Tuesday, July 31, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Monstrous developments

Off-topic: a blog of Scientific American: The Simpsons embiggen cromulant papers on string theory
This text is about Witten's proposal that
pure AdS3 black holes carry monstrous symmetry.

There have been various CFT-centered developments here.

First, Jan Manschot (UVA) rewrote the partition sum as an actual sum instead of product, claiming that this form makes it clear that it is a Feynman sum over geometries even though it is not explained too clearly why the individual terms should be interpreted as "geometries".

A week ago, Davide Gaiotto and Xi Yin (HU) have calculated genus two partition sums of these "extremal conformal field theories" or "ECFTs" of Witten. It's an impressive calculation that uses very much the same methods that they know from more conventional compactifications of string theory, further suggesting that neither they nor Witten work on LQG as argued by a supreme crackpot. You should see the formula pi (3.14) on page 9 - the very existence of this solution is a surprise but it exists, in analogy with other stringy miracles. Their methods are effective up to k=10.

Checkers solved: a draw

This month, computer scientists from University of Alberta have announced that their computers have scanned 500,995,484,682,338,672,639 (half a hexillion) board configurations of American checkers, also known as English draughts or Czech madam. Surely, they had to analyze many of them in huge "trivial" classes because otherwise the Hubble time wouldn't be enough.

They have determined the right move for each of them. The main conclusion is that ideal players will end up with a draw:

BBC (popular), Wikipedia, Science (technical)
You may hope that the Flash applet above is imperfect. ;-) The applet has unusual, politically correct priority rules: green goes first. I have easily won but that may be only because I was green.

Some 15 years ago, I (or we) have spent a lot of time with game theory because of an interesting fellow, Karel Popp, who has done a lot of cute things about game theory. I remember having analyzed his game Iuvavum (a Latin name of Salzburg where he was a professor) and many other games and their winning and losing configurations. Painfully enough, I have completely forgotten the rules of Iuvavum.

Don Page defends typicality

Hartle and Srednicki wrote a crisp paper that has sketched the Bayesian methods to evaluate the probabilities that a theory is correct and that argued that the anthropic concept of "typicality" shouldn't influence our evaluation of theories.

Don Page responds. He agrees with many statements and rules by Hartle and Srednicki but he still wants to end up with different conclusions. That's a pretty difficult task. The detailed flow of the paper doesn't make sense to me.

I find Page's criticism illegitimate in these respects:

First, Page seems to argue that Hartle and Srednicki were considering theories where probabilities of alternatives don't sum up to one; I don't realize that Hartle and Srednicki ever did.

Second, Page defines a concept of typicality for an observed dataset in a given theory, by dividing its probability by the probability of a "median dataset". This is strange for several reasons.

  1. It is not justified why he picks the median and not another kind of mean value - arithmetic or geometric, for example.
  2. It is not justified why he considers any kind of mean at all. The Bayesian formula should already contain everything that is needed to calculate the a posteriori probabilities of the theories, so any ad hoc addition to these rules is clearly wrong.
  3. It is not possible to sort the probabilities for different $D_j$ in the first place because the probabilities of $D_j$ depend on how finely we divide the space of possible outcomes to boxes. For discrete pure microstates, we could count individual states, but that's clearly not possible in the general case where either a continuum of pure states or mixed states (a density matrix) must be considered.
  4. This whole concept of a randomly chosen ratio involving a randomly chosen "mean" seems as a bureaucratic sleight-of-hand and I see no way how this ugly rule added (?) to the Bayesian inference could ever influence rational considerations.
Third, Page doesn't seem to talk about the prior probabilities $P(T_i)$ at all even though this is precisely where the whole dispute is hiding.

These prior probabilities should be assigned wisely, reflecting our state of ignorance. For example, if discrete different theories are available to explain data, they should be given equal priors. However, when possible theories come in large classes or spaces, it becomes subtle. Do you assign one voice to each member or one voice to the whole class?

Monday, July 30, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Carbon credits: below one European dime

If you haven't bought an iPHONE yet, you should try NeoPOD

Last time, we dedicated a special article to the price of carbon indulgences when the price dropped below one euro. Today, the 2007 allowance price closed at 9 eurocents.

It doesn't seem to matter that the price plummeted more than 300 times since April 2006: the net worth of the supreme prophet has skyrocketed more than 100 times in a couple of years anyway. The economics rules that control saviors of the world are somewhat unpredictable. ;-)

It is not clear to me what happens with the price of carbon debits when the price of credits goes to zero. At any rate, 2007 may be the last year when you may breathe relatively freely.

The graph under the words "300 times" above also shows the prices for 2008 allowances and 2013 allowances that are near 21 euro per ton in both cases. Of course that these prices will be dictated almost entirely by decisions of the bureaucrats. If they allow a lot of emissions, the prices will go to zero. If they impose genuine restrictions, the prices will be sent towards the actual price of the products one must sacrifice - and that's a very high price. Much higher a price than 21 euro per ton.

Recall that you may drive about 5000 miles with a car to emit one ton of CO2: see the data about grams per kilometer. Surely you would easily pay additional 21 euro for 5000 miles. In other words, the price of 21 euro per ton wouldn't have any discernible impact on your driving. There exist larger emitters who are influenced more but be sure that at 21 euro, the impact will still be small.

This whole game may look like a market but it is not a market because it is all about the central decisions.

And that's the memo.

P.S. You may want to order the Warming Swindle DVD for 8 pounds.


Sabine writes about consistency and self-consistency, and let me also mention a few words about it.


First of all, she is very correct that physicists - and especially those for whom English is not the native language - like to use physics jargon in everyday life. I certainly do. You may recognize a physicist because he will use words such as "canonical", "self-consistent", "effective theory", and many others well beyond their range of validity determined by the social conventions of the lay majority.

For example, you may want to Google-search for the canonical keyboard problem. Yes, there had to be someone who has promoted this problem described on my page as a canonical one even though the word doesn't appear in the article itself and I bet that he or she has been exposed to physics education, to say the least, unless he learned the word "canonical" from theology. ;-)

But let met get to the main questions.

Sunday, July 29, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

2007: another weak hurricane season so far

The climate fearmongers were excited during a strong hurricane season of 2005. It was enough for them to merely suggest that global warming could be behind the storms because fear and superstitions are their closest allies. Many people have constructed quasi-scientific, quasi-religious arguments that the number and strength of the tropical storms has been increasing and should be increasing.

Figure 1: The eye of Katrina, 2005

However, the 2006 hurricane season was very weak. It was below the average. Most quantities dropped more than two-fold and the damages decreased by nearly two orders of magnitude from 2005.

David McMahon: String theory demystified

David McMahon has written approximately eight books whose title is "XY Demystified" where "XY" is "Statics and Dynamics", "Linear Algebra", "Signals and Systems", "MATLAB", "Circuit Analysis", "Quantum Mechanics", "Relativity". "String Theory Demystified" is thus the natural followup.

Also, if you have an iPod and six dollars left, you may buy String Theory Protector Skin Decals. These skins not only protect your player but they are even constructed purely from components contained in string theory, including strings, branes, and whatever they become at a strong coupling.

Also, if you don't have time to read Harry Potter 7 and you are nevertheless interested in the main points, you should know that I have done the research for you and there is exactly one such point and it appears on the last page. The abstract says: the scar on his forehead hasn't caused any pain to Harry Potter for nineteen years. ;-)

High-school math: highest correlation with college science achievements

USA Today

According to some research published in Science, the amount of maths taken by high school students is more tightly correlated with successes in college sciences than the amount of biology, chemistry, and physics taken at high school.

You can see that most commenters in USA Today find the link obvious, and so do I. Even Mormons find this fact obvious (click):

When Windows Vista evaluates your computer, the overall rating is determined by the poorest one among the partial ratings. It's because the hardest thing among the essential ones is always slowing you most efficiently: it decides about the overall performance. Mathematics is clearly the most non-trivial and most difficult set of concepts underlying natural sciences: it is the subject that divides the people to those who are "in" and those who are not. It's clearly the case in theoretical physics but to a lesser extent, it is also true in the rest of physics, chemistry, and biology.

On the other hand, the high-school students who have become math haters - and who try to deny that mathematics is crucial in natural sciences and especially in theoretical physics - may be more successful in writing books and blogs addressed to other enemies of mathematics. Am I right, Lee?

Saturday, July 28, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Left-wing nuts vs Fox advertisers

In the past, we used to believe that because of various reasons, America was immune to a threat of totalitarian systems. I no longer think that these comments are valid. There are various problems in Europe but what the far left revolutionary hordes are doing in America right now has no European counterpart I am aware of.

DailyKos.com and similar webshites don't like Bill O'Reilly. That's not too surprising because O'Reilly likes to expose what these far left-wing hate groups are really all about. Because these commies realize that they are just tiny dwarves relatively to O'Reilly and have no chance to deal with him, they decided to terrorize everyone who is connected with the whole FoxNews channel, either directly or indirectly.

AP: liberals going after Fox advertisers

They have collected signatures of thousands of nutcases all over America who vowed to annoy companies advertising on FoxNews (!!!) with intimidating telephone calls. Tolerating all political attitudes is very nice but if the society can't destroy these carcinogenic segments before it's too late, it will be too late and they will destroy the society. And if you have any doubts that the previous assertion is true, let me assure you that it is actually a tautology.

Is it really legal in America to organize a threatening campaign of hateful junk telephone calls?

These activists are fully analogous to the brownshirts in Germany of the 1930s. They are ready to destroy anyone who dares to block their scary revolutionary agenda, all of their relatives and collaborators, and I am telling you: do something about this scum before it's still relatively manageable, otherwise you will be really sorry about your passivity in the future.

And that's the memo.

Gravity from spin-two gauge invariance

Yesterday, a blogging critic of physics argued that physics is a corrupt science that has no credibility. The author of these statements is an "improved" version of Peter Woit and Lee Smolin.

The latter individuals only argue that physics has no credibility if it requires brains that are stronger than their brains while the improved crackpot, let me call him Swolin Plus, also includes all of experimental physics, among other things, to his list of blasphemies.

What arguments does the recent crackpot use? Well, they're not really arguments. He misinterprets another posting by Christine Dantas, a woman from Latin America, who was impressed by a 2004 paper by a somewhat irrational physicist named T. Padmanabhan.

I remember that paper very well because I was asked about it and studied it in detail back in 2004: see also my text on sci.physics.research. We have also exchanged some e-mails with Prof Deser, one of the main people who have contributed to proofs of various theorems discussed in this text. Prof Deser was obviously irritated by the apparent inability of T. Padmanabhan to understand any rational arguments and proofs after a long chain of e-mail exchanges between these two Gentlemen.

Higher-spin gauge invariances

Perturbative string theory may be used to show that massless particles can only have spins 0, 1/2, 1, 3/2, 2. This conclusion follows from an analysis of the energy of various harmonic oscillators included in the string that contribute to the mass of the resulting particle. This conclusion beautifully agrees with facts about gauge invariance that may be derived using spacetime arguments.

Václav Klaus: An interview in die Weltwoche

Translated from German

Mr President, climate change is currently a frequently discussed topic. Meanwhile, you state that global warming is a myth of environmental fundamentalists. Why?

Climate change has become a fashionable topic. Many politicians and scientists use it even if they don't believe global warming.

Isn't the current warming a fact?

The facts are not clear. In the last century, the global average temperature only rose by 0.6 degrees Celsius. It is too little to create a panic. Also, it is no secret that the Earth has had much warmer climate in the past than it has today. The second question is whether the recent mild warming is actually caused by human activities. We don't know yet. What I do consider as a threat is this environmentalism that has become a religion that wants to inhibit the spontaneous evolution of mankind. The champions of this ideology want to create a society that is restricted by hundreds of regulations and prohibitions. The freedom would become a victim.

You are an economist, not a climate expert. Where do you find the credentials to be so radical?

My attitude is completely normal. It surprises me again and again that some people see something radical in it. Moreover, the main concern of mine is not climatology. What I care about are the consequences of a potential climate change; an analysis of the human adaptability; a calculation of the costs tightly connected with a fight against the climate change. Humans, their behavior, and their motives are in the center of my interest.

Would you agree with the thesis that the politicians chose the climate because they haven't found another topic that is equally vague and can create consensus equally easily?

It is an obligation for all of us to protect Nature and preserve Nature for future generations. Nevertheless, I am convinced that a sincere interest in the protection of the climate only plays a minor role in the rhetoric of many politicians.

It seems, Mr Klaus, that you deliberately create your image as a defender of the opposite thesis.

I happen to think that the liberty is threatened. And liberty is the main topic of our time and the topic of my life. It seems that one can find a stronger desire to argue and more aggressiveness on the side of my opponents.

Environmental activists argue that the widespread belief in the economic growth is reponsible for climate change. Are they right?

The economic growth is the solution of the environmental problems, not their cause.

Meanwhile, the topic has gained a high priority even in the commercial sector. Everyone asks what his company can do to protect the climate. Many enterprises want to be politically correct. This topic has thus become a convenient political card that they occassionally play with. This card turns out to be profitable, too: the government gives the firms wrong signals - together with subsidies - that influence them more than the desire to be profitable.

Why do you pay so much attention to this topic?

What I already find worrisome is how easily some people are ready to place the world and the mankind on a new basis because of some disputed data and hypotheses; how they predict what is happening in the world and what will happen in the future; and how they want to impose completely extreme regulations and, concomitantly with it, a delimitation of the liberty. That's neither a marginal footnote topic for me nor a deliberate attempt of mine to become visible.

You have written an environmental book. What else do you have to tell the world?

What concerns me are not measurements of temperatures even though they naturally play a role. What I care about more is whether humans partially cause the climate change and whether this influence is strong enough to justify the prevailing hysteria. What I am concerned with is whether the society is going to change its structure and spend enormous amounts of money whose positive or perhaps negative effects will only be visible in the next century.

Die Weltwoche (The World Week), 07/26/2007

Internet ADSL

As a small kid, I was kind of impressed that one wire - or the air in your room - can support all the information needed for dozens of radio and TV stations. You don't see anything but it's there.

Well, rationally speaking, I am no longer stunned by this fact, having known something about the Fourier analysis and resonance, among other things, for almost two decades. But each person has some irrational core, too. It is still fascinating that the same old telephone cable is now able to connect the world not only with a telephone but also with two computers at 2 Mb/s. The installation worked very smoothly and all worries about Vista incompatibilities turned out to be entirely unjustified.

Friday, July 27, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

U3 launchpad for Windows Vista and Microcenter USB flash drive

Many of you who have used search engines to get to this page may have bought the USB flash memory chip from Microcenter, with the Microcenter logo on it. And you have found out that the U3 application doesn't work under Windows Vista (Home Basic, Premium, Business, Ultimate, or anything else).

There exists a solution. What the cashier at the Microcenter hasn't told you is that the drive wasn't produced by the cashiers, janitors, and bean counters at Microcenter, despite the logo. It had to be produced by someone else. The magic code of "someone else" is IPSG. Click at

IPSG products: USB storage
and choose either the 1 GB black drive (second product) or the 2 GB black drive (third product), depending on your disk capacity. On the following page, you find your U3 software for Vista (second link). The ZIP file may be unpacked by a double-click. There are two PDF files of documentation in the archive that you may ignore and also one EXE file that you run. It will update your U3 software to be compatible with Windows Vista. Don't remove your drive from the USB port during the installation process, otherwise you may damage your drive, and good luck!

For users of other USB flash cards

We should say that more generally, the U3 launchpad version 1.4 or higher co-operates with Windows Vista. But you should still be careful about the version of the drivers and software you install: you should better look at the website of the manufacturer of your flash card.

Thursday, July 26, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Veneziano & Gasperini: book

I should get an ADSL modem and a permanent connection within days and blogging could get somewhat more serious. So far, you may write whatever you like about the new book by Gasperini and Veneziano, to be released on August 1st. You may already pre-order it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Bussard fusion: funding from California

Read here... Update: the page under the link is updated and the rumors were probably not true.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Michael Moore causes global warming

Backreaction rationally analyzes an article in Nude Socialist that argues that "it is becoming clear that obese people are having a direct impact on the climate". Bee has some comments about the actual flow of energy in this context.

The author doesn't distinguish global warming and wasting of energy and moreover is unable to calculate that the "obese" contribution to CO2 emissions is negligible. Simple formulae such as "global warming = waste of energy = fat people" are characteristic formulae of religions: "devil = sin = blasphemy = criticism by preachers = burning at stake". It is the very goal of religions to make people unable to distinguish more than two nouns, two adjectives, two scientific concepts. Everything is black or white and any deeper analysis becomes impossible. That's good because all believers want to be "100% white" which is why they're 100% manipulated by the church.

If we were living in a sane world, the author would simultaneously publish an explanation in another journal that would reveal that the text in Nude Socialist is a hoax whose goal is to demonstate poor intellectual standards of the journal.

However, we don't live in such a world which is why the author who wrote it is a genuine bearer of an alternative mental infrastructure himself. (I hope that this synonym for a nutcase is sufficiently politically correct.) Moreover, believe me or not, he is a professor. Is Michael Moore going to continue to support the global warming movement under these circumstances? What if the religion suddenly decides that fat pigs must be sacrificed to Gaia?

Monday, July 23, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Forests around the radar

On Sunday, we decided to make a trip to the place where the U.S. radar may be built which is near the Míšov village in the Brdy Hills, less than 30 miles Southeast from Pilsen.

There are nice, untouched forests around: dozens or hundreds of squared miles were (or are) used as a military training area. However, we completely ignored all the access restrictions. There was no one there who would care. A fancy golf course is nearby, too. The people who live in these villages are ordinary Czechs, the kind of people whom we are used to meet every day. Most of them don't want the radar.

However, what I found even more striking was that the locals had essentially no idea about the radar. They didn't know where it should be located: not even the guy who sold us the sausages and the beer and who works one mile from the key spot had any clue about the location. They didn't seem to care.

Eventually I found the right person who explained me that the radar should be built on a peak that is 718 meters above the sea level and how we can get there. When you walk (or bike like my friend or drive your small motorcycle like your humble correspondent) through the deep forests, you see that one radar facility - one percent of a squared kilometer? - doesn't change much about the landscape. It's negligible.

Because of these two reasons - ignorance of the locals and the depth of the forests - I have thus decided that it is absolutely correct that the local referenda don't influence any decisions about the project. The local people don't own the forests and the project won't influence them in any way. Unless Putin or another leader decides to exchange nukes in a piece of a Czech forest for nukes in the Red Square which I find much less likely than a proclamation about the same act, they won't even notice. ;-)

Because one project of this kind doesn't change anything about the membership of the country or the obligations of its citizens etc., I also think that a national referendum is unnecessary.

The main significance of the project is a global one. And I would say that even the global meaning of the radar is mostly symbolic. It is not easy to present a convincing calculation showing that the U.S. security or the security of its allies will significantly increase when all direct and indirect consequences of the project are taken into account. I see the defense system primarily as a sign that tells the world that the U.S. and some other developed democratic countries want others to forget about wars and attacks and the thoughtful part of the Czech Republic doesn't want the democratic world to be attacked either.

And that's the memo.

P.S. Soon after we left the forest, my motor's power plummeted to about 50 percent and the motorbike became unable to climb any hills while the maximum speed on horizontal roads dropped to 10 mph or so. Not only I became unable to push Víťa who is not exactly another Lance Armstrong - he had to rely on his muscles in the second part of the 65-mile trip instead - but I had to use the pedals, too. Pedalling your heavy motorbike in a hilly area for 30 miles is not the most joyful experience in the world but I survived. ;-) So far, no one is sure how to fix it...

Sunday, July 22, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Nir Shaviv: Why is Lockwood and Fröhlich meaningless?

One of the newest articles at RealClimate.org contains a link to the full text of a recent article by Lockwood and Fröhlich who argue that "all" potential aspects of the Sun in the last 20 years that could be responsible for warming in that period went the wrong way. Well, there are many questions: for example, was there a warming that one should talk about? There wasn't one in the last ten years.

A more important question is whether their whole article is correct. I haven't quantitatively verified Nir Shaviv's answer below but I feel that the view of this Israeli expert is way more relevant than the childish comments about coffins by the RealClimate.org zealots and it surely makes sense qualitatively, so let me reprint it. The text below is from Nir.

Why is Lockwood and Fröhlich meaningless?

L & F state that from 1985, there is a discrepancy between solar activity, which decreased, and the global temperature, which increased. Hence, solar activity cannot explain the observed warming. This conclusion, however, is flawed for several reasons.

Figure 1: Cosmic ray flux as a function of time. Note the minimum near 1992 that probably caused less cloudiness and warming in the 1990s

Windows Vista: some actual experience

One of the reasons why I didn't have much time during the week was that I bought a new PC with Windows Vista Home Premium (CZ) and had to copy my data and software on it. With a 2 GB flash card, the transfer of 20 GB takes some time because the old XP laptop offers USB 1.0 only. The (crossed) ethernet cable in principle worked - they recognized the name of the partner - but I wasn't able to make the two computers fully collaborate and share general data through the cable.

If you care about the hardware, my old laptop is Hewlett-Packard Pavilion ze4125 while the new desktop PC is Packard-Bell iMedia, a no-name brand that looks similar to Hewlett-Packard which might be a deliberate trick by the French comrades who produce the boxes. Analogously, iMedia might have been chosen to induce a confusion with Apple. ;-)

Saturday, July 21, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Swindle in Australia

After The Great Global Warming Swindle was shown in Britain, Martin Durkin complained that the criticism was too feeble. Well, the global warming believers have re-energized their forces and prepared themselves for the screening by ABC in Australia a week ago or so. The result is that Martin Durkin no longer had to complain that the zealots' attacks were feeble! ;-)

Durkin responds to the Australian critics

I guess that this guy could stand attacks greater by one order of magnitude. ;-)

At any rate, Durkin's critics in Australia must have very tough stomachs, especially because Australia witnessed new record cold temperatures yesterday. They destroyed crops in Queensland. In Czechia, rainy and cold first two weeks of July were followed by two days of marginally record heats but now we have pleasant, average summer temperatures.

Phenomenology of quantum gravity

David Goss has sent me a flawless article from the July 19th issue of Nature, pages 297-301. Everyone who prefers articles about physics itself over fourth-class porn about physicists sleeping with other physicists - the kind of junk that numerous Woits and Smolins offer to their highly undemanding readers - will enjoy it. John Ellis (CERN) explains how powerful the LHC is and why it must see the Higgs-Brout-Englert boson (what an interesting new name!). A picture presents the particle as a rumor about a famous physicist that spreads inside the Higgs ocean, represented by physicists who fill the room.

Ellis is skeptical about technicolor models and analyzes models with extra dimensions and SUSY, motivated by the hierarchy problem. He recalls that string theory, hierarchy problem, LSP as a dark matter candidate, and a precise gauge coupling unification are four independent reasons to take SUSY broken around 1 TeV seriously. Extra dimensions are justified by string theory and the lightest Kaluza-Klein particle (LKP) that may be stable in some models. Their phenomenology includes Kaluza-Klein particles and perhaps small black holes. The LHCb experiment will carefully look at b-quarks and s-quarks and try to find new sources of CP violation i.e. violation of the matter-antimatter symmetry. The penguin diagram is the most specific possibility how this additional violation may be generated and Ellis dedicates a subarticle with this diagram in the middle to the history and facts on CP violation.

He ends up with the prospects to upgrade the LHC if more accurate tests of certain kinds are needed. But let me get to the main topic of this article.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Market of ideas

In this essay, I would like to meditate about the analogies between the markets and the value of ideas in pure science. The musings will be somewhat similar to the text about the depth of ideas but the goal will be more quantitative because we will really try to determine something like a monetary value of ideas, including those without any practical consequences (which is the main reason why the quantification is hard). Such a different goal inevitably brings a different, complementary perspective although some sentiments will overlap with the "deep" article.

Value: subjectivity and objectivity

The actual financial appraisal of an object depends on the person or the persons who make the estimate. You might think that such an estimate will be a purely subjective matter but you shouldn't forget that there are always objective circumstances that significantly influence the way how an individual or a group views the value of a product or the value of an idea. She may have particular needs or goals in mind - influenced both by her anatomy as well as cultural and other traditions - and the products or ideas that are instrumental in satisfying her needs and realizing her goals will be assigned a higher value. People who view a certain product as very valuable are the most likely ones who may buy it.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the value will depend on the subject. Once we accept this fact, the whole discussion could turn into a debate in humanities, a very soft description of the number of people who have various needs and who respect various cultural and other values, together with their time evolution that is primarily controlled by social pressures. It is not surprising that humans who don't think that theoretical physics is valuable at all - and most of them don't - usually think that the value of every individual idea in theoretical physics is low. It is equally unsurprising that crackpots make all sorts of crazy judgements: they may conclude that loop quantum gravity is more valuable than e.g. Matrix theory and they are ready to overwhelm you with thousands of similarly insane conclusions.

In this text, I don't want to analyze what various groups of crazy and stupid people think about various ideas that vastly exceed their abilities to understand the real world. However, you may be puzzled: what else can we study? Well, I will try to describe the methods how an ideal observer determines how valuable various ideas are. The assumption here is that a working mechanism would give the opinions of these semi-ideal observers much greater weight in determining the values, much like skillful speculators on the stock market influence the prices more intensely.

We may doubt whether this task is meaningful at all. Is there something such as an idealized observer? The algorithms to evaluate ideas are ideas themselves. They keep on evolving much like other categories of ideas: the ideal observer keeps on improving, too. The best hope is to describe some relationships between ideas that many people in 2007 don't appreciate even though they should. The list of rules will probably be far from complete but it may be much more comprehensive than some other lists that you could be offered elsewhere.

Why do we care about the value of ideas? Well, if a sponsor of sciences wants to invest 100 million dollars, he should probably decide to fund the field where the investment leads to products of the highest value. Similar decisions are being made by individual thinkers and their managers. Once again, different people will end up with different numbers. But the comments below capture some principles that people should be aware of. Note that this application of the calculated value doesn't care much about the overall normalization of the value of all ideas. You may choose a normalization factor that makes the net value of all ideas produced within a year to be equal to the total investments to science and thinking in the same year.

Players: object and relationships

Thousands of years ago, markets were rather simple. You could have bought or sold an animal, a slave, or a chunk of gold. Each of them had a certain price. At the beginning, you had to exchange things for one another. Eventually, money was introduced. It has allowed the players to buy or sell products whose price is a fractional multiple of a cow. It has also allowed them to decide whether they want to own many cows or the money instead.

The capital was found to be able to generate a new capital. People have realized that it makes sense to borrow money. Others have realized that they may want to lend money to others. Many kinds of direct and indirect ownership of various things and many kinds of contracts materialized in the last centuries and people introduced or learned what are interest rates, taxes, bonds, stocks, options, patents, copyrights, funds, and higher derivatives, among dozens of similar concepts. We may argue that these concepts have become too numerous and complicated and transactions with hot air and tricks have unfortunately become more relevant financially than the actual objects with a value, but let us leave this topic for another essay.

Just like the relationships between assets and money, the relationships between ideas have gotten much more complex, too. Scientific papers have many more relations with each other than they have ever had in the past. They depend on a wide spectrum of work that was done with similar or different methods, under similar or different funding schemes, work that was shared by fewer people or more people. Is it still possible to view an idea as a counterpart of a cow that can be sold?

Well, it's complicated because the ideas are no longer pure objects. Most of them are better visualized as relationships between objects. Ideas don't have to be cows, slaves, or coats: many of them are bridges, trade routes, confidence, trade secrets. Other ideas are bridges in between bridges, methods to use different interest rates along trade routes, algorithms to influence perceived confidence, or wise tricks to exchange trade secrets. We don't want to get too deeply into the world of speculators which is why we will try to avoid their daily life and focus on the pristine universe of pure ideas.

Important aspect: probability of validity of an idea

In this section, I would like to argue that the value of a package of theoretical ideas is essentially proportional to the probability that the package is correct.

Consider two such packages, A and B, whose internal values happen to be equal. But A is one million times more likely to be true than B. If you assume that untrue ideas don't have any value, it is not hard to see that the expectation value of the value of A is one million times higher than the expectation value of the value of B. For example, if you believe me that loop quantum gravity is more than one million times less likely to be true than string theory, then - even if you generously assume that the internal value of loop quantum gravity is comparable to the internal value of string theory - it is completely crazy for the global society, from a quantitative viewpoint, to afford more than one milliresearcher of loop quantum gravity.

You may object that invalid ideas may also have a positive value. I agree and the algorithm above can easily deal with this fact. If an idea has a value even if it is incorrect, you should view such an idea as a conglomerate of two ideas. One of them assumes that the package is true and the other assumes that the package is not true. The total value of the conglomerate is more or less equal to the sum of the two parts. It may a priori be questionable whether an assertion should be presented as "A is true" or "non A is false": there is a symmetry between assertions and their negations. However, the calculation of the value breaks the symmetry. One of the two packages mentioned above leads to a higher value. By definition, the assumptions behind this package are described as "key assumptions being valid" while the assumptions behind the cheaper package are "key assumptions being invalid".

As our knowledge increases, we may refine our estimates of the validity of ideas. Just like the stock price of a bankrupt company converges to zero, the value of an idea that seems increasingly clearly incorrect may converge to zero, too. Ideas, much like operating systems, may also lose value when they are superseded by better ones. The useful content of the older ideas is "recycled" and used in a more complete, more unified, better, new framework. As Murray Gell-Mann says in his commercial for Enron, we have inherited some ideas that are unnecessary. We have to jettison that excess baggage in order to make progress.

Important aspect: internal rigidity of a system of ideas

As we have mentioned above, ideas can often be thought of as bridges. They are relationships between existing objects and concepts in the real world and/or the world of other ideas and theories.

In the real world, bridges should have high enough capacity and they should be robust. If the probability that a bridge collapses under a car exceeded 0.0001% or so, the bridge would be clearly useless. How do you get such numbers? Well, a car is only ready to pay 1 dollar for crossing the bridge. If you assume that the people in the car who are killed cost 1 million dollars, it is not hard to see that the probability of collapse should better be smaller than 0.0001% for the toll to exceed the expectation value of the damages. In reality, we have much higher expectations from a bridge because a very small portion of that 1 dollar above may be viewed as profit while the indirect consequences of the collapse are way bigger than 1 million dollars from that single car. You should really count not only the car but also the material costs of the bridge itself. Once you do so, you shouldn't subtract the mortgage from the 1 dollar toll because it would be double-counting but let's not discuss these details.

Anyway, the message is that the bridges must be solid.

The same conclusion holds for theories that connect objects from the real world with each other or with theoretical concepts. This rigidity is actually the main aspect that determines the internal value of a package of ideas. Mathematicians are the first ones who should understand this conclusion. A proof of a mathematical theorem is a bridge - or a sequence of bridges - that connects the assumptions with the final statement. This sequence must be completely reliable for it to have any significant value for an idealized mathematician. Outside mathematics, even unreliable bridges may have a nonzero value because the requirements are not as strict as they are in mathematics: they follow something like a fuzzy logic. In fact, a quantitative calculation similar to the bridge from the real world that we discussed previously may be applied to figure out what is approximately the critical "probability of failure" above which the theoretical bridge becomes useless or worse. At any rate, it is clear that bridges made out of fog - like the content of virtually any paper by Lee Smolin - don't have any significant value.

Important aspect: relevance for other ideas that have already been rated as valuable

Houses in Manhattan are expensive. Why is it so? Well, it's because they can be used to generate a lot of profit, for example through rents. Why do people pay high rents in Manhattan? Well, it's because they can afford it: there are many ways for them to earn a lot of money in Manhattan. The competition between the people who need to live there or who need offices for their businesses elevates the prices. The value of a house can't be estimated if you don't know the location, the context, or the environment.

Is the same thing true in the case of ideas? You bet.

If one can build a reliable bridge between a new idea and some old ideas whose high importance has already been established, such a fact obviously increases the value of the new idea. How could it be otherwise? The economic considerations are analogous to those in Manhattan.

Let me give you an example. In the media and on the blogosphere, you often read that it "doesn't matter" whether the equations of string theory are relevant for the description of heavy ion physics, confinement, whether one can give a stringy geometric description of other important physical processes such as the Higgs mechanism or the chiral symmetry breaking. Also, you often read that it is irrelevant whether the mathematics behind the theory is tightly connected with portions of mathematics that have been recognized as fundamental such as mirror symmetry, enumerative geometry, and many others.

The people who write these "doesn't matter" things are as sensible as the people who say that houses in Manhattan should cost the same as houses in Montana. More concretely, they are complete nutcases. While it is natural to expect that there exist many more people with a rudimentary understanding of the real estate market than those who understand the basic facts about the working of theoretical physics, I am always flabbergasted whenever these imbeciles such as Peter Woit are being read not only by readers who are expected to be ignorant but even by some people who are paid as professional mathematicians or physicists.

Someone may make huge investments in Vanuatu, assuming that it will become the next Manhattan, but he shouldn't expect that everyone else will buy his noiseless houses for octopi on that island for billions of dollars: other rational people usually realize that his guess is unlikely because Vanuatu is not too connected with other places where land is highly valuable. And as we have explained previously, bridges made out of fog don't count.

The general principle that the price of an object increases when it is connected to other expensive objects may be identified not only in the real estate market, other markets studied by economists, and the market of ideas but it is manifested at many other places, too. This principle underlies Google's PageRank algorithm that determines the importance of web pages on the Internet: a page with incoming links from many other important pages becomes important, too. Similar algorithms have been suggested to measure the importance of scientific papers. If a paper A is cited by another paper B that will become important, it is more relevant than another paper that is cited by an unknown paper C.

It can't be otherwise. However, you might protest that the resulting value may be a consequence of a groupthink and historical coincidences. Couldn't the network of skyscrapers have been built in Montana instead? Well, the location in Montana is not as strategic as one in Manhattan because of rivers and oceans. While you might correctly argue that these characteristics are secondary and one could almost definitely find another equally good place where the New York City could have been built, you should realize that the geographic limitations of the world of mathematical and physical ideas are far more constraining. Extraterrestrial civilizations would probably have to find very similar concepts and theories as our civilization has: for example, they would end up with the same list of simple compact Lie groups. In such a severely constrained virtual world, the value of diverse ideas and bridges is far more objective in character than the real estate market on the East Coast which is why the proximity of ideas is much more important and fundamental than it is in the real world.

Just like the price of houses may increase because of this effect, it may decrease, too. Several thriving Czech towns have become unimportant as soon as a new superhighway that has replaced an older road avoided them. The same thing occurs in the world of ideas. If a package of ideas C has been important partly because of its links to another package D and this other package D turned out to be wrong or unimportant, the value of the package C will decrease, too. Note that this link is not the only feature that decides about the value of C so you should avoid absolutist verdicts. But some influence does exist here. It can't be otherwise.

A technical detail: sharing of the value of an idea, priority, and reusability of ideas

In reality, almost no idea is quite new. Most of them are applications of older ideas, mutated variations of previous ideas, or they are at least inspired by some other ideas. These inclusive relationships should never be forgotten. These relationships are similar to those that were already taken into account in the section about the "expensive neighborhoods". But in this section, we talk about a somewhat different situation, a situation in which a new idea overlaps with certain old ideas so that they shouldn't be quite counted as different entities.

If you use music by Madonna in your new movie, you may be forced to pay her royalties. She effectively owns a part of your movie. Similar situation frequently occurs in the world of thinking. A new discovery E is often so powerful that it allows many similar discoveries to be made much more easily. Needless to say, the author of E may take credit for a part of the newer discoveries. Also, if E is discovered independently by several authors, they share the credit. The higher number of authors you have, the less credit each of them may receive.

A discovery may also be made by several authors who can't quite claim to be independent but they are effectively independent. Christopher Columbus has repeated some of the Vikings' discoveries but in a given context, he was effectively the discoverer of America. In this example, the role of the society is unquestionable because the importance of Columbus' re-discovery would be much lower if it had not allowed the Spaniards, Portuguese, and Englishmen to do what they did. In this text, I am trying to focus on objective measures and avoid appraisals that are social constructs as much as I can.

Ideas and concepts may be used and reused. An idea has often applications in vast areas of the human activity and knowledge. The shares that belong to this idea are distributed over a highly fragmented region of the multi-dimensional space of the human knowledge. But you should always be able to look at this multi-dimensional space from the right angle that reveals the idea as a compact object.

Subtlety: discount rate for ideas

In economics, profit in the far future is less relevant than the same profit that occurs right now. The decrease of importance may be thought of as an exponential one whose rate may be pegged to the interest rate or a similar quantity. Recall that with a 3% discount rate, the perceived value of resources available, lost, or created in 2057 is about four times lower than their present value.

The same discounting obviously works in science, too. A discovery that can be made quickly is more joyful and useful than a discovery that will be made in 2057. At the beginning of the text, we indicated that the "overall value of all new ideas" may be pegged to a percentage of the overall GDP. Assuming a roughly constant world population, this assumption implicitly confirms the expectation that a scientist's salary is going to increase, too. If you need the same number of expected man-hours for a particular discovery D and if the scientists need the same number of man-hours to make it, it is clearly cheaper to make the discovery as soon as possible. However, you should discount the value of the money paid to the future scientists which could cancel the effect. Because of the exponential dependence, small discrepancies in the annual rates may dramatically change the conclusions about anything in 2057. Planning 50 years into the future is a shaky and largely irrational enterprise; even communists only had five-year plans.

The intermediate conclusion we have made - that it doesn't matter when the scientists make the discovery - doesn't yet include the discount rate for the value of the discovery itself. When you include it, it becomes true once again that the discoveries should be made as soon as possible.

That's a likable conclusion except that it is simply impossible to speed up the rate of discoveries too much. Certain discoveries are only made by a certain "top" of the workers in the field. For example, if you decided to increase the number of theoretical physicists ten-fold, the rate of important discoveries would probably not increase much. We may argue that the number of people who work in some subfields is already well above the level where the discovery rate approaches a plateau as a function of the number of people. But this conclusion holds for other human activities - even outside science - too. It especially holds for bureaucracy so scientists certainly have no reason to feel a special guilt.

With a sufficient number of thinkers in a certain field, the expected discovery rate D is pretty much close to its maximum determined by the world population and the distribution curves of various abilities. If you multiply the discovery rate D per person by the average value V of a discovery, the product DV should be close to a universal, field-independent constant in a hypothetical social equilibrium.

Funding: a hypothetical market of generous sponsors

It would be fun to write down more detailed algorithms that evaluate the value of various ideas and discoveries and to run them. You might also imagine that you multiply Mike Lazaridis by 100 and these folks could compete with each other in managing the production of ideas. The result of such a market approach would obviously differ from the opinions of an idealized theorist but it might provide us with a semi-realistic benchmark to quantify how meaningful various investments to scientific fields are and which of them seem much wiser than others.

And that's the memo.

Sunday, July 15, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Live free or die hard

We're gonna watch Live Free Or Die Hard with Bruce Willis in a local movie theater. Willis is a favorite actor of mine - not only because he is a right-wing anti-PC atheist who has reasonable opinions about environmentalism:

I loved the movie! "Die Hard 04" is arguably better than 01,02,03. People who enjoy socialist realism might have some problems with the content: Bruce Willis would have died roughly 83 times if his death rate were counted in a more realistic fashion. But this fact makes the movie fun.

Warning: the text below contains spoilers

A former employee of FBI who suffers from a kind of grumpiness decides that America is not even wrong. With a staff of fellow bastards, this admirer of Lenin eventually begins his attack on America on the Independence Day. We gradually learn that the attack focusing mainly on a collapse of all IT technologies has three stages, namely crippling of the security enforcement, financial markets, and finally the general infrastructure.

Friday, July 13, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Friday, July 13th, 2007

The Reference Frame wishes you good luck on Friday 13th and beyond.

Thursday, July 12, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Bloomberg: another idiotic article

Elizabeth Lopatto is the name of the latest breathtaking idiot who was hired to write about theoretical physics for Bloomberg. I am periodically amazed that the newer journalists are always able to exceed the degree of mental breakdown of their predecessors.

This particular lady informs her readers about "bad news for expanding universe". That may sound pretty exciting. When you read her text, you first notice that she is not able to distinguish cosmic inflation from the current and future expansion of the Universe due to the cosmological constant. While it is not clear which theory is supposed to be in trouble according to this madam, it is very clear what is the reason why this theory is in trouble: the reason is a popular book, "Endless Universe", by Steinhardt and Turok.

These journalists demonstrably think that the existence of popular books is what decides about the validity of scientific theories. In reality, there hasn't been a single popular book that has significantly influenced the image of reality as painted by physics. Weinberg's "The First Three Minutes" arguably came closest to this goal: it is an advanced popular book that has made many smart people think about nucleosynthesis seriously.

So we learn that inflation and probably the Big Bang itself is in trouble. In order for her to be "balanced", she also decided to criticize Steinhardt and Turok. But do you know what she criticizes them for? Believe me or not, she criticizes their wild models for their "string dependence", i.e. dependence on string theory.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Václav Klaus: Climatologists and economists

In the former Austrian-Hungarian monarchy, church bells were obliged to ring every summer to fight against lightnings and thunderstorms - a practice that was ultimately banned by the enlightened emperor Joseph II. During the first July's Saturday, hundreds of musicians across the world were playing against global warming. Our present goal shouldn't be to ban concerts; instead we should find someone who will explain them the matters.

Although I am already repeating it for the x-th time, it is necessary to mention once again that my point is neither to measure the temperatures nor to question that the current temperatures exceed those between the 1940s and 1970s, a period when people used to think that a new ice age was imminent. A global measurement of the average temperature is a difficult task (due to the limited number of weather stations, asymmetric representation of the land and the oceans, questionable information value of any kind of average, variations of temperatures both in space and time, regardless of the scale, and so on) but there is no good reason for me to join the polemics: meteorologists should debate these matters among themselves.

However, meteorologists have to invite climatologists and other natural scientists to collect arguments and decide whether these phenomena are new, whether we see a change of a trend or a normal fluke that may be a part of a cycle, whether the observed dynamics has a short-term or long-term character, and these questions - at least as far as people such as myself can see from outside - are not settled among natural scientists. On one hand, some people claim that there exists "scientific consensus" that these phenomena are new and unexplainable by natural processes (and therefore man-made) and on the other hand, there are numerous people who are proving that the situation is very different, that the observations can be explained "naturally", and that Man plays a secondary or even negligible role in the current warming trend. 2500 scientists grouped around the IPCC, the U.N.-organized intergovernmental climate panel, defends the former opinion while 4000 scientists signed e.g. under the Heidelberg Appeal claims just the opposite. Whatever the right answer is, there is no consensus about it, and even if there were consensus, it wouldn't be a proof.

These questions are not the cup of tea of economists and representatives of other social sciences. These people ask very different questions (which is why they shouldn't be blamed for not being weather or climate experts). They are asking to what extent a particular phenomenon such as warming will be a problem, what its consequences will be, what will be the costs of adaptation, and perhaps what would be the costs of eliminating the phenomenon altogether. This is not a domain of natural sciences.

Economists primarily know that every problem should be considered in its context and it should be assigned a certain weight or measure. I will demonstrate this rule on a random example. Richard Posner, a well-known Chicago professor whose opinions I usually share, wrote in his article Disaster Insurance (Hoover Digest, 2007 vol. 2) that it was necessary to do something about the climate because higher temperatures would lead to higher sea levels, by about two feet in 100 years (even though it is 0.5 - 1.3 feet according to the latest IPCC report) and that this would require a forced transfer of tens of millions of people (see page 45). At first glance, this looks horrible. It is like moving several Czech Republics from one place to another.

However, if we think for a while and consider these issues in their proper context, we realize that what we talk about is about 0.5 percent of the world population. We should immediately see that every year, much more than 0.5 percent of the world population is moving. But this relocation should occur not within one year but within one century: only one hundredth of the number cited above would be moving every year: five thousandths of a percent of the people of the world! This is a completely negligible number - but we could only see this fact by considering the context.

This example was trivial. Economists are adding other contexts - technological progress, human adaptability, increasing wealth (that moves the mankind further away from the subsistence level, allowing us to treat Nature ever more "generously"). Their main tool to acknowledge this context is to discount the future i.e. to give events the right weight that depends on the moment when they occur. A one-thousand-crown bill is "more" than what it will be in 2017 (even if it remains in the form of a banknote or a constant record in a certain bank account): this is a clear conclusion of theories in economics, any other theories about the real life, as well as common sense. But this principle applies not only to banknotes: what about the quality of my life today vs in 2027? Do I pay the same attention to these two quantities in my decisions? If I were doing so or if we were doing so, we would surely listen to all those people who talk about healthy food and we would behave very differently. Why doesn't a student sufficiently invest into his "human capital" (from his parents' viewpoint)? Is it purely because of his ignorance or stupidity, or is it also important to realize that he prefers his life right now over the rest of his life?

We could give a lot of examples of similar kinds. The magic of discounting, i.e. the appraisal of utility of some present acts for the future, plays a role in all of them. This principle is not an erroneous human myopia (that could be eliminated by better eyeglasses). Instead, it is an aspect of elementary human rationality that economics is based upon.

Economists thus agree - without exceptions - that the discount rate is a key parameter of any public i.e. political decision about the reaction of Man (or, hypothetically, the whole present mankind) to a potential climate change. There is not a slightest difference between them in this respect.

Gary Becker, an economics Nobel prize winner, shows that even if we used a discount rate as low as 3 percent, the consequences of global warming for the utility of mankind in 2057 would "weigh" only one quarter of the impact that the same warming would have on the present generation. For the generation in 2107, it would be one sixteenth. (An Economist Looks at Global Warming, Hoover Digest, 2007 vol. 2, page 51.) Slight changes of the discount rate in either direction are able to do total miracles with these calculations - and exactly these calculations appear in computer simulations of the current popularizers of global warming.

However, serious disagreements exist among various economists regarding their opinions about the correct value of the discount rate. They have thought about this issue for centuries but they usually end up close to one of the two possible extremes. One of them is clearly visible in the well-known Stern report that makes almost no distinction between the current generation and the future ones. The report, in fact, explicitly states the following: "If the future generations exist at all, we assume that they deserve the same amount of ethical attention as the present generation." This sentence obviously assumes a zero discount rate.

The opposite extreme argues that the investments into a fight against climate change reduce other investments and all serious cost-benefit analyses should thus incorporate "expenses for the availability of capital" which is nothing else than the free-market interest rate.

What should we choose? Should we believe the market (and its ethics) or ethics of the prophets of global warming? I would prefer to believe the free market (and its interest rate) more than the elitists from the rich and developed world who want the discount rate to be zero (or almost zero).

The debate about this issue must continue. But this debate is unrelated to measurements of temperatures and it is only marginally related to the causes of these changes.

And that's the memo.

Václav Klaus, Czech president, Mladá fronta DNES, July 11th, 2007

Bonus articles related to global warming on The Reference Frame

Tuesday, July 10, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Black holes at the LHC

The Planck length: theoretical background

Lenin used to believe that every electron was a galaxy that contained many smaller electrons that were again galaxies with a lot of even smaller electrons and this hierarchy continued indefinitely.

Even though a similar idea of structure and substructure works well at many longer scales, there are many ways to see that this matryoshka-like picture of the world can't be right at the sub-electron level. For example, in reality, all electrons are exactly indistinguishable, even in principle. This is experimentally seen in various proofs of the antisymmetry of their wavefunctions - for example, via the Pauli exclusion principle that controls the atoms. Any internal structure that is not uniquely determined would make two electrons distinguishable and the Pauli exclusion principle would become impossible.

Another reason why these infinite hierarchies can't exist is quantum gravity itself. It is easy to prove a qualitative conclusion that distances must be longer than the Planck length if they can be interpreted via the usual geometric intuition. At shorter distances, quantum phenomena and new physics strongly influence the behavior of objects and prevent us from understanding them in terms of events that occur at well-defined positions in space. Moreover, geometry can no longer be separated from other kinds of existence. Because the uncertainty principle makes the geometry fluctuate so violently, distances shorter than the Planck scale don't exist in the operational sense of the word.

Saturday, July 07, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Al Gore & Live Earth

Posted on 07/07/07 at 07:07:07. See also 06/06/06 06:06:06 and 11/11/11 years after the birth of 11-dimensional M-theory at 11:11:11.

Hundreds of musicians have demonstrated that there is much stronger consensus about global warming among rock musicians than among scientists: all of them want to look like saviors of the world while all of them want to live in the most expensive hotels and mansions and to fly in private jets. All of them may be used as textbook examples of hypocrites.

They should better try to be saviors of modern music because saviors of the world usually cause a lot of troubles if they're morons at the same moment, and sometimes even if they're not.

I am not a fan of this particular kind of music and listening to most of those unknown musicians for hours would be a pain for me. The format and goal of Live Earth was a classical advertisement - attempts to connect show industry with unrelated products - but a good advertisement of this type is 24-seconds-long, not 24-hours-long. (A long chain of these concerts was broadcast by the 2nd program of the Czech public TV station - the weakest among 4 major national TV channels. I suppose that the number of people who watched it was negligible.)

It would be much more pleasant for me to listen to one approved hit - such as "All I wanna to is have some fun with one square of toilet paper" by Sheryl Crow or some songs by Madonna - for many hours.

In some sense, I feel that the event could have had a positive impact - it may return "global warming" its well-deserved status of a fashionable ad supported mainly by people who don't have too much stuff in their skulls and whose ideas don't have a lasting value and by their weird audiences who often live on drugs and whom you don't want to live with or even listen to.

That's why I not only subscribe to Martin Durkin's quote below but I even think that most people whom I call sensible surely agree with it:

I think [the concert is] a combination of hypocrisy and ignorance because the idea of Al Gore and Madonna telling us the world is consuming too much makes the mind boggle. But ignorance because so few people are prepared to actually look at the evidence and there is so much evidence now that flatly contradicts the notion of man-made global warming. I think this is political prejudice rather than science.
We have also learned from organizers of the concert in South Africa that the poor attendance in Johannesburg was caused by global warming, too, because extreme cold weather is always caused by global warming, much like normal weather in the other cities.

Friday, July 06, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Jan Hus: burned at stake in 1415

When I left the U.S., both your humble correspondent as well as America celebrated the Independence Day.

That was no coincidence because the air tickets for all other dates were sold out too early. People apparently think that July 4th is the most likely date for a new large terrorist attack against the U.S. soil. Well, the terrorists think that July 4th is the most attractive day for such an attack but because others know what these terrorists dream about, I feel that July 4th is not such a likely date for a terrorist attack, after all.

There would have been lots of things to write about that have something to do with my transfer to Europe but I personally find blogs filled with similar topics boring. But you may expect that such things will appear later.

When I arrived to Prague, July 5th, it was another holiday: in 863, two orthodox missionaries, Saint Cyril and Methodius, arrived to Great Moravia, an ancient edition of Czechoslovakia, and brought the nation scripture and Christianity translated into a Slavic language. The German Catholic influence from the West has later diminished the religious impact of their visit on Czechoslovakia but the scripture has probably had a more lasting impact.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

LHC: horrible girls from CERN are back

Most readers of this blog don't have to be introduced to

Les Horribles Cernettes,
the horrible girls from CERN, a high-energy rock band whose picture was incidentally the first image on the web and whose music has been played on this blog as background sound for more than a month.

After 6 years of absence, Les Horribles Cernettes (WWW) are back on the planks of the CERN Hardronic Festival. On July 21st, they will rock their fans out at CERN Restaurant 3 (Prevessin), with three new songs adding to their physics inspired repertoire: "Big Bang", "Mr. Higgs" and "Every proton of you". Since the release of "Collider", their classic hit song in 1990, the Cernettes have become the queens of "High Energy Music", a branch of High Energy Physics that many physicists cannot live without. Dear to over 20 thousand physicists worldwide, the girl trio has been featured in world class press, including the New York Times, the Herald Tribune, Wired etc., and has performed at numerous physics related events around Europe, official and not, singing about quarks, detectors, the web, networks, microwaves, and the Large Hadron Collider. In fact the LHC, whose acronym was derived from the band name, became famous as a seating appliance for the singers, before becoming a particle accelerator. The band was in fact photographed while sitting on an LHC dipole, 10 years before being built, in what became the first picture ever published on the web. The Cernettes, in the current line up with Michele, Anne, and Victoria, will sing again with their live band (in more recent appearances they had sung over a recorded base), and promise to rock the place down, as is their standard, and to get absolutely everybody at the festival dancing and shaking madly to their sixties sounding doo-wop rock & roll tunes.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

No axions: PVLAS back to Earth

In March 2006, this blog and other blogs have informed about surprising results of the PVLAS collaboration:

Optical rotation in magnetic field
The polarization plane seemed to be affected by the presence of a magnetic field - an effect that could be explained by the existence of a new light scalar field called the axion.

However, the theoretical details of a model that would explain the observation didn't seem natural at all because they needed convoluted constructions to avoid astrophysical bounds, as Jacques Distler argued and I somewhat more passively agreed. Not surprisingly, we were right: the signal has disappeared:
Extraordinary statements - and a claim about a new light particle is always extraordinary - require extraordinary evidence and when honest scientists look for such evidence - a stronger signal - the previous weaker signals usually evaporate and the bombshell theories are falsified. This was no exception.

Thanks to Charles Tye!

Carlos Slim: richest person in the world

It turned out that leaving Harvard wasn't such a horribly bad idea for Bill Gates, after all. He eventually became the richest person in the world.

The same mechanism also implies that completing Harvard wasn't such a terribly good idea either. :-) During the very same month when he received the Harvard degree that he has been dreaming about for decades, Gates became poorer than some Mexicans.

So far it is only one Mexican whose name is Carlos Slim Helú even though his pocket (and belly) is not so slim especially because of the soaring stocks of America Movil [sic] that contribute to his \$67 billion worth. I guess that most readers hear his name for the first time but he is apparently a well-known guy in Latin America.

Sicko & Moore & commies vs Lauren Turner & Google

A famous filmmaker has decided to teach America how to care about its health.

His "Sicko" apparently defends the idea of a communist healthcare system and uses isolated emotional stories to attack health insurers, health providers, drug companies, and the invisible hand of the market itself. "Sicko" is probably a classical example of communist propaganda which is why various people in Cuba enjoyed it so much.

As a person who has tried both the communist and capitalist healthcare models, I assure you that neither of them is perfect, both of them have advantages as well as disadvantages, but you surely don't want the communist model.

Lauren Turner, a Google's employee, wrote a critique of the movie and recommended the people and organizations that are influenced by Moore's slanderous movie to use Google's services for their defense.

The far left-wing blogosphere got angry. For example, look at the Emerging Earth. They think that Turner should be fired because it seems that she dared to disagree with Google's official opinion. The Emerging Earth explicitly assumes that Google Inc. is obliged to agree with the far left-wing activists - see the last comment - and the website moreover argues that all employees must agree with such an opinion of their company, otherwise they must be fired.

Climate brainwashing: British public resilient

Despite a massive wave of brainwashing and manipulation by the media, the British public keeps its relatively rational opinions about the climate. Alternatively, if you want to use the jargon of Paul Eco-simpleton or Eccleston for short,

the public is in denial about climate change.
See also the BBC.

56% realized that experts were divided about the causes of climate change while 21% disagreed. 40% realized that the climate was too complex to make forecasts while 38% disagreed.
The discussion about the greenhouse effect continues and approaches 500 comments.
Climate change turned out to be less important than crime, immigration, the NHS, traffic, litter, graffiti, parks, noise, and dogs fouling the sidewalks.


Meanwhile, in the U.S., 48% of people think that the country shouldn't sign the Kyoto protocol while less than 35% think that it should.


Russia has warned against hasty actions on climate change.

Reid Bryson

The 87-year-old (he looks great!) co-founder of American climatology, Reid Bryson, became a target of hysterical eco-Nazis because he is a global warming skeptic. So don't expect that high age will save you from this aggressive movement.


The governor of California doesn't have to be such an unlimited green nutcase as he often likes to be seen. Schwarzenegger has terminated a radical alarmist in his climate team, Robert Sawyer, and another one, Catherine Witherspoon, followed.

Via Benny Peiser.

Loop quantum cosmology

Shortcut to the discussion about the greenhouse effect

Many newspapers and magazines including New Scientist, USA Today, and Scientific American have recently promoted new "results" within a framework called loop quantum cosmology. I want to explain why 100% of this stuff is unphysical nonsense but we should find a logical place to start.

What is loop quantum gravity?

It is useful to first understand what is loop quantum gravity. Theoretical physics has been amazingly successful. Its basic theories can be summarized on a sheet of paper and they correctly predict the results of virtually all experiments and phenomena we have ever observed.

However, these theories correspondingly rely on difficult mathematics, they are increasingly abstract, and their mathematical and conceptual structure is not comprehensible to everyone. There is a lot of secret coding behind the sheet of paper from the previous paragraph. In order to understand the cutting-edge picture of the Universe or even extend the reach of the human knowledge, one must master not only quantum mechanics and classical field theories but also path integrals, renormalization, the Higgs mechanism, strong-coupling behavior of gauge theories, and many other subjects whose character is either intuitive, observational, or mathematical.

All really big open problems of current theoretical high-energy physics - such as the cosmological constant problem, the vacuum selection problem, a decent solution to the information puzzle, or the puzzle about the beginning of the Universe - only make sense as long as we consider all known qualitative aspects of our picture of the Universe seriously. We must include matter, too.

Sunday, July 01, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Strings 2007: summary

I believe that David Gross' entertaining summary of the conference, "Perspectives", will be the most intriguing piece of "Strings 2007" for most readers here.

Via Strings07.blogspot.com where you can find the remaining talks.

Yes, I have verified that the only talk at "Loops 2007" that was not a meaningless pile of nonsense was a popular talk by Moshe Rozali about the current state of background independence according to string theory.

Please feel free to continue the discussion about the greenhouse effect: the number of comments is still well below 500 right now.