Wednesday, February 28, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Terence Tao: blog

Terence Tao has written 120+ papers, won a Fields medal, so you may guess what's one of his new major goals: yes, to become a blogger. ;-)

Via Sabine.

Al Gore's house in Nashville, Tennessee

... vs George Bush's house in Crawford, Texas

See also: Al Gore's new $9 million villa in Santa Barbara, California (click)
Gore mansion: 20x average household

Gore's average monthly electric bill topped USD 1359. Add USD 1080 per month for natural gas. In total, it makes more than USD 30,000 per 2006 for his house at 312 Lynnwood Blvd. in the City of Belle Meade, adjacent to Nashville, TN. The house is in the middle of the map. Of course, the money from the previous sentences don't include air travel, especially not with his Gulfstream private jet.

Update, December 2007: Al Gore has hired dozens of workers and SUVs and managed to reduce his power consumption by 11%, from 20 times the average household to 18 times the average household. Congratulations. ;-)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Sweet spot supersymmetry

Ryuichiro Kitano of Stanford gave an enthusiastic talk about what he calls the first supersymmetric model worth considering although it is not necessarily guaranteed that all people attending the talk have displayed the same degree of enthusiasm. ;-) Some of the talk may be found in hep-ph/0611111.

If you want to break SUSY in some way or any way, it's not hard. You start with something like the O'Raifeartaigh model: I usually prefer longer words instead of short screams but let me admit that O'Raifeartaigh is an exception. In this model, you have a gauge-singlet chiral superfield S. The Kähler potential contains

  • K = ... + Sdagger.S + (Sdagger.S)^2 / Lambda^2
while the superpotential contains a linear term for S,
  • W = m^2 S + ...
This linear term is enough to guarantee that the stationary points of the normal potential "V" won't be stationary points of "W" - a linear function "S" doesn't have too many stationary points: this minimum of "V" will therefore break supersymmetry. This fact about the simplified picture won't be modified even after you add some extra terms involving quarks and other visible matter.

Now, add bilinear terms in quarks into "K" and a Yukawa interaction of "S" with quarks into "W". You're in the process to communicate the breaking in the hidden "S" sector to the visible sector of the Standard Model - a process that will give additional masses to the superpartners of known particles needed to explain why SUSY hasn't been seen before 2007.

It is almost universally assumed that the supersymmetry breaking can be divided to these parts - the hidden SUSY breaking sector plus some form of its interaction with the visible sector: this interaction is the "mediation". Although the assumption could be wrong, the sweet model is no exception.

Matrix theory in 9 dimensions

I recommend you a new paper by

about the Matrix theory description of vacua with nine (8+1) flat infinite directions and 16 supercharges. The matrix model is generically a gauge theory on a cylinder. The only case in which it's that simple is the vacuum where the gauge group is broken down to SO(16) x SO(16) by a Wilson line around a circle in N=1, d=10 SUGRA-SYM coupled system - something that you can get both from the SO(32) and E8 x E8 starting points.

Recall that in 10D, the only really simple vacua with a matrix model description were type IIA with 32 supercharges and heterotic string theory with the E8 x E8 gauge group broken to SO(16) x SO(16) by longitudinal Wilson lines with 16 supercharges.

Czech social democrats near bankruptcy

The Czech social democrats used to be a moderate workers' party. However, in the late 1940s, they merged with the communists: their party became a submissive component of the leading force of the totalitarian regime. The social democratic party was re-established after the Velvet Revolution - and Mr Miloš Zeman transformed it into the leading leftist political formation - but its legal continuity was questionable.

This question was rather important because the answer would decide about the assets of the old party - especially whether the social democrats regain the "Lidový dům" (People's House), a rather large complex of buildings in Prague. Social democrats didn't want to start from the scratch - as the Civic Democratic Party and many others had to. A prominent lawyer named Mr Zdeněk Altner defended the social democratic party and was able to win the case: "Lidový dům" became a property of the social democrats again in 2000 or so.

Altner has negotiated a pretty good contract with the social democrats: although his services were free if he would lose - an irresistable (and among good attorneys, unique) offer for Miloš Zeman et al. who were sure that they simply couldn't win - the party was ordered to pay him 93 million Czech crowns in fees in the case of success (1 USD is 21.50 CZK). However, left-wing parties typically only know how to steal money from others so they didn't try to speed up the payment too much. :-) But let me mention again: the contract was really good for Mr Altner! ;-)

With the prescribed sanctions and interests (0.3 percent per day), the social democratic party now owes more than 19 billion crowns, almost 1 billion U.S. dollars, to Altner! While this amount is insane, there exists no rational or legal way to question that this is the right figure. And he has just announced that he has no more patience with the out-of-court debates with the social democrats whom he no longer trusts and he's gonna work on their bankruptcy (in fact, he has already started in January).

Transcending chronology

"Particle physics and string theory inspired Scott Putman's piece. The dancers vibrate energetically in a sort of patterned randomness."

Monday, February 26, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Oscar: An Inconvenient Truth

All influential and "hip" groups of people, including GaySocialites, Tennessee guerilla women, LGBT advocates, Radical Left dot NET, and Socialist Christian Hippie QC were praying. Ladies and Gentleman, it's here. Al Gore has won this ideologically neutral piece of gold.

More precisely, the award for the best "Documentary" went to Davis Guggenheim, the movie director of the Director of Earth (see their common photo taken by paparazzi from the New York Times).

There's no reason for condolences for the old winners because the ethical actors such as Bruce Willis have avoided this contest anyway. See Al Gore's Oscar acceptance speech (draft on his party's semi-official website). See also criticism by Patrick Michaels, a climate scientist, of the scientifically incorrect speculations about collapsing glaciers in Greenland included in the movie.

Because it wasn't directly Al Gore who was awarded, the Gore effect didn't influence Hollywood directly. Instead, 200 flights were canceled in Chicago and 68 flights at the Kennedy Airport in New York because of the Gore Oscar snowstorm. A talk by Nima today was also canceled because he is stuck in a snowstorm. ;-)

Sunday, February 25, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

European universal history book

Annette Schavan, the education minister of Germany - the country that will lead the EU until the end of June - has proposed something that seems to be a typical bureaucratic mission creep, using British politicians' terminology, and an example of the unrealistic imperial ambitions of certain people in the EU. She wants all children of the EU to learn from the same history textbook. Not even a German chancellor who reigned in the 1930 and 1940s was able to do something like that in his empire.

What she wants is a synchronization, forcible coordination, making equal. German readers know that the correct translation to German is Gleichschaltung.

It would be much easier - although not easy - to unify the education of mathematics or physics although it's not quite clear what such a unification would be good for. But Schavan is more ambitious so she chooses the subject that is clearly the most difficult one to be unified: history.

In my opinion, that's a sign that she has no sense of reality.

Chimp relatives: 4 million years ago

We share about 96 percent of the genes with the chimps. But when did the common ancestors exist? It used to be thought that the split occurred 5-7 million years ago. According to a new

this event is actually more recent: 4 million years ago. They studied the rate at which the DNA is changing, used a coalescent hidden Markov model for comparison, and assumed that organgutans split about 18 million years ago. The last divergence occurred more than 5 million years ago but they seem to imply that the split occurred more recently.

Well, this new result, if true, could make it 20% more understandable why some people think and behave the way they do. ;-)

Saturday, February 24, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Doubts about global warming

The Czech version was published in "Orientace" (Orientation), a section of the "Lidové noviny" (People's Newspapers), on February 24th, 2007.

The theory of man-made global warming hasn't been tested as carefully as the scientific method demands

A recently published report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) considers global warming to be a fact caused by the emissions of greenhouse gases.

However, the situation is not as simple as many mainstream climatologists seem to think.

Our ancestors were unable to comprehend a wide spectrum of natural phenomena.

The fear from thunderstorms or solar eclipses may have helped the first primitive forms of religion and the first anthropomorphic gods to be born. However, during the several recent centuries, people learned how to look at the natural phenomena rationally. The scientific method allowed them to formulate hypotheses and, using a meticulous analysis of experiments, to decide which of them are valid and which of them are not. The insights obtained in this fashion are valuable per se; however, many of them are practically useful for our everyday lives, too.

Nevertheless, very recently, we are hearing increasingly often the paradigm that our paganic ancestors may have been right in one opinion, namely that the main originator of the climatic phenomena may have anthropomorphic features, after all, because it is no one else than Man himself. Moreover, many laymen as well as experts seem to believe that science has proven beyond reasonable doubt that the judgment day is unstoppably approaching. But is it really possible to deduce from the existing body of knowledge that the human activity will lead to a catastrophic global warming? We will first recall some scientific questions that are important for a proper analysis of climate changes. At the end of the essay, I will try to explain why it is exactly climatology that has so serious problems to preserve its objective character and why so many people are led to scientifically unjustifiable, gloomy visions of the future.

The science of climate

The climate and the weather incorporate a huge selection of rather complex phenomena that are being studied by diverse scientific disciplines. Most of the corresponding questions are only interested for researchers - ordinary people and politicians shouldn't be worried about them. On the other hand, Nature is not interested which of Her mysteries will be useful for the mankind. If we want to understand the phenomena in Nature properly, it is necessary to study many phenomena without any political or practical flavor, too. These phenomena may approximately be sorted according to the typical time scale they occupy.

The Universe was born 13.7 billion years ago and the Solar System was created roughly 4.6 billion years ago. In order to accurately describe the events in the Universe that took place billions of years ago, we need nuclear physics and other disciplines that clearly don't belong to climatology. Among the phenomena that take a somewhat shorter period of time than billions of years, the motion of the Solar System through the Milky Way and the continental drift may serve as two familiar examples. The Sun is oscillating around the main plane of our Galaxy and one period of this motion takes tens of millions of years. All these effects have a certain impact on the climate and the average temperatures: more or less periodic and more or less chaotic waves with various periodicities have to be combined if our goal is to have an idea e.g. about the dependence of the average temperature on time.

The climate is changing and it has always been changing, regardless of the time scale at which the climate is observed. The idea that the climate change is something that was born together with homo sapiens is naive. As we approach shorter time scales, we encounter the so-called Milankovitch cycles: the periodicity of oscillations of the eccentricity of Earth's orbit is close to 100,000 years while the precession of the Earth's axis takes about 20,000 years. These cycles and a few similar phenomena are almost certainly responsible for the glaciation cycles - the alternation of the ice ages and interglacials - even though some recent alternative theories are trying to find their explanation inside the Sun.

The circulation of water in the deep ocean takes about 2,000 years. The Sun itself hides ticking clocks, too: long-term solar variations last 100-400 years while the short-term solar cycles, controlling the number of sunspots, take 11 years in average. We have finally reached the seasons, the day-and-night cycles, and the weather - the winds, precipitation, clouds, high-pressure areas, and cyclones. The difference between the weather and the climate is primarily in the time scale: the climate usually refers to time intervals comparable to 30 years or longer but no sharp boundary between the weather and the climate exists.

Man himself began to influence the climate in many ways, even though we remain a "cherry on the pie" in many respects. Deforestation and the construction of roads and buildings have modified the Earth's albedo. People are emitting various chemical compounds, too. Aerosols and the dust are able to reflect the solar radiation and help to cool the planet while the greenhouse gases, especially water vapor but also carbon dioxide or methane, are able to absorb the infrared thermal radiation of the Earth that would otherwise escape the planet - which helps to warm up our planet. This effect has been known since the 1827 work by Joseph Fourier; however, it only became popular at the end of the 20th century.

However, there exist dozens of other natural as well as industrial effects that influence the climate and may be essential for its accurate description. For example, several teams, including a couple of well-funded groups of experimenters, are working on a theory that galactic cosmic rays, whose flux depends on time, influence the cloudiness on Earth and the temperature, too. Experiments are underway in Denmark (SKY experiment) and they are in preparation at CERN (CLOUD experiment). The cosmic rays may become more crucial for our future description of the climate than carbon dioxide.

How the "big conclusions" are created?

Is the contemporary science able to decide which of these effects are decisive and which of them are not? Has carbon dioxide really become the key player? And can we be certain that its expected increase in the atmosphere will lead to a substantial warming? A group of climatologists that can't be overlooked answers in the affirmative. But surely not all of them.

I am convinced that definitive conclusions cannot be drawn at this moment and the man-made global warming theory hasn't been tested as carefully as the scientific method demands. For example, the proposition that the 20th century warming was unprecedented was incorporated into the so-called "hockey stick graph", a key symbol of the IPCC report from 2001. According to this chart, the average temperature on Earth has been nearly constant for 900 years, before it began to skyrocket around 1900 (apparently due to human activities). However, it was shown, primarily due to relative outsiders, Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, that the "hockey stick graph" was based on flawed statistical methods. Newer articles about the same question show that the 20th century changes do not qualitatively differ from the oscillations in the previous centuries - and the medieval period may have been warmer than the present era, just like the historical sources indicate, although we cannot be quite certain about it. In the newer IPCC report published in 2007, the original hockey stick graph has been silently erased (more precisely, hidden in a confusing juxtaposition of dozens of alternative, non-hockey-stick graphs) and everyone pretends that this symbol never existed.

We know that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is approximately 0.038% of the volume and we are helping to increase it by about 0.0002% annually. Is it possible to calculate how much this otherwise innocent gas warms up the atmosphere? The simplest calculation gives roughly 1 Fahrenheit degree per 20th century but this calculation neglects the effect of the gas and of the temperature changes on the cloud creation, their impact on the temperature, as well as all other complex but important phenomena. Can we believe the existing climate models that are oversimplifying the situation in so many respects? I am convinced that the right answer is No. These models include a huge amount of input parameters and unjustified assumptions and they only roughly agree with a few qualitative observations about the 20th century climate. No observed details seem to match the predictions of models correctly and accurately. And sometimes, the predictions are not even in the ballpark of reality.

No one is able to explain why the warming in the last 25 years only affected the Northern Hemisphere but not the Southern Hemisphere. No one knows why the world oceans were cooling down between 2003 and 2005, why Greenland is cooler now than it was in the 1930s, why the global mean temperature was decreasing between the 1940s and 1970s when the mankind was emitting almost as much carbon dioxide as today, why the observed temperatures are more "persistent" than the theoretical ones and why the warming is observed not only on the Earth but also on Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Enceladus, Triton, and Pluto. No one has a satisfactory explanation why many predictions of a significant warming that were made 10-20 years ago failed so miserably. No one can explain why the Alps were full of forests - and therefore warmer than today - in the era of the Roman Empire. Moreover, a low number of stomata on the fossils of 450 million years old leaves suggests that the carbon dioxide concentration used to be 8 times higher than it is today but no one can explain how the plants could live in such a "hell on Earth". And no one is able to forecast the weather for more than one week. These examples of our ignorance and potential disagreements between the theory and observations - and many others - are usually swept under the rug while other predictions that happen to agree are being celebrated uncritically. However, this asymmetry of reactions doesn't belong to real science.

How is it possible that such a high percentage of scientists claims that all the big questions about the climate have been answered and that the catastrophic global warming is a fact? It is because of a kind of division of labor - someone is creating the "big picture" while other people are assigned more detailed and less important work. It is not unusual that the "big picture" is often drawn by talented scientists with a profoundly conceptual reasoning.

Unfortunately, the "big picture" in climate science is being invented by the people with certain non-scientific, often political interests. They have introduced a multi-level filter to their discipline. Because of this filter, the newspaper articles have almost nothing to do with the scientific reality. Moreover, the climatological community is strongly affected by a groupthink that prevents it from an objective judgment of all new theories, especially theories proposed by researchers from outside their community. How does it work?

While there are many climate skeptics among retired climatologists, a young climate scientist has to offer a sensational result because these results are the primary factors deciding about the funding of the discipline: because climatology swallows billions of dollars a year - a small fraction of the money that is spent for the "fight against climate change" during the same period - we can't be surprised that the money plays an important role. The main sensational result is shared by the whole discipline (a dangerous global warming) but individual scientists are being pushed to invent their own spectacular results, too. Scientists whose research leads to a different explanation of the existing data or different predictions are routinely intimidated. They are often threatened and accused of co-operation with the "evil" oil corporations and they are not allowed to use the grant resources and advance in their careers.

If someone ends up with inconvenient results despite these pressures, his or her articles are not printed. Those articles that are printed are post-selected according to yet another ideological key. The summaries of reports are being written by the most politically active, and therefore the most biased members of the scientific teams: the IPCC is unfortunately no exception. The most dramatic filter is hiding in the media that have a roughly 5-fold probability to report a "story" about research that leads to a "catastrophic" prediction than a paper whose conclusions are "moderate" or "politically inconsequential".

Nowadays, the journalists also seem to be much more eager to write about a warm weather than a cool weather, even though it used to be the other way around 30 years ago. And whenever they talk about a cool weather, it is not linked to the global climate - even though articles about a warm weather or hurricanes mention the global climate in most cases. If we try to understand a system that is as complex as the climate, it is paramount for a scientist to avoid any bias, if he doesn't want to instantly end on a wrong track. In the real world of climatology, however, the degree of bias is enormous. If someone is free to choose convenient "cherries on the pie" from the huge number of assorted data about the atmosphere and the Earth's history that are available, he is able to "prove" almost anything.

So far I was only talking about our knowledge of the true reasons behind the observed climate changes and our ability to predict the climate in the future, without being able to predict the weather for one week. My conclusions were skeptical. However, if we focus on the question whether science is able to estimate the consequences of the hypothetical warming for the mankind, we would be led to an even more skeptical appraisal. Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg has tested how it feels when one is treated as a heretic. It was enough for him to publish a book called The Skeptical Environmentalist that collected some arguments that a potential mild warming could be beneficial for our civilization. The modern Danish Inquisition, more precisely the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty, began to work on Lomborg's excommunication from the scientific community as soon as some environmentalist activists raised their concerns and it took one year before Lomborg was rehabilitated. It's obvious that a serious discussion of climatologists and economists about these matters is only getting started and it only occurs at a few institutions where the political correctness is not the main criterion that determines what can be said and thought and what can't be said and thought.

Despite all these gloomy observations, I believe that we are not far from a new era when climatologists will be able and allowed to study a greater set of details - including those politically "inconsequential" or even "inconvenient" ones - using a more diverse set of methods and without intimidation. Maybe sometime in the future, their theories will be competing according to the same fair rules that we know from other disciplines, regardless of the fact that climatology has an impact on politics and many people "know" in advance how the right answers should look like. I am primarily talking about the people who want to use the climate as one of the tools to prove that the free markets lead mankind to the Hell - and these people can be found both among the activists but also among the professional scientists themselves - but I would like to emphasize that a direct influence of the "opposite" ideology on science would be equally undesirable. Let me wrap up with the wish of a more creative and more free future for the discipline of climatology.

About the author: Dr Luboš Motl is a physicist, currently (2007) at faculty of Harvard University

Friday, February 23, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere


Some readers have asked me what I think about Conservapedia, (their server is currently overloaded, sorry, see mirror of the main page). Well, for quite some time, I wasn't sure whether the project - a self-described conservative, Christian, pro-American counterpart of Wikipedia - was serious or just a hoax.

Now I think that it is serious. The number of articles in it, including some relatively meaningful ones, is simply much higher than what I would expect from a hoax. On the other hand, the total volume of Conservapedia is much smaller than the volume of Wikipedia. I think that it is obvious that Conservapedia will remain a less extensive, less complete, and nominally more biased server than Wikipedia. It is not clear to me whether the authors realize that their project is almost guaranteed to remain a parody of Wikipedia.

Don't get me wrong. Wikipedia is biased in many different ways. For example, the number of left-wing editors is much larger than the number of right-wing editors, among other examples of asymmetry. But I don't think it is so biased that the bias would justify to build a new online encyclopedia from the scratch.

If there are examples in which Wikipedia promotes a biased point of view, an intelligent reader can usually tell. I haven't faced any serious problems whenever I was trying to extract some essential information from Wikipedia pages even if the pages were slightly biased. You can just ignore the spin and emotions. They're not what an intelligent reader looks for anyway. It's the nontrivial facts that matter. Every person with IQ above 100 can twist them if she needs it. Moreover, I think that the amount of spin is tolerable.

Alan Guth & seesaw

Alan Guth has a big-picture preprint

arguing that inflation is good but it can't be the whole story, and putting everything in the context of eternal inflation, landscape, etc.

Michael McGuigan has another paper on the

In the picture where the observed cosmological constant is the smaller among two eigenvalues of a special 2x2 matrix, McGuigan studies the physical consequences of the large eigenvalue of the same matrix. Not Even Woit is omitted from the list of references, so I hope and guess that this unpleasant critic of science won't be too unpleasant this time. ;-)

Thursday, February 22, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Incandescent vs fluorescent light bulbs

See also: Klaus: hoard Edison's light bulbs before EU bans them on Sep 1st, 2009
This topic was recently discussed by James Annan and Clifford Johnson, among others.

Two years ago, Fidel Castro switched his communist island from classical incandescent light bulbs to more efficient fluorescent light bulbs. The reason is simply that electrical blackouts are common on this island plagued by the criminals and the leader has the power to dictate similar things to the whole nation. Needless to say, Hugo Chavez, the most active communist rock star of the present world and a Stalin who returned from a fattening station, is planning something similar in Venezuela.

But would you expect that the government of a decent and wealthy country such as Australia would promote a similar policy as the losers above? It's kind of surprising but it's true. ;-)

Figure 1: Spectrum of "cool white" fluorescent light bulbs. It doesn't look like a natural black body curve, does it? Well, blacklight lamps are worse.

As a generic consumer, I find the classical light bulbs based on the black body radiation somewhat superior. They resemble the actual spectrum of the Sun more closely - the full interval of visible frequencies is represented. They don't blink 60 times a second. (These two problems are solved by the newest fluorescent models.) You don't have to be afraid that they're constantly emitting a lot of UV rays with unpredictable health consequences. In general, their environmental impact is more predictable.

Figure 2: Count the number of light bulbs in the clip "eSeMeS" by Lucie Bílá, a Czech singer.

Fluorescent light bulbs are more efficient energetically but they don't share the advantages of the incandescent light bulbs explained in the previous paragraph. The photographs taken under these light bulbs don't look great. Moreover, they use mercury. Most people discard them in uncontrollable ways and mercury is a poison that pollutes unpredictable places of the environment. The mercury from one fluorescent light bulb pollutes, according to some activist groups, 6000 gallons of water beyond levels safe for drinking. In 43 U.S. states, it is legal to dispose fluorescent bulbs as universal waste.
Update February 2008: The New York Times about the real and growing dangers of mercury in the fluorescent light bulbs - a call for a better system of recycling
There are positive features and negative features of both of them. The incandescent light bulbs have not disappeared and there are very good reasons why they have not disappeared. All the aspects - energy consumption, friendliness of the color spectrum, difficulties with recycling etc. - have been considered by the market and the result is that both technologies have survived. The energy consumption is already accounted for - because people do pay for energy. The energy consumption is simply not a big problem which is why people use both types of light bulbs. In fact, the heat produced by the conventional light bulbs is not lost: especially during winter, it's often useful to add some extra source of heat to your living room.

It's unjustifiable if someone wants to double-count and pretend, for purely ideological reasons, that the energy consumption is more important than it is - while he bravely neglects other issues such as the difficulties with recycling.

As these blinded people promote hysteria against a perfectly innocent gas called carbon dioxide, people suddenly start to forget about some threats that are somewhat more real. Once again, one teaspoon of mercury can contaminate a 20 acre lake forever: the U.S. companies still emit roughly 30 tons of mercury a year. Be careful: I can't independently verify these numbers and I was told that this quantification of the toxicity of mercury is a myth.

The government may buy efficient fluorescent light bulbs for various public places in order to save energy and taxpayers' money. But I just find it scary to imagine that a government would get the right to effectively ban an innocent and popular technology from usage by general consumers for no good reason - unless you consider the megalomanic propaganda of global warming to be a reason and a magic tool that can defeat any rational argument.

For me, such brutal plans to cripple the freedom of civilized countries are just way too serious, and I would immediately join anyone who would start to fight against these shameful communist tendencies. ;-)

And that's the memo.

Carbon indulgences: below one euro

In April 2006, the price of carbon indulgences in the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS), the largest emission market in the world, was 30 euro per ton of CO2 emissions: see this graph. However, in May 2006, the price decreased a little bit, more precisely by a factor of pi - below 10 euro per ton of CO2.

In November 2006, when the price was still around 9 euro per ton, we predicted its fall to 2 euro per ton. This seemingly bold prediction was realized at the beginning of February 2007. However, the price continued to approach the actual market value, namely zero.

Yesterday, the EUA (European Union Allowances) price closed at €0.93 for 2007 Futures: click the chart on the left. The price correction by a factor of more than 30 in the right direction and in less than one year is a sign that the free market kind of works. It would be nice if the number of global warming journalists, climate change pseudoscientists, catastrophic charlatans, and their funding decreased by a factor of 30, too.

Update: Today, one ton closed at €0.85, a ten-percent decrease per day.

Hot women not allowed in optics?

In the 1950s, women were not allowed to enter the building of the physics department of Princeton University because the head of the department believed that they were a distraction. ;-)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Missile defense system against Iran, not Russia

There is a growing consensus that Poland will host the missiles and Jince in the Czech Republic will host the radar (see the XBR radar on the picture below). Jince in the Brdy hills is known for trilobites.

Some Russian officials immediately commented that Russia will redirect some of its weapons to the Czech radar, getting ready to attack it. The Reference Frame thinks that these comments are meant to show the Russian muscles and should be treated as ridiculous.

Moreover, Rice, Poles, and Czechs agree that the system is not built against Russia but primarily against a possible attack from Iran against the U.S.

LHC magnet game: SWF

Click here to play. Via Sabine.

Climate models and disaster prophecies: new astrology

Cornelia Dean has an article in the New York Times. It is a review of the book "Useless Arithmetic" by Pilkey and Pilkey on the left. One of the main points is that the model sensitivity is a property of a model, not a property of reality. If this sensitivity is small and the results don't depend on small variations of the parameters, it doesn't mean that the model is accurate: the model may still be a very poor description of reality.

Daniel Sarewitz from Arizona State University says:

In a complex, imperfect world quantitative models feed the delusion that society can predict its way out of its environmental dilemmas. The corrosive result is that politics and science have become inextricably interwoven to the considerable detriment of both. This engaging, wise, and far-reaching book diagnoses the causes and costs of our quantitative hubris, and in so doing points the difficult way toward a more productive relationship among science, democracy, and the vexing challenges of environmental stewardship.

In Local Transport Today, 15-28 February 2007, Roger Pielke Sr is quoted:

Roger Pielke Sr. believes many scientists, policy-makers, journalists and other commentators place too much confidence in climate model results. "The overselling of regional and global models as robust projections rather than as sensitivity simulations, adds to the existing politicisation of climate science and provides justifiable criticism of the [IPCC] assessment reports," he says.

Richard Lindzen says climate models vastly overestimate temperature changes resulting from increases in CO2. All other things being equal, Lindzen says a doubling of CO2 should result in a global mean warming of just 1ºC. "Alarming predictions all require that water vapour and clouds act so as to greatly amplify the impact of CO2," he (and fellow critics) say in a recent critique of the Stern Review published in World Economics. "But it is freely acknowledged, including by the IPCC, that water vapour and especially clouds are poorly modelled, while the underlying physics for determining their behaviour is missing or even unknown."

Via Bob Ferguson and Benny Peiser.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Noncommutative blog

See Via David Goss. Sorry for my time limitations now.

Monday, February 19, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Andrei Linde: eternal feast

This press release of Stanford University is certainly more serious than the "solution" to the twin paradox but it is still kind of amusing:

While Alan Guth has discovered that the Universe is the ultimate free lunch, Andrei Linde has improved this theory. He argues that the Universe is an eternal feast because all possible dishes are being served all the time. The menu offers 10^{1000} different tasty meals, previously known as the landscape.

Figure 1: The landscape, 2007 edition. For the sake of simplicity, (10^{999}-1) x 10 vacua were omitted.

It's somewhat entertaining that this evolution of the popular metaphors proposed by the two famous Gentlemen kind of mimicks the evolution of the actual discoveries within inflationary cosmology.

A role model for green parties

Although I normally dislike opportunists such as Martin Bursík who has indeed been a member of many centrist and other parties, his party is still much more attractive than the typical green parties in the West.

He was able to get them to the Parliament and to the government. He would never agree to join a government with the social democrats because such a coalition would have to be supported by the communists which he would find unacceptable. Instead, he chose a government with two conservative parties - libertarian ODS and the Christian Democrats - because "conservative" means "cool" and "progressive", at least in the Czech Republic.

The foreign minister - chosen by the Czech Green Party - supports the radar base in the Czech Republic and the meeting of the Czech Green Party took a neutral position and didn't even support the calls for a referendum about this question. The German Greens understand that Bursík's successful strategy was to avoid being a fringe party - and in the post-socialist world, fringe means left-wing.

April 13th, 2036: asteroid

Two years ago, we informed about a possible collision with an asteroid that could occur on Friday, April 13th, 2029 - a rather superstitious day. However, the probability of that particular collision plummeted once more accurate observations became available.

The hottest asteroid on the market continued to be the same 2004 MN4 asteroid - also dubbed 99942 Apophis - until the last summer. It was again scheduled to tell us "Hi" on April 13th, but in 2036. Such a Sunday encounter would only take place if Apophis were able to hit a 400-meter-large "gravitational keyhole" in 2029 that would redirect it to attack us in 2036. According to the most recent data, that won't occur.

Some journalists - such as those behind the article you get if you click the picture - can't get the most recent reports. But let us talk about their - currently defunct - speculative collision anyway. The collision would be equivalent to 80,000 Hiroshima bombs which is not necessarily the end of everything - it is only 100 times more than the first H-bomb - but it could be rather unpleasant anyway. The probability of that collision was estimated to be 1:45,000.

Sunday, February 18, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

"Resolving" Einstein's twin paradox

Because the hype about the bizarre physicists sold as "critics of string theory" has already faded away, many journalists must find something else, comparably or even more dumb, to write about, something that would satisfy their instincts to misinform their readers.

The following "story" is a good example showing how breathtakingly limited many journalists and their bosses are. An employee of LSU has posted the following press release on the LSU website:

Let me just copy the first paragraph here:

  • Subhash Kak, Delaune Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at LSU, recently resolved the twin paradox, known as one of the most enduring puzzles of modern-day physics.

The press release is full of nonsensical comments about his "quantum" explanation based on "distant stars". It is not hard to see that the correct first paragraph should have been

  • Subhash Kak seems to be a canonical example of a new Einstein who can't understand special theory of relativity, not even at the high school level. Laymen often face problems when they try to digest how it is possible that a brother who's been moving quickly and returned from a long space trip will be younger: the age of the brothers will differ. But this conclusion is a fact that has been experimentally verified, and long before it was checked, it was presented as a well-established conclusion of the special theory of relativity in Einstein's paper of 1905. Einstein never considered any of these phenomena to be a paradox and other serious physicists didn't consider it a paradox either.

Saturday, February 17, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Japanese notes III, IV

Japanese notes III: written by Vaclav Klaus in Beppu, Japan, February 15th, 2007

Original source in Czech:
In the morning, when we were leaving the famous "Imperial" hotel where T.G. Masaryk - not yet a president - spent some time almost 90 years ago, we were looking forward to a short, 60-minute flight to Hiroshima and we were getting psychologically ready to visit this tragic place of the human history.

However, an unexpected cold shower was expecting us at the airport - a broken aircraft that was evidently unable to take off. The government squadron has a new seam although the culprit is no longer the proverbial "Challenger" but an old and mostly reliable Russian Tupolev. It is becoming more than clear that modernization of our airplanes is necessary.

After more than three hours of waiting at the airport, a small part of our delegation continued along the original trajectory using regular Japanese airlines. The best experience was to fly above the crater of the holy Fuji mountain whose one-half was under snow. The views in the ideal sunny weather were the ultimate plaster for our morning irritation.

When you stand at the place of Hiroshima where the nuclear bomb exploded, you simply can't speak. It seems that whatever word you use will be weak and insufficient. But you should still come here, stop here, and imagine the unreal human tragedy that occurred here. It's somewhat paradoxical that the only building that was preserved in Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945, at least as a ruin, was designed by the Czech architect Jan Letzel in 1915. It became a memento forever and it has been named an atomic cathedral.

Hiroshima is a modern, very picturesque city that was built from the scratch in a beautiful bay with dozens of islets and it is surrounded by steep hills. Earthquakes are frequent here, much like at other places of Japan. One can finally understand why every house is built independently even though the space in between is sometimes 20-30 centimeters only. The point is to avoid a domino effect during earthquakes.

Šárka Záhrobská: first Czech alpine gold

Mr. Petr Záhrobský is not a skier. He is a theorist who has read a lot of books about skiing. Using this knowledge, he has designed a theoretical framework how to earn a golden medal in slalom. He gave birth to his daughter, together with her mother, became her coach, and sent her to Sweden.

On the picture above, taken a few hours ago, Šárka Záhrobská (Sarka Behind-the-grave) is already going to pick the first Czech golden medal from alpine sports from any world championship. ;-) The Swedish press may have been a little bit surprised but the Austrian press was stunned.

SLAC: electrons from 42 GeV to 84 GeV in one meter

Electrons accelerated to 42 GeV by SLAC entered a 33-inch long lithium plasma chamber with waves that changed the energy of the electrons in different ways: some electrons lose, other electrons gain. The happy ones ended up with 84 GeV. This method, based on a firm rejection of the egalitarianism of electrons, may lead to some really powerful accelerators in the future. See

Via Guy.

Friday, February 16, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Black Saturn

Henriette Elvang (MIT) spoke about the Black Saturns, a work with Pau Figueras and very recently also with Roberto Emparan. Because I teach during the duality seminars (today: angular dependence of the photoelectric effect in advanced QM), she was nice to repeat the talk for me, in a more interactive form, and it was even more interesting than I expected.

A black Saturn is a black hole surrounded by a black ring. The ring's angular momentum creates a force that repels it from the black hole in the middle. The solution will have negative modes signaling instabilities but it is a classical solution anyway. In their case, they construct solutions to five-dimensional pure gravity i.e. Ricci-flat geometries with an unusual structure of horizons.

The basic method to calculate these solutions goes back to a 1917 paper by Hermann Weyl - a paper whose content is described in Wald's book on GR. I didn't know about it but Weyl discovered an early version of the LLM construction 90 years ago.

I find it quite impressive that a mathematician could find such an LLM-like construction in 1917 - the same year when crackpots in less advanced countries, such as Vladimir Lenin, were able to impress whole nations with their dumb leftist ideologies - just a year after general relativity was completed. Recall that in the AdS5 x S5 version of LLM, you want to fill a two-dimensional plane with two colors (black and white, for example). For each such picture, you can construct a solution.

Antarctica disagrees with climate models

See PhysORG.COM fore more details. Via Bob Ferguson.

In Science magazine, Richard Kerr explains that the glaciers in Greenland and elsewhere have been observed to abruptly decrease or increase their apparent size and no ice expert knows why. Nevertheless, environmental activists tried to push these scientists - most of whom were affiliated with the IPCC panel - to extrapolate their glacier predictions for a century or so. The only thing that an honest and polite scientist may say in such a situation is "F&#$ off, green commie". But do you think that all climate scientists are that honest and polite? Via Benny Peiser (the summary is mine).

Incidentally, in the afternoon, Boston time, a person made a Google search for three words,

  • vaclav klaus questions
and got to this blog. That would not be so unusual except that the user happened to be in Oita, Japan. It turns out that President Klaus was in Oita, Japan, at the same moment. Draw your own conclusions. ;-)

Thursday, February 15, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Surface operators in gauge theory

A recent paper of Sergei Gukov and Edward Witten is quite an extensive opus, and it would take 5 hours or more to give a talk about it. That's why Sergei Gukov focused on a physics part of the paper, namely the surface operators.

In quantum field theory, the most popular operators are the local operators associated with points. However, many of the readers also know the Wilson lines and the 't Hooft lines - examples of one-dimensional operators. The Wilson lines are constructed as the traces of the holonomy of your gauge field over a closed contour and over a representation of the gauge group. The 't Hooft lines are, on the contrary, disorder operators that you can either interpret as objects that create a discontinuity for the perturbative fields or as the Wilson lines constructed from the S-dual gauge field.

Can we increase the dimension of the operators more than that? Sergei answers Yes. A simple operator associated with a surface is the flux over this surface. This looks too easy - it is just a combination of the point-like operators of the field strength from the points on the surface. However, when you take the flux of a dual field strength in the N=4 theory, you obtain something that is closer to a disorder operator, Sergei argues, although I don't quite understand why it should be so: such a dual flux still looks to me as a combination of some components of the same field strength from different points.

Let me stop my skepticism that is most likely based on some misunderstandings. The surface operators within the N=4 theory that they talk about can be constructed in string theory with the help of intersecting stacks of D3-branes. The 33' strings deform the intersection into a smooth connected manifold. Alternatively, most of the 33' scalar degrees of freedom may be viewed as the Fayet-Iliopoulos terms in the two-dimensional theory living on the intersection. These scalar fields parameterize a space that can be expressed either as a coset of a hyperbolic space and a U(1) group, or as a tangent bundle over a complex projective space.

Japanese notes I, II

Japanese notes I: written by Vaclav Klaus in Tokyo, February 13th, 2007

Original source in Czech:
The first surprising impression from Japan are the high and extended mountains beneath us as we approach Tokyo. A person with a superficial knowledge of geography only expects the holy Fuji mountain and nothing else. But the reality is different.

The second impression, one that is not surprising, is the "density" with which every piece of land must be used in this country filled with unhabitable mountains. Japan's population exceeds the Czech population by a factor of 13 even though the territory is only 5 times larger. The absence of any free space and the squeezed buildings and roads are hardly understandable for a Czech tourist. They bring you feelings of claustrophobia. Tokyo squeezes a population that matches the whole Czech nation into a very small area.

The Japanese prosperity is another slight surprise. We have accepted all the catastrophic reports about the economic stagnation of the 1990s (that continued until the mid 2000s), about many years of deflation, and about the chain sequence of collapsing large corporations. But none of it can be seen. Although Japan is no longer the East Asian "tiger" that is supposed to become the #1 economy soon, it remains the #2 largest economy of the world (after the U.S.).

The problems of the last decade have made Japan somewhat unfashionable. What was behind the previous Japanese boom or miracle remains unclear. It had to depend on their life philosophy, discipline, modesty, their refusal to fight for shorter work shifts and longer vacations, and their effort to maximize their output. However, other important factors include the habit to rely on the help from the government - something that has reduced the household consumption and increased the public debt that is currently at 1.7 times their GDP. Note that the Maastricht criteria require 0.6 GDP and the Czech public debt remains at one half of this number - despite the socialist governments that liked to waste money in recent years.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Snow in Cambridge: again

The amount of snow is higher than the picture from January below would indicate but because it is much less than those record 141 inches that they had in New York State, I think that the picture is still essentially OK. ;-)

Jefferson Lab 1/23/2006


Václav Klaus and his wife Livia are visiting Japan. He has met with some powerful men of the Japanese industry, the prime minister, the emperor, and picked an honorary degree from a university in Tokyo.

Meanwhile, House hearing on global warming was cancelled due to an ice storm: flash8. Try to erase "8" from the URL to get to the most important flash news on the Drudge Report. ;-)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Overheated blog

Dear readers! Let me declare a minor interruption of new postings for a day or more. This blog has been overheated because of the interview with Czech President Václav Klaus about global warming.

When the interview was linked as a "flash" special report on, which is by the way a politically neutral website, I was sure that the servers could easily withstand something like ten thousand visits a day - unlike the websites of the U.S. senate :-) - because it has easily survived the Instalanche. What I found impressive is the CERN server that probably has to send 10,000 times 4 MB of the LHC songs a day. ;-)

Today, as the links to the interview appeared on hundreds of blogs and especially the main page of servers like, I became less certain about the capacity of all the servers providing files for this blog.

Figure 1: Blog posts tracked by Technorati that contain "Vaclav Klaus".

If you're interested in recent stories about Václav Klaus, he's visiting Japan and will return to Europe on 2/17. If you open and search for vaclav-klaus, you will see that he has been given another honorary degree in Tokyo, met representatives of the Japanese industry, and plans to meet the emperor soon. ;-)

Thanks for your understanding and "see" you soon.

Monday, February 12, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere


Our regular weekly dose of peer-reviewed deniers is here. ;-) Henrik Svensmark, the director of the Danish Sun-Climate Research Center (e-mail: hsv at spacecenter dot dk) has an article in Astronomy & Geophysics, a peer-review journal of the Royal Astronomical Society

where the status of the cosmic ray theory influencing the climate is discussed. The author argues that the new paradigm is already as secure, scientifically speaking, as the enhanced greenhouse theory. See also his

Echoes in the media:
  • The Sunday Times (Experiments hint that we are wrong on climate change)
  • The Times (Blame cosmic rays not CO2 for warming the planet)
The possible paradigm shift is ready so you can already buy a book that was released ten minutes ago. ;-) The book is now among 20 topsellers at

Previous article about the same topic:
Via Benny Peiser and Bob Ferguson & improved

Sunday, February 11, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Dr Faust confirmed

As expected, Dr Faust was confirmed as the 28th president of Harvard University. The choice increases the diversity of the presidents in many respects, see Pug Bus. Faust said:

  • I hope that my own appointment can be one symbol of an opening of opportunities that would have been inconceivable even a generation ago. [But] I'm not the woman president of Harvard, I'm the president of Harvard.
Well, I am somewhat less certain about the last sentence. At any rate, she's the fifth president in a row who is not a scientist and she is much further from science than her permanent predecessor.

Loop quantum gravity and non-locality

Several readers have asked me what I think about

by Fotini Markopoulou and Lee Smolin. Well, the main statement in the first sentence of the abstract that loop quantum gravity suffers from a problem of non-locality is of course correct. It is the same problem as the problem that loop quantum gravity can't generate flat space.

The rest of the paper is entirely incorrect and the new concepts are entirely vacuous. For example, the paper tries to argue that the non-locality is so rare that it will be difficult to detect this problem: the predictions of loop quantum gravity are untestable. I said "tries to argue" because what they write is so incredibly far from something that could be called an argument that I would be dishonest if I wrote that they present an argument.

The inability of loop quantum gravity to reproduce smooth three-dimensional space means that the links in their aether - the spin network spam that is supposed to fill empty space - will be stretched in between random vertices that can't be arranged in three-dimensional space in such a way that the short links would dominate.

The visible Universe has linear dimensions of order 10^{60} Planck lengths. The volume is about 10^{180} Planck volumes which means that there are about 10^{180} vertices of the aether in it. If any pair can be connected, you expect roughly 10^{360} links, most of which are stretched across the Universe: a maximum violation of locality you can imagine.

How can they argue that the non-local effects are small without having any evidence for any kind of locality in their toy model? Well, they argue on page 8 that only 10^{80} of the possible non-local links are turned on, which is 10^{-280} times the total number: non-local links are thus rare. Where does the exponent 80 come from? As you can guess, it comes from nowhere. It's just a complete nonsense: a wishful thinking combined with the intent to eliminate the human brain from science completely. The correct estimate is higher by 280 orders of magnitude. The probability that a generic link is non-local is of order one, not 10^{-280}, unless a miracle is proven. Such a miracle is almost impossible: a simple toy model like that simply can't produce dimensionless universal parameters that are as small as 10^{-280}. This discrepancy by 280 orders of magnitude would make their miscalculation the worst scientific misjudgment in the history of science if it were a part of science.

I don't think that a reader must have a degree to see that what they're doing is just silly.

And that's the memo.

Mark Srednicki: QFT textbook out

Now you can buy a new textbook of quantum field theory by Mark Srednicki that many people consider to be the best detailed introductory book on the subject so far and chances are that you will agree with them. ;-)

Princeton ESP lab closes

Believe it or not, Princeton University has had a lab that has studied paranormal phenomena for 28 years.

There are nice people behind this work - Robert G. Jahn, a former jet propulsion expert, who founded it and Brenda Dunne who has been the manager.

The lab has studied various unusual interactions between humans and machines induced by telepathy, telekinesis, and other cool phenomena. However, some journals didn't publish the results. For example, an editor was only ready to publish those papers that Jahn would telepathically communicate directly to the editor's brain. It hasn't worked so far.

In one of the experiments, a person could "think low" or "think high" and influence a random generator. This effect, if true, could have applications in the stock market. The investors could "think high" after they buy a stock and "think low" after they sell it. If I have ever tried this method, let me admit that I would have to hide this fact. ;-) Jahn claims that in an analogous controllable experiment, people can influence the numbers in 2-3 out of 10,000 events. ;-)

David Orrell: Apollo's arrow

David Orrell is a mathematician in Vancouver who studies complexity and chaos theory. His new book, Apollo's arrow, is now 16th bestselling book at In America, it is called "The Future of Everything".

He asks whether long-term predictions can be trusted or whether they're just a form of religion. He also asks whether disagreements between climate models and reality are due to butterflies or due to errors in the models. Of course, his answer is that the long-term predictions of the climate and the economy are not getting any better; errors are due to errors in the models.

Orrell puts the new religion of Gaia and environmentalism in the context of previous religions and ideologies. People can't live without making long-term predictions even though these predictions are bound to be wrong.

See review in National Post. Via Benny Peiser.

Saturday, February 10, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Vaclav Klaus on global warming

Czech President explains his views on the IPCC panel

See also: Klaus in the Financial Times, Klaus in the U.N., Gore's Nobel prize, Klaus's book in English

Update: Václav Klaus is just visiting Japan and his Japanese notes contain a message to the American non-Al-Gores. Please distribute the link if you like it.

ESPAÑOL: CLIC AQUÍ (interview)
Václav Klaus, the second president of Czechia, is an avid tennis player.

But today, he became a victim of friendly fire. Andy Roddick, owner of the fastest serve in the game today, targeted Klaus' chest with a tennis ball. ;-) Even though the bodyguards proved to be useless under these circumstances, the leader of the Czech Republic survived while America defeated my European homeland in Davis Cup.

This experience hasn't stopped Klaus - who currently enjoys 82% support of the citizens - from analyzing the international climate panel of the United Nations (IPCC). In an interview with "Hospodářské noviny", a Czech financial daily, Klaus answered a couple of questions (well, more precisely, the interview took place yesterday although it was published today, on 02/09/2007; the translation from Czech to Czenglish is due to your humble correspondent):

Friday, February 09, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Richard Branson's carbon dioxide competition

Vacuum cleaner for \$25 million

Design a vacuum cleaner and Richard Branson will give you 25 million USD.

Figure 1: A large, floor-mounted "zero emission" or "low emission" system is going to cost about \$250,000. These systems are popular in Southern California. This is a three-cycle vacuum vapor degreaser system from Branson Ultrasonics. These systems are often purchased where air quality regulations make the use of traditional, open-top cleaning systems impractical.

The only subtlety - one that makes the previous paragraph and the picture useless - is that the vacuum cleaner must suck greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. As you know, the planet is facing emergency called the global warming. For example, New York state is under 100 inches of snow only, Arizona had its coldest January in 28 years, and Colorado had the coldest January ever. I hope that the wise reader who wins Branson's contest will dedicate 1% of her award to the blog. ;-)

For example, you can try to create a working model of a synthetic tree by Klaus Lackner (click):

To win the award, your device must absorb one billion tons of carbon per year. One billion tons of wood is slightly above a cubed kilometer. The total carbon emissions are just 6.5 times this - 6.5 billion tons a year (or 20+ billion tons of CO2).

Many people are already trying to solve the homework problem. How do I know? Well, many of them Google for is there a way to extract carbon dioxide. ;-)

D-Wave: commercial quantum computer

Next week, D-Wave Systems, Inc. is going to show its 16-qubit commercial adiabatic quantum computer (AQC) in two Canadian cities: article.

The computer can only do some special operations - you may call it a quantum calculator - and be sure that you won't be able to run Shor's algorithm or other important quantum algorithms with it.

Dr Faust will become the president of Harvard

After Thomas Čech withdrew from the presidential search, it was widely known that Drew Gilpin Faust became the #1 candidate for the president of Harvard University. We informed you about this fact here.

The prediction was correct. As Harvard Crimson informs, Drew Gilpin Faust was chosen and will be nominated by the powerful Harvard Corporation and will be confirmed by the obedient overseers as the permanent president of Harvard University on Sunday.

Faust is currently the president of the Radcliffe Institute, the former female counterpart of Harvard that was merged with Harvard a few decades ago. As a leader, she was able to get rid of the budget deficit and fire 1/4 of the staff - a kind of Chapter 11 management. ;-)

Trottier symposium

Lorne Trottier Symposium is held at McGill University in Canada. It is named after a generous sponsor of that university. Robert Brandenberger was a crucial organizer.

The symposium is entirely about the anthropic principle. Because there are people like Susskind and Gross over there, you should click the link above, find the lower left corner, and click "Webcast / English". You can see that both wrong opinions as well as correct opinions about the vacuum selection problem are represented by star physicists on the symposium. The previous sentence is correct regardless of the validity of the anthropic principle: the sentence is thus an example of really good and deep science about the subject. ;-)

Anna Nicole Smith & string theory

Sadly, Anna Nicole Smith died at age of 39. A likely reason is a drug overdose. If a string theory fan among the readers doesn't know why he or she should mourn, let's mention that among supersymmetric models, she was closest to a proof of string theory:

Thursday, February 08, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Stephen Colbert & Steven Pinker

Prof Steven Pinker was asked about his hair and more importantly - how does brain work? His answer had to have five words or less. Pinker's brain cells started to fire in patterns and he said:

  • brain cells fire in patterns

Very cool. The discussion continued by the topic of denial of human nature, what can brains of infants do, grammar of profanity. Colbert himself showed that he has brain damage that prevents him from swearing. When he tries, it beeps.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Cars: grams of CO2 per km

Today, the European commission proposed to ban cars that emit more than 130 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer since 2012. The Czech Republic is a car superpower - 850,000 cars were produced in 2006 - which is why they care. They estimate that the price of a new car could jump by $1500-$3500, depending on the unknown price of new technologies. Škoda, joke no more, joined Audi in driving Volkswagen's profits. If the eurobureaucrats introduce the caps, Škoda will probably relocate its production to its Russian or Indian plants.

Older (1997) and (slash) recent (2005) average emissions of cars from various companies are:

  • Fiat - 169/139
  • Citroen - 172/144
  • Renault - 173/149
  • Ford - 180/151
  • Peugeot - 177/151
  • Opel - 180/156
  • Toyota - 189/163
  • Kia - 202/170
  • Škoda - 165/152
  • Seat - 158/150
  • Honda - 184/166
  • Mercedes - 223/185
  • Hyundai - 189/170
  • Volkswagen - 170/159
  • BMW - 216/192
  • Volvo - 219/195
  • Audi - 190/177
  • Mazda - 186/177
  • Suzuki - 169/165
  • Nissan - 177/172
You can easily sort them by CO2 in 2005 - essentially by quality. ;-) Volvo, BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Mazda, Hyundai ... Renault, Citroen, Fiat. In other words, the proposal of the European commission is to destroy the good carmakers and preserve the others. If accepted, the policy will become a new example that jokes often become reality. Around 2000, the following joke was circulating:

Keep asking WHY

In 2000 when I was in Santa Cruz, I simply loved these "Ask Why" commercials - including one with Murray Gell-Mann below - except that I had no clue what the company was doing. ;-)

Murray Gell-Mann told me at SidneyFest that he had some interactions with the bosses of that company and they were nice guys. I am sure they were.

While I like the general message that "Why" is an important question, I wouldn't subscribe to any detailed policies of Enron. Recall that Enron has been the strongest corporate proponent of the flawed Kyoto protocol in the U.S. and it was trying to bribe politicians into accepting this mad treaty:

One of Enron's major consultants of its own internal global warming study was James Hansen of NASA, the U.S. father of global warming. Although Enron wanted the study to end up with catastrophic predictions, the study concluded that the climate alarm could very well be a false alarm. Enron censored its own study and never published it (see the CATO page for more details).

Fixing the keyboard of HP laptops

Service manual for HP pavilion laptops (11.2 MB) - click here
Manual for ze4900, Compaq nx9020, nx9030, nx9040, Presario 2200
Manual for other models such as ze4700
Options to buy HP laptop keyboards - click here
Discussion forum with links to many other HP manuals
Repairing the keyboards of Hewlett-Packard laptops


Suddenly it may happen that a group of keys on your Pavilion laptop (the most typical example is "G", "H", "Backspace", "apostrophe", and "F4") becomes intermittently insensitive. In some cases the problem only occurs when the notebook has been turned on for 10 minutes.


The Foxconn keyboard connector is poorly designed. As your computer is being used, it heats up and various materials in the connector expand at different rates. Consequently, the connector is moving. It becomes loose and after two months or so, some contacts are lost. Sometimes the problem can be solved temporarily if we apply mechanical pressure in the center-left region of the bottom side of the laptop.

A thrifty solution - reseating the connector:

Reseating the connector fixes the problem. Sometimes the problem returns after a couple of months; usually it is solved permanently. Don't be afraid to follow these instructions, HP laptop keyboard replacement with these step by step instructions is not difficult. A screwdriver is recommended but as you can see on the pictures, a pocket knife will do the job, too.
  • 1. Shut down the computer, unplug the AC adapter, and remove the battery.
  • 2. Close the display, and from the rear of the computer remove the two Phillips screws from the back of the plastic hinge covers. (zv series owners need to remove 4 screws on the hinge covers.)
Screw: leftScrew: right
Click the photograph to zoom in!
  • 3. Lean the display backward as far as possible, so that it is out of the way.

    CAUTION: Do not touch metal surfaces inside the computer until they have cooled off, especially if the computer has just been running.

  • 3a (only for zv series or Compaq Presario owners). Now you need to remove the four long screws beneath the computer that run into the bottom of the plastic cover in #4. Failure to do so will result in a broken cover.
  • 4. Carefully pry up the plastic cover above the keyboard at the hinges, using a flathead screwdriver, and remove it. Don't be too scared that you will break it trying to pry it off... It will pop off OK.
  • 5. Unscrew the four Phillips screws at the top of the keyboard. (They remain attached to the keyboard.)
Philips Screw 1Philips Screw 2
Philips Screw 3Philips Screw 4
Click an image to
zoom in!
  • 6. Slide the keyboard backward to detach it, then tilt it forward and turn it upside down.
  • 7. Carefully remove the keyboard connector from the motherboard. The motherboard is the part of the computer with the chips which will be exposed once the keyboard is removed. The connector looks like a film which is stuck to the keyboard and which extends into the motherboard. Carefully remove the end of the connector by loosening the plastic rectangle which is stuck into a slot in the motherboard; see the figure on the right.

This is the interior of an HP Pavilion N5425. In this photo, the flat silver-colored piece is the keyboard flipped upside down. Click the picture to zoom it in. Thanks to Jennifer Crook. A related picture of an IBM laptop.
  • 8. Make sure that the end of the connector is clean and dry. Replace the connector by pressing it back into the motherboard evenly and firmly, making sure it is in place tightly. Doing so will fully restore the connection between the motherboard and the keyboard.
  • 9. Tilt the keyboard back, slide the flanges on the front edge forward into the slots, and fasten the keyboard with the four attached Phillips screws at the top.
  • 10. Replace the plastic cover that is above the keyboard, front edge first.
  • 11. Hold both hinge covers and snap the plastic cover in place. If necessary, push downward at each end of the cover to secure it.
  • 12. Close the display and replace the two screws at the rear of the hinge covers.
  • 13. Insert the battery, connect the AC adapter, and press the reset button.

When the system boots up the keyboard problem will be solved, guaranteed, at least for 2 or 3 months, most likely for good.

Relevant models: 1500US , 1501CL , 1505US , 1507EA-XP , 1510US , 1515 , 1516US , 1520US , 1525US , 17XL375 , 2100US , 2101US , 2102US , 2105US , 2110US , 2117EA , 2118EA , 2120EA , 2120LA , 2125LA , 2130EA , 2130LA , 2134EA , 2135US , 2140CA , 2140US , 2141EA , 2144EA , 2145CA , 2145US , 2150LA , 2155US , 2158EA , 2161US , 2162US , 2170CA , 2170US , 2171US , 2172US , 2173EA , 2175CA , 2175US , 2178CL , 2180CA , 2182US , 2186RS , 2190US , 2195CA , 2195US , 2199US , 2585US , 2801CL , 2810 , 2815 , 2817 , 2818 , 2822 , 2825 , 4100 , 4150 , 500 , 510 , 6000 , 6100 , 700US , 700Z , 701CL , 721AP , 722US , 730LA , 730US , 731AP , 732 , 732US , 733 , 735LA , 736 , 800CT , 900 , 900US , 902 , 905US , 906US , 907 , 910US , 915 , 915US , 920 , 920US , HA-Fabric Manager OmniBook Server , M700 , N1000 , N1000c , N1000v , N1000v with iPAQ H3850 , N1005v , N1015v , N1015v with iPAQ Pocket PC H1910 , N1020v , N1020v with iPAQ Pocket PC H1910 , N1050v , N110 , N115 , N160 , N160 with HP iPAQ H3850 , N3150 , N3250 , N3270 , N3290 , N3295 , N3310 , N3330 , N3350 , N3370 , N3390 , N3410 , N400 , N400c , N410c , N410c with iPAQ H3850 , N410c with iPAQ Pocket PC H1910 , N5130 , N5135 , N5170 , N5190 , N5195 , N5210 , N5240 , N5250 , N5310 , N5311L , N5340 , N5350 , N5351 , N5412l , N5415 , N5420L , N5421 , N5422L , N5425 , N5430 , N5435 , N5442 , N5452 , N5462 , N5475 , N600c , N600c with iPAQ H3850 , N610c , N610c with iPAQ H3850 , N610c with iPAQ Pocket PC H1910 , N620c , N6395 , N800c , N800c with iPAQ Pocket PC H1910 , N800v , N800v with iPAQ Pocket PC H1910 , N800w , Nc4000 , Nc4010 , Nc6000 , nx9000 , nx9005 , nx9008 , Nx9010 , Nx9010 Administrative Image , Nx9010 Student Image , Nx9020 , Nx9030 , SOJOURN , vt6200 , XE , XE2 , XE3 , XE3L , xe4100 , xe4400s , xe4500 , xe4500s , Xf125 , xf145 , xf255 , Xf328 , xf335 , Xh365 , Xh535 , XT1000 , Xt155 , XT6050 , xt6200 , ze1110 , ze1115 , ze1201 , ze1210 , ze1230 , ze1250 , ze4100 , ze4101 , ze4102 , ze4111s , ze4115 , ze4120s , ze4125 , ze4130 , ze4145 , ze4208s , ze4209 , ze4210 , ze4219 , ze4220 , ze4230 , ze4232s , ze4234s , ze4282s , ze4315us , ze4325us , ze4345 , Ze4347EA , ze4365us , Ze4367EA , ze4401us , ze4402us , ze4404EA , ze4420us , ze4430us , Ze4501us , Ze4502us , ze4510OM , ze4525US , Ze4540CA , ze4540us , Ze4545us , Ze4546SR , Ze4547wm , ze4560us , Ze4600 , Ze4601us , Ze4610us , Ze4630US , Ze4805us , ze5185 , ze5365us , ze5417LA , ze5427LA , ze5447LA , Ze5497LA , Ze5547wm , Ze5568cl , Ze5580US , Ze5637LA , zt1121s , zt1122s , zt1130 , zt1131s , zt1135 , zt1141 , zt1151s , zt1152 , zt1155 , zt1162 , zt1171 , Zt1271 , zu1155 , zu1175

Modification of the procedure for the notebooks such as N3270

I skipped Step #2 and Step #3 on your procedure list, because the N3270 hinges are disconnected from the plastic cover, so when I do step #4, I just pry up the plastic cover above the keyboard at itself (there are no screws) instead of at the hinges. Step #5 and further are the same on my model. ... Aaron Shen

A few changes that some people with the HP Pavilion ZT1000 series laptops should know:

1. The screws on the back of the LCD panel are covered by black rubber "stickers". They can peel those off with a knife or screwdriver, to see the screws.

2. There are only 3 screws, not 4, to take the keyboard off. Justin

Other computers

Compaq Presario, Acer Ferrari, Omnibook, Flash

Iosif Bena: black hole microstates

Iosif Bena was so nice to give us a special, informal talk about black hole and black ring microstates. If you combine black holes and black rings, you can obtain black Saturns as Henriette Elvang et al. call it, but Bena et al. don't want to combine them in the same configuration. ;-)

There has been some tension between Harvard led by Andy on one side and Iosif, apparently representing the consensus of 90% of the rest of the world ;-), on the other side concerning the meaning of the word "microstate" etc.

A state is a wavefunction (or wave functional) on the configuration space of your theory, not a classical configuration as the consensus seems to think. ;-)

Iosif uses the word "microstate" for particular classical configurations which is hard to digest. But if you remove the controversial terminology from his message and if you try to make sense out of what he said, the result is that they can apparently construct stationary spherically asymmetric solutions of the supergravity equations that look like the D1-D5-P and similar black holes almost everywhere outside the region where you would normally expect an event horizon. These solutions are supported by fluxes and they have bubbles in them. The fluxes are adjusted to make the configuration completely smooth, as you can check by a change of coordinates. These solutions may be viewed as uplifts of Denef's solutions. See e.g. Werner+Bena

They can also calculate the redshift at the point where the bubbles start, translate it into a mass gap via the AdS/CFT dictionary to see that it agrees with the mass gap of some string states on the CFT side, and they argue that their "states" (classical configurations) should thus be generic and account for all of the black hole entropy. I think that it is fair to say that no one at Harvard understands these arguments, to use a polite language.