Sunday, September 30, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Czech president: talk in Salt Lake City

... from Václav Klaus' website ...

The text mostly argues that it is difficult to accept environmentalism after communism. Yesterday, MF DNES published a new interview with the president.

Interview of Václav Klaus for MF DNES, the #1 Czech daily (9/29/2007)

Václav Klaus hasn't yet spoken on the high-level U.N. event dedicated to climate change and his speech had already ignited passions. The president was primarily accused of damaging his country's interests and critics said that he was only going to speak on behalf of himself. How did his talk in America ultimately go? What did the reactions look like? And what did he say in another speech about the reform of the U.N. and the Czech candidacy for the security council? The president answered MF DNES from New York.

Mr. President, the well-known and today even famous Danish statistician Bjørn Lomborg published a new book on September 4th, "Cool It: Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming." He writes, among other things, that "the weather itself means less than the people's reactions to it." Do you agree with this sentence despite your criticism of environmentalists?

Saturday, September 29, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Ozone hole theory faces lab problems

Benny Peiser has informed us about lab experiments that seem to contradict the dominant theory about ozone depletion:

Nature about Markus Rex's analysis of NASA's experiments
Because subscription is required, here is the extracted text, a technical abstract with some basic results, Noel Sheppard's reaction, and Ronald Bailey's news story.

Update: RealClimate.ORG have published a reaction by Drew Shindell whose content is, as far as I can say, zero. He only says blah blah, the experiment could be wrong, and if it is not wrong, the right value of the relevant quantity (see below) is surely as close to the old values as possible, blah blah. These are universal biased talking points that a person familiar with some scientific jargon can emit without knowing anything about the subject whatsoever. Junk.

Twenty years ago, when the ozone-saving "Montreal protocol" became a part of our lives, I didn't know much chemistry. Some of the chemistry that our 300-pound chemistry teacher wanted us to know looked suspicious. I only figured out why most of these things were right after I started to understand quantum mechanics. This sudden insight that I have vastly underestimated what the experts had known has also led me to accept the freon explanation of the growing ozone hole. I was never thinking about this problem much.

UVA in the left upper corner should be UVB.

Overview of ozone cycle

Ozone, O₃, absorbs ultraviolet radiation which is why it is important for protecting us against unhealthy UV radiation. How do you determine how much ozone you should expect in the atmosphere?

Well, let's start very simply. There are two main processes:
  1. Oxygen becomes ozone
  2. Ozone becomes oxygen

The relative concentration of oxygen and ozone is determined by the balance of these two categories of reactions. The first reaction occurs because of ultraviolet photons with wavelength below 240 nm that split a normal oxygen molecule O₂into two oxygen atoms O. One of them combines with another O₂to give you an ozone molecule, O₃.

LHC: triplet assemblies fixed

If you remember, a pressure test failed in March. Fermilab, the culprit, together with CERN, KEK, and Berkeley have completed repairs to all triplet assemblies today, half a year after the breakdown.

CERN press release

Friday, September 28, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Pief Panofsky died

On Monday, Wolfgang "Pief" Panofsky (88), a father of SLAC, suffered from a heart attack. LA Times.

54 years ago, Edwin Hubble died. He was a great athlete when he was young. Wikipedia argues that he was not really the first one who discovered any of the things - such as the red shift of galaxies or the proportionality law to velocity. Nevertheless, his work has led to a broad acceptance of the expanding Universe.

Totalitarianism vs state climatologist in Virginia

The members of the global warming movement have offered us another piece of evidence that their thinking and behavior is not too different from the Nazis and communists.

Figure 1: Click to see a recent attack of NBC against "deniers" and Patrick Michaels in particular.

The State Climatologist of Virginia and one of the most esteemed U.S. climate scientists, Prof Patrick Michaels, was effectively stripped of his title. See The Daily Progress.

Virginia joins Delaware that fired David Legates and Oregon that fired George Taylor (WWW) in acts of blatant ideological cleansing.

Environmentalist activists complained that Michaels' opinions could be interpreted as the official climatological opinions of the state of Virginia. Well, it was my understanding that this was exactly the very purpose of the chair of the state climatologist. Who else should determine the key answers about the climate in that state? The governor, his janitor, or the state stripper? Or a public vote, Democratic primaries, or

But the green scum simply didn't like Michaels' conclusions. So they just fired him through a disgraceful governor, Mr Tim Kaine, and replaced him with a Philip "Jerry" Stenger. Let's now look what scientific credentials were sacrificed in the name of an ideology. Click here:

Google's Scholar finds 411 articles with Michael's name and those that he co-authored have hundreds of citations. Among 9 papers with the name of Stenger, only a few were co-authored by Stenger and all of those have Michaels on the author list, too. Nevertheless, the total citation count of Stenger seems to be 1 citation.

For purely ideological reasons, the quality of the office of the State Climatologist of Virginia was reduced by nearly three orders of magnitude. As a reader says, sharp scientists are being replaced by party officials. Much like the activists in Germany of the 1930s, these people are plain mad. They never realize that a possible decision could simply be over the edge. They are ready to do absolutely anything and everything for their silly unscientific ideology.

End of the last ice age: CO₂ innocent

One of the important observations relevant for the hypothetical role of trace gases in the atmosphere is the famous lag.

See also: The CO₂-temperature relation
How alarmists think & 800-year lag
In the second part of the weekly dose of peer-reviewed skeptical literature about the climate, we again look to Science.
Lowell Stott, Axel Timmermann, Robert Thunell: "Southern Hemisphere and Deep-Sea Warming Led Deglacial Atmospheric CO₂ Rise and Tropical Warming"
They study isotopes in sediment cores. The main result is that they can reconstruct the following chronology:

Thursday, September 27, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

102 years of E=mc²

Exactly 102 years ago, on September 27th, 1905, Einstein published his paper

Does the inertia of a body depend upon its energy-content?
that introduced the well-known formula, E=mc². More precisely, you can see if you click that the formula doesn't appear in this or similar form. The closest thing that you find there is this sentence:
If a body gives off the energy L in the form of radiation, its mass diminishes by L/c²
The form "E=mc²" of his insight is a matter of marketing but it is a good marketing. However, it is good that the people who invented this marketing trick didn't present themselves as co-authors. ;-)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Stanislav Gross and his CZK 300 million

Mysterious stocks of a former prime minister

We have another puzzle for you. In this case, there exists a well-defined answer but only a few people in the world know it at this moment and they won't tell us. ;-)

Mr Stanislav Gross was born in 1969, worked as an engine-driver trainee for the Czech state railway company. He joined the social democratic party in 1989 and the Parliament in 1992. After some additional achievements, he became the prime minister in 2004. While he looked like a 16 years old boy, he was already 35 but it was still enough for him to be the youngest prime minister in Europe.

EUX.TV on cosmoclimatology

The video, focusing on the Danish research of the cosmic-climate links, was produced by the European Space Agency (ESA) and is being shown on WWW.EUX.TV, the Europe Channel.

Note their polite formulations: our knowledge of man-made global warming wouldn't be complete [if we didn't learn the correct main reasons of the climate change that may be completely different]. ;-)

Gerd Bürger: 20th century warming was statistically insignificant

In previous weekly doses of consensus-busting climatological literature in peer-reviewed magazines, we discussed articles in Nature, Geophysical Research Letters, and many other sources. Today we look in Science magazine, volume 316 (the volume 317 is already available on-line).

Amplification of opinions: ideological bubbles

Most of us think that the available facts and data don't support the climate alarm. But I want to analyze something more general right now: the amplification of opinions.

Update: Ross McKitrick has pointed out a fascinating and related 2003 economics article about persuasion bias. The authors not only argue that people are not able to properly realize that some sources of information are repetitive and fail to be independent but they also derive mathematical consequences out of their Markov chain model: it turns out that this dynamics naturally polarizes opinions into a one-dimensional (left-right) continuum even if the questions are multi-dimensional. This statement obviously boils down to the "+1" eigenvalue of any stochastic matrix, encoding a fixed point (opinion difference between main groups). If you look at the bulk of the paper, it is actually a hardcore mathematics paper with a lot of matrices and theorems. Enjoy!
Imagine that the opinions of the scientific community are representative of the actual likelihood that a certain assertion is true, according to the best methods and data that are available to the human civilization. Such an assumption may probably look more or less realistic in the case of many sciences even though you should realize that this statement has no eternal value. Eventually, the probability of any well-defined assertion goes to 0% or 100% because we learn what the correct answer is. Once we learn the right answer, the previous probability between 0% and 100% becomes falsified.

Many of us think that because of various political and economical pressures and because of group-think discussed below, this assumption is very far from being true in the case of the climate science. But let us assume, for the sake of simplicity, that it is true even in the case of climatology.

Comparing percentages

The percentage of the public that thinks that global warming is either not man-made or it is not dangerous is comparable to 40 percent or so. Among the scientific community, it may be estimated to be around 20 percent. The remaining 80 percent are not necessarily alarmists because most of the group is composed of the silent majority that dominates in such issues.

But among the speakers - politicians - at the high-level event in the United Nations on Monday, the percentage was around 0.5 percent. Czech President Václav Klaus was the real reason why the number was nonzero. It is not hard to see that 0.5 percent is much less than 20 percent or 40 percent. The participants of the climate summit are not representative of the opinions of the public and they are not representative of the opinions of the scientific community either.

Where does the discrepancy come from?

Well, politicians usually think that it is a good idea for them to represent a majority because they feel that it implies that they will enjoy a greater political support: they will be more likely to win elections and they will have a greater influence. Because the people who believe in man-made global warming (or who don't openly disagree with it) seem to be a majority both in the public as well as the scientific community right now, a "rational" politician may find it natural to modify his own opinions to be compatible with such a majority.

In the scientific community, we decided that the percentage of climate skeptics is 20%. Let's not argue about the exact number: the real point is different and we only need to agree that the percentage is much higher than 0.5%. If you trust the scientific community, you might say that the probability that the skeptical hypotheses are correct are comparable to 20%. So is it OK that this number becomes 0.5% in the United Nations?

Needless to say, I think it is very bad. If the percentage of people who happen to okay a particular conjecture happens to exceed 50%, it surely doesn't mean that the conjecture is correct. Only imbeciles could think otherwise. The brutal decrease of the number should be counted as nothing else than an example of political distortion of science.

The fact that there were many fewer than 20% skeptical speakers in the United Nations means that the institution is failing as the voice of the people of this planet. Equally importantly, it means that this international institution exerts illegitimate pressure on scientists to push their research and conclusions in a particular direction. All these things are very bad.

Can these mechanisms be fought with?

In the previous paragraphs, we mentioned that the expansion of majorities is not an exception but a result of a behavior that is, in some sense, rational. Many politicians are spineless jerks who do politics to maximize their own benefits - much like most people in many other occupations, after all. And when they evaluate expected costs and benefits, almost all of them simply conclude that it is a better idea for them to side with the majority.

Two obvious questions should be asked:
  1. Is their behavior truly rational?
  2. If you assume that it is truly rational, should we design policies that would prevent such an amplification of majority opinions?

Concerning the first question, I only think that their behavior is rational because of a bad atmosphere in the society and because of undemanding voters. Indeed, many people prefer politicians who agree with them right now and who defend their interests: more general moral values are secondary. Whether a politician can actually be trusted - whether he or she builds on honesty and other moral foundations - is not too important. If honesty were viewed as an important value expected from politicians, the "amplification of opinions" would obviously diminish and the percentage of skeptical politicians would be much higher i.e. much closer to the percentage in the general public or the scientific community.

I actually think that Václav Klaus is not losing any political capital in the Czech Republic by his "unpopular" opinions but I tend to agree that if you look at the whole global political scene, the answer is that an average politician loses whenever he offers "unpopular" opinions. Incidentally, unlike the global press, the Czech press dedicated a lot of room to Klaus' speech and praised it. People in the U.S. should also understand that no foreign journalist would ever criticize leader's imperfections in English especially if the leader's English is better than English of most other leaders and virtually all journalists. ;-)

The unusually rational approach of the Czech media contrasts with the scientific (!) magazine Nature that just called Klaus a "renegade". Sorry, guys from Nature, this is not scientific terminology - it's language of religious cranks. Moreover, you are using the term incorrectly because renegades are people who fell from (originally Christian) belief. Klaus has never believed similar kinds of a politically-driven pseudoscientific silliness so he can't be a renegade.

Fine. So let us accept that honesty is not a value in the present world. With this assumption in mind, we still want to ask whether the politicians' behavior is rational.

Amplification of opinions as a bubble

To answer this question, I would like to propose an analogy between the amplification of opinions i.e. group-think dynamics on one side and financial bubbles on the other side. Whenever virtually all politicians decide to agree with a majority about a question that only influences their life by the perceived agreement with others and not directly, they are participating in an ideological counterpart of a financial bubble.

Once a spineless politician concludes that a certain opinion is likely to get stronger, he may want to jump on the bandwagon. This desire to jump on the bandwagon will be getting increasingly strong because all politicians know that other politicians will be jumping on the same bandwagon because of the same reason. The result is that virtually all politicians join the bandwagon. The analogy with the bubble is hopefully manifest. In sociology, we talk about group-think.

Group-think is the most typical reason why the probability that a majority is wrong is often much higher than the percentage of the minority which is why our first assumption was incorrect anyway. ;-) Just to be sure: the probability can also be much lower but the most typical situation when it's much lower involves a minority that is intellectually insufficient to analyze the question rather than group-think.

If the analogy really works, you may want to ask whether the bubble can burst, much like the financial bubbles. The answer is, of course, affirmative. It is affirmative not only on paper: we can list a lot of examples from the history.

A virtually identical dynamics as the current global warming hysteria has appeared in many countries, societies, and communities during many eras. But let us choose Germany of the 1930s. An ever growing percentage of the public and the politicians would support the views of the NSDAP. This societal group-think is another example of the bubbles we talk about. When did this particular bubble burst? Well, people had to wait until 1945 or so for the bubble to fully burst. ;-) But it did burst, after all. Bubbles can't last forever if they're only filled with hot air.

In the case of the opinion bubbles, the finite life expectancy is even more obvious than in the case of the financial bubbles. When the percentage of the people who endorse a certain opinion approaches 100%, their position loses any advantage because most of their competitors are advocating the same opinion anyway. Because the relative benefits of such a majority position converge to zero, the original motivation to act in this way fades away. People inevitably return to other, usually more rational ways to decide what they should think and say about a certain question. In the case of climate change, that means to return from 99.5% to 80%. Meanwhile, the figure of 80% may really converge to 0% because of some objective evolution - for example when your empire faces setbacks against Stalin and the Allies or if the temperatures start to drop again, to mention a particular nightmare of the alarmists.

My main point is thus the following: even if you're a spineless, greedy politician - such as most of those we have seen in the United Nations yesterday - your group-think might only reflect your poor ability to quantify the risk. When bubbles burst, it can be pretty painful. So I discourage you from threatening scientists and encourage you to choose your opinions about climate change and related issues by a careful appraisal of the evidence that is available to you rather than by a calculation which position will bring you the highest political profit in the short term. If you act wisely or if the voters force you to act wisely, no special policies to fight against group-think in politics are needed.

And that's the memo except that I want to write a few more paragraphs about another analogy that may have come to your mind.

Amplification of opinions and proportional vs majority systems

A reader could simply point out that there were 99.5% alarmists in the United Nations because in each country, they represent a kind of majority - or at least a majority among the activists - which is why the speakers don't reflect the proportional composition of the society. This mechanism does contribute but you can't explain the data without the group-think dynamics: it is not just about a selection of speakers. For example, most prime ministers are alarmists.

But it is true that majority systems will naturally amplify the opinions of majorities, especially if the composition is something like 80:20 that we discussed above. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Above, I have mentioned that it is surely a bad thing is this political dynamics distorts the information about the likelihood of various answers as understood by the scientific community. But more generally, are majority elections worse than proportional representation?

I don't think that there exists a universal answer to this question. But one can obviously say the following thing: if there exist good rational reasons to think that the minorities are really bad or incompetent people, a system that suppresses them - majority elections - may be superior. And vice versa: if there are reasons to think that minorities bring something to a business that is unique and essential or at least equally valuable, proportional representation may be a better way to go. I don't want to discuss specific examples and where they belong because it could be too controversial and off-topic.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Mark Srednicki on non-uniqueness of vacua

I just looked at a discussion at I think it is fair to say that the sane physicists have "won" it so that PW ended up with manifest contradictions and paragraphs written in capital letters ("not even wrong amen" repeated redundantly on 15 lines), as appropriate for the worst and most obnoxious class of ultra-repetitive trolls into which he undoubtedly belongs.

Unfortunately, it was mostly due to their brute force, a tool that is sadly important in these "public debates". For example, I can "defeat" 17 synchronized crackpots but 18 starts to be a problem. There were roughly 6 participants who understood what's going on - 2+ anonymous experts are included - and they could simply nail PW down.

A hockey stick graph: indulgences

The goal of the fight against climate change is to make the climate stable i.e. to achieve a flat Earth's climate.

However, it seems that the market tools needed for such a goal are rather unstable. The price chart looks like a hockey stick graph that would make Michael Mann extremely jealous:

The graph above is the newest graph of the price of the European 2007 carbon indulgences. Click it to get to their website. Two days ago, one ton was 5 eurocents. Yesterday it was 7 eurocents. Today it is 60 eurocents, a 750% increase in one day or 1100% increase in two days. I don't know what happened but I assure you that I unfortunately didn't own any indulgences.

Mašín brothers: heroes or monsters?

There are two Czech people who have made rather extraordinary things between 1951 and 1953.

Unlike other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Czechoslovakia was a mostly peaceful country without much armed resistance during the Nazi occupation as well as during communism.

But there have been two brothers who don't fit this description, namely Ctirad Mašín and Josef Mašín (pronounce: "machine"). Their acts continue to divide the Czech society. Were they heroes or villains?

Wikipedia about Mašíns
Their father was a prominent member of the underground resistance during the Nazi occupation. And even his two young sons were given medals from President Beneš.

However, communism started in 1948. The brothers listened to the Western radio stations and believed, together with a group of others, that America was planning to wipe out communism. The U.S. saviors were not coming and the resistance against the political correctness of the early 1950s was getting tough. Eventually, their group decided to leave the communist country.

Monday, September 24, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Hořava and Keeler on non-supersymmetric heterotic M-theory

It happens quite frequently that I consider the first paper on the hep-th archive to be the most interesting one. I guess that it's only possible because the community is sensible.

Hořava and Keeler - whom you may remember as the discoverers of non-critical M-theory - discuss the supersymmetry-breaking heterotic M-theory by Hořava and Fabinger and especially its perturbative description. It involves a heterotic string with a single E8 group. If you like E8 representation theory and complicated orbifolds of free fermion theories, you should like the paper.

Also, interesting and clarifying analogies with the work of Swanson and Hellerman emerge. Logarithmic CFTs - whose OPEs are allowed to have logarithmic singularity structures - turn out to be relevant for tachyon condensation.

Live from the United Nations

Live broadcast removed

Most of the speakers had nothing to say so they were emitting the same verbal fog as nearly everyone else.

The only exception I noticed was the Czech President. Download his talk in the IVR format playable by RealPlayer 11. In the 6.99 MB file (9 minutes), Václav Klaus starts to talk in 30 seconds. See also the transcript.

I have watched about 20 speakers and it's just a complete catastrophe. If someone suggested that Czechia is going to leave the United Nations, I would almost definitely agree. It's an organization full of bureaucrats who look like concerned careerist members of Komsomol. All of them are ready to say an arbitrary amount of lies, none of them is willing to think with his or her brain, and their statements reflect neither science nor the opinions of the people of the Earth.

While the percentage of skeptics among scientists as well as the population is of order 10-50 percent, there is exactly one leader of a U.N. member country that has the courage to offer his skeptical viewpoint. I think that this proves that most politicans in the current world are spineless jerks.

It seems that Klaus is a brave man. After having heard dozens of these puppets saying that no one is allowed to disagree and everyone has to consider stupid girls from Greenpeace to be the main constituency of the international organization - and literally tons of similar ideological and alarmist garbage - it is non-trivial that he gave the talk that he has prepared.

The Cuban minister who speaks now is very characteristic, too. Climate change is caused by consumerist capitalist countries and Fidel Castro has discovered this fact. What he says is otherwise identical - this Cuban viewpoint is the pure essence of the global warming movement. I think that the Cuban minister's comment is fair: it really seems that nearly the whole world has bought the ideology of Fidel Castro. That unfortunately includes even China.

Lawrence Summers vs moral hazard fundamentalists

Prof Lawrence Summers responds to some questions and issues that we raised in a previous article about the credit crisis. One of my main points was crisply summarized by Gene:

Right on, Lubos! Ultimately the markets will decide the value of residences, stocks, bonds, loans, paper clips and everything else. Any attempt by governments to regulate prices will always have negative consequences. Unless the people who make the inadequately-secured loans (or buy them later) and those who buy overpriced houses suffer the consequences of their "irrational exuberance", to quote Greenspan, the markets will not be self-correcting and the excesses will worsen.

It is only humane for the rest of us, through our taxes, to provide a safety net for those who cannot fend for themselves but it is totally destructive to try and protect people from their own greed and stupidity.

Speculative bubbles in tulips, houses, and stocks have been taking place forever because they are an inevitable result of human emotion. It has been said forever but, when something seems too good to be true, it always is.

Yet we continue today with farm price supports, which encourage overproduction and lead to the need for further price supports.

The housing market will shake itself out in time and the process will begin all over again but quite a few people will have learned what they should not do in the future. That's capitalism.
I completely agree with these words of Gene's. It turns out that Prof Summers disagrees. While Prof Summers is not sufficiently left-wing to be allowed in the dining halls of the University of California, he is still a liberal economist in the U.S. sense, after all. ;-)

The column in the Financial Times

He sketches some history. Gene and your humble correspondent refer to something that is called "moral hazard" and in Summers' terminology, we are proud to be "moral hazard fundamentalists". The terminology was first used in the insurance industry but "moral hazard" is now used more widely for the expected negative consequences of people's expectations that "there will be future bail-outs". The moral hazard is about the future negative consequences of people's not being fully responsible for their acts today. In different contexts, various words are used instead of "bail-out" but the mechanism is always analogous.

Sunday, September 23, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

The mole and the coal becomes politically incorrect

Zdeněk Miler, a Czechoslovak cartoonist, started to produce these cute mole cartoons in 1956, long before your humble correspondent was born, and they were entertaining generations of babies. If there ever were a peaceful cartoon for small kids, this is one. The communist reality in Czechoslovakia couldn't change anything about it.

However, times are changing. A Youtube user called "hollermommy" wrote:

This is pure coal company propganda. Coal Kills and it is killing our planet. Coal is not extracted nicely. The coal industry is blowing up mountains to mine coal and the smoke from burnign coal is causing global warming. This is hidden evil.
Poor babies who live today. Instead of cute cartoons that have also taught them basic things about the world and how it works, they are going to be exposed to fear, ignorance, guilt, and environmentalist politically correct garbage.

See also: the propaganda by car industry (2 parts)

Václav Klaus in the United Nations

Between 10:58 and 11:03 EDT, the Czech president was speaking about the global warming hysteria in the U.N. on Monday (9/24/2007), see transcript and I. adaptation and live stream on this blog

The 9-minute video containing mostly Klaus' speech is available in RealPlayer's IVR format or ordinary RealVideo

The DailyKos that has previously declared, together with the Huffington Post, that Václav Klaus is the best politician in the world if you allow me to simplify a little bit, also has a different kind of posters.

No, I don't mean Lenin himself.

A. Siegel, a Kossack, now argues that the U.S. Congress should condemn the ad showing Klaus and Gore. The author has found eight main arguments:

  • a kindergarten drawing of the Earth, with "RIP" on it
  • the observation that Klaus is a greater skeptic than Dick Cheney
  • Klaus disagrees with a future Nobel prize winner Al Gore so he must be wrong
  • the statement that global warming is not "a crisis", but "the crisis"
  • a proof of global warming involving swimming suits
  • well-known sentences containing the words "ExxonMobil" and "funding"
  • a videoclip of "Don't worry be happy"
  • the future of the Czech Republic in the U.N.

Well, that's a convincing package, indeed. Perhaps, the Democrat Congress should be advised by DailyKos to nuke the Prague Castle to help the Czech Republic become a member of the U.N. security council. ;-)

Well, Siegel's posting is surely silly enough to be entertaining. But let me discuss one particular topic that the author mentioned - the reactions of other Czech politicians.

Siegel writes that the Czech government disagrees with Klaus's views. That is, to put it mildly, a misleading description of reality. The Czech government has never made a joint statement about related issues. The prime minister thinks that his government should better "look into the problem" before "the socialists benefit out of it".

The environment minister who is the Green Party chairman (the leader of a junior party in the coalition) has a duty to behave in a green way. So he has politely recommended Klaus to talk about bike paths and the public transportation in Prague instead. :-) According to Mr Bursík, if Klaus talks about something else, Czechia would lose the votes of the island countries that were going to be flooded by global warming. ;-) Klaus answered to him equally politely.

Jiří Paroubek, the chairman of the social democratic opposition (on the left side of the picture), wrote another letter to Klaus, claiming that Klaus has to represent views like those of Paroubek. Klaus replied that he was invited as Klaus and he can and he will offer his own views. Klaus thanked Paroubek for his participation in the public debate that should continue even though, hopefully, Paroubek's future contributions will be more material and rational than the present ones. ;-) For example, Paroubek's separation of companies into "good ones" that consume energy and "bad ones" that produce energy is indeed childish, isn't it?

Concerning the speculations that the talk may hurt the membership of Czechia in the U.N. security council, I suspect that the ministry of foreign affairs led by Karel Schwarzenberg is the most relevant body to have an opinion here. It has determined that the speech won't impair Czechia's ambitions. Schwarzenberg agrees that Klaus should talk in harmony with his opinions.

While many Czechs in various polls say that they believe that global warming could be man-made and maybe even dangerous, there doesn't exist any aggressive movement in the Czech Republic that would promote this opinion as an important one; this statement implies that the environment movements such as "Rainbow" are neither too aggressive nor relevant.

The most relevant reason is that it is impossible to earn big bucks from this opinion in Czechia. It will probably continue to be impossible in the future because Czechs are very skeptical about this kind of fads. They wouldn't be paying big money to speakers such as Gore for repeating some obnoxious clichés about climate change.

Also, I think that it is ludicrous to expect that "island countries" would be irritated by the talk. Quite on the contrary: the people in these countries are those who actually understand what's happening with the sea level, who know that it is increasing by 3 millimeters per year or less, and that this simply won't be any problem in any foreseeable future. It is mostly the people who live far away from the sea who are ready to believe fairy-tales that this is going to be a problem.

Summer Nights over

This is a 1995 Slovak edition by MC Erik and Barbara Haščáková, the same musicians who have also answered whether you can stop climate change. After Summers come Falls...

Saturday, September 22, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Edward Witten: a wise video

This is the last part (5/5) of Stephen Hawking's Universe. Besides Witten, you will see Hawking, Coleman, and experimental cosmologists. Some things have changed but not that much.

Friday, September 21, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Climate Feedback becomes ideologically clean

RealClimate.ORG has informed all of their believers about great news: "Climate Feedback [Nature's climate blog] seems to have gotten back on track!" :-) Michael Mann can now happily endorse it which is the second best thing after a Nobel prize!

Commercial: Václav Klaus speaks in the U.N. on Monday!
Michael Mann was kind of nervous at the beginning because one of the first articles on Climate Feedback described the decay of the hockey stick, even though McIntyre and McKitrick were not mentioned, and there were several other articles that could have been viewed as sane ones.

Disinviting Larry Summers: a mirror for the far left

Lawrence Summers was invited to speak at University of California about competitiveness of the UC. He's quite an eloquent, engaging, and thoughtful speaker who has a lot of things to say and I am sure that many people wanted to hear him. Many other people would become happy after they would hear him. A third group would feel irritated but they would appreciate that they have learned a lot a few years later. And of course another group wouldn't ever find Summers' talk useful. That's how it always works.

However, a Maureen Stanton has decided that it shouldn't happen. She collected about 350 signatures of fellow Feminazis - the University of California is clearly an infinite heat bath of this stuff or, using the words of Santa Cruz Sentinel, a self-appointed cabal of leftist elitists - under a letter saying that Summers is a symbol of sexism whose visit is inappropriate.

Nonrenormalizability of GR

A reader has asked me what I thought about two preprints, namely

that are "beginning to understand that quantized Einstein's theory of gravity renormalizable using Wilsonian techniques". Well, that's surely an interesting statement because every student who has attended at least 10 lectures of Quantum Field Theory II of a good course knows how to prove that it is not renormalizable. ;-)

So what is going on? Let's discuss both science and sociology.


These papers and dozens of other papers that are found in the references are doing some sort of semiclassical treatment of general relativity. In the context of the renormalization group, they study the running of Newton's constant but throw away all other couplings of general relativity.

If you do so, you get some equations that have some solutions. In their particular formalism, they typically reveal an ultraviolet fixed point. But whatever the conclusion is, the conclusion can't be generalized to the full, untruncated theory of gravity. The truncated theory is not unitary i.e. it is not consistent. Also, it is not in the same universality class with the full theory.

How does the running work? In general relativity, it has been known for decades that the one-loop diagrams would keep it renormalizable. So various quantum corrections to Newton's force can be calculated at this precision - meaning terms proportional to the first power of Planck's constant.

Thursday, September 20, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Children left behind a green bus

Jeff Warren describes a characteristic story about environmentalism from St. Helena, Napa Valley, California.

Commercial: Michelle Malkin interviews James Inhofe (global warming)
The school in St. Helena, a California Distinguished School, was going to become a "federal failure" according to the No Child Left Behind Act because the law requires too many excellent kids in English which is hard in the environment with many Mexicans. The English grades were lousy. So what did Napa Unified School District do? They bought a green school bus for USD 249,000. If you don't know, it's a bus with a button that switches from diesel fuel to waste vegetable oil.

It is a pretty smart method to teach kids English, isn't it? It is a decision that a Terminator would make if he had no film director. :-) Unfortunately, the school became a federal failure despite the bus. ;-) If it happened in Africa, we would surely all agree that the green bus was a barbarian act. Politically incorrect readers could even suggest that the school district should have hired 10 part-time English tutors for a year instead.

Hansen, Schneider: catastrophic new ice age by 2021

U.S. Scientist Sees New Ice Age Coming

Washington Post and Science magazine

The world could be as little as 15 or 25 years away from a disastrous new ice age, a leading atmospheric scientist predicts. Dr. S. I. Rasool of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Columbia University used a computer program by his colleague, Prof. James Hansen, that studied clouds above Venus.

By 2021, fossil-fuel dust injected by man into the atmosphere could screen out so much sunlight that the average temperature could drop by six degrees, resulting in a buildup of new glaciers that could eventually cover huge areas.

Video 1: This is what would happen in Florida. Around Shanghai, home to 40 million people. The area around Calcutta in India, 60 million.

If sustained over several years, five to ten, or so, Mr. Rasool estimated, such a temperature decrease (about 3.5 Kelvin degrees) could be sufficient to trigger an ice age, as calculated in their article in the Science magazine written together with Stephen Schneider.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Peru: first toxic chondrite meteorite

On Saturday afternoon, a meteorite fell in Puno, Peru. It was a chondrite meteorite i.e. one whose composition hasn't changed by melting or differentiation from the early days of the Solar System. People started to touch the glowing rock, believing that it had a monetary value, and began to be sick. Surprisingly, this contact caused them dermal injuries, dizziness, nauseous, or vomitting. So far about 600 people, including some cops, have been influenced. The chief suspected gases are sulphur, sulphur dioxide, chlorine, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide.

View Larger Map

Health officials later determined that the most likely reason of the illnesses were not chemicals but rather scientific consensus, also known as collective psychosis. Jose Ishitsuka, an astronomer, found a piece of magnetized iron on the spot.

Via Benny Peiser.

Pictures that bloggers are uploading right now:

Paul Steinhardt and religious fervor

The media and especially blogs continue to be literally overwhelmed by incredibly stupid proclamations of remarkably ill-informed people about theoretical physics. keeps on promoting the blue crackpot book as an important work - mostly because its author is asking similar elementary undergraduate questions as Sabine does and is also desperately waiting for someone to tell him the wrong answers he wants to hear.

Posters at except for Clifford, Moshe, Mark, and an anonymous coward who happens to know every recent paper about particle phenomenology flood Clifford's blog with tons of pure garbage. Samantha whom we know as a fanatical feminist writes that she has just revolutionized science and superseded string theory but unfortunately she must go out for a bit so she can't discuss her ideas right now. ;-)

Carl Brannen writes a few wrong identities involving zeta functions and argues that this is why string theory is wrong. Peter Woit wants to look smart so he says that Carl Brannen is too stupid and he (P.W.) would erase his comment if it appeared on N.E.W. - only "intelligent" comments saying "it is not even wrong" are allowed there.

Clifford is repeatedly recommended to read crackpot books because it is apparently needed to discuss string theory. Well, it is only needed to discuss string theory with complete idiots such as the readers of N.E.W. Clifford is very nice to P.W. - the kind of "oh, Peter, you're so cute, do you need new diapers?" Believe me, you won't get rid of the aggressive and dishonest crackpot in this way, Clifford.

But let me get to the main source of silliness here.

An Edge Symposium was dedicated to Einstein but this giant is no longer a source of passions. That's why Brian Greene, Walter Isaacson, and Paul Steinhardt started to talk about string theory. Brian Greene says good things in a very polite way - you can see that Brian who is surely no warrior is being influenced or intimidated by the environment.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Stephen Schwartz vs scientific consensus

Michael Hansen has pointed out that the "scientific consensus" people around RealClimate.ORG have expanded their criticism of the paper we have discussed previously:

Stephen Schwartz and low climate sensitivity
For your convenience, here is the PDF file with Schwartz's paper.
See also a comment by UC at ClimateAudit
Recall that the main quantitative question about man-made climate change is usually phrased in terms of climate sensitivity: if you increase the CO2 concentration from the pre-industrial value of 280 ppm to 560 ppm expected before 2100, how much does the temperature increase because of the CO2-related changes?

The correct answer is probably around 1 Celsius degree - which means 0.4 additional degrees expected during the 21st century - but you need much more for a catastrophe so the IPCC magicians try to get 3 or 5 or even more degrees by some black magic. These results are almost certainly nonsensical. At the same moment, 3-5 degrees would still not be enough for a catastrophe but that's not what we want to discuss here.

Zeta-function regularization

Another blog post: When you're finished with this blog entry, continue with a more detailed one: Why the sum of integers is equal to –1/12
A typical example of a mathematical fact that the anti-talents in theoretical physics can't ever swallow are the identities that appear in various regularizations: we will mainly talk about the zeta-function regularization applied to the sum of positive integers.

First, let's ask: How much is
S = 1+ 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + ... ?
Everyone who knows some maths will tell you that if you multiply geometric series by "(1-q)", you obtain one. In this case, if you multiply "S" by "(1-1/2)", all terms cancel in pairs except for "1" that is left. "S" must thus be "2" because "2" times "1/2" equals one. Now, how much is
S = 1 + 10 + 100 + 1000 + ...?
Well, most people will tell you that it is infinity, it makes no sense, it diverges, it is not even wrong, and so forth. Fair enough, at least in the context of mathematics. Some creative kids will tell you that the sum is "...11111" whatever it is.

But imagine that you obtain this sum as a result of a legitimate scientific calculation that is supposed to be relevant for natural phenomena - this situation occurs every day when you're a physicist. Moreover, you are told that the experimenters have measured a finite answer - which is what they usually do.

In other words, what will you do if the sum above appears in the context of physics whose goal is to predict finite results of experiments rather than to philosophize about the relations of infinities and God, to brainwash stupid laymen by the thesis that science is not even wrong, as an infamous crackpot likes to do, or to sketch meaningless infinite sequences of ASCII-characters? You simply have to get a finite, real result.

France: prepare for war in Iran

Just like today, I used to have mixed opinions about the Iraq war back in 2003 when it was getting started. Despite a lot of uncertainty, there existed beliefs that I found manifestly wrong.

For example, some hawks (and even some peaceful liberals) assumed that all people in Iraq actually hated Saddam Hussein and would welcome the U.S. troops as liberators. This belief looked completely ridiculous to me. Saddam Hussein received nearly 100% in the latest polls in which he participated. Such a high number is a result of his power but on the other hand, it is incompatible with the reality being close to 0%. You can't get more than 99% in the elections if you have less than 10%-15% of the population supporting you.

While in Czechoslovakia the percentage of "decided" supporters of the communist party would be in this 10%-15% interval, it was clear to me that the percentage would be much higher in Iraq and it would continue to grow in the case of an attack. The war in Iraq couldn't have been easy. It was always a war against a non-negligible part of a rather large nation.

But the anti-war people have always had even more bizarre beliefs.

One of the frequent comments would be that the trans-Atlantic relations would be destroyed forever. Four years ago, I would hear this comment hundreds of times. Why is it silly? Because it is based on the assumption that all citizens of Europe are unified in pacifism and that this ideology would moreover control Europe forever.

The reality is that there are dovish as well as hawkish voices in Europe, just like there are both of these voices in America. The numbers may differ but the fact about disagreements remains a fact. Moreover, it is not at all guaranteed that the dovish voices would control Europe forever. Only people who share beliefs with the believers in the "1000-year empires" and "Soviet Unions forever" may boast silly opinions about eternal military policies of Europe. In democratic countries, the typical lifetime of these attitudes is 4 years, namely the timescale separating two elections.

France used to be one of the main civilized opponents of the Iraq war but it is no longer the case. In fact, the new France is arguably ahead of the U.S. in its hawkish attitude to problematic regimes of the Middle East, especially Iran. Bernard Kouchner, the French (socialist!) minister of foreign affairs (previously healthcare minister) who also co-founded the peace-Nobel-prize-winning organization Doctors Without Borders told the world that is was necessary to prepare for war with Iran in the case of nuclear complications.

His attitude, much like the current French dominant attitude, is of course to try to save peace, negotiate, and impose sanctions on Iran that may go beyond the collective sanctions agreed upon in the U.N. and the EU.

Monday, September 17, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Václav Havel on global warming

Václav Havel about climate change: The planet is not at risk. We are.

It sounds almost like Václav Klaus, doesn't it? ;-) However, before you make your conclusions, you should read his text in the International Herald Tribune.

Sorry for this irrelevant link. Many people confuse Klaus and Havel and Google search for Havel's opinions on global warming so I wanted to have the #1 hit. ;-)

Sunday, September 16, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Faust vows black Harvard

The following story shows that life at Harvard for those sane people who consider affirmative action to be a wrong thing is becoming life-threatening and I feel very happy and safe to be thousands of miles away.

The Crimson reports...
The new president has intentionally organized a meeting to promote affirmative action and allowed people like J. Lorand Matory to prominently spread their hatred and rants about "Summers' era being a period of frustration".
See also comments by Powerlineblog
All professors who have ever told me anything about Mr Matory agree that he is an unusually unpleasant person. But none of them would ever say this fact in the public. Mr Matory was also one of the main guys who have masterminded various shameful anti-Summers resolutions. When I informed this blog's readers about a 2005 FAS faculty meeting, the guy decided to silence me personally.

Northwest Passage becomes navigable

Yesterday, pictures of the European Space Agency showed that the Northwest Passage became navigable for the first time in modern history: all ice along the path is new ice. Again, would it be a good thing or a bad thing if this thing continued every year?

Incidentally, the Northeast passage "above" Russia remains partially blocked.

Explorers: some history

Europeans were dreaming about a more direct path to the Orient since the 15th century. John Cabot started with the research in 1497. Numerous brave men tried the passage and some of them became trapped in sea ice, e.g. Englishman Octavius in 1762. The Franklin expedition got ice-locked in 1846, too. Robert McClure tried to go through the passage from the West, starting in 1850. His crew got stuck in ice and they had to wait for three years. Fortunately, someone helped them. An even more lucky coincidence was that the saviors came from the East so the surviving McClure folks became the first people who have circumnavigated the Americas.

Illinois, Iowa: record cold temperature

It's kind of cold in Czechia - right now we have 4 Celsius degrees in Pilsen. What about some other places?

Yesterday, the capital of Illinois recorded 39 Fahrenheit, breaking the previous cold record of 40 Fahrenheit set in 1985. It was the earliest sub-40 temperature since 1890.

Iowa saw frezing temperatures locally. That was also enough to set records. Ohio and Minnesota officials issued a freeze warning, too. Frost was also seen in northern Wisconsin and upper Michigan.

Unlike a heat wave, these events are not associated with a climate trend. Only warm weather contributes to the climate. Why? It's affirmative action. Warming was discriminated against in the 1970s when a new ice age was just beginning so it must be compensated now.

Saturday, September 15, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Ice-hockey in Pilsen

Last night, we went to see an ice-hockey match, the first one in the new season. In my case, it was an experience I haven't tried for many years. Our team, HC Lasselsberger Pilsen, beat HC Vítkovice Steel 5:4 after individual shots or whatever is the right English term for penalty shootout. ;-)

You can't expect me to know these things. On Thursday, British media informed about a speedway rider, a teenager from Pilsen who learned perfect English by shaking his brain in a car crash - a miracle that is supposed to exist under the name of xenoglossy. Do you believe it? ;-) Wikipedia explains that xenoglossy is related to reincarnation :-) but how could I mock this thing if a fellow Pilsner guy could do it?

What may be more impressive than the Pilsner players are the Pilsner fans. There have been 6,191 people there and many of them were screaming like mad. The most active part of the audience gathers on our, Eastern side of the stadium.

There were about 2,500 people in the extended loudest part of the hardcore Pilsner melting pot - a body of fans that may be the most active body of sports fans in the world. It is a group of people equipped with standardized slogans, anthems, banners, and apparel. I am also a city patriot but these people are amazing. Everytime the Vítkovice player (guests) do something good, the Pilsner fans whistle like mad.

It just happens that every decision of the referee that helps the local team is great and every decision of the referee that helps the guests is bad. More importantly, there is a complete consensus about these matters in the melting pot. They are the very best 2,500 people you may find in the whole city who have the skills to be ice-hockey fans.

You may also find some fans from Ostrava who sit inside or near the melting pot and who may have a different opinion but they must be pretty silent, for their own security.

Even though I haven't seen ice-hockey in real life for some time, it seemed to me that those 2,500 people on the Eastern side of the ice-hockey stadium reminded me of someone. They behave in the same way, evaluate the same events that all of us see in the same "objective fashion", and completely agree with each other. Where have I seen these people?

Finally, I realized what was the right answer: it's the IPCC, the world's "top" 2,500 climate scientists! :-)

They scream "Škoda Plzeň" or "Pilsner ceramics", paying no attention that the team has belonged to Lasselsberger for several years. They have no tolerance for heretics or deniers that the Pilsner team is the best one and it must surely win the extraleague (last season, they were the second team from the end of the table).

Needless to say, there also exists a harder core inside the hardcore - the summarymakers. One summarymakers was especially loud - you hear insights such as that the referee is an idiot at 120 decibels. I was told that the guy is always there. It must be James Hansen's relative. ;-)

Friday, September 14, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Potatoes from Greenland

BBC informs about a quarrel concerning the price of potatoes grown in Greenland. See also Spiegel in 2006 (pictures).

Regardless of the causes of the recent warming, one may wonder whether people are happy about it or not. Do you want to be able to grow more potatoes in Greenland or no potatoes?

Potatoes vs cultural traditions

The environmentalists argue that Greenland is called Greenland because there should be nothing else than ice over there. Ice is green, much like our blue planet, and it creates sheets that are known as land. Also, they argue that being able to grow potatoes in Greenland means to lose its cultural identity. The most important part of Greenland's cultural identity is the fact that you can't grow anything there.

All concerned green parties in the world are explaining us that all green things are dangerous. Their examples include green potatoes, the green background of this blog, and greenhouse gases but if they had a mirror, they could find a better example.

A Greenland's brainy son, Professor Minik Rosing, argues that this cultural tradition - the country's inability to grow anything - is priceless and can't be compensated by any economical benefits. The priceless character of the cold weather in Greenland is a likely reason why Professor Rosing chose to live in Copenhagen. ;-) But with his convincing attitude and genuine care about the environment, he could have moved to Nashville, too.

Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk: 70 years later

Figure 1: a part of the information board describing Masaryk near the Masaryk monument in Washington, D.C.

Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of Czechoslovakia (born 1850, in office 1918-1935) died 70 years ago, on 9/14/1937. When he did, happy years were slowly ending. His successor, Edvard Beneš, was arguably a great politician. But he was lacking some of Masaryk's charisma and he was just very unlucky. While Masaryk lived in the happy world where the U.S. was the main external superpower, Beneš's task was to lead a nation influenced by Hitler on one side and Stalin on the other side.

Masaryk was a very good sociologist and philosopher. As a statesman, he was able to play all roles that used to be expected from the emperor. At the same time, he was a firm defender of freedom and democracy. Masaryk was always able to advocate unpopular opinions - for example the opinion that the old Czech manuscripts were fake (he was right, of course!) but that has never eliminated his natural authority.

Thursday, September 13, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Oil price: USD 80

In August 2005, the oil price was around USD 60 and the gasoline was sold for USD 2. We predicted a USD 3 gasoline - something that happened quickly - and a USD 80 oil price.

In slow comments, Wolfgang said:

  • I am not so sure about oil hitting 80, but what do I know?

Well, I agree with you, Wolfgang. You don't know that much but unlike others, you at least realize these limitations of human imagination. ;-) Yesterday, the oil price exceeded USD 80 for the first time. More seriously, Osama bin Laden was threatening us with USD 100 oil price in one of his previous speeches.

Should we be scared?

Figure 1: Black gold: how the world floats on oil (click)

I think that bin Laden and many other leftists vastly exaggerate the impact of some price variations. Nine years ago or so, the price was below USD 10: see this graph. Now it is more than 8 times higher and the civilization hasn't collapsed. Even though oil is important for our lives, a 700% price increase is not such a big deal. The markets and people can simply deal with such changes.

The oil price is arguably decided irrationally by some Arab chaps but what is important is that this price effectively becomes one of a small number of external parameters and capitalism adjusts all other prices and other quantities almost ideally for any value of external parameters. According to theory as well as experience, any crippling of the markets' invisible hand is far more devastating than a change of an external parameter.

Leftists want stable prices of everything and now they also want a stable climate. They may also want an ideal oil price - but is it USD 15 as in 2002 or USD 80 which is the case now? Their motivations are irrational but the obvious way to promote their goals is to paint any change as a tragedy: fear is their best ally. But the changes that can happen are about 10 times smaller than what would be needed for a tragedy.

For example, any centennial temperature change that is smaller than 10 Celsius degrees or so would be small enough to be treated perturbatively. It would make some subjects happier and some subjects less happy. Because the second group can make some preparations for adaptation, the positive impact will exceed the negative impact. The reality will be much closer to 1 Celsius degree.

We often hear that the Earth is a fragile physical object. In a debate with climate realists, "concerned scientist" Brenda Ekwurzel even said that the Earth is more fragile than a human being! I think that many people realize that such proclamations have nothing whatsoever to do with reality and only paranoic hypochondriacs would be ready to believe these silly things.

Even a single human being is a pretty robust animal but the whole ecosystem of the Earth is way more robust than its individual components because all components may be effectively replaced. Ladies and Gentleman, the real shocker arrives right now. This text is actually not about economics - it is about the anthropic principle! ;-)

The proponents of the anthropic principle believe that very many quantities have to be accurately adjusted for life to be possible. But we already know enough to falsify this hypothesis. Only a small number of parameters must be within a certain interval. For any collection of values, life can emerge and adapt to the environment.

Every process in reality has its characteristic timescale and it prefers a stability over this timescale. But it is important for the processes at all time scales to change because evolution of anything would otherwise become impossible.

People shouldn't be afraid of arbitrarily small changes and those who spread this fear of change must be properly identified as dishonest people or lunatics.

And that's the memo.

Bad physicists and populism

Musings from a French programmer convinced me to write another essay about the interactions of scientists and laymen.

The programmer's ideas are based on several basic myths about the very meaning of science in general and theoretical physics in particular:

  1. The goal of science is to wait for a "new Einstein" or a savior
  2. The job of scientists is to search for a "new Einstein" or a savior
  3. It is possible to divide scientists to Einsteins and non-Einsteins
  4. The main tool of science is to search for random sentences written by random people, waiting for one sentence that will revolutionize science
  5. It is comparably likely for an outsider to find such a holy grail of physics as it is for an esteemed scientist; more generally, intelligence doesn't matter when it comes to cracking the secrets of the Universe
  6. Peer review is always a bad thing
  7. Societal pressures help scientists or science to make a scientific revolution; it is possible to social-engineer a new revolution in science
  8. Interpretation of quantum mechanics is an unsolved problem that waits for a savior
  9. More generally, what physicists are waiting for has something to do with Lee Smolin's proclamations in books and newspapers
  10. Laymen have a good idea what scientists think, what principles they find reliable, and why they do so

The further a person is from the actual physics research, the more likely he or she is going to believe these myths. The more a person knows about science, the more ridiculous these myths sound to her. However, some bad physicists have a vested interest for these myths to spread.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Aurora: new LaTeX for MS Office

is a new competitor for TeX4PPT and TeXpoint. It's much more professional but it is not for free except for a one-month trial.

Vacuum bombs: Russia ahead of the U.S.

Thermobaric weapons - also called the vacuum bombs - are parachute-delivered. The explosion has two steps. In the first step, a huge cloud of fuel is spread over the enemy's territory. In the second step, the cloud is ignited.

The U.S. have had the mothers of all bombs (MOAB = Massive Ordnance Air Blast) - the M-theoretical bombs - for some time. They were used e.g. in Afghanistan. However, the Russian bomb that was tested yesterday, the father of all bombs - the F-theoretical bomb - is four times as powerful and creates twice as high temperatures. Its impact is comparable to a small nuclear bomb.

I don't know whether feminists will like it but the father bomb is stronger than the mother bomb, after all. ;-)

Simon McBurney: The Magic of Maths

This Is London describes an "extraordinary, beautiful piece of theater" about Hardy and Ramanujan. In the play, Ramanujan triumphs posthumously: their discoveries become a tiny part of Martin Schnabl's solution to cubic string field theory. ;-)

Colbert report with Bjørn Lomborg

I disagree with some of Lomborg's statements but it's fun anyway. He promoted his new book Cool It and argues that there are better investments than to fight climate change. You can see that it is hard for Colbert to play his role - at some moments, he has a temptation to try to debunk Lomborg's assertions - but he resists so that the video is still funny and pleasant.

Lomborg together with John Tierney of the New York Times made a trip to a café under the Brooklyn bridge. The amazing discovery that Tierney made is that the shocking 1-foot sea level rise in the last century hasn't destroyed Manhattan! Who could have thought? Tierney was so surprised that the impact of a 1-foot sea level rise on Manhattan wasn't as catastrophic as the movies suggest that he had to write a long article about it in the New York Times. ;-)

Thanks God and John Tierney that he wrote it. I still view the New York Times as the leading U.S. source of printed news, despite its left-wing bias.

Inflating vacua may be rare

Hertzberg, Tegmark, Kachru, Shelton, Ozcan wrote a review of stringy cosmology for cosmologists. They argue that moduli in the simplest string models can't be used to satisfy the slow-roll condition. The condition for inflation to be possible could thus be highly constraining. Tegmark thinks that type IIA vacua are the fittest ones.

See also Nude Socialist.

The 9/11 flip

Clifford Johnson at asks what is the origin of the term "9/11 flip" in theoretical physics - a concept that is much older than the 9/11 attacks. He writes down the correct answer but he also adds a lot of incorrect speculations and misinterpretations, together with David who has made a comment.

Let me clarify the situation

The fact is that the 9/11 flip was only found in the context of Matrix theory and it couldn't have been found earlier as I will explain. That's why the paper by Dijkgraaf, Verlinde, and Verlinde (DVV) from March 1997 is the first paper that uses the term "9/11 flip" while my earlier paper from January 1997 where matrix string theory was actually discovered - even though some slow physicists such as Clifford Johnson haven't yet noticed ;-) - was the first paper where the technique, as opposed to the term, was used.

Figure 1: children's version of screwing strings, as named by your humble correspondent, currently known as matrix strings

I chose to compactify the "X1" coordinate as opposed to DVV's "X9" which is why what I used was actually "the 1-11 flip in screwing string theory" rather than "9-11 flip in matrix string theory". ;-) Note that the 9/11 flip was discovered more than four years before the 9/11 attacks.

Why I am so certain that you won't find anything about the 9/11 flip before our papers, mine and DVV? Well, it's because the method itself couldn't be used earlier - i.e. before the Christmas Eve 1996 when I realized these things in Pilsen. The 9/11 flip is inherently linked to the discrete light cone quantization. It is very important that the circle "X-" or "X10" (or "X11") plays a very different role in the construction of the light-cone-quantized theory than "X9" (or "X1" using my conventions) does.

On the other hand, in all pre-matrix-theory papers such as the paper by Hull and Townsend on U-dualities (a paper mentioned by David as a potential candidate), all circular coordinates always play the same role. The permutation of "X9" and "X11" is thus a trivial "Z2" subgroup of the U-duality group (a large diffeomorphism, in fact) that doesn't deserve any special discussion and that is completely manifest in all pre-matrix-theory pictures or M-theory. Everything changes in Matrix theory which is why you need Matrix theory to talk about the 9/11 flip.

David from seems confused (is it David Gross?), too.

Discrete light-cone quantization

In order to explain what the term means in Matrix theory, we must first explain how you derive the model. Fine.

Return to 1996. Take M-theory in 11 dimensions. It is very mysterious as the name "M" suggests. But you want to write down a complete and well-defined Hamiltonian for this theory anyway. Can you do it? You bet. Follow Seiberg and Sen and compactify the light-like coordinate "X- = X0 + X10" on a circle so large that the identification becomes physically inconsequential (14 billion light years, if you wish). Because light-like compactifications may be subtle, deform the identification rule so that the identified points are space-like separated although the separation is "almost" null in the coordinate space.

Nevertheless, it is space-like anyway so you may apply the Lorentz symmetry of M-theory to change this almost null separation to a standard and very short space-like separation (the proper length of an almost null separation is very small). That makes it clear that physics of M-theory in 11 dimensions is equivalent to some limiting physics of M-theory compactified on a very short circle. The latter is known to be nothing else than type IIA string theory. The amount of momentum in the "X-" direction is translated to the number N of D0-branes in the resulting type IIA string theory - and this number must be sent to infinity if you want to describe a finite-momentum sector (with "P+ = N/R" kept fixed) in decompactified M-theory.

If you look at the limits that you need to get the original theory, you will see that the corresponding limiting physics in the type IIA string theory that is equivalent to M-theory in 11 dimensions is nothing else than the matrix quantum mechanics of massless open string modes ending on D0-branes, i.e. the BFSS matrix model: it is the dimensional reduction of the maximally supersymmetric U(N) gauge theory to 0+1 dimensions.

Note that the circle "X-" or "X10" (or "X11") must always be compactified and it is highly boosted in order to be able to find a matrix description of anything at all.

By the procedure above, we derived the exact Hamiltonian for M-theory - the whole superselection sector of the string-theoretical Hilbert space that approaches flat 11-dimensional spacetime at infinity. Can we find the exact Hamiltonian e.g. for type IIA string theory itself? Yes, we can. But we need to compactify one more circle besides "X-". It must be one of the nine normal transverse directions - I chose "X1" and DVV chose "X9". One must carefully distinguish the transverse "X1" or "X9" direction from the "systemic" almost-null direction "X-" or "X10" (or "X11"). There are two different type IIA string theories that you may "see" inside the compactified M-theory. The relation between them is as miraculous as the ability to use Matrix theory to study M-theory in general and jumping in between these two mental images is referred to as the 9/11 flip.

It sounds simple once we know how it works but it wasn't quite trivial to understand what's going on. The 9/11 flip was, for example, the main obstacle that prevented Edward Witten to understand matrix string theory for some time. ;-)


If you don't believe me, feel free to find a paper before DVV that uses the term "9/11 flip" or a paper before mine that uses the relation between two different type IIA string theories inside the same M-theory to achieve anything non-trivial. I predict that you will fail.

And that's the memo.

Antarctic sea ice at record high

Urbana-Champaign, Illinois - Satellites began to measure the Earth's cryosphere in 1979. Because of a warm summer, the Northern Hemisphere sea ice area has reached new historic lows in 2007. Around August 28th, the new minimum of 2.99 million squared kilometers of sea ice easily surpassed the previous record of 4.01 million squared kilometers set in 2005. These numbers available at the web page of Dr William Chapman and his team at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign were widely publicized.

Some analysts have speculated that the new record could be evidence of global warming. But is it? Even though it may sound very complicated, it turns out that the Earth is round. At the global scale, there is not one polar region but, in fact, two. There is also sea ice on the Southern Hemisphere. It turns out that the Antarctic sea ice area reached 16.2 million squared kilometers in 2007 - a new absolute record high since the measurements started in 1979: see this graph.

Sidney Coleman's notes: TeX edition

Update: See the arXiv version of Sidney Coleman's QFT notes (click)
Bryan Chen has LaTeXed a significant portion of Coleman's notes on Quantum Field Theory:
Bryan Chen's directory
The files are sorted anti-chronologically and you may want to see the PDF files only. At the very bottom, you find the original scanned notes in the files whose names are starting with Coleman.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Belgium ponders a velvet divorce

The red region is the French-speaking Walloon region. On its Eastern edge, you see some tiny German-speaking districts. The rest is the Dutch-speaking Flemish region which is richer - Northern regions typically are wealthier and Belgium is no exception. The dot in the middle - Brussels - is bilingual.

The country begins to study the Czechoslovak Velvet Divorce. A split is no longer taboo and some forces promote it much like the Slovak National Party did in the early 1990s. Brussels is the most confusing aspect of the plans. I think that if they followed the clean Czechoslovak logic, Brussels would have to become Flemish and the Walloon region would have to be compensated by other means.

Six years ago: 9/11/2001

Off-topic: for visitors from France

On this blog, there are two main categories of articles that are dedicated to string theory:

Back to 9/11/2001

Six years ago, I was defending my PhD thesis at Rutgers. What I forgot to show you were

these pages about the events.
If you remember, was kind of down for several hours and I (incorrectly) thought that other news agencies were also overloaded. So that's why I created the small private version of above. Because people were really following news, the new page above had about 10,000 hits per day.


I just watched a BBC documentary about 9/11 and the fates of the lucky and unlucky people, heroes and those who created problems in the towers. A very powerful stuff... :-(

Klaus vs Gore: newspaper ads

Figure 1: Click to see the full ad. This cute ad will appear several times in the New York Times, the Washington Times, and the Wall Street Journal between tomorrow (in the Washington Times) and October 4th. Other versions of the ad have Chris Horner or Lord Monckton instead of Klaus.

This particular ad says: It is a blue, not green, planet


"Let us resist the politicization of science and oppose the term 'scientific consensus,' which is always achieved by a loud minority, never by a silent majority." ... Václav Klaus

FOR: Václav Klaus (picture), President of the Czech Republic, 2003-present, author, Blue, Not Green, Planet

AGAINST: Al Gore (picture), vice-president of the US, 1993-2001, author, An Inconvenient Truth

To learn more about the facts of global warming, please visit

The following organizations support Václav Klaus' position on global warming: (a list of 15 think tanks follows)

The Heartland Institute, located in Chicago, invested about USD 1 million to the campaign. The money is paid from the pockets of the supporters which doesn't include oil companies. Václav Klaus agreed that his face and quote may be used for free.

Monday, September 10, 2007 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Left-wing brains and right-wing brains

The LA Times argue that there is an inherent difference between left-wing brains and right-wing brains.

Even outside the realm of politics, leftists are open to new experiences which means that they are hypocrites and flip-floppers who tolerate ambiguity and contradictions. Conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments: they are generally trustworthy and self-consistent people. In an experiment, leftists exposed higher brain activity when they saw a W. Not sure whether it was because of Dubya. ;-)

Global warming: an unsettled science

A serious analysis would probably require more than some of these slogans but I hope that you will find some new interesting articles in the clip. Perhaps, you will also like the dramatic music (Holst: The Planets: Mars, thanks to the music experts among you!) as much as I do. ;-)

The clip focuses on the climate reconstructions, disagreement of the models with patterns of reality, papers arguing that the role of the Sun exceeds certain fractions, and ill-definedness of the surface air temperature.

The creator of this video has to be a pretty talented young person. See additional work by iloveemo1984. One of them is about cosmoclimatology and uses music by Rammstein (Die Sonne). ;-)

In another video "Every breath you take" (guess what is the music), he analyzes the weird ruling that EPA should regulate CO2. Another video called "Opportunities" (music of the same name by Pet Shop Boys) explains what Al Gore means by saying that the Chinese word for "crisis" combines two characters, "danger" and "opportunity". ;-)

One more video is about the coming ice age warnings. Czech American scientist George Kukla ends up being the only believer than an ice age is imminent but the main point are the similarities and evolution of people's opinions.

Al Gore finds truth inconvenient is about various huge exaggerations by Al Gore. Global warming and other catastrophes is about starvation, overpopulation, and other alarms.