Saturday, September 30, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Human genome project: animation

Cosmicvariance.com has declared a weekend of animated molecular biology. The video below arguably has a lower artistic value than the video at cosmicvariance.com (also via John Cobb of Harvard University, a mathematician/philosopher) but it may have a higher pedagogical value. ;-)


Brought to you by: www.studentedition.com:

(ISBN Books/Textbooks Price Search Engine)
  • 3D computer animation illustrating the basics of molecular biology. The animation progresses from cells to the nucleus, chromosomes to DNA, and the scale, structure, and function of the human genome is portrayed. The mechanism of converting genetic instructions into active proteins is explained through accurate 3D animation of the processes of transcription and translation.
When you compare the previous video with the video below, you almost - but not quite - start to understand Wolfram's sentiments that life is just another emergent blah blah blah fractal-like picture. ;-)


Brought to you by: Dave Kliman:

Anousheh Ansari: the first cosmic blogger

As the Grauniad has reported, the first Persian astronaut has also become the first space blogger:

That's very nice. But there is still one thing in which Anousheh Ansari is not number one: she is not the #1 Google hit for Iranian astronaut. ;-) But there is no reason for her to be sad: her space triumph has prompted a new line in underwear. :-)

Friday, September 29, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Richard Hamilton behind Shing-Tung Yau

Prof. Richard Hamilton wrote

explaining more details why the text in the New Yorker was neither fair nor true and why he respects Prof. Shing-Tung Yau so much. As you know, Prof. Shing-Tung Yau has decided to go after these particular shoddy journalists. Recall that we have brought your attention to the Yau webcast, too, and discussed the Poincaré's conjecture in many contexts, for example after the paper of Zhu and Cao and Dennis Overbye's popular article.

Of course, the actual number of shoddy journalists who have written stupidities and nasty lies about science recently is far too high to be listed here. Even if you look at the New Yorker itself, you will see additional jerks of this kind. One of them is called

who writes a lot of the very same junk as his fellow garbage journalists as well as the blue crackpot and the black crackpot, among dozens of others, but the point of his relation to theoretical physics is well captured by the last two sentences of his diatribe (thanks to Charles T.!):

  • And, even if a final theory is found, it will leave the questions about nature that most concern us—how the brain gives rise to consciousness, how we are constituted by our genes—untouched. Theoretical physics will be finished, but the rest of science will hardly notice.

First of all, the origin of "consciousness" can either be treated scientifically - like in neurobiology and psychology (and I am sure that Holt wouldn't like this approach) - or unscientifically, and then it is just philosophy.

Thursday, September 28, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Bill O'Reilly in Harvard's top ten

Congratulations to Bill O'Reilly. According to the new tabloid of Harvard alumni,

he has made it into the top ten of the most influential Harvard alumni. He rightfully celebrated this success on the Factor.

The first spot belongs to Bill Gates although it is not quite clear whether this wise guy is a real alumnus or just a partial one. ;-) The second spot went to George Bush. The third guy is Ben Bernanke who invented the Goldilocks. The number ten is Bill O'Reilly. He is ahead of various less important people - Ted Kennedy, Barack Obama, Al Gore, Natalie Portman, and many others. Moreover, Bill O'Reilly was the number one on the alumni's party.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Oriana Fallaci: The Force of Reason

Review: 44 of 45 helpful votes; the review was erased from amazon.com by a certain movement

Oriana Fallaci, a famous journalist and former antifascist partisan, offers her fascinating views on Islam, its history, and the threats facing the Western civilization as well as her personal story that has become even more striking after the 9/11 attacks. For security reasons, Fallaci had to move to America, a country she views as the main hope of the Western civilization, and so do I, a citizen of the Czech Republic.

During the last years, she became the target of many fanatical Muslims and their fatwas as well as their left-wing allies who have made her life in Italy virtually impossible: her identification with Master Cecco, a victim of the inquisition, is certainly justified. But it was cancer that ultimately killed this extraordinary woman last week.

Much like Fallaci, I count myself as a Christian atheist. As most scientists, I appreciate the tough struggles between science and Christianity in which the Church was wrong. Nevertheless, these old disputes seem rather subtle in comparison with the outrageous recent attacks against the main principles underlying the Western civilization, including the power of reason and arguments as opposed to violence and intimidation. Why were the controversies relatively subtle?

Nobel prizes 2006

It is not easy to predict the Nobel prizes. Here is what Thomson Scientific says about the physics candidates:

  • 50% - Desurvire, Nakazawa, Payne
  • 31% - Fert, Grünberg
  • 19% - Guth, Linde, Steinhardt

They calculate the candidates using some citation-counting black magic.

The first group are three people who have worked on fiber optics. This field is always the most likely one but I have been annoyed by the LASER Nobel prizes for quite some time. Einstein had no chance to receive the award even for the groundbreaking pioneering theoretical discovery of the stimulated emission and the modern guys are just adding small technical additions to this old field and getting dozens of Nobel prizes.

The second pair has discovered giant magnetoresistance in 1988: you deal with thin non-magnetic and ferromagnetic alternating layers of film and you observe a rapid decrease of resistance once you turn on the magnetic field and change the mostly anti-ferromagnetic relation between the magnetic layers into a parallel orientation. While it is difficult for me to appreciate the purely theoretical value of this discovery, the effect has been used in modern hard drives and MRAM memory chips.

Of course, I like the third group. The new WMAP data have made the case for inflation really strong although many of us could still have doubts whether the general theory has been experimentally established, despite an experimental confirmation of the predicted approximate scale-invariance of the perturbations. On the other hand, I find it extremely difficult to imagine that the theory could be falsified or superseded by something very different in any foreseeable future.

The 2005 candidates were discussed previously - some of them may continue to be candidates for 2006 - and the actual 2005 winners were discussed on this blog, too. My last successful prediction of the physics Nobel prize winners happily occured in 2004.

Also, the Reference frame is looking forward to some female winners. Among the 758 winners, 33 are women so far which includes two physicists and three chemists; Marie Curie is counted in both groups. The last physics/chemistry female Nobel prize winners occured in 1963 and 1964, before the expansion of modern feminism.

Academy of P.C. sciences

I had to teach (QFT I), we had a very interesting seminar about AdS/CFT and RHIC, and now I spoke to students from my class for several hours, but let me post something simple.

Today, John Tierney who is a libertarian had a nice

  • op-ed (subscription required)
in The New York Times evaluating the recent report of the National Academy of Sciences about the female scientists and engineers. He used to think that the NAS was not cynical enough to publish a political tract such as this new report in which feminist politics trumps science.

Well, the last time I had the same idealistic expectations about similar academic institutions as John Tierney was a few years ago. ;-)

The long report starts like one of the articles from The Onion, Tierney says: we want to honestly evaluate the role of genders which is why the men are prohibited to serve on the committee, except for one who is just going to confirm what the 17 ladies (including one who has sadly jumped from a skyscraper) need. Tierney describes that the report starts with meaningless episodes about a young female talented professor who was discouraged and denied tenure 30 years ago - the writer of the report (Donna Shalala) herself ;-) - and it is hard to find any serious analysis on the 290 pages of the report because its point is to assume that the discrimination is behind everything and other explanations shouldn't even be considered.

Let me say that some examples are really fascinating. For example, they mention the experiments that have shown that girls with higher levels of testosterone play with male toys much more frequently than other girls. The committee wanted the readers to believe that the reason is that their environment always knows about the testosterone level and encourages these girls to play with the trucks because it is more natural according to the existing stereotypes. What kind of conspiracy theories these 17 ladies and 1 gentleman are ready to advocate in order to defend the undefendable is really amazing.

Tierney mentions that six of his scientific friends thought that the report was crap: he always prefers to mention the women's opinions. ;-) He offers a brief summary of various findings showing why the female brains work somewhat differently than the male brains, why they have different distributions in various tests, and why women have different interests in average. He presents the NAS report as a typical example of special interests in action - meant to bring better job prospects to an organized political group - and argues that it is myopic to assume, despite decades of full women's rights, that women are still unable to choose the fields that are interesting for them.

Well, yes, I can't hide that the New York Times still remains the top U.S. paper for me despite the negative emotions of some of my right-wing comrades. Even in the description of the two recent crackpot books about high-energy physics, the New York Times was arguably the least unreasonable major source of opinions although it was not necessarily enough for them to be classified as reasonable.

Besides Berkeley and MIT, Harvard is the only other institution who has had two representatives who were writing the NAS feminist pamphlet. But sometimes it can be a good idea to follow Derek Bok who suggested that Harvard is always a useful tool, whenever you want to do good things as well as bad things; it was his interesting reaction to Romney's fair criticism of the Kremlin on the Charles that Romney probably decided to make in order to strengthen his conservative presidential credentials. ;-)

Thanks to Paul Krapivsky for his tip.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Southern hemisphere ignores global warming



Spencer and Christy have updated their tools to calculate the tropospheric temperatures between 1979 and the present era from their and NASA's satellite data to a new version 6.0 beta (readme file). Update: they would return to v5.2 in December 2006. The three graphs above show the global average, the Northern Hemisphere, and the Southern Hemisphere. This upgrade is also discussed by Steve McIntyre.

If you look at the third graph, you see that there was no warming on the Southern Hemisphere in the last 25 years even though the "global warming theory" and the corresponding models are predicting even faster rise of the tropospheric temperatures than for the surface temperatures. The decadal trend is quantitatively around 0.05 degrees which is noise whose sign can change almost instantly.



Normally, I would think that one should conclude that according to the observations, there is no discernible recent warming on the Southern Hemisphere, and an experimental refutation of a far-reaching hypothesis by a whole hemisphere is a good enough reason to avoid the adjective "global" for the observed warming.

Of course, the proponents of the "global warming theory" will use a different logic. The troposphere of the Southern Hemisphere is bribed by the evil oil corporations, and even if it were not, the data from the Southern Hemisphere can't diminish the perfect consensus of all the hemispheres of our blue planet: the debate is over. All the hemispheres of our planet decide equally about the catastrophic global warming, especially the Northern Hemisphere that shows that the warming is truly global and truly cataclysmic. Be worried, be very worried. ;-)

Monday, September 25, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

First Czech "anti-discrimination" lawsuit lost

Ms. Marie Čauševićová became the first Czech woman who has sued her company, the Prague heating corporation, that didn't choose her as the financial director. As far as I can say, the only evidence she seems to have to support her statement that she was discriminated because she was a woman is that she is a woman. I was hoping it was not enough.

She was mainly rejected because of two Czech guys representing the interests of a British shareholder. She demanded one million Czech crowns (almost $50,000), the chair, and an apology.

Meter-long 10 GeV accelerators

Do you want to build a 10 GeV accelerator of electrons in your bathroom? You need some strong lasers and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory experts can tell you what to do.

I will leave the job to others to say some intelligent comments about this fascinating text. For example, can someone say whether they can build a new LaserTeVaSLAC that would be just 100 meter long? ;-)

Thanks to Guido.

Do the laws of nature last forever?

Several people have informed me about an article in New Socialist

The author seems confused what is science, what is physics, what is a law of nature, how it looks like and how it may look like, and why we believe such laws. He is profoundly confused at many levels: basic levels as well as the technical ones.

Cosmological natural selection

Lee Smolin promotes his cosmological natural selection. Just during the last month, five independent people have mentioned this issue in discussions with me or in their own articles; the list included famous names like L.S. or A.V. All of them are convinced that it is trivial to falsify Smolin's hypothesis and it has, in fact, been done immediately when Smolin proposed it.

A decade ago, Smolin had conjectured that the laws of our universe are optimized for black hole production because every new black hole is a new baby whose properties are similar to the parent universe but it is not quite identical because there is also a cosmological mutation going on. The most prolific universes - those who create many black holes - are going to dominate the ensemble of the universes. Lee Smolin has written a whole book whose content is isomorphic to this paragraph.

Sunday, September 24, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Wavefunctions and hydrodynamics: crackpots vs. rational thinking

It is no secret that I consider all people whose main scientific focus is a revision of the basic postulates of quantum mechanics - and a return to the classical reasoning - to be crackpots. They just seem too stubborn and dogmatic or too intellectually limited to understand one of the most important results of the 20th century science.

Every new prediction based on the assumption that there is a classical theory that underlies the laws of quantum mechanics has been proven wrong. The local hidden variables have first predicted wrong outcomes in the EPR experiments and later they predicted the validity of Bell's inequalities and we know for sure that these inequalities are violated in Nature, just like quantum mechanics implies and quantifies. The non-local hidden variables predict a genuine violation of the Lorentz symmetry. I think that all these theories predict such a brutal violation of the Lorentz symmetry that they are safely ruled out, too. But even if someone managed to reduce the violation of the laws of special relativity in that strange framework, these theories will be ruled out in the future. Their whole philosophy and basic motivation is wrong.

The whole political movement to return physics to the pre-quantum era is a manifestation of a highly regressive attitude to science - an even more obvious crackpotism than the attempts to return physics to the era prior to string theory. But among the proposals to undo the 20th century in physics, some of the papers are even more stupid than the average.

This is also the case of the recent preprint

There are many meaningless words in that paper but let me focus on a section whose content is meant to be very clear and it is very clear, except that it is also totally dumb. The author claims that Timothy Wallstrom was wrong in his criticism of a hydrodynamic approach to the wavefunction.

Novikov about the history and methods of topology

A reader has recommended me - and other readers - the following essay by Sergey Novikov from 2000:

Novikov discusses many technical details of topology but also more philosophical issues about the right way to do mathematics.

He identifies the period 1950-1970 as the Golden Age Period. The years 1970-1980 represent the Period of Decay. The era since 1980 is the Period of Recovery.

After 1970, many people left topology for other fields which was probably the primary sociological reason of the decay. However, the internal reason behind the decay is that the mathematicians were not able to fully settle the proofs and disseminate the information about the incomplete and flawed proofs - something that used to work instantly in the better periods. No one was too interested in the full perfectionist proofs even if they were available.

Novikov thinks that the free exchange of information and its clear presentation is essential - and it is a gift that the Ancient Greeks gave us.

The period of recovery in topology started because of the influence of physics in the 1980s: quantum field theory, string theory, and some topological notions relevant for condensed matter physics (such as topology of Fermi surfaces): a new generation of leaders of theoretical physics was suddenly ready to care about the implications of their discoveries for mathematics itself instead of the previous generation's overemphasis on the application of all their ideas for experiments.

Novikov argues that in contrast to the bad and messy tendencies in the 1970s, physics didn't cause any problems in topology because the theoretical physicists never claim that their new statement is completely proven - they view their broader mathematical assertions (beautiful heuristic mathematics, as Novikov calls it) as "predictions" and their complete proof may be counted as a sort of experimental verification.

Saturday, September 23, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Saudis: Osama bin Laden may have died



This picture is not necessarily real but the new blog of the Boston's cardinal is real.

According to a leaked unconfirmed report of the French intelligence revealed in L'Est Republicain, the Saudis are convinced that Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan on August 23rd, 2006. A salmonella bacterium has attacked him and because there was no way to save the killer from the strong typhoid fever that has paralyzed his lower limbs, he's gone, solved, completed, and terminated. According to a usually reliable source, the Saudis learned about his death on September 4th. The French secret services found the report reliable enough to inform the French officials. No one else is able to confirm the report. See news.google.com.

PBS: The Elegant Universe

I am sure that most readers have already seen the show on NOVA. Nevertheless, if you have not, Google Video now offers you a compact version of the three times 55-minute-long masterpiece of popularization of science:

The original PBS home page of the program only contained the show cut into many more pieces.



If you decide to view a Google Video, you may switch to a full screen mode by double-clicking the video while it's already running. F11 makes it "even more fullscreen".

Friday, September 22, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

A virgin throws away an LHC from the window

Update: How to get $25 million from Richard Branson



Figure 1: Bill Clinton with another virgin, more precisely with a Virgin boss

Sir Richard Branson has invited Al Gore into his house and Al Gore has convinced Branson to throw 3 billion U.S. dollars out of the window. The money will be used to pay for hot air. Note that the whole LHC project originally cost the same amount although the full amount has jumped three-fold or so. The postmodern world is just amazing: a charlatan comes into a billionaire's house and a whole fortune - in fact, most of Branson's assets - is instantly wasted for complete nonsense.

According to current market prices, Branson's gift will lower the temperature in 2050 by 0.00001 Kelvins which is, according to the missionaries, a good thing. According to your humble correspondent, it is madness and a fraction of the money should be spent for a good asylum for Sir Branson. Did Al Gore told him that he would get to the Heaven or what?

Czechia and global warming

Things look a bit different in the Czech Republic - a microscopic part of the reasons why I am kind of looking forward to be back. Václav Klaus, the Czech president, met the chairman of the right-leaning Green Party. Klaus said that the environmental problems are gonna be solved by the economic growth and the related higher demands of the population about the quality of their lives.

The green guy countered: "This debate is meant to suggest that everything's alright, but it is so in this hall only." Mr. Bursík also proposed to include the price of pollution into the expenses and mentioned that whenever he is climbing in the Alps, he sees retreating glaciers.

However, Klaus - who also likes to spend winters in the mountains - told him: "I would have to dispute every sentence of yours. Your contribution is a classical example how the factual data shouldn't be discussed and mustn't be discussed. Global warming caused by the humankind is a nonsensical fiction. On the contrary, we should expect that warming oceans will increase the precipitation above Antarctica and growing glaciers."

The president has also recommended the green politician to take a message from the debate - the message that the sustainable growth myth and the myth about renewable resources don't deserve a serious discussion.

The green chairman mentioned that he incorrectly expected that the president would play the role of the moderator. Instead, the green brain had to face three opponents, the president, the minister of industry, and Ivan Brezina, a journalist. ;-)

Part-time scholars in China

The Science magazine has an article about the policy of part-time trophy professors:

I tend to think that the policy is wrong - it is based on the desire to improve things on paper but not in reality. More generally, it is disappointing to see that so many things are decided by the money etc. but if this is what is behind these questions, one should at least approach them rationally.

A meaningful goal of these investments should be to create an environment in which many results are actually found on the Chinese territory and in which the leading scholars actually influence others in China, and I am afraid that this "trophy hunt" can't lead to such an outcome.

What an amazing dog

The video was originally embedded but now you must click here. Moreover, our server seems to be completely down/dead right now.

Our administrator rebooted the server but this can only be finished when you're physically present but he was not allowed to enter the room because he is an undergrad. So a more senior administrator entered the room in the building but she didn't have the password that only the undergraduate knows. ;-)

The video is rather fascinating, especially in comparison with the journalists who have recently written about high-energy physics. ;-)

Thanks to G.D.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

First Persian astronaut



The first astronauts of most nations of the world, including the most capitalist nations, are usually paid by their governments from taxpayers' money.

Paradoxically enough, the first Persian astronaut has paid her trip herself. Anousheh Ansari has also become the first Muslim woman in space and the first female space tourist in the world. Congratulations.

The previous, zeroth Iranian astronaut was Buzz Mustaffa (video).

One of the reasons that the Iranian-born U.S. telecommunications tycoon has decided to pay for her trip was her desire to give Iranians a new hope instead of all the depressive talk about the war and similar issues.

Yau premiere webcast

The webcast started with music around 11:45 a.m. EDT. You could have opened

and entered your data together with the room number 150144. Before you do so, you may also have checked your computer and its software. Howard Cooper, the attorney, made a very meaningful introduction. Prof. Yau with his full and charming Chinese accent then showed how much he cares about mathematics and other mathematicians. Cooper then used several PowerPoint transparencies to demonstrate some of the most major obviously untrue charges that the New Yorker has printed.

It seems as a clear case to me but the U.S. tradition based on the 1st amendment makes things non-trivial. The New Yorker so far defends the shoddy journalists but the paper has absolutely no arguments relevant for the particular charges, so they explain how much time the journalists have spent on the article.

I think that such arguments don't have any value: they don't seem to understand what they have done. If the editors are responsible for a libel, it does not matter whether they've been working on it for 30 seconds or 7 months. What does the time have to do with the charges?

A libel doesn't mean that a journalist has spent less than XY hours on an article. A libel doesn't mean that someone writes bad things about a person whom everyone else loves (such a person doesn't exist). A libel means that a journalist has written a text read by many readers with false accusations against a person, despite knowing that these accusations aren't supported by available evidence, and the good name of that person was damaged. The article in the New Yorker is, in my opinion, an example.

Some people are just illogical and it's not too promising a discussion with them if they don't get it.

Incidentally, you can see this complaint indicating that the article can also be viewed as an attack against the Chinese mathematicians in general.

Requisites for writing about cutting-edge physics

Below, you will find a self-description of an interesting person and you may guess what was his most recent job today. :-)

  • Since my first summer job, I've worked as a window installer, pizza delivery boy, golf course lawnmower, stock clerk, wind tunnel construction crewmember, FDA clerk, computer programmer, space policy analyst, CD-ROM debugger, TV researcher/producer and finally reporter.
  • ... so I switched majors (and locales to Washington D.C.) and headed for GWU to study science policy (MA, '93), which interested me far more than tensor algebra.

He was also asked about physics, giving the following answer to a question:

  • Q: Black holes are arguably the most intriguing phenomenon in space. What is the latest interesting or surprising theory or discovery about them?
  • A: Cosmologists may tell you that dark energy is the most intriguing thing ever. Nevertheless, black holes seem like very productive observation points because they are where general relativity clearly meets the quantum world [no kidding, and congratulations to Stephen Hawking to these observations].

So what was his most recent job? Yes, your guess is right. This person with this deep knowledge and interest in theoretical physics was asked to write an essay explaining why

for 2.25 million readers of USA Today. If I had not seen it, I would not believe it. On the other hand, once I saw it, I had no doubts it was written by a pizza delivery boy. ;-) At least, Dan Vergano could revenge for the tensor algebra and apply the most important insight of the "Science and policy" Master program - namely how morons can gain power to mess up with science.

You could ask whether USA Today's resources are only enough to pay a pizza delivery imbecile to write an article about this topic - but the 2.25 million readers probably can't tell the difference anyway.

About 2006 readers will notice that computing, material science, nanotechnology, and electronics have nothing to do with the issue. 1503 people will notice that it is nonsensical to say that a theory can be unraveling because it has not yet been proven. 1302 readers will realize that Einstein was never trying to unify the actual equations of quantum theory with anything else.

1105 readers will know that the incompatibility of two principles doesn't mean that both of them must be wrong.

804 readers will notice that no physicist who actually knows this theory was given any voice in the article - except for a few general words of John Schwarz - and 701 readers who have also read The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene will notice that the name of John Schwarz was misspelled twice.

408 readers will notice that the most recent work of the "historian of science" whose dumb opinion is quoted is a book celebrating the "discovery of global warming". Finally, 214 readers will realize that a person proposing that we shouldn't be "prizing the mathematical ability to whip up [a realistic particle spectrum]" must be a crank.

As you can see, the basic knowledge of facts and principles relevant for physics is a negligible perturbation and USA Today can easily ignore it and assign the task to golf course lawnmowers.

And that's my optimistic memo. :-)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Shing-Tung Yau goes after shoddy journalists

On Wednesday noon EDT, there will be webcast on the URL below. Yesterday,

one of the greatest mathematicians of our era, and - as a reader wrote, a towering figure of mathematics - has started the legal process against the immoral journalists who have defamed him and a large portion of the whole field of mathematics - and exact sciences in general - in the August 28th, 2006 issue of the New Yorker. I have just read the

sent to the main authors of that piece of vicious propaganda based on a clear agenda, and even though I don't necessarily think that Prof. Yau is a new Jesus Christ (sorry!), he is clearly a stellar scholar who has dedicated most of his life to mathematics and his and his legal team's complaints seem to be 100% right on the money. Many of these complaints are explicitly proven and it is rather hard to imagine a judge who could deny that Yau's team is right: but crazier things have happened and I am no lawyer.



The amount of deliberate mystifications, neglected facts, distortions, and outright lies in that article seems to be just far too high to be forgiven.

What I will say now are arguably objective facts about the famous mathematician and more or less everyone who knows what's going on would agree, despite all of our differences about non-mathematical issues you can think of: differences in political opinion, nationalities, fields, and temperaments. Originally, I was informed about the New Yorker article by another scientist who is fully supporting Prof. Yau in this dispute, and others who have any opinion are on the same side.

Monday, September 18, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Frank Wilczek: podcast

Some people might be interested in

although I have not yet heard it because of time limitations. It you can't play the m4b (=mp4) file but you want to, download iTunes. Also, Lisa Randall's Warped Passages are now available in paperback.

USCB and Intel: laser chips

University of California at Santa Barbara and Intel Inc. will announce a new

today. They will be able to produce chips with as many as hundreds lasers on it. According to optimistic predictions, there will be terabits of data per second flowing in future computers based on this technology.

Puffed field theory

Tonight, Ori Ganor is proposing

What's that? It's a new, Lorentz violating and nonlocal (but hypothetically rotationally symmetric) deformation of N=4 supersymmetric gauge theory in d=4 - and perhaps other theories - that is conjectured to be UV-complete much like the dipole theories and noncommutative gauge theories.

How do you create these puffed fields? Start with D2-branes, compactify one transverse dimensions X1 on a circle, and T-dualize this circle X1. You will clearly obtain D3-branes with N=4 Super-Yang-Mills at low energies.

Now try something more amusing. Before you T-dualize X1 to obtain D3-branes from D2-branes, twist the remaining six coordinates X4...X9 transverse to the D2-branes by an SO(6) rotation. That means that the identification in the space where the D2-branes live won't be
  • X1 is identified with X1 + 2.pi.R
but rather
  • (X1, X4...X9) is identified with (X1+2.pi.R, rotation(X4...X9))
where the "rotation" is taken from SO(6). Obviously, for this rotation taken inside the SU(3) subgroup, we will obtain a supersymmetric theory.

Fine, what does this twist - the added rotation - do with the theory living on the D3-branes? Yes, your guess is right: it puffs it. If I am using the terminology incorrectly, Ori will probably kindly tell us. :-)

Ori argues that this puffing may be represented by a dimension 7 operator in the d=4 theory at low energies. That looks like if we make the theory non-renormalizable, but Ori argues that this conclusion could be too fast.

In the case of noncommutative gauge theory, we get a theory that is widely believed (or known?) to be UV-finite, even though it looks as a deformation by a dimension 6 operator at low energies (recall that when you expand the star product, the first non-trivial term will have two extra derivatives in it, multiplied by theta, the noncommutativity = commutator of "x" and "y"). The finiteness of the theory arises because the higher derivative terms combine into exponentials - phases - that actually make the loop diagrams' integrals more convergent, not less. Non-commutative field theory has various interesting issues with UV-IR mixing, but still, under appropriate definitions, it is UV-finite.

I wonder whether there is a simple Lagrangian description of this puffed field theory with a transparent puffed star-product that would add something like puffed phases to the integrals over momenta. ;-)

Note that in the dipole theories, an object with a large charge naturally becomes linearly extended in a certain direction. In his theory, what the charge objects acquire is arguably a multi-dimensional volume element although I have not yet figured out what the dimensions are.

I don't yet see a proof of decoupling of gravity. When gravity is decoupled, the magic power of string theory more or less guarantees that the resulting field theory would be local and UV-complete.

Disclaimer for the people who are being brainwashed by dozens of greedy crackpots on the web and on the book market and their pseudoscientific journalistic allies in various Economists and similar tabloids: this magic is not a religious one but a real one and one can explicitly check that it is there, and please kindly allow me to call you idiots if you're unable to understand these things. Thank you very much. ;-)

On the other hand, if gravity is not decoupled, then PFT doesn't exist because the rest of string theory can't be ignored. Ori probably knows why the decoupling is trivial.

Sunday, September 17, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Two apologies: comparative literature

I am afraid that Rae Ann was right and the Pope is forced to do very similar things as our president was forced to do last year. My guess is that if this similarity is going to continue, the outcomes might be equivalent, too.

Let's compare these two texts:

Letter from President Summers on women and science - January 19, 2005, five days after Summers' famous speech

Text of Pope's apology - Sunday, 17 September 2006, five days after Pope's famous speech

LHS: Dear Members of the Harvard Community;

Pope: Dear Brothers and Sisters,

LHS: Last Friday I spoke at a conference on women and science, hosted by the National Bureau of Economic Research. I attended the conference with the intention of reinforcing my strong commitment to the advancement of women in science, and offering some informal observations on possibly fruitful avenues for further research.

Pope: The pastoral visit which I recently made to Bavaria was a deep spiritual experience, bringing together personal memories linked to places well known to me and pastoral initiatives towards an effective proclamation of the Gospel for today.

LHS: Ensuing media reports on my remarks appear to have had quite the opposite effect. I deeply regret the impact of my comments and apologize for not having weighed them more carefully.

Pope: At this time, I wish also to add that I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims.

LHS: Despite reports to the contrary, I did not say, and I do not believe, that girls are intellectually less able than boys, or that women lack the ability to succeed at the highest levels of science. As the careers of a great many distinguished women scientists make plain, the human potential to excel in science is not somehow the province of one gender or another. It is a capacity shared by girls and boys, by women and men, and we must do all we can to nurture, develop, and recognize it, along with other vital talents. That includes carefully avoiding stereotypes, being alert to forms of subtle discrimination, and doing everything we can to remove obstacles to success.

Pope: These in fact were a quotation from a medieval text, which do not in any way express my personal thought.

LHS: I am strongly committed to Harvard's success in attracting both students and faculty who are outstanding and diverse along many dimensions. We have recently committed up to $25 million in new funds to avoid budget constraints on the appointment of outstanding scholars from underrepresented groups, including women and minorities. Last year we completed a comprehensive report of our appointments process in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and we continue to assess and implement measures at a variety of levels to improve our effectiveness in this area. And we are actively exploring ways to enhance flexibility and support for faculty trying to balance career and family, through such measures as enhanced leave, parental teaching relief, delayed tenure clocks, and better childcare options.

Pope: Yesterday, the Cardinal Secretary of State published a statement in this regard in which he explained the true meaning of my words.

LHS: These and other steps should all be part of a broad-based and sustained effort to achieve a vital goal we all share: assuring that Harvard plays a leadership role in accelerating the advancement of women in science and throughout academic life.

Pope: I hope that this serves to appease hearts and to clarify the true meaning of my address, which in its totality was and is an invitation to frank and sincere dialogue, with great mutual respect.

Conclusions

Yes, Rae, I seem to agree: it seems mostly isomorphic. The Pope still has the opportunity to learn from the subsequent developments at Harvard University and not to pay 50 million dollars to build the new school of jihad in Rome. ;-)

Another chance for the Holy Father is, of course, the hope that the Muslims are actually more reasonable than the feminists, and thus an isomorphic sequence of events will lead to a happy end in his case. I find it rather unlikely. Some Muslims are gonna be satisfied but the remaining Muslims will keep on making the Pope's life unpleasant.

Cosmic rays will create clouds at CERN

A new central article about the cosmic/solar climate connection on this blog has been created
Paul Krapivsky (B.U.) has pointed out a rather interesting new article in Nature, volume 443.
I could only read the PDF with Acrobat Reader 4.

You must be a subscriber to be allowed to click the link above. Jeff Kanipe describes an experiment that will be performed at CERN in Switzerland and that will fully start in 2010. The experiment will study the formation of clouds in a C.T.R. Wilson's cloud chamber as a function of the intensity of (artificial) cosmic rays sent from the synchrotron into the cloud chamber at different levels of humidity.
Warning: This story is not about the Large Hadron Collider (click), another (and much larger) experiment at CERN!
What is the purpose of this toy? There seems to be a disagreement between many astrophysicists, nuclear physicists and related scientists on one side and most climate scientists on the other side. The astrophysicists tend to believe that the Solar and galactic cosmic rays are important to determine the cloud formation and therefore the climate on the Earth. The climate scientists usually believe that the main driver of the climate is something completely different.

CLOUD (Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets) have a chance to resolve this question.

Friday, September 15, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Papal infallibility vs. angry Muslims

It's been more than half a year since the Danish cartoon controversy and it's time for another one.

Benedict XVI was not skipping his history classes: he knows quite a lot and still reads a lot of books. That's why he also knows that Manuel Paleologos II, a 14th century Byzantine Christian emperor, had once told his Persian friend in the Academia:

  • Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

On Tuesday, the Pope has quoted the emperor during his speech (backup) in Regensburg - not far from the Czech border - and I am sure that his goal was neither to despise the emperor nor to offend someone else: his goal was, first of all,

  • to illuminate the Pope's opinions about the relationship between science and religion or - if you will - reason and faith, and
  • to explain that the policy of jihad is unreasonable.
Although a civilized audience - like the scientists in Regensburg - would focus on the main point of the speech, namely the pretty deep although arguable thoughts on the character of science and its co-existence with religion (he rightfully explained that the scientific insights must be based both on empirical as well as mathematical pillars!), most people in the world, including the journalists, are much less demanding, so they prefer the second point of the speech and only choose one particular quote from the long speech.

If there were reasonable people everywhere, some of us would be discussing the Pope's question whether the Christian God or Allah is restricted by the rational rules, the laws of mathematics, or His own words - well, the first God is and the second one is not - but these ideas are overshadowed by a loud reaction to the emperor's quote above.

You can imagine what such a quote can do in a world with hundreds of millions of simpletons, especially those in the not-entirely-civilized countries. It's a thermonuclear explosive. Thousands of articles can be found on news.google.com.

For example, a lot of anger was created in Turkey - a candidate country to join the European Union. The leading party compares the Pope to Hitler (which, according to a strange reader of this blog, also means a comparison of the Pope with Motl - wow). Why exactly Turkey? Well, it's because Paleologos has had his office in Istanbul, Turkey, which used to be a part of the Christian, Eastern Roman empire before it was occupied by the Ottoman Muslims, shortly after Paleologos' comment. The Turks are the first ones who must know so well why Paleologos' comments quite accurately describe not only the old Mohammed but also the newer developments of his religion.

Jesus Christ was arguably more peaceful than Mohammed but Christianity has seen some violence in the past, too. More importantly, however, these two religions seem to affect reality differently in 2006:



Figure 1
: Note that these guys say that jihad is their way; jihad is a hump (critical point) of Islam. I am afraid that they are right. The Pope knows it, too. He is saying the very same thing as they are although he is more sensitive and careful than they are. The difference is that the Pope thinks that jihad is wrong while these guys - like this bloody videobeast in a white suit who calls himself a "researcher" - and hundreds of millions of others think that it is correct. Look how their beautiful women educate their children on TV. Then you have the multicultural liberals who deny any links between the Islam and violence. They deny the facts, the history, as well as the opinions of the emperors, the Pope, and hundreds of millions of real-world Muslims like those on the picture above.

Look how teenagers in India entertain themselves (the fire is a model of the Pope himself). Complete barbarians who remind me of the critics of string theory. ;-) To be sure: there are also reasonable people in India. And don't get me wrong: I sympathize with the believers who protect their firm beliefs - but I just can't support a bestial march of millions of people against one wise old Gentleman who is obviously more cultivated than most of them and whose only "sin" (yes, the Popes can do sins according to the Church's dogmas) was to quote an insightful remark of an emperor.

Even if God is gonna fail to protect the Pope against the unfair mass of opponents, be sure that The Reference Frame won't fail. ;-) I am happy to see that Angela Merkel is on the right side, too.

The Pakistani ministry of foreign affairs wants to prove that the statement about the violence being the main Mohammed's contribution is wrong, so the ministry immediately tells everyone that the quote is expected to encourage violence, apparently being unaware that this is another proof that Manuel Paleologos II was right on the money.

The Pakistani parliament approved a resolution unanimously: such unanimous resolutions are testaments of the group polarization and intimidation within such parliaments.

Islamic fanatics far too numerous to be listed here have reacted strongly and wanted the Pope to apologize. They have apparently forgotten that since 1870, the Pope has been infallible. In this crazy world, I must probably remind the Pope about this rule myself. ;-)

I gratefully trust two readers who are informing me that the infallibility only applies to special assertions made "ex cathedra" (from the chair) and the university speech probably didn't satisfy the assumptions. But anyway, I think that my original conclusion is still true:

If you apologize or declare your comments to be an error, you will be screwed, Prof. Ratzinger, and incidentally, the whole Catholic Church may start to collapse. We have already tried a similar experiment here at Harvard with a very similar innocent speech and very similar reactions: it just doesn't work. Add a bodyguard or two instead, cancel the trip to Turkey, and remind Prodi that Iran's missiles can reach Italy. If the Danish cartoons were analogous, it will only take a month for this anger to disappear. And maybe less because the Muslims may be actually learning what the freedom of speech means.

CNN offers speculations that Benedict XVI has confused his present job with the previous job of a professor of theology. I find this comment amusing because professors and universities' presidents are often under the very same attack as pontiffs, if not bigger. ;-)

Finally, I want to say that Manuel Paleologos II probably knew more about the true Mohammed than all Muslim scholars in the present world combined: the reality has been idealized and fogged by many layers of propaganda and fraud - in the name of "sensibilities" of many people who are not sensible at all - and it was partly forgotten. Prof. Ratzinger has studied these things in depth, too, and has written books about Islam, which makes the assertions about his "ignorance" undefendable. And I just believe that it is important to remember the history and it is wrong to build anything on scientifically or historically untrue pillars.

And that's the memo.

Bonus and Saturday additions


You can see that the Pope's (or Manuel's) comments about Mohammed are extremely friendly in comparison with the stern 1899 analysis of Mohammedanists by Winston Churchill or with the medieval Christian legends. You will find voices of many other famous people over there, too.

This was not the first story in which Benedict XVI expressed his skepticism over Islam. In January, it was revealed that the Pope thinks that Islam is incapable of reform. No one got upset because these limited people only get upset if someone else tells them that they should get angry. Prof. Ratzinger has been a well-known enemy of jihad for years.

On Saturday, a cleric in Somalia ordered the Muslims to hunt down and kill the Pope.
  • Whoever offends our Prophet Mohammed should be killed on the spot by the nearest Muslim,

Mr. Malin, a prominent cleric, said, defending his religion of peace truly energetically. The average IQ in Somalia is 68 which technically makes most of the people either morons or imbeciles but Somalia is not quite an exception. Two West Bank churches were hit by firebombs; update: five churches in Palestine. One of numerous Mujahideen's Armies with a website has promised to destroy a cross in Rome, probably with the rest of the city, to punish the Zionized Christians and loathsome crusaders. This reads almost like Not Even Wrong. ;-)

Meanwhile, the Holy Father is extremely pissed off or extremely sorry - depending on the translation and interpretation - by the reaction. And I understand him very well. Some Muslims like the British ones have interpreted the papal state of being pissed off as an apology: if it helps them psychologically to believe that the Pope has apologized, why not? ;-)

The New York Times shame

In their anti-papal rant sold as an editorial, The New York Times have joined the tribes that have called for a "deep and persuasive apology" from a Pope who "sows pain" which is "tragic and dangerous". I would have some appreciation for such journalists if they were at risk that they would be burned at stake for their blasphemy against the Holy Father. But this is not how the Western world works in 2006.

Today, they're just parasites who are completely safe and who want to sell their cheap diatribes and they figuratively resemble hooligans who, together with a gang of wild monkeys, penetrate into a senior house to rape someone and because they don't see any goat to marry, they happen to choose a 79-year-old accomplished pianist and ex-professor who speaks 10 languages.

The New York Times editors should be ashamed but I am not gonna demand apologies because my attitude to the truth dramatically differs from the attitude of the Islamist and New York Times-like PC militias who apparently think that if they force someone to say something or accept a belief, it changes the truth. My opinion happens to be rather close to Prof. Ratzinger - which is the right term to describe the man who spoke in Regensburg - who thinks that the arguments and the good will are the things that matter.

Moreover I am not backed by thousands of terrorists who would help me to force the editors to apologize, so it is my pragmatic decision to give up. ;-)

The sword and a forced apology don't change anything about the truth, dear Al-Qaeda, feminists, the New York Times, and other fellow citizens who build their beliefs on tabboos, lies, violence, and intimidation. Both the terrorists and the editors would be much better off if they tried to learn something from the wise Gentleman's speech instead of piling hysterical attacks against him based on a misinterpretation of individual words from the Pope's speech, a speech that neither the terrorists nor the editors understand.

And that's my second memo. ;-)

Gibbons and Turok: an unnatural measure

Gibbons and Turok want to determine the probability of different Universes in a multiverse.

Recall that the egalitarian anthropic string theorists want to find all discrete vacua and assign them essentially the same weight in the ensemble, at least in the zeroth approximation. As you know, I find such a treatment unjustifiable scientifically.

Gibbons and Turok reach a very different conclusion which, I am afraid, is even less justifiable scientifically. ;-) The most irritating implication is that

  • the Universes that lead to "N" e-foldings of inflation are suppressed roughly by a factor of "exp(-3N)".

If this were right, inflation wouldn't be a natural mechanism to generate exponentially large numbers such as the size of the Universe after inflation. Their probability measure is more or less inversely proportional to the coefficient that multiplicatively measures how much the volume of the Universe has expanded.

There is always a possibility that such a devastating conclusion is indeed implied by the full theory of quantum gravity, by the complete equations of string theory that someone will write in 2020, and inflation is completely unnatural in that framework. But I just don't understand why should anyone believe such a conclusion in the absence of a rigorous calculation and in the absence of any advantage - such as an agreement with a feature of reality - that such a calculation would naturally imply.

In other words, their picture is quite clearly inferior in the ability to describe reality in comparison with the conventional picture in which inflation is natural, as explained below. If the conventional picture of any theory happens to require a huge modification, I am afraid that the person who will discover the very different and better picture in the future will have to do most of the job at the same moment. Quite generally, I don't think that the scientific truth can be systematically looked for (and reached) by creating theories whose justifiability, self-consistency, and agreement with reality is consistently deteriorating in the name of "diversity of ideas" - something we can call the Smolinian way to look for theories. ;-)

In science, we must simply look for better and better theories, and if it is necessary to make the theories look worse than the previous ones for a while, only the final result that is again better should be published. You can't and you shouldn't permanently reveal yourself in the middle of quantum tunneling! The ultimate goal of science is to agree with reality, and Nature imposes both a lower bound as well as an upper bound on the amount of the "diversity of ideas" that can be relevant to describe Her.

Back to Gibbons and Turok.

Technically, they try to measure the probability measure by a volume on the phase space. Of course, such a volume in general relativity is completely ill-defined because everything is infinite-dimensional and the exact factors in the measure are also unknown. In order for them to make it finite, they identify all states of GR whose spatial curvature is smaller than some cutoff "Omega_0". I find this procedure absolutely unphysical. This is a sort of infrared cutoff. The correct way to treat the infrared cutoff in situations such as scattering with light photons is to sum up the probabilities - not probability amplitudes - including all the productions of soft photons below the cutoff. But no one is guaranteed that such a sum just gives a factor of one. On the contrary, it cancels some other divergences.

Inflation is natural and generic

A more direct reason why I am convinced that their calculation can't be right is that many of us are implicitly using a calculation that seems more controllable, less cutoff-dependent, and that simply implies that inflation is natural and the dependence of the probability measure, whatever it is, on the number of e-foldings is at most a power law.

The selection that decides about the probability measure occurs in a quantum gravity regime: think about a Universe whose volume is Planckian. The number of e-foldings is determined by the couplings that describe the inflaton potential, among other couplings. And the probabilistic measure will have a relatively innocent - power-law? - dependence on these couplings. That means that the probability measure will depend innocently on the number of e-foldings, too.

With these initial conditions and the inflaton near the top, we can naturally obtain "N" e-foldings which will generate a very large and flat Universe with volume scaling like "exp(3N)". This volume "exp(3N)" is a low-energy, late-time consequence of the initial conditions, and this factor simply cannot penalize the a priori probability distribution in the Planckian regime because such an influence would violate causality.

This is a subtlety about the wavefunction of the Universe that many people see, in my opinion, incorrectly. The path-integral prescription for the wavefunction of the Universe automatically satisfies the Wheeler-DeWitt equation which is why we can also use it to determine the amplitudes of different states at late times when the Universe is already large. But we can only determine these things if we know how to regulate all possible subtleties correctly.

In reality, we don't know how to compute them correctly and thinking about very large late Universes can lead to very different results than thinking about the early Planckian Universes. I am convinced that in the case of any uncertainty or discrepancy like that, the wavefunction of the Universe must be viewed as a tool to calculate the wavefunction in the early, Planckian stage. This is the regime that is fundamental. In this regime, different Universes can have different amplitudes (or probabilities) that are consequently used as initial conditions and evolved to the large Universe we know.

The formulae for the wavefunctions of the Universe should be applied to the smallest possible Universe one can controllably study - as a tool to determine the initial conditions.

Punishing the initial conditions exponentially for their ability to lead to an exponentially large Universe is acausal, anti-fundamental ;-), and strongly disfavored by experiments that suggest that inflation works, and it should therefore have a non-negligible probability to occur which probably requires that the factor of "exp(-180)" is absent.

Thursday, September 14, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Preprint on falling Twin Towers

This looks almost like a physics preprint:

The result of the paper is that the author believes that the airplanes were not enough to make the Twin Towers collapse: the collapse was too fast, he essentially says. I don't believe this conclusion but still, there are some technical arguments that others might want to look at.

What do I think about the collapses?

Each tower collapsed roughly in 10 seconds which is comparable to the time of free fall from the same height. Recall that in 9 seconds, you fall by 5 x 9 x 9 = 400+ meters which is a bit less than 417 meters of the full height of the WTC towers.

I don't see anything wrong with the nearly free-fall model. For example, the 93rd floor of WTC1 (or 77th floor of WTC2) suddenly broke because of the high temperature melting the metalic structure. The remaining 10+ floors of WTC1 (or 20+ floors of WTC2) above the critical point - whose mass was 50,000 tons for WTC1 (or 100,000 tons for WTC2) started to fall freely, and they were hitting the lower floors one by one and taking the other floors with them. The new floors slow down the avalanche a little but not much because the falling part of the tower is much heavier.

If the momentum of falling 20 floors is suddenly shared by 21 floors (because another floor joins the avalanche), the velocity decreases by 5 percent only, and this percentage is decreasing as the collapsing portion of the tower relatively grows.

P.S. (off-topic): There is a new contribution to the heavily overpopulated family of anti-physics shitheads. His name is Gregg Easterbrook. Oh no, he's been fighting against extra dimensions for years. Fortunately, Gene seems to be correct and some people are able to see that Easterbrook's text is nonsense: DovBear, Ezra Klein. Still, most people are morons, and I chose not to link to them because they have enough links to each other.

Update - elastic model

I have asked many people what they think about it. An interesting response came from Yevgeny Kats - during our long chat about more serious physics. He figured out that my model - that is totally plastic - is actually making things slower than necessary; intuitively it is because I am losing kinetic energy which slows things down. He proposed a different, completely elastic model, as a zeroth approximation, and I offer you my quantitative version of it.

In this picture, the floors never join into a single object. When the (F+1)st floor reaches the Fth floor, the upper floor stops completely while the lower floor picks all of its speed. Imagine that you look at the (F+1)st floor before the elastic collision but you choose the Fth floor after the elastic collision.

In this picture, you can visually follow a floor that is freely falling, and whenever it reaches another floor, it gives it a signal to fall freely (from zero initial velocity). If I exchange the identification of the 2 floors during each elastic collision, the floor whose initial height is "h" will thus reach the ground after time
  • sqrt(2(H-h)/g) + sqrt(2h/g)
The first term counts the time needed for the first collapsed floor whose height is "H" to reach the floor "h": here, "H" is the total height of the building (or the airplane). The second term computes the time from the relevant elastic collision. It is easy to see that the maximum of the function above appears for
  • h = H/2
and the total time at this value is
  • 2 sqrt(H/g)
which is sqrt(2) times longer than the time of the free fall. For the WTC1 tower that was hit near the top, around 360 meters above the ground, the result is
  • 2 sqrt(360 / 9.8) = 12 seconds,
in agreement with observations. It is conceivable that a compromise between the plastic and elastic models could actually make this time even shorter.

Pluto's killer renamed: Eris

All fans of Lucy Lawless will have to accept the fact that the largest dwarf planet is no longer called

but rather
Its moon, formerly known as Gabrielle, is now known as Dysnomia. Recall that Eris, an object larger than Pluto, was the main reason why Pluto was eventually downgraded to a dwarf planet.

The demotion of Pluto has ignited a lot of public discord. That makes a good case for the new name because Eris is the Greek goddess of discord - the nemesis of Harmonia.



If you have forgotten, by now, what is the new name of the moon, don't worry: a marked difficulty in remembering names is called dysnomia, too. ;-)

According to the page you will see if you click the picture, Eris often helped her brother Ares to cause quarrels and lawlessness. So the name "Lawless" can still be found in the description of the new name of the planet. In fact, it is even more striking with Dysnomia who was also a daughter of Eris: Dysnomia is actually translated as lawlessness. ;-)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

At universities, little learned from 9/11

The left-wing Boston Globe has a surprising essay by

that argues, focusing on the example of Harvard, that the universities and especially various discourses such as feminism and multiculturalism haven't learned much from 9/11. Mansfield ends up in an optimistic way: it is better that the leftists are confused rather than radicalized, and it is also good if they keep their own principles.

Monday, September 11, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

44th known Mersenne prime: M32582657

Just like in the case of the 42nd and 43rd known Mersenne prime, The Reference Frame is the only place in the world where you can learn about the newest Mersenne prime before it is officially revealed.

The newly found Mersenne prime by the GIMPS project is

  • 2^{32,582,657} - 1
and it is larger than the previous, 43rd known Mersenne prime. This means that the newest prime above is becoming the largest known prime.

9/11/2001: five years

If you want to see what your humble correspondent was doing five years ago, see this story. If you have tough nerves and if you have already accepted the sad events of 9/11/2001 as a part of the history - laws of Nature - you may also see my video collage with


But 9/11 was neither the end of the world nor the end of America. And the 1776-feet-tall Freedom Tower is gonna be built at the Ground Zero.

Two simple proofs of Fermat's Last Theorem

The title should have a big question mark at the end but I don't like question marks in the titles.

Prof. V. K. Gurtu, a retired mathematician who used to be the chair of an Indian math department, claims to have found two simple enough proofs of Fermat's Last Theorem that could, in principle, be available to Fermat himself - unlike Andrew Wiles' hi-tech proof.

Recall that Fermat claimed that he had found a fascinating proof but didn't have enough space to write it in the margin note.

One of the conceivable proofs is using a decomposition of a number as a sum of two squares and Fermat's method of infinite descent.

Gurtu has worked on the problem since 1989 and offered an incomplete solution in 1998 that ignited some criticism. Now he claims to have filled the gaps...

Sunday, September 10, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Donald Coxeter in Boston Globe



This unfortunate pair of pictures looks like

  • The trouble with geometry: the rise of a geometer, the fall of Donald Coxeter, and what comes next

but the famous mathematician is actually peering into a giant kaleidoscope on the right picture. ;-) The article

offers an interesting view on Coxeter's contribution to the defeat of formal Bourbakism and the revival of geometry and the links between mathematics and physics in which Coxeter played an important role, by finding all these cute concepts that connect algebra with geometry. It's not surprising that Escher was his friend.

Michio Kaku about the war

Incidentally, baba has pointed out an article about the

written by Michio Kaku that will appear in a November issue of New Scientist. The title itself is funny - especially if I forget about all the vicious terrorists and their evil acts that Not Even Al-Qaeda has in its repertoire. ;-)

Pluto demotion and public sentiment

When the meeting of the International Astronomical Union in Prague decided that Pluto was no longer a planet, I was feeling certain that it was a huge victory for astronomy on many fronts.

First of all, the decision undoubtedly increases the status of astronomy as a coherent enterprise. Suddenly it is joining the family of fields of human activity in which rational arguments and quantifiable characteristics are more important than mythology. Astronomy is becoming another science in which a careful investigation of a question plays a more important role than superficial dogmas that we have memorized at school.

Second of all, astronomy appeared in thousands of articles. I thought it was a cute story that would lead most people to appreciate the progress in astronomy, although the progress didn't require as deep an analysis as the progress in fields that are arguably more intellectually or technologically demanding.

My first assumption was correct but my second assumption was not.

It is clear that the decision indeed moves astronomy further away from mythology and closer to science. There is simply no way to rationally justify why Pluto should be one of nine planets if there exist other celestial bodies in the Solar System that are larger and more important and "planet-like" than Pluto. If there had been a natural scientific definition of a planet that would keep the list unchanged, I am sure that they would have accepted such a definition. But because more complete information about the Solar System is now available, we know that such a definition simply doesn't exist.

Khatami protest: data

According to The Crimson, the protest against the propaganda speech of Mohammed Khatami at Harvard - a speech that was scheduled to celebrate the 5th anniversary of 9/11 - will start on Sunday at

  • 3:00 pm in the JFK park

that is adjacent to the Kennedy School of Government - at the intersection of the JFK street and the Memorial Drive, near the Charles Hotel. Khatami's talk at the Kennedy Forum starts at 4:00 p.m.

The smiling mullah was invited by the Kennedy School and by George W. Bush who wanted to hear Khatami's views.

The Harvard Democrats led by Eric Lesser '07 - who are clearly not Michael Moore Democrats - call on the ex-president to apologize for the human rights violations during his presidency although they support his right to speak.

Saturday, September 09, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Martin Novotný will spend life in prison



Ms. Ana Elisa Toledo (24) from Sao Paolo has been fed up with her boyfriend, Mr. Martin Novotný (23) from Česká Lípa, a Czech town, for several months - especially because he often turned violent in their relationship. Both of them had worked as au-pair in Denver. She has eventually decided to move on. He couldn't stand a picture of her hugging another man on her website.

On December 13th, 2005, he came to the house of the family where Ana worked through the window. When she woke up, he "blacked out" and hurt her repeatedly with his knife. She was screaming so he placed a pillow over her face and used his knife again. I didn't want to tell you but he stabbed her 74 times; the experts say that you only need half a minute if you get mad. He returned home to have a shower and to throw away the dirty clothes and knife. The same day, he decided that he can't escape from this trouble, so he called police and confessed to the murder.

Friday, September 08, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Sex and intelligence: 3.6 extra points

J. Philippe Rushton, a well-known psychologist from University of Western Ontario, has done a work that would otherwise be nothing else than a routine exercise. He extracted the g-factor - "pure intelligence" - from the SAT results of 100,000 American teenagers. One of his conclusions was that

See also news.google.com. The result applies to young people who are 17-18 years old, after the effect of girls' getting mature earlier starts to disappear.

Modular functions & elliptic genus

Several interesting debates we've had today can't be quite revealed because of copyright-like issues. Nevertheless, some of them can.

Finally, I understood the details how Xi Yin - together with Davide Gaiotto and Andy Strominger - have actually calculated the modified elliptic genus of the MSW (4,0) conformal field theory describing the 1+1-dimensional dynamics of M5-branes wrapped on a four-cycle of a Calabi-Yau three-fold. When I say it, it will probably sound simple and the reader won't know why I didn't get the whole line of reasoning earlier.

At any rate, you consider the trivially dual, type IIA string theory on a Calabi-Yau three-fold with D4-branes wrapped on a four-cycle "P" with some possible D2-brane and D0-brane charge. The intersection of "P" with itself is a curve (which means a complex curve - a real surface) whose genus is a linear function of the triple self-intersection number of "P". The textbook example that they look at is the most popular Calabi-Yau manifold, namely the quintic hypersurface in CP^4, and the hyperplane as the four-cycle. The hyperplane is the intersection of the quintic hypersurface and a CP^3 given by a linear equation inside the CP^4.

It's not paranoia if they're really coming after you

A reader has pointed out the following lists of top technorati searches one month ago or so:

Find the intersection of these two top ten lists. Fortunately, the intersection has not one but two elements - your humble correspondent and Air America - but if I were a Chicken Little, it would feel scary anyway. ;-)

Thursday, September 07, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

The science of hubris

Let me describe a person for you and you may try to guess whether the person likes me or not :-).

  • He's a migrants rights activist originally from Ghana
  • He complains that the astronomers didn't ask him and his peers whether Pluto should be a planet
  • He thinks that physics is based on a trinity of holiness: energy, mass, and time
  • He thinks that this whole trinity has collapsed
  • Mass has collapsed because Mary and Ian Butterworth told him that they don't understand mass
  • Energy has collapsed because Steve Carlip told him that dark energy would make things more complicated
  • Time has collapsed because Gary Stix wrote that "a full understanding of things temporal still eludes us"
  • He thinks that the Higgs boson may not be the "eureka"
  • More generally, he believes that a main problem with particle physics were its "discoveries" (his quotation marks) of new particles
  • It's because many particles are eccentric and they require math which is a bad thing
  • He criticizes M-theory because M is unknown ;-)
  • He criticizes theoretical physicists for doing mathematics well
  • ... dozens of things are omitted here
  • He thinks that the hallowed construct of spacetime was popularized most of all by Stephen Hawkin [sic] (Minkowski 1908 should be credited for promotion of the paradigm)
  • He thinks that spacetime becomes an artifact when its mathematical constraints are taken for granted (?)
  • He thinks that the equations have nothing to do with understanding of a class of questions and mathematics is fundamentally incomplete
  • He thinks that Iraq is the best example to show the incompleteness of mathematics
  • He is scared that "mathematicization" could be even spilling out to the commercial world - wow!
  • He thinks that this "mathematicization" is eroding our certainty
  • He thinks that because of all these things, science is becoming theology
  • What he finds most troubling is that new theories must be consistent with what we already know - that's just like rejecting heresies!
  • ... and many, many more

If you guessed that Mr. Bright Simons doesn't like me, your guess was entirely correct. ;-) I don't know whether I like him but I am definitely flabbergasted what kind of breathtaking morons they keep on inserting into the newspapers. It looks like OhmyNews have been searching in all streets, forests, jungles, and deserts of the world for the most incompetent person to write something about the cutting-edge physics. If this were their goal, they were rather successful.

Aspects of the U.S. missile defense base

The U.S. already has some bases associated with the missile defense system in Scotland and Greenland.

The new base could be either in England, or Poland, or Czechia. Czechia probably has the best conditions, according to the experts.

80% of the Czechs are against such a base. However, the new government supports the base and opposes a referendum. Moreover, this positive attitude is not a right-wing conspiracy of the current government: the negotiations to build such a base go back to the social-democratic government of Vladimír Špidla in 2002.

The U.S. would either build a special radar or locate 10 anti-missiles to destroy intercontinental missiles in the middle of their flight.

10 squared kilometers would be hosting a facility that would mostly be buried underground. Around 400 U.S. soldiers or other staff would be working in the facility located either in Central Bohemia or Central Moravia. The small number implies no significant economical benefits.

The system has been considered for 40 years and it is primarily meant as a protection against Iran, Syria, and North Korea.

Positives:

  • According to the newest information, the system would also be protecting the European allies. The U.S. would have a high interest to protect Czechia in particular that could partly simplify its own defense
  • New possibilities to solve crisis situations in the context of NATO arise
  • Czechia gains importance in the overall military picture of Europe
  • Czech researchers could share the opportunity to work in the U.S. labs with the newest technologies

Negatives:

  • Relatively untested technology can create a false feeling of security
  • The U.S. may gain more power than others in Europe might want
  • New technologies could revive arms races with potential negative consequences for the global economy
  • The bases could be attractive as targets, of course

Plan for a few years:

  • In 2006 and 2007, new anti-missiles should be located in Alaska and a new place in Europe. The information technologies would interconnect satellites and all these bases
  • In 2008 and 2009, new research should be focused on the annihilation of missiles right after they're launched
  • In 2010 and 2010, mobile rockets would be installed at various places, including ships and submarines; incremental improvements in 2012 and 2013 would follow
  • Rockets would also be installed in the outer space - the real Star Wars; this concept originated, incidentally, in the skull of the Nazi gift to the U.S. rocket science, Wernher von Braun

Source: Mojenoviny

Wednesday, September 06, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Derek Bok & continuity

I normally don't read The Harvard Community Resource, a newspaper, but the interview with the interim president Derek Bok was an exception. The anxiety with which I started to read wasn't justified. There are no politically controversial things in it. President Bok wants to complete the curricular review, intensify interdisciplinary activities in sciences, and maintain the momentum in Allston. See also The Crimson.

LaTeX editor LEd: a competition for WinEdt

Olda Klimánek has pointed out the following Polish editor to me:

It doesn't stand for Louis Ed but rather for LaTeX Editor. If you spend one minute on its pages and zoom in the screenshots (click), you could see why it might be better than WinEdt that many people use. The program needs 6 MB and is compatible with MikTeX and TeXlive under Windows. Another advantage: LEd is free.

The Stephen Colbert "On Notice Board"



Thanks to Steve who sent this photograph with those interesting topics. I guess it's the Gentleman on the picture.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

The new blog of a group including Prof. Summers, Prof. Pinker

Prof. Lawrence Summers, his wife Prof. Elisa New, and Prof. Steven Pinker are among 20 or so distinguished bloggers who will contribute to a new group website called

They have a lot to say. Whenever they will feel that they are not getting a sufficiently fiery feedback, they could also be welcome at The Reference Frame - both under their real names of pseudonyms - although I feel that a separate blog is indeed more appropriate for serious scholars as they undoubtedly are.

Neither Prof. Summers nor Prof. Pinker have to be introduced to the world of stimulating ideas because they have always been key players in that world. Nevertheless, the open blogosphere is very happy to welcome them! ;-)

In the first contribution, Prof. Pinker links to Cuss Sunstein (although the TNR link is broken unlike mine) who observes groupthink on three-judge panels with either 3:0 or 2:1 composition of Democrats and Republicans - and to other sources about group polarization that has been studied by the psychologists since the 1950s.

Via The Crimson.

Khatami controversy

Incidentally, The Crimson also informs that Mitt Romney, the governor of Massachusetts, called Harvard's invitation for Khatami “a disgrace to the memory of all Americans who have lost their lives at the hands of extremists” right before the 9/11 fifth anniversary and ordered all agencies of the state of Massachusetts to reject the requests to support Khatami's trip and his propaganda speech.

That means that Khatami will be given neither state police escort nor any VIP treatment. It's not such a big deal because the U.S. State Department will be responsible for Khatami's security. I think that it is up to the organizers who thought that Khatami's talk at Harvard was a good idea to provide him with the extra services that others often enjoy.

Romney, a potential 2008 G.O.P. presidential candidate who was today attacked by the Democrats for a 5% decrease of MA salaries in 2 years, believes that the taxpayers in Taxxachusetts shouldn't be paying for special treatment of a person who supports jihad against Israel and who supervised torture and murders of the dissidents as well as the Iranian nuclear program. At least one other Taxxachusetts payer kind of agrees with the governor although it's a subtle thing. Are we going to be proud if Khatami is killed? I won't. But still, I agree that it won't be primarily Romney's fault because he didn't invite Khatami to speak here.

If I were Romney, I would probably offer the organizers the usual additional services as long as they pay the full costs of such a special treatment.

The organizers should realize that there are no border patrols in between the People's Republic of Cambridge on one side and the U.S. on the other side and that the opinions of the U.S. about Khatami don't necessarily reflect - and, shockingly enough, don't have to reflect - the dominant opinion in the People's Republic.

The Harvard's spokespeople were not available to comment on Romney's decision which is not unexpected because Harvard has been without any adult supervision since July 1st. ;-) My guess is that the former Harvard administration would have mixed feelings in this situation. However, the former president would probably - in my opinion - disagree with Romney in his last week's battle against Harvard: Romney identified the kind of planned stem cell research at Harvard as "Orwellian embryo-farming". ;-) I have mixed feelings about this one...

The two parts of this posting are consistent because The New Republic has been pro-Israel for more than 30 years.