Friday, August 31, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Titanic risk & eco-morality: two excellent essays

I was recommended two articles that I found excellent.

First, Aaron told me about the text in the New York Times called

In Nature's Casino
by Michael Lewis. It is mostly about John Seo, a hedge-fund manager who was incredibly ready for the hurricane Katrina. The article is full of wisdom about risk management. For example, it mentions how PhDs often turn out to have naive opinions about the ideal strategies based on textbooks that often fail. You can't beat the market but it doesn't mean that the market is perfect.

Aaron has chosen one particular idea from the article. It is about risk estimates of very unlikely events and the Titanic plays a key role. Recall that Feynman has used the case of Challenger to show that when our experience is insufficient, we tend to underestimate the risk. But let's return to the Titanic. It had 16 chambers and they could normally be considered as independent. If you want the ship to sink, you must destroy many of them and it is just unlikely. However, they made a mistake and started to turn around which is why the ship finally sank: the chambers were no longer independent and the risk simply increased. The message is that even though many people think that action lowers the risk, it is more often the case that action increases risk.

Surprisingly, action is exactly what Lawrence Summers now recommends to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. As we agreed with Gene and others in the discussion about the credit crisis, the people who have made wrong decisions must burn themselves, otherwise the system will slowly lose its self-correction ability and get worse. This kind of development in the market is exactly the risk that the players should have expected and regulation in these mundane cases is counterproductive.

Back to the story about the Titanic. Those who know general relativity can confirm that if you want to have the longest possible life after you cross the black hole event horizon, you should stop your jets and do absolutely nothing: the geodesic is the longest path between two points in the spaces with Minkowski signature. Hysterical alarmists would fail both in the case of the Titanic as well as inside the black hole.

Brian has sent me another wise article.
Josie Appleton
argues in Spiked that eco-morality is a new brand of conservatism that is sucking the fun out of life. She compares this new kind of morality with other ethical standards. The main differences are that in the new system of ethics,
  1. one is supposed to reduce her impact: the footprint is now counted everywhere; previous systems of morality wanted people to live more and better, whatever it meant
  2. one doesn't care about the meaning of her actions because everything is counted in CO2 molecules: a flight to see sick relatives is equivalent to a flight to visit a prostitute
  3. one doesn't have to make a choice: it is enough to blindly follow a list of instructions what to do with your washing machines and all other things.

Socially, eco-ethics is meant to define lives for consumers as well as missions for institutions. The institutions have recently started to massively embrace eco-ethics. Most politicians seem to prefer to have a simply describable goal to protect the flat Earth's climate over the difficult goal to represent their unpredictable electorate: they no longer have to worry about their democratic legitimacy. It is a more convenient topic than the war on terror because the approach to the latter is actually tested by actual events.

The real reason why Appleton wants everyone to discard eco-ethics is that it leads us to stop thinking about the purpose of our lives.

And that's the memo.

P.S. Did you know that ecology as a science was founded in 1895 by Mr Warming? :-) He should have changed his name. The name was the first bad sign for his new discipline. Today it seems that ecology as a science has started with Warming and it is ending with warming. ;-/

Ecospot: win a Toyota

All US, UK, and Irish residents who read The Reference Frame have a chance to win a Toyota Highlander as long as they will hide that they read this blog.



What do you have to do? Before September 12th (twelve more days to go), you must submit a 15-second, 30-second, or 60-second videoclip showing how normal activities cause climate change: a "very short video message that will drive your friends, community or government to get involved in solving the climate crisis." See the rules at the

Ecospot home page
The contest was also discussed at CNBC.
Rae's entry with two attractive prophets
The judges will be Cameron Diaz and her 19 colleagues and later the public. What kind of videos have a chance? Al Gore who sponsors the event has answered this question in the New York Times:
He cited as an example of an effective spot a 45-second ad known as “Black Balloons” that illustrates how normal household tasks like brewing coffee or watching television contribute to global warming because they are powered by the burning of fossil fuels. The spot culminates with a thick cloud of black balloons representing carbon dioxide emissions swirling into the sky.

Feynman has reacted to the textbook that asked the kids: What makes it go? Energy. What makes it go? Energy. He said: Suppose it's wakalixes (or fossil fuels) instead. Wakalixes makes it go. The children don't learn anything, he insisted.

Hayden, Preskill: fast information retrieval from black holes

Patrick Hayden and John Preskill, a leader in quantum computing and a winner of a bet against Stephen Hawking, use their knowledge about computer science, qubits, and error-correcting codes to say something quantitative about the retrieval of the information from the black holes. Patrick Hayden is a boy who is also the Canada Research Chair for the Physics of Information. ;-)

Well, yes, this is what I call a very good general paper about the black hole information puzzle!

These Gentlemen consider Alice and Bob. Alice wants to destroy her sex diary irreversibly. Their main conclusion is that "k" qubits of information about the initial state are retrieved as soon as "k+epsilon" qubits of the information are carried away by the Hawking radiation - which means a timescale comparable to the black hole radius. That would be really fast, indeed. Instead of acting as a perfect erased of diaries, the black hole is essentially a mirror. When the black hole size - as measured by the entropy - decreases to one-half, much more than one-half of the information is already out.



Their assumptions about the ability of black holes to deal with the quantum information at the same moment could be exaggerated and the real retrieval could be slower. And of course, the technological tricks necessary to decode the information will probably remain unrealistic forever. But their estimate could actually be parameterically exact.

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Sean Carroll asks the famous question due to Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz and offers a few answers and non-answers such as the non-answer "Why not?", the main result of 116 years of work of the Stanford philosophy department.

Let me admit that as a kid, I used to be asking this kind of philosophical questions, too. However, these questions turned out to be so much less interesting than other questions that I threw them away. One may also argue that the question is ill-defined as well as contradictory.

Thursday, August 30, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Sweden: record low temperature

Southern Sweden has seen a freezing August weather for the first time in recorded history.

Tommaso Dorigo: a sexist scandal

Frequent and beloved members of the Reference Frame community may join the chat box if the fast comments are too slow
Tommaso Dorigo sometimes acts like a Peter Woit Lite, if you kindly allow me to avoid expletives. If you prefer Italian terminology, Dorigo is a kind of woitino. But you should have no doubt that certain situations instantly reveal that we share the same European cultural context. He wrote a
report about Lisa Randall's talk at CERN.
There are many layers of topics in his report: women and science, detailed phenomenology at the TeV scale, and relations between theorists and other scientists.

The first topic turned out to be explosive. It has led Clifford Johnson to write a politically correct sermon called
Still so far to go
What has driven Clifford up the wall? Well, Tommaso has described her clothes, haircut, and her athletic looks.
Ms Kea dislikes political correctness, too (and so does Ms Louise Riofrio and Mr Moshe Rozali). Sabine Hossenfelder doesn't seem to be excited by the CosmicVariance hardline either.
Well, let me start by saying that I know Lisa Randall much more than these two guys. I think that if you take everything into account, she is actually an unusually modest person. She is attractive and she is an exceptional athlete. Her two major climbing accidents haven't changed anything about that.

Does she enjoy to be admired for diferent things than being the most cited particle physicist between 1999 and 2004? Do other female scientists like different kinds of attention? That's of course a subtle question.

Ralph Alpher died

Ralph Alpher, a nearly forgotten co-father of the Big Bang, died at age of 86.

The Telegraph about his life and work
In 1948, he published papers about the primordial soup in which elements were created. In the same year, they essentially predicted the cosmic microwave background. In 1955, he left the Academia for 30 years: he worked in General Electric.

One paper he co-authored is famous also because of the names of the authors: Alpher, Bethe, Gamow (Alpher's advisor). While Bethe was only included for aesthetic reasons, at that time, Deltoid wasn't invited because it wasn't yet fashionable to collaborate with environmentalist nutcases.

At any rate, cosmology is unfortunately losing one of its icons, the first one in the Greek alphabet.

Two anniversaries

When I talk about the Greek alphabet, I should also mention that on August 30th, 1871, Ernest Rutherford was born in New Zealand. He discovered the atomic nucleus and classified radiation to alpha, beta, gamma. Around the nucleus, you may find electrons. Electrons were discovered by JJ Thomson who died on August 30th, 1940.

Radiation and health

John Gofman was a physicist who has argued that radiation was 20 times more unhealthy than the government said (can't check the numbers now). Nevertheless, he died of heart failure two weeks ago.

George Monbiot: zero emissions by 2030

Many people in the global warming movement have lost their minds. For example, we have seen that Al Gore and James Hansen predict 82-feet rise in the sea level. There's a huge competition between these folks.

George Monbiot wants to promote his new book "Heat: how to stop the planet from burning" so he doesn't want to stay behind. Instead, he wants to remain the number 1 "moonbat" as some people outside his movement call him. What can he do to achieve this non-trivial goal and beat his tough competition?

Well, some crazy politicians have been talking about a 80% reduction of CO2 by 2050 and similar kinds of silliness. The "moonbat" easily beats them. How? He simply wants

zero emissions by 2030.
He announced it on a blog that wants to go beyond zero emissions i.e. that wants to replace all emissions by absorption. ;-) Let us look whether this could be sane in any sense.

Whether CO2 reductions will be easy or not will undoubtedly depend on technological progress. For example, thermonuclear fusion - something that not only Monbiot considers unlikely by 2030 - could help to produce all energy using this new source. But even with thermonuclear fusion, Monbiot's goal can't be realized unless the mankind is exterminated. Why?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

The Australian Warming Swindle debate

Climate-related: a recent talk by Fred Singer
Also: less than 1/2 of published scientists endorse AGW theory
Martin Durkin is not necessarily 100% saint, his documentary wasn't 100% free of errors, and his answers are not quite 100% perfect. But look how he was treated in Australia after his The Great Global Warming Swindle was aired by ABC, the Australian TV station, on July 12th:



He was treated like a heretic or a criminal even though he was at least 90% right in these big questions. I am sure that the professional yet aggressive journalist who talks to Durkin would behave towards mujahideens in a much more friendly way. All the well-known blogospherical criticism is raised in a very dramatic, prepared way and nothing else is invented. Durkin had to answer on the spot. I've heard that the "debate" that followed the screening of Durkin in Australia was bad but I didn't imagine it was that bad. Was an alarmist movie ever analyzed on TV in a comparable way?

Patrick Moore about trees and carbon

The Vancouver Sun has a thoughtful essay written by Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace, about wood and carbon. Old trees contain a lot of carbon but the rate of their growth is slower. Younger trees are small but are able to capture more CO2.



Victorian furniture

If our goal were to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere, we should cut and use more wood, not less. Old furniture still keeps carbon from ancient CO2. Patrick Moore also uses the article to criticize the recent rant by Leonardo DiCaprio and some very stupid things done by the current officials in his organization.

Hat tip: Marc Morano.

Václav Havel: Leaving



Václav Havel, the last Czechoslovak and first Czech president, has written his first play since the Velvet Revolution. It is called "Leaving" ("Odcházení").

I haven't seen it but it is supposed to be a funny variation of King Lear by Shakespeare - about a king who becomes insane after he loses power. This king was turned into Mr Vilém Rieger, a chancellor who leaves politics. Rieger looks like Havel himself. ;-)

Defending ideas we don't believe: string theory is a waste of time

Sean Carroll started an interesting game, collecting

the best arguments for things he doesn't believe.
While I also frequently find arguments supporting wrong ideas even weaker than they should be, I wouldn't be good in playing Sean's game. For example, if you ask me what good arguments I could give you to support the opinion that the society should "fight against climate change", I would have no idea.

If I knew such arguments, you would have already heard them from me. I am not trying to hide any good arguments that I am aware of. The proponents of the "dangerous global warming" theory often use really silly arguments but I think that the main problem is not that all of these people are silly; the main problem is that no good, defendable, rational arguments supporting their position exist.

Nevertheless, Sean wrote a collection of arguments for the first statement he doesn't believe, namely that
string theory is a waste of time.
The punch line is: the best argument that string theory is a waste of time is that the theory is simply too hard and right now we don't have any good reasons to think that all remaining big questions will be solved soon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Al Gore's traveling global warming show



I wonder whether the author likes Al Gore or not. He or she might be one of those rare cases who don't care. ;-)

Regional climate forecasts

Rasmus Benestad wrote a long article about the predicted impact of a hypothetical climate change on individual regions. In the context of the IPCC, this question is discussed in chapter 11 of the report of the first working group. Rasmus argues that it is very hard for the existing models to predict regional changes but he overwhelms us with a lot of unreliable information collected from random modelers at random places anyway.

The IPCC panel is an arbitrary conglomerate of local scientists whose work was sufficiently convenient to be included. There is not a single person in the world who has studied and checked the whole IPCC report and we shouldn't pretend that this particular conglomerate of statements and ideas is more valuable than it is. If you want to construct your own IPCC report, tear random pages from climate books on your bookshelves, throw away those that contradict a coming cataclysm, and ask your Marxist friend to write a summary of these pages. ;-)

Memoirs of an early string theorist

Pierre Ramond's memoirs
Ramond worked on String Theory over a period of five years during the First String Era (Zeroth Superstring Revolution), the most intellectually satisfying years of his scientific life. One of the early prospectors in the String Theory Mine, he was fortunate enough to contribute to the birth of this subject that retains, after these many years, its magical hold on our imaginations and expectations. That was Ramond's abstract.

My abstract

Ramond talks about his schools, early research, small head of Paul Dirac, his hero, Andre Neveu in pajamas at 8 pm, and the finding (from Nambu via Lou) that the dual models were models of strings. Scherk and Neveu did an important calculation that could only be done by French people. And after some time, Ramond started to produce results. The on-shell condition was derived from conformal invariance. Hippies were banned in Aspen. Ramond then derived the Dirac equation from superconformal invariance and discovered supersymmetry.

Don Weingarten who has earlier smoked cigars in the armchair of the president of Columbia University instantly knew that Ramond's finding was very important. An algebra professor Jacobson, on the other hand, has kindly kicked out Ramond from his office. ;-) Ramond preferred to visit Lillian and had no time to see Andre. After some hassle, Ramond switched to Yale. Neveu and Schwarz sent Ramond their paper that didn't sufficiently appreciate Ramond's key contributions: the antiperiodic people may sometimes act strangely. Recall that the Ramond sector is more "new" - with the spinors built-in - because the Neveu-Schwarz sector is analogous to the bosonic string.

Mandelstam was one of a small number of people who understood and cared about Ramond's work. Ramond with Kalb, his student, introduced the B-field. Because of the general lack of interest, Ramond left string theory in the 1970s. He was happy to see that exceptional groups, his new focus, appeared in the heterotic string in the 1980s.

Related

John Schwarz has written similar memoirs. Who is missing here? Yes, Andre Neveu. Instead of memoirs, he solves bootstrap in the N=1 Liouville theory. In which sector? Of course, in the Neveu-Schwarz sector. ;-)

America, Australia: total lunar eclipse

Too late, the theater is over!



It should be the most spectacular one in years... In Australia, watch it Tuesday night. In the Western portions of the Americas, it will be Tuesday morning.

Monday, August 27, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Hansen: all hell is going to break loose

Will oceans surge 82 feet or 97 miles?

New discoveries of the leading climate expert

Based on globeandmail.com
I don't like if the right-wing blogs interrupt leading climate experts by humiliating comments so let us allow Prof James Hansen, one of the greatest living scientists in the world and the boss of the esteemed GISS institute at NASA, to speak himself. LM

Title: All hell is going to break loose
Author: James Hansen

Current estimates for how high the seas could rise are way off the mark - and in the next 100 years melting ice could sink cities in the United States to Bangladesh.

If we follow 'business-as-usual' growth of greenhouse gas emissions, I think that we will lock in a guaranteed sea-level rise of several metres, which, frankly, means that all hell is going to break loose.



Figure 1: a diagram depicting my newest scientific discovery. The purple color is actually not purple: it is ultraviolet because it will be really hot.

The scientific basis for this idea is outlined in our recent paper published by the British journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society and described in The Earth today stands in imminent peril.

In stark contrast to estimates put forward by the IPCC, I and my colleagues argue that rapidly melting ice caps in Antarctica and Greenland could cause oceans to swell several metres by 2100 - or maybe even as much as 25 metres, which is how much higher the oceans sat about three million years ago. If you know science behind the Holy Scripture, you know that one million year is actually just a month. The driving force are the positive feedbacks that exceed all imagination of mortal human beings. They are great, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Alberto Gonzales is gone

A popular attorney general is leaving Bush

The subtitle is actually the title used by the leading Czech newspapers. Long time after Rumsfeld and weeks after Karl Rove, Gonzales is leaving, too. Tony Snow will also step down.



I think it's bad news. Gonzales is one of the ultimate role models for kids who are growing up in poor Hispanic families. Regardless of his origin, he has been the ultimate benchmark defining moderate, workmanlike lawyers who are moreover loyal to an unjustly attacked administration.

If you want to see what kind of people are behind his illogical and purely ideological ouster and behind the unfair treatment that acted as a distraction for the department, using Bush's words, see e.g. this page.

Hillary vs Iraq

Meanwhile, Hillary and some other Democrats ask al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, to resign. Even though I would personally prefer someone like Iyad Allawi, I find the "Democratic" attitude non-democratic and arrogant.

Al-Maliki is not a U.S. employee and he is definitely not an employee of the Democrat Party so I would like to encourage Hillary Clinton to shut up. One might be dissatisfied with some events in Iraq but it would be highly counterproductive to openly undermine the democratic mechanisms in Iraq and the independence of this new democratic country. I have no idea what is her better alternative and frankly speaking, I don't believe that she has even thought about one.

Leonard Susskind on black holes

A rather entertaining video...

Also:

Juan Martín Maldacena on string theory

The latter three videos are in Spanish: train your language skills. :-) Can't I offer you Maldacena's lectures in English? You bet.

Julius Wess died

Update: The New York Times about Wess
Originally posted on 8/11/2007:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died on December 5th. Your humble correspondent was born on December 5th. Werner Heisenberg and Sheldon Glashow were also born on December 5th. And so was Knut the polar bear.

Julius Wess was born on December 5th, too. It was in 1934. Sadly, he died on August 8th, 2007.



When supersymmetry is discovered next year, he will unfortunately no longer be eligible for the Nobel prize. That's one of the disadvantages of leaving this world.

Even the young generations that have never met him (that includes me) will know him because of their Wess & Bagger textbook on supersymmetry, from the Wess-Zumino model (yes, I wrote the page) - the renormalizable theory of a single chiral multiplet which was the first known interacting supersymmetric theory; from the Wess-Zumino term - the integral of a closed (d+1)-form over a higher-dimensional manifold whose boundary is the spacetime; and from the Wess-Zumino-(Novikov-)Witten model where this term plays a role.

Public mostly against global warming ideology

Andrew Revkin wrote an article in the New York Times about Steve McIntyre's 1/4-degree Fahrenheit reduction of the recent U.S. temperature record.

Sunday, August 26, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Was Thomas Jefferson an alarmist?

The most discussed text of this week, originally posted on 8/20, is returned to the top for the discussion to be easily available.

James Hansen has released a new scientific paper

The Real Deal: Usufruct & the Gorilla
reflecting the most rigorous kind of scientific "thinking" that this director of a NASA institute is capable or willing to perform these days. He explains that all global warming skeptics are court jesters controlled by big fish who cooperate with an 800-pound gorilla to "destroy Creation". He also argues that no errors in his work can ever matter. I suppose that everyone has already seen these "theories" and everyone could be bored if we responded again.

But there is a brand new "argument" in Hansen's new "paper", after all: it turns out that Thomas Jefferson was an AGW alarmist! Who could have thought? That should finally settle the question about global warming! :-)



How does Dr Hansen prove that Thomas Jefferson was an alarmist? Well, he quotes a letter (click) that Jefferson sent to James Madison during their discussion about the Bill of Rights.

The question whether one generation of men has a right to bind another, seems never to have been started either on this or our side of the water. Yet it is a question of such consequences as not only to merit decision, but place also, among the fundamental principles of every government. ... I set out on this ground which I suppose to be self evident, "that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living;" that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. ...
Hansen interprets this letter by saying that Jefferson was an environmentalist and the Earth belongs to living beings of all generations. He apparently wants you to believe that the "living" in Jefferson's letter means "Gaia" - the union of all plants, animals, and bacteria of all generations.

If you actually read the whole letter, it is very obvious that Jefferson's point was exactly the opposite. Jefferson said very explicitly that the past generations - the dead people - or the people who are not yet living have no right to control the resources that exist at a given moment or bind the future generations to pay any money (or land). That's a good policy because otherwise we would be governed by zombies which would be bad unless they would be lively zombies. ;-) According to Jefferson as well as any other person who understands some of the basic principles of Western democracy, a generation has no right to bind another generation, e.g. by carbon targets or a territorial debt.

MAGIC: rational arguments vs. propaganda

I will use the results of the MAGIC experiment as an example to show the difference between fair and rational reasoning on one side and irrational bigotic propaganda, represented by Peter Woit, on the other side.

Lorentz violation: basic facts

Einstein's special relativity published in 1905 became one of the key pillars of modern physics. It unifies space and time and includes the Lorentz symmetry, an invariance under transformations mixing space and time, that severely constrains allowed laws of physics. Indeed, special relativity is a meta-theory that tells us that certain classes of laws of physics don't even have to be considered.

Since 1905, good "fundamental" physicists have only considered Lorentz-invariant theories. That's the reason why Schrödinger needed some more time to find his equation: he found the relativistic Klein-Gordon equation first. He saw that it didn't describe the Hydrogen atom correctly. So he didn't publish the equation - guess who published it first - and decided to solve an easier task and find the non-relativistic approximation of the right equation that is named after him. Dirac soon realized what is the right relativistic equation anyway. Soon after Dirac, quantum field theory was born and it was always relativistic i.e. Lorentz-invariant. String theory didn't break the symmetry either.

Is special relativity true? According to all observations we have, it is true and exact. The effect of all hypothetical violations of special relativity on any phenomena that can be realistically observed may be summarized by Lorentz-breaking terms in the effective action. Experiments show that these terms are zero or at least extremely tiny: the bounds are very stringent.

Can we imagine that special relativity is not exactly true? Even though it looks like returning before 1905, the answer is: Yes, of course, we can. Just add the small symmetry-breaking corrections. Can these hypothetical corrections be associated with other physical phenomena? Maybe. If they're associated e.g. with the quantum gravity scale, you may obtain an order-of-magnitude estimate how large these violations should be.

Nanopoulos' reasoning

This violation is an assumption that has been made by many people such as Nanopoulos, Mavromatos, Sarkar, Amelino-Camelia, Mitsou, Farakos, Ellis, Kostelecky, Samuel, Pospelov, Myers, Alfaro, Morales-Tecotl, Urrutia, and others. Quite many people for this non-result, frankly speaking. ;-) It's been repeated by many other people. Later, the same scalings were argued to be compatible with loop quantum gravity but no rational justification of this assertion is available. The people who gave this interpretation just wanted to be parasiting on the work of others. For example, Smolin's implicit assertion that he has done something important in the context of Lorentz violation is a lie.

Saturday, August 25, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Hillary Clinton, GOP, and terrorism

Hillary Clinton has exposed another Democratic taboo. She said that a hypothetical new terrorist attack against the U.S. would help the GOP in the 2008 elections, even if the GOP doesn't necessarily deserve it, and she - as a former GOP hottie - is the best Democrat to deal with these issues.



Video 1: Hillary vs Rudy, kid edition. The fat feminists will do literally everything to achieve their goals. ;-)

The second-class Democratic presidential candidates together with their blogging allies got very nervous about her "fascinating" revelation. ;-) They say it's tasteless. They say that Hillary is just like the GOP because she thinks that terrorism is a legitimate political issue that may be used in debates and campaigns.

Well, exactly. That's exactly her point and her advantage. Indeed, terrorism is a legitimate political question. How it could not be? Most of the GOP candidates know it and Hillary knows it, too. The very fact that various likes of Dodd and Edwards deny that terrorism is a legitimate political issue and a part of the U.S. president's job is the reason why they're not the right people for this job, at least in this particular respect.

I think that what Hillary says must be pretty much obvious to anyone who is willing to answer similar questions rationally. A terrorist attack or even a threat of it would help the GOP because the Republicans consider defense to have a more privileged role among the government's tasks while the Democrats usually deny that it is a topic that must be followed in detail. Many of them even think that the terrorist threat is just a temporary reflection of an unpopular U.S. president. Moreover, if Rudy Giuliani - the former mayor of the New York City - remains the GOP frontrunner, it is completely obvious that a terrorist attack would help him tremendously.

There hasn't been a major terrorist attack since 9/11 and the GOP says that it is due to their policies. Surely it is partially true. They're proud about this particular success but nevertheless, it is still true that in the battle against the Democrats, the absence of threats and attacks doesn't help the GOP much.

Is Hillary attracting a terrorist attack by her words? No way. Quite on the contrary. It is also a message for the terrorists themselves: if you realize another terrorist attack, you will pay because the GOP will keep the White House and they will show you much harder fists than what the average Democrats are willing to do. Do you remember how the terrorists convinced Spanish voters to vote for socialists who eventually withdrew all their troops from the Muslim world? Hillary correctly says that this strategy won't work in the U.S.

Is it immoral to talk about similar threats? I don't think that it's immoral. Many people think that talking about catastrophic global warming is not immoral, so I hope that comments about future terrorist attacks can't be immoral either, especially because they're much more likely. Another terrorist attack is a conceivable event that shouldn't be a completely shocking surprise for the U.S. president.

What has happened on 9/11 was very sad. My reactions were intense and I believe that many other people also feel that we may have overreacted. It was a very frustrating event but certainly not an event that could permanently cripple America or the whole Western civilization. Fortunately or unfortunately, 9/11 is exactly the type of job that the U.S. president must expect which is why the U.S. presidential candidates should talk about their opinions about these matters. If someone says that it is tasteless to even consider these possibilities, it doesn't look like he has thought about these questions much.

At the same moment, we should realize that it is pretty likely - I would say that it is more likely than 50% - that there won't be any significant terrorist attack before the elections. No doubt, the attitude of every candidate to the question of terrorism includes a bet. If you say that it is not an important issue and there will be a terrorist attack, you will lose. If you say that it is more important question than how it will look like next year, you may also lose.

And that's the memo.

Eight nations sue carbon regulators

Eight Central, Eastern, and Southern European countries, namely Czechia, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Malta, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, have all started legal actions against the European Commission that attempts to impose low quotas on the production of carbon dioxide, the gas that we call life.

Latvia became the sixth member who joined the team one month ago. It demands 1.8 times higher quotas than it has received! During the last week, Malta (the only non-post-socialist player) and Lithuania became the 7th and 8th members of the team.

The environmental bullying of New Europe
This region has seen a higher growth of the GDP because these economies are naturally approaching the strength of the economies of other members of the European Union. The quotas are designed to choke the expected future growth and act as a new form of communism - a disease that has been plaguing the region for nearly half a century and that has temporarily transformed many developed nations to second-world countries (which is something in between the first-world and third-world countries).

Morally, the situation is pretty clear but it is not so clear legally. At any rate, the total quotas for Europe will be the main factor that will decide about the price of the carbon indulgences and that will determine the growth of all economies that participate in this gray game with hot air, not only the countries of the Central and Eastern Europe.

Gerard 't Hooft, QCD, and bosonic string theory

Prof Gerard 't Hooft has a new interesting preprint about massive gravity, QCD, and bosonic string theory.

The Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism for gravity that he talks about generalizes the usual symmetry breaking in gauge theories. However, you need four scalars, not just one, and their vevs are spacetime-dependent and equal to x,y,z,t, respectively. This induces additional masses and a cosmological constant.

't Hooft mentions that this setup could be relevant for cosmology but his real interest is elsewhere: in string-theoretical models of QCD.

He proposes bosonic string theory compactified on a 22-manifold to be a dual description of QCD. It is not really holographic but it could be useful anyway. The symmetry breaking mentioned above is supposed to kill the tachyons and massless scalars and make spin 2 glueballs massive.

Friday, August 24, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

E=mc2: Einstein explains

Ivan Janković: Why climate change skeptics should applaud hockey stick?

The author has sent a screenshot of the visitor #1,500,000 but the actual visitor #1,500,000 was, according to the Sitemeter, from Bonn, Germany and came to the main page of this blog from backreaction.blogspot.com



Hockey stick graph from IPCC TAR 2001 is often cited as an important paleoclimatological piece of evidence of unprecedented climate change in 20th Century. Graph, showing flat temperature trend in most of previous millenium with sudden upward swing in the last Century, is widely advertised in schools, media, and by advocacy groups, as a reason to believe in man-made global warming. No surprise, many climate change realists or skeptics, on the other side, tend to reject this graph and underlying study as bogus and scientifically invalid. Well-known hockey stick scientific controversy in previous years was about how reliable are Mann et al. results in their 1998 and 1999 reconstruction(s) of North Hemispheric temperature variations in the past millenium. From the very beginning of the controversy, implicit for both sides involved was belief that to affirm hockey stick was to affirm human induced global warming in the last Century, and vice versa – in order to refute anthropogenic warming thesis you should refute hockey stick conclusions as well. As prof. David Deming has pointed out, probably the very motivation of alarmistis to "abolish Medieval warm period" was to make human induced climate change more intuitively acceptable as a concept; if MWP realy didn't exist, i.e. if current climate is by far warmest one in the past millenium, and if that warming occurred suddenly and anomalously in 20th Century, than it must be something more than ordinary natural variability at work, that "forces" climate to change so tremendously; most probably – human influence. Conversely, for skeptics, to abolish this "abolishing of MWP" would mean to vindicate their basic claim that in 20th Century climate there is not anything unusual or unprecedented, and thereby that human influence on global temperature is probably negligible.

But, problem with this whole debate was that it was wrong way rounded from its inception. Hockey stick results had nothing to do with attribution of 20th Century warming to anthropogenic causes at all. At the contrary, were those results correct, they would only demonstrate that NATURAL warming in 20th Century was unprecedented. Both sides were wrong in prevailing motivations for debate.

WMAP cold spot: a huge hole



Click for an article.

In the right lower "corner" of the WMAP pictures, there is a rather small and thin blue region - the so-called WMAP cold spot in the constellation Eridanus. Some people argued that they could see non-gaussianities there at 3 sigma. At any rate, the Very Large Array radio telescope has looked into this region and concluded that there are virtually no stars in that direction and at distance between 6 and 10 billion light years: there is a gargantuan hole there. They also call it "Woit" because "void" means emptiness, vacuity, lacking legal validity: every void is transparent and has no content.

Uranus: rings changing

The rings of Jupiter and Saturn seem to be changing but Uranus is the leader: its rings look completely different than 21 years ago when they were mapped by Voyager 2.



Click to get to Scientific American. BBC.

The innermost ring is getting much closer to the planet and the brightness of various rings is changing abruptly.

"The observations are the last nail in the coffin for climate change deniers," NASA spokesman Gavin Schidt told our blog. "We have 8 years and 157 days left to stop the climate change," Al Whore added, "if we don't act right now, the inner ring will fall to Uranus which is, as you might know even though it's very complicated, a radioactive material. The whole Solar System will simply explode. Boom."

Thursday, August 23, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Greenhouse warming: wrong altitude and latitude dependence



Figure 1: Predicted greenhouse warming (left) versus reality (right) as a function of latitude (x) and altitude (y)

Lord Monckton has written down a convincing paper showing that the greenhouse effect predicts a "hot spot" at certain rather high altitudes above the equatorial zones, something that isn't really observed:

Monckton's fingerprints HTML, PDF
This point was emphasized to me by Fred Singer half a year ago. Thanks to Robert Ferguson who also offers a text explaining that consensus is rubbish.

Peer-reviewed version of the article about the wrong fingerprint:
Douglass, Pearson, Christy, Singer

MAGIC: dispersion of gamma rays?

Sociology around the MAGIC experiment: update
The MAGIC collaboration (100+ people), together with five theorists, has posted their preprint about a measured delay of high-energy gamma rays during a flare in an active galaxy.



Figure 1: MAGIC's telescope #1 acording to its webcam

Setup

Markarian 501 is an active galaxy at redshift z=0.034 which, I believe, corresponds to something like 700 million light years distance from Earth.

Once upon a time, there was an exploding source of gamma rays over there that has sent us some gamma-ray signals. It is believed that the source is around 3 light seconds in size. The flare takes around 2 minutes or so. The gamma-ray photons have energy between 100 GeV and 10 TeV or so: you could call it the accelerator energy range.

Google Earth goes extraterrestrial



Launch your Google Earth, click Help, Update Your Program. In the new version of the software, click View, Switch to Sky, and 100 million stars plus 200 million galaxies are yours.

How to sell a pseudoscience

Brian O'Connor has sent me the following fascinating essay by Anthony Pratkanis:

How to sell a pseudoscience
While he mainly talks about paranormal phenomena - aliens and magic cures for diseases, among others - you will see that the conclusions are way more general. Holy cow: why do these people believe all these things and what do the pseudoinventors need to make it work? They need to create:

  • a phantom, an unavailable goal that looks possible
  • make their subjects committed which changes their mode of thinking and make their commitment gradually increase
  • manufacture a guru or a source of sincerity and credibility, invent new degrees and hierarchy in which the "top" cannot be questioned; elect their prophets (what's up, Al?) and seers (and what about you, Lee?)
  • establish a meaningless association of people that makes its members feel that they are relatives
  • this association should be equipped with rituals and symbols, jargon and beliefs, shared goals, shared feelings, secret information (about UFOs etc.), and enemies
  • transform your customers into salespersons; each of them will be motivated to convince himself when he tries to sell it to others
  • construct catchy images that are influential mainly for emotional, not rational reasons
  • use pre-persuasion: invent generally accepted or acceptable values that your pseudoscience defends and its opponents refuse; differentiate your pseudoscience from other similar pseudosciences; create expectations about phenomena
  • rely on heuristics and commonplaces, for example people's fast conclusion that expensive means valuable; the consensus or bandwagon heuristic saying that if everyone believes something, it must be true; that a long message must be strong; the representative heuristic saying that similar situations lead to similar outcomes; the natural commonplace - what is natural is good, what is man-made is bad; the goddess-within commonplace that the spiritual side of humans is suppressed by modern materialistic science (use science in both ways, as something whose authority supports your partial goals but something that isn't complete and must be beaten by more important things)
  • to protect your construction from the external world, attack opponents via innuendo & character assassinations; these tricks create new pseudotopics for discussions (are these people ethical or qualified?), they create doubts about the skeptics, and also discourage them from any action

Finally, Pratkanis says that even true science sometimes uses some of these tactics which is dangerous because if these tricks are given weight, pseudoscientists may abuse them even more efficiently. Finally, Pratkanis had classical ESP phenomena in mind when he wrote his text but you can see that the stop-the-climate-change pseudoscience uses 100% of these tactics: it is the ultimate synthesis of all previous pseudosciences. Let me clarify why all the tactics are being used:

  • the phantom or impossible goal is to stop the climate from changing
  • the commitment is indeed being gradually increased: the subjects are supposed to emit ever smaller amounts of CO2 and believe in increasing catastrophes
  • the hierarchy of credibility is carefully designed, with 2500 mostly average but politically passionate scientists at the top of this credibility pyramid
  • meaningless associations are being established, for example do you remember Al Gore's 1000 clones? In other cases, pre-existing organizations are directly transformed into associations to promote the pseudoscience
  • the movement has rituals (lying naked on the glaciers, using bikes for 200 meters once you jump out of your private jet etc.), symbols (pictures from catastrophic movies etc.), jargon (deniers, court jesters), beliefs (the whole AGW orthodoxy), shared goals (stop the climate change), shared feelings (Gore: reducing CO2 has become a deeply moral question), secret information (unpublished reports that AGW is even worse than ever before or sea level will rise more than anyone would believe because of mysterious Hansen's "calculations"), and of course enemies (the skeptics and the corporations)
  • consumers and victims of the pseudoscience have been transformed to salespersons; look at Alexander Ač, for example
  • catchy images are the melted glaciers, swimming polar bears, hurricanes etc.; a portion of glaciers were always melting, hurricanes were always blowing, and polar bears were always swimming but they're still catchy images
  • regardless of any details, the AGW pseudoscience is about the conservation of life on Earth and well-being of future generations in 2100 while its opponents are not
  • all the heuristics in the list are misused; expensive is valuable: define a price of reductions of hot air (CO2 emissions) and it becomes valuable even though its real price is zero (you may buy the indulgences yourself); declare that there is a "consensus" about AGW so it must be true; show how long the IPCC report is so it must be really impressive; representative heuristic: argue that hundreds of millions of years ago, some species went extinct because of climate change and we will thus also die; of course, claim that everything that is man-made such as warming is wrong and everything that is natural is right; preach that the materialistic industrial society suppresses the priceless eco-friendly spirits of Gaia within our souls; science is a tool to increase credibility until it is used to falsify some of AGW statements
  • and finally, of course, the AGW pseudoscience identifies skeptics with corrupt people paid by oil corporations, court jesters, holocaust deniers; that changes the debate into "who pays them?"; the authority of the skeptics is constantly undermined by lies and hatred produced by the advocates of the pseudoscience; the skeptics start to ask themselves: isn't it better for me to be silent?

And that's the memo.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

New York: record cold

Yesterday, the high temperature in New York, 59 degrees Fahrenheit, tied the record set in 1911 for the coldest August high ever and was 23 degrees below the normal high:

The New York Sun
The record cold high of 64 degrees Fahrenheit for August 21st, set in 1999, had to be edited, too. The new record is 5 degrees cooler than the previous one:
CBS
Summer 2007 is on its way to become one of the coolest summers on record: July was 1.5 degrees below the normal and August is so far 1 degree below the normal. Participants of the Simons Workshop on Long Island such as
Aaron Bergman
are freezing, too. But you won't hear these stories from RealClimate.org. The temperature in the Arctic is way more important for the society than the temperature in Manhattan, as long as it is warmer than average. ;-)



These court jesters deny global warming and look how they dress up in August: how funny. ;-)

Occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968

I missed the anniversary yesterday.



10+7-minute videos with Czech narration: 1,2

Thirty-nine years ago, armies of the Soviet Union and four other communist countries (a list that didn't include Romania) have offered a brotherly help to Czechoslovakia and terminated the Prague Spring, a period of relative freedom, democratization, and liberalization of the economy and other segments of the society.

These half a million soldiers who were invited by local communist traitors and sent by foreign communist barbarians have only killed about 72 people in the country. But the actual political and economical consequences of their acts were far more dramatic. The country was returned to the grips of neo-Stalinism for 21 years.

It was a clear confrontation between a small cultural nation that knew what it was doing on one side and the brute power of five undemocratic governments. People did what they could to peacefully complicate the progress of the occupation troops. They were changing traffic signs and so forth. However, everyone knew that it was physically impossible to defend the country against the occupants. A political catastrophe was inevitable and given this fact, it seemed better to save the lives. The enlightened Czechoslovak socialist leaders with a human face have thus recommended the people not to resist.

Two decades of oppression and stagnation - officially called normalization - followed, two additional percent of the population decided to emigrate, including my uncles on both sides. Only the Velvet Revolution in 1989 was able to revert the impact of that unhappy morning of August 21st, 1968. The experience of 1968 has made it rather clear that socialism can't really be reformed. It has to be eradicated.

And that's the memo.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Game & trailer: Mafia 2

Update: Videocam version of the Mafia 2 trailer





Much higher resolution is here (click).

Between 1997 and 2002 or so, I didn't play too many state-of-the-art computer games. That was not the only reason why I was completely stunned by the Mafia game back in 2002. According to various journals such as PC WORLD, it became the game of the year 2002. The PS2 and XBOX versions were kind of slow and unsuccessful but they couldn't change the fact that the game became the best game ever for hundreds of thousands of players and it sold over 2 million copies.

Videos from Mafia
Website (including free demo)
Mafia fan websites

The game, produced mostly by Illusion Softworks (now 2K Czech) in Brno, Moravia (Czechia) and distributed by Take 2 Interactive, is about Tommy Angelo who accidentally joins Don Salieri's mafia in the early 1930s. Tommy (you) is getting increasingly bloody tasks. The storyline that looks like a pretty good movie is kind of linear, with 106 main episodes full of driving, shooting, racing, emotions, love, betrayal, action, and a moral message. But there's still a lot of freedom how to solve the individual episodes.

But it was the physics of the game that was really astonishing. Everything occurs in the Lost Heaven City which is pretty much the same thing as the New York City. Three-dimensional graphics is nearly perfect. It takes a lot of time to drive through the city. I always thought that a team would need millenia to collect all the necessary data, textures, and create all the three-dimensional models.

The cops have artificial intelligence, trams, ships, and other cars work as they should, much like birds, waves, falling cigarettes and their smoke, fire, transparency and reflections from various materials, shadows, blood, and many kinds of weapons, among many other things. The motion of the people in the game was designed according to real actors whose motion was scanned. There are 60 types of cars whose physical characteristics coincide with 60 actual models from the 1930s. They respond to shooting and driving in a physically realistic way. You should look into the game yourself.

Aaron Bergman & multiverse

Aaron Bergman has fulfilled his threats ;-) and wrote two additional short texts about the multiverse.

A multiverse apologist
The lay of the landscape
While the first text is just an introduction, he uses mini-golf analogies in the second text to explain what it means for your theory to have many solutions. He doesn't say much and omits names - because the authors of the ideas really don't have anything to be proud about so far, as two of us think :-) - but it's kind of OK.

Once we accept that the most accurate theory we can have predicts very many valleys or environments (vacua) where life in principle can occur, we may choose different strategies to look for "our" valley in the landscape. Either to give up, or to map all of them and compare their shape with the measured shape (encoded in properties of elementary particles), or start to play with statistics of these valleys and fuzzy "predictions" resulting from it. The only two other choices are to hope and search for missing cosmological or selection rules or, more speculatively, searching for a completely different theory than string theory.

His comments are minimalistic and thus fair. There are a few questions underneath.

Tipping points, sweet spots, and model ensembles

In his Musings about models, Gavin Schmidt discusses three topics:

  1. Tipping points
  2. Sweet spots
  3. Model ensembles

Because there are both valid points as well as significant confusion in his short text, let's try to clarify the situation.

Tipping points

The term "tipping point" is often presented by global warming advocates as a well-established notion in natural sciences that is based on a solid theory and that should impress the audiences. In reality, the term is, at best, a vague talking point in the context of sciences. If you look what a "tipping point" means according to Wikipedia, you are being explained that it is a concept in sociology, not science, describing a point where some behavior suddenly becomes much more common. The name was chosen in analogy with "tipping points" in mechanics: sociologists were entertained when they saw that adding weight to a bananced object can eventually topple it and decided that they must use this fascinating phenomenon in their work, too. ;-)

The disambiguation page offers you several additional meanings of the term:

  1. the term in sociology we mentioned
  2. a book about sociology
  3. a musical album
  4. a band
  5. a computer security provider
  6. climate surprise.

You see that only the last meaning, the "climate surprise", is related to natural sciences. Why is it called "climate surprise"? Well, it is because these hypothetical effects have a very low probability, as the Wikipedia page explains. Although "tipping points in the climate" and "climate surprise" are the same thing, certain people prefer to talk about "tipping points" so that they hide that these effects have a very low probability.

A collapse of the thermohaline circulation or rapid deglaciation of both polar ice sheets are examples. There has been a lot of recent literature explaining why these events are very unlikely and commenters may mention some links to the papers in the comments. Don't worry: the Gulf Stream is certainly not stopping especially because it is driven by winds i.e. indirectly by the rotation of Earth and so far, not even James Hansen predicts that the Earth will stop spinning.

Schmidt refers to an article by Tim Lenton who talks about the tipping points and also writes the following:

The parameters controlling the system can be transparently combined into a single control, and there exists a critical value of this control from which a small perturbation leads to a qualitative change in a crucial feature of the system, after some observation time.
Well, if Tim Lenton knew concepts in thermodynamics, he wouldn't have to invent this new awkward terminology. A closely related concept in thermodynamics is called "phase transition" while the "single control" is called "order parameter". Clearly, we need to generalize the thermodynamical concept if we want to cover diverse speculative and complex scenarios about the climate but it's possible.

A more important question is whether such tipping points are around or whether it is at least somewhat likely that they are nearby.

This question should be answered individually for different kinds of tipping points but let me say a few general words instead. The tipping points could hypothetically appear in situations that may be roughly divided to two groups:
  1. clean physical systems with a predictable behavior
  2. chaotic physical systems with a largely unpredictable behavior and a lot of mutually interacting objects

Quite generally, the tipping points in the first group are easily accessible to physicists and they may resemble sharp phase transitions. On the other hand, the hypothetical tipping points in the second case are always fuzzy and they only influence a small part of the physical system because different components of the system respond differently.

Let me say a few examples. If you have a lot of uranium in one place, you may eventually reach a tipping point - the critical mass - that will lead to a nuclear explosion, a chain reaction in which the number of neutrons exponentially grows for a while. Such an exploding mass of uranium is a rather clean (conceptually) system that may be studied by physicists and the change of the behavior is fast, indeed.

If your temperature reaches the melting point or another temperature of a phase transition, ice can start to melt or water may start to evaporate. There is indeed a tipping point - a phase transition - waiting for us once the temperature of oceans reaches 100 Celsius degrees. Will it happen by Christmas 2014? I leave this question to Al Gore.

The Arctic regions don't have too much life in them and they are rather simple physical systems. We mostly know what can happen with these physical systems and there are no tipping points nearby because they would have to resemble conventional phase transitions that have been classified. On the other hand, dynamics of the atmosphere and biosphere in the moderate zones is so complex that no hypothetical tipping point is really sharp or qualitative and no hypothetical tipping point influences the whole biosphere coupled to the atmosphere at the same time.

Rationally speaking, we simply don't expect any discontinuous transitions of this kind. The higher number of components you have, the more continuous the behavior of any kind of physical average becomes. Of course that there can always exist some transitions that we haven't thought about and that will look like climate miracles or other miracles. But I, for one, prefer if scientists only believe miracles that are supported by some rational arguments. If Jesus Christ returns to the Earth this winter, then - well - let Him rule. It's not a business for science to analyze unlikely scenarios that can't be studied by doable experiments and robust mathematics.

We should end up with the conclusion that any conceivable, large enough, physically driven effect of the climate on life will proceed continuously and we will never be completely shocked. As far as science goes, tipping points don't exist. Let us look at the second topic.

Sweet spots

What does Gavin mean by the sweet spots? He means a vague idea that also occurs in sweet-spot supersymmetry. We have already discussed a recent article by Doug Smith et al. The term "sweet spot" refers to a balance between the natural effects and the industrial influence. The idea is that the natural effects are just a short-term noise while the industrial influence is the effect that survives in the long run. The sweet spot is what we see in the medium term (five years?). This assumption itself is a kind of bias: it would be more reasonable to link humans with the short-term changes of the Earth while the natural effects dominate in the long run. But let us assume that their identification is fine and proceed.

Smith et al. realize very clearly that regardless of their detailed calculation, it is rather likely that there will be no visible warming until 2009. And I think that they are driven by their belief in global warming and are afraid that others won't believe it if there are several additional years without warming. So they essentially say that until 2009, the natural forces may still be winning while after 2009, a warming may start again.

Is it possible? Of course that it is possible. But in science, we must go well beyond the labels possible/impossible because virtually everything that doesn't grossly violate the laws of physics is possible. We must care whether it is likely and whether we have evidence that it is likely. Imagine that there will be cooling from 2005 to 2009. People in 2009 may state the hypothesis of Doug Smith et al.:

  • Natural forces were winning and cooling the Earth in 2005-2009 but a warming trend will start really soon.

Will this sentence be true? Well, we must realize that this is not one sentence but two sentences:

  1. "Natural forces were winning in 2005-2009 and their net impact was cooling" will be a proven statement.
  2. "A warming is gonna start in 2009" will be an unproven hypothesis.

It is a popular strategy of various demagogues to connect a true, proved assertion with a speculation (or even untrue statement) and sell them as one product. The proved part of the product gives it credibility while the other part gives the demagogue what he wants. The demagogues do their best to convince people not to distinguish the very different parts of the package. For example, a package says that "the globe has warmed by 0.6 Celsius degrees or so; our survival requires us to stop all CO2 emissions." The first part is likely to be true but the second part is complete nonsense. Demagogues will give you some evidence for the former statement and pretend that they have proved the latter statement.

Well, I would encourage every single person to be careful about these tricks. Every composite sentence must be separated into pieces that must be evaluated independently.

When you do so in the case of Doug Smith et al., you will see that their paper is really a union of two independent papers. One of them tries to analyze the climate in the short run and shows that there will be some particular fluctuations until 2009. And the other part of the paper tries to repeat clichés about anthropogenic global warming. These two parts are incoherently connected into a single paper.

That's not how a wise scientist should analyze complex problems. A wise scientist should follow Galileo's recipes and always try to separate a complex situation into pieces that can be studied in isolation because we can only reliably understand a complex system if we understand its components. If you do so, you will find out that it is the natural causes that are at least partially understood - and the weather can be predicted at least for a few days - while the industrial influence is not demonstrated or quantified. The research of the natural phenomena in the climate is a natural science where a large amount of data exists and many of them are processed in some kind of scientific way that makes some progress.

But the research of the industrial influence is something else: it is a doctrine about a single number - the overall temperature change caused by CO2 - that has never been measured or proven to be significantly nonzero and that has never been used in any kind of scientifically nontrivial calculation. But ths single number is claimed to be one of the key results of all of science. Once again, these two very different human activities are being sold as one package. One must be careful: climatology is not pure junk. Current climatology is a combination of science and junk science.

Finally, we approach the third topic:

Model ensembles

It is a great news to see that Gavin Schmidt realizes that averages and probabilities calculated from an ensemble of models are not the same thing as averages and probabilities in the real world.

If you work with one thousand climate models and run them on one million computers, it doesn't mean that the statistical characteristics of this ensemble will give you a more accurate representation of reality. Imagine that an ensemble of one million models predicts that the temperature will change by 2 degrees plus minus 1 degree by 2100. Does it mean that you should take this number very seriously because you used one million models?

Not at all. The actual temperature change can be very different. The accuracy indicated by the ensemble of the climate models can be both much larger as well as much smaller than the uncertainty in reality. Let me explain why.

If someone actually has a very accurate model, for example because he is a better physicist, he could predict the temperature change very accurately. And maybe, the temperature change could be pretty exactly calculable if one is smart enough. But if you add almost one million of other models that are not that good, their statistical distribution becomes fuzzy even though someone might be able to do a better prediction individually.

The opposite situation occurs more often. If you have one million models, it doesn't mean that they nicely cover the neighborhood of the right answer. Even one million models may share a systematic error, a neglected yet important physical effect, and other things. The authors of these models could have been copying from each other and perhaps, none of them understands the physics too well. As Richard Feynman emphasized in his cute story, you can't get a good idea about the length of the Chinese emperor's nose just by averaging a large number of answers by people who haven't seen the emperor. Try to find emperor's assistant and ask her.

And that's the memo.

Monday, August 20, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Cosmology under attack, too

It has recently become a fashionable sport for people who have never contributed anything significant to science - and most likely, they never will - to use media and populism to sling mud at the key results of science as we know it in 2007 in order to replace serious science by an irrational media-driven hysteria, at least in the eyes of the public, and to erase the difference between the scientists who are doing or have done something serious on one side and themselves on the other side.

Paper can withstand anything and ignorant enough people are ready to believe anything, too, and it is in fact easier for them to swallow an emotionally loaded untrue cliché than a difficult technical argument. So this is quite a good business for these folks. Modern cosmology is slowly joining the list of fields that are under attack. The only difference from high-energy theoretical physics is that I expect that the hysteria won't catch up in the case of cosmology because cosmologists kind of enjoy activities related to P.R.

Michael J. Disney, a retired astrophysicist, wrote an article for American Scientist,

Modern cosmology: science or folktale?
He starts with a sequence of hostile comments about the money flowing to cosmology. The subtitle expresses one of the main assertions of the article: current cosmological theory rests on a disturbingly small number of independent observations.

The similarity with the proclamations by people like Woit can't be more obvious. Let us first look at some of his opinions and terminology.

Sunday, August 19, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Leonardo DiCaprio: 11th whore

Leonardo DiCaprio "was" me in the String Kings. He could have created a meaningful movie with a message, for example "11th dimension". Instead, he offers this piece of sh*t:

11th hour (trailer)
I don't have to explain you how ashamed I am to be associated with this weird Gentleman. The movie is about the last hour - or last minute, as a better thinker figured out - we have on this planet. Katrina and all these things are catastrophes, they are our fault, and they will be getting worse. Life is declining and the decline is accelerating. There are too many people on the planet and they use too many resources.

The theme is original and sane - but not too much. ;-)

Quite suddenly, the message changes to a completely contradictory anti-thesis: what a great time to be born, what a great time to be alive because this generation will completely change the world. I kid you not. What is the main tool to make their change happen? They explain it themselves: it's not a technological question, it's a leadership question, they say. What they want is nothing else than power. The similarity with the Nazi propaganda couldn't be more obvious.

What they want to do with this power is to replace science by their junk science, create Big Brother-like machinery that will force people to reduce CO2 production by 90 percent (not kidding), and probably also reduce the population in Earth.

Saturday, August 18, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Answering a few string-related questions

I've seen a lot of flack aimed at string theory criticizing its supposed untestability. What's the problem here, in your view? Is it just that conducting experiments in this subfield would require inordinately expensive equipment (like particle physics, only more so), or is there some larger issue?

String theory is a theory of quantum gravity. It's been known for decades that the characteristic effects of quantum gravity only appear in "full strength" in extreme conditions - characterized by the so-called Planck scale. The typical distance where stringy or any quantum gravitational processes are easily visible is the supertiny Planck length 10^{-35} meters, the characteristic temperature is the Planck temperature 10^{32} Kelvin, and so forth.

The only known loophole are the braneworlds i.e. the models of old large dimensions and warped extra dimensions in which the characteristic phenomena of string theory or quantum gravity may be much more accessible, even by the LHC. But these scenarios look unlikely.

If we ignore this possibility, a collider that would directly test quantum gravity would be as large as the visible Universe. Since the very early days of quantum gravity, it was clear that the attack on its puzzles would be theoretical in character and the field has been a domain of some of the "purest" theorists - even though some people seem to be surprised even in 2007. What was not known is that the mathematical consistency criteria almost certainly single out not only a pretty answer but a unique answer - one that is called string theory for historical reasons - even though the repertoire of physical phenomena and solutions to this theory is very rich.

APEC won't accept targets

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation probably won't accept binding greenhouse gas targets.

Via Benny Peiser.

Friday, August 17, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

The God particle

Unfortunately, we are witnesses of another violent attack against the "God particle". Dennis Overbye started in the New York Times and Sean Carroll added much more vitriolic a diatribe on his blog. Fortunately, I can give a proof that the Higgs boson is also called a "God particle" that Sean Carroll certainly won't be even attempting to deny: a woman from a science center.



She also offers the explanation by John Ellis - that was several days old when she was speaking - that the Higgs boson is a famous physicist walking through a room crowded by other physicists. The young woman has also figured out who the famous physicist was: it was Justin Timberlake! ;-)

What do I think about these issues?

Well, I am not used to the term "God particle" and in comparison with many other terms, it sounds insufficiently technical, but it is a good one. The God particle is what gives the mass to all elementary fermions as well as bosons including Himself, by a combination of interactions and His own vev (that results from self-interactions, too). Be careful: most of the visible mass in the Universe doesn't come from bare masses of elementary particles but rather from strong interactions between quarks and gluons that have nothing to do with the God particle.

Stephen Schwartz of Brookhaven: climate sensitivity is 1.1 Kelvin

Many of the recent entries included in the weekly dose of peer-reviewed climate denier literature were published in Geophysical Research Letters. For the sake of diversity, today we offer an article that will appear in Journal of Geophysical Research.

Stephen Schwartz: Heat capacity, time constant, and sensitivity of Earth's climate system (full text)
The author is from Brookhaven National Laboratory, the same one that successfully tests string-theoretical holography through the RHIC experiment. His calculated result for the climate sensitivity is 1.1 Celsius degree, plus minus half a degree: three times smaller than the IPCC figure and consistent with the typical calculations of the Reference Frame.

His method

Schwartz first determines the heat capacity of oceans, by observing links between temperature and the heat content of the oceans on the record. His result is equivalent to a layer of water that is between 60 and 160 meters in thickness which is probably a reasonable result regardless of the method that was used. Other sinks add about 20% to this figure.

Global warming: the menopause song



Chick the Comedian, Al Gore, and George Bush have a new theory about global warming. ;-)

Yes, I mean the Al Gore who can't understand why rings of young people are not jumping under bulldozers.

BBC Radio: superluminality and two more topics

In this radio segment (Real Audio; Windows Media people should download Real Alternative), they talk about abolishing some kinds of taxes, wars, but also three science topics.

Depression over-diagnosed

Before 17:30, they talk about the opinions of Gordon Parker, an Australian psychologist, who argues that the clinical threshold for depression is too low and people like to go Prozac as soon as it's cloudy outside or as soon as their boss forgets about their birthday.

Science: mice get angry because of burning fossil fuels

Peter Mobaerts will argue in Science that nasal cavities of mice are connected with special olfactory neurons that detect CO2 just 0.02% above the normal. Unless the mice will adapt, they will become more irritated, more aggressive, and less fertile.



Figure 1: An angry mouse

It is not clear to me whether the author means 0.02% of the actual volume of CO2 - which would be nonsensical because it is far below any kind of seasonal fluctuation and spatial variation you routinely encounter - or whether the percentage is counted from the overall volume of the atmosphere i.e. whether we talk about a 200 ppm change which could be nominally sensible.

Still, it is not explained what is "normal" in the phrase "above the normal". Is it 180 ppm or 280 ppm or 380 ppm? There is no "normal" concentration of CO2 (except in religious writings about Gaia). Be sure that mice have spent millions of years in the first two concentrations I have listed and decades in the third. If the researchers had actually measured a reaction of mice, wouldn't they know the absolute concentration at which the neurons get active? These things may be answered by the actual paper when it's out. Or not.

Nearly twenty-five years ago, I won a municipal literary contest with my short novel "A Powerless Robber" about my encounter with a mouse when I was home alone. ;-) Because the office concentrations of CO2 are between 600 and 800 ppm and this is where my experience with mice mostly comes from, I guess that mice will do just fine.

Alexander Ač is working on a similar project, namely how global warming influences sexual intercourse of beetles in the context of mountain meadows biosystems. If you want to earn some grants, here are several additional proposals for projects:

  • Is global warming making champagne less tasty?
  • Do dogs demand more expensive dog food when the concentration of CO2 increases?
  • Do fat people become even more fat if they eat while the carbon dioxide concentrations are elevated?
  • How does global temperature increase the death rate of cancer and transmission rates for HIV?

Even without any thinking, scientific consensus makes it clear that the answers are Yes, Yes, Yes, Terribly much. ;-) The only task is to write the papers.

See Wired. Thanks to Marc Morano.

Thursday, August 16, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Paul Potts: a British fairy-tale

Paul Potts used to sell cell phones in south Wales.



Video 1: Puccini's "Nessun Dorma"

Compare with: Placido Domingo
Compare with: Luciano Pavarotti
Compare with: Andrea Bocelli
Compare with: Peter Dvorský
Compare with: Giacomo Lauri-Volpi
Compare with: Jose Carreras
When he appeared in "Britain's Got Talent" - a kind of their "American Idol" (I don't want to promote "America's Got Talent" that runs on NBC) - you could see the faces of those judges expecting the worst and exchanging vicious conspiracy looks, perhaps because of his missing teeth (like Bocelli?) or additional fat (like Pavarotti?) or absent self-confidence or other idiosyncrasies of his type of sex appeal.

But now press the Play button just like 10 million people before you and guess who became the winner of that contest, with several millions of votes, and who is just conquering the world. Yes, it's the guy who made the audience scream in 20 seconds and who gradually changed Amanda Holden's elevated stomach to a full-fledged orgasm of tears: an ugly duckling turned swan. Fairy-tales may sometimes become reality.

And that's the memo.

Bjørn Lomborg: Cool It

The skeptical environmentalist's guide to global warming

The new book of Bjørn Lomborg will be available in two weeks. You may pre-order it today by going to the page linked on the left. Amazon.com guarantees that if the price drops, you will pay the minimum price. It is USD 7 cheaper than in bookstores and shipping is free if you order things for USD 25 or more.

Michael Crichton has reviewed the book (positively): see the Amazon.com page. See also the interview with Lomborg.

NBC & global warming jihad

NBC about deniers: video
NBC has fully joined the most radical group of the global warming jihadists. It's kind of amazing but in these 2 minutes and 34 seconds, a form of the word "denier" appears seven times - a higher frequency than the apparance of "infidels" in the Islamic jihadists' speeches. They probably want to make sure that you won't miss it. ;-) Prof Patrick Michaels is chosen as the representative of all of us, the deniers. They show him walking above a caption saying "IN DENIAL". ;-)



Anne Thompson even accuses Michaels from not believing that global warming will flood one third of Florida! Well, Michaels must be a truly fringe denier, indeed. Would you believe that someone would deny such an obvious prediction? His hybrid and fluorescent light bulbs (and green shoes for his suit, as I saw during our lunch in D.C.) won't help because his case is just too serious. :-)

Instead, a Prof Michael Oppenheimer meditates whether warming will elevate water level 140 cm above a street of Manhattan or 170 cm above the street of Manhattan: that is the main question, he says using his hands because numbers don't seem to be his cup of tea, and the deniers don't even want to sit somewhere in his range and find the right point in this range, i.e. to answer his key question! This kind of madness is precisely what is wanted in the Academia, currently overrun by far left-wing whackos, so this particular nutcase is the chief of the Geoscience program at Princeton.

They uncritically cite an extreme political activist group, the Union for Concerned Scientists, to sling mud at everyone who doesn't agree with the tenets of the global warming jihad. The "deniers" are surely paid by ExxonMobil, and so forth. I wonder whether they realize that these corrupt journalists themselves have earned more money through this gigantic worldwide fraud than the money that they are incorrectly associating with the "deniers". For example, all recent salaries of Ms Thompson are for alarmism and as far as I can say, she should return them if she were at least a litle bit fair.

By a constant repetition of these untrue Goebbelsian clichés, they expect their point of view to be accepted: probably by everyone. I wonder what kind of idiots are ready to buy such a product? I think that one must be extraordinarily stupid to be influenced by this extraordinarily cheap type of propaganda at all and I think that most Americans are well above the threshold so that this kind of nonsense doesn't make a difference, can't make a difference, and won't make a difference. I've never watched NBC because it was never on air or in the cables I have had. And if it was, it has never attracted my attention. But now I see that NBC is a TV for the intellectual bottom of the human society.

Brent Baker and Jake Gontesky respond, too.

Instead of the conventional memo or other good FoxNews slogans, let me wrap up by an NBCian phrase to guarantee that the good people have the last word: the debate is over.

And that's the memo, anyway.