - so you hear a lot of questions "so you are a physicist, right?" - "were you a physicist already several years ago?" - "and this is how you became a theoretician" and so on. ;-) But Weinberg still has some freedom to talk about cosmology. If you find some interesting videos, post them here.

String theory predicts Saddam's fate

Saddam Hussein, the former charismatic leader of Iraq, has been using various approximations in dealing with his country. For example, he has approximated Iraq by a closed physical system in which he could do anything he wanted.

Unfortunately for him, this approximation broke down in 2003. Once Saddam was extracted from the spider hole, the trial could start. The trial had to be annoying, long, and frustrating. People have proposed many theories about the final verdict.

Some people argued that Saddam would stop commuting to the courthouse and he would escape any punishment: that was the noncommutative theory. Other people argued that the special character of Saddam Hussein was relevant not only during his reign but it is still important today and it could make any threats against this guy relative: that was the theory of doubly special relativity. Another group of people thought that Saddam had some additional, hidden evidence that would change the verdict: they believed in the theory of hidden variables.

However, it should not be terribly surprising that the correct theory about Saddam's future was

Technically, the main evidence supporting string theory was his murder of 148 Shi'ites in 1982. Saddam's string will look like a piece of rope or a rubber band - maybe a rubber band cut in half. The news is welcome by the leaders of U.S., Kuwait, Iran, the Czech Republic. It is criticized by Amnesty International but also the EU presidency and Switzerland.

Note that 148 Shi'ites seem to be enough for the rope. Saddam has also killed 180,000 Kurds. My feelings are mixed: it's always sad when an interesting man has to be executed. On the other hand, Saddam really deserves it. The verdict is a message to all existing Saddam's counterparts: the idea that you can do anything and kill anyone could be flawed.

An IQ test: flash


Saturday, November 04, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Great October Climate Revolution

The November 7th is approaching. That's a good moment for the enemies of freedom to think about a new October revolution. Recall that the Great October Revolution was not great; it didn't take place in October; and it was not a revolution but a shameless bolsheviks' coup.

The second most hateful and irrational segment of the contemporary Western jihad against freedom, after the anti-war movement, are the environmentalists. (The segments are far from being disjoint.) An organization called "Stop Climate Chaos" ( that unifies radical environmentalists and faith-based initiatives (what an explosive combination) has attracted roughly 20,000 people today to London to participate at one of the largest green rallies in history.

I also think that it could be some people's job to stop the climate chaos - namely the London policemen. The picture below suggests that they should prepare their tear gas but it is not guaranteed whether it will be effective.

Figure 1: Virtually all demonstrators on that rally are empty skulls. These skulls want to adopt, among other things, an international law that forbids Nature to change Her temperature by more than 2 degrees. No kidding. They also want the queen to codify a controlled annual suffocation of the British economy in her speech.

One could find it shocking that such a rally occurs in London. Isn't the British government contributing enough to the production of all this alarmist garbage? Isn't Great Britain sufficiently involved in this anti-carbon-dioxide, anti-humanity madness? Isn't Tony Blair's self-humiliation by his naive environmentalist speeches and letters enough to please the demonstrators?

The answer is apparently No.

Tony Blair is arguably the second most intelligent European leader after the Czech president Václav Klaus. You should ask: how is it possible that this smart Gentleman is able to emit so much fog about climate science?

The main part of the answer is not hard to find. Well, it's because Tony Blair, as he explained yesterday, never liked science at school. He was a "refusenik" as he put it. He described his relation to science as follows:

  • I felt I didn't understand it and it didn't understand me.
More seriously, we learn that he has recently decided to become a born-again science enthusiast. Mr. Blair, it is not a terribly good combination to be this passionate with such a poor understanding what science actually is. For example, science has nothing whatsoever to do with consensus. The fact that you aparently still think otherwise - and that you still confuse science and politics - shows that you still don't understand science and it doesn't understand you.

Also, science is not quite the same thing as God. God may want you to undo your sins from the childhood and fight on His side for the rest of your life. Science doesn't care that you were irritated by science as a child. Science forgives automatically. Also, science cannot divide the world to "good" and "evil". In terms of sins, your support for the global warming hype is another sin of yours against science. ;-)

And passion? It can be more useful or less useful for a scientist but once the scientific dust gets settled, passions play no role in the results as long as the results are scientific.

How the catastrophic madness got created

In the last decade or so, many climate scientists were eager to say or write scientifically misleading or untrue statements in order to promote their otherwise unimpressive field and earn some extra bucks from the grants that couldn't hurt, could they? Scientific dishonesty was officially incorporated into climate science by climate scientist Stephen Schneider in 1989. He wrote:
  • On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method. ... On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. ... To avert the risk (of potentially disastrous climate change) we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public imagination. That of course means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have. ... Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective, and being honest.

In other words, a climate scientist should be something in between a scientist and a fraudster, Schneider argued, in order to be maximally effective.

I have always been saying that this approach is not only immoral but also myopic. Climate scientists' moral standards have always been clearly lower than the average standards of the scientific community - but they are still much higher than the standards of many other people who could benefit from such a change of the usual scientific practices.

In science, it is simply essential to be very careful when we interpret the results and their importance. We are people so we are rarely perfect and it's not the main point anyway. What is much more important is that all of us support the atmosphere and policies that are naturally regulating scientific dishonesty. Once these regulation mechanisms disappear, we are in trouble.

Recently, many climate scientists started to realize that the situation could have gotten out of control and that other people with manifestly unscientific ideologies are taking over. The publication of the Stern report was greeted with the usual positive hype of the media. Nevertheless, there has been an unusual consensus among the climate scientists: the Stern report is deeply flawed. It was criticized not only by Bjorn Lomborg but also by the old alarmists including William Connolley, James Annan, much like Roger Pielke Jr, among others.

Even the IPCC, the scientific climate change U.N. panel, will release a rather strong criticism of the Stern report, especially its calculation of the costs of "action" that is underestimating reality by a factor of five, according to the IPCC. But even the "modest" investments that Stern invites us to make are insane.

Arnold Kling analyzes at TCSdaily how weird is Stern's idea that sacrificing 1% of world's GDP every year is an acceptable investment. Incidentally, Stern wants the world to waste $400 billion every year; the Kyoto counter in the sidebar only assumes that it is $150 billion per year. You see how generous we have always been in computing the costs and benefits of the Kyoto protocol.

The opposite statement, namely that the warming will destroy 5-20% of the world's economy, is even crazier, especially given the fact that the economical losses we can blame on anything like "climate change" in the present are equal to zero within the error margin. We are not sure about the sign of the hypothetical effect.

Piers Akerman who calls the report "scaremongering" in the Sunday Telegraph interviews various scientists who criticize the report. He says that no government report has ever been accepted so uncritically and no government report about science has ever been so scientifically unsubstantiated. Some leading Australian economists are critical, too. The editors of The Business have promoted the report to a New Testament of the eco-nuttery religion. Bob Carter, an Australian geologist, compares this wormaholic report to Paul Ehrlich's theories. has collected a few more critical reviews by well-known figures.

Tomorrow, the Sunday Telegraph has an article by Christopher Monckton called "Climate chaos? Don't believe it" that is accompanied with a 40-page-long supplement attempting to debunk some widely held opinions: Apocalypse cancelled.

O'Leary, the boss of Ryanair, explained that "[t]here's a lot of misinformation and lies being put about by the eco-nuts in this country on the back of a report put about by an idiot economist." He argued it didn't matter what you do with the airlines because they contribute 2 percent of CO2 only.

Even a representative of the officials who are paid for being alarmists, Prof Mike Hulme, the director of a "center for climate change" in East Anglia, admits that the situation got out of hand because the public discourse about the climate dynamics has been contaminated by emotions and by adjectives that have no scientific justification - such as "catastrophic", "chaotic", "irreversible", and "rapid".

Hulme argues that the debate has shifted from a discussion between the global warming scientific skeptics and the global warming scientific believers to another debate between global warming scientists and climate alarmists (who are called "alarmists" even by a person who is an alarmist himself, according to my definitions). So if you feel that the amount of heat between your humble correspondent on one side and the un-skeptical climate scientists on the other side has diminished, it's because even they started to realize that the atmosphere of the climate discussions has deteriorated into an irrational one, even according to their less demanding criteria.

It's not time to blame the un-skeptical scientists for the current problems. It's time for all reasonable people to try to improve the current situation and reduce the influence of the wrong people - such as the scientifically illiterate passionate hateful crowd in London - on the climate discourse.

And that's the memo.