Saturday, January 31, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Davos: Klaus met Gore for 2 hours

In Davos, Czech president Václav Klaus met Al Gore for two hours.

National Review, AFP
It was a friendlier encounter than the differences would suggest. Klaus summarized it by saying that there is no global warming, that he (Klaus) is the most important denier in the world (alarmists may call me Dr Victor Frankenstein for the win) :-), and that Al Gore is a key figure of a movement trying to suppress freedom. Environmentalists don't listen to the other side while Klaus does.



Also, Klaus is more afraid of the regulation that will be justified by the current crisis than the crisis itself. President Klaus also met with Shimon Peres (Klaus' favorite Israeli politician) today, discussing the Middle East issues.

The Gore effect is working in Davos, too. The current temperature, -12 °C, matches the recent record cold reading from January 31st, 2003.

A windstorm

By the way, there is one more entertaining story about Klaus. You know that it's politically incorrect to exclusively use female names for hurricanes and windstorms. It's politically incorrect despite the fact that a woman is like a hurricane: when it arrives, it is a pleasant and warm humid wind. When it leaves, it takes cars and houses with it.

One week ago, the European meteorologists had a great idea how to call the windstorm that was underway in France and Spain: Klaus. It killed about 20 people and will cost the insurance industry half a billion euro or so.

Scriball



Click to jump, use a fixed-length string to support the yellow ball. Hit the green one.

Secondary forest growth beats human consumption 50:1

Tome has pointed out a remarkably balanced story in The New York Times,

New Jungles Prompt a Debate on Rain Forests.
Secondary forests i.e. new jungles are growing in previously agricultural (or logging or natural disaster) areas as much as 50 times faster than people are able and allowed to cut the primeval rain forests. The area of secondary forests is doubling every 18 years and people are quoted in the article as saying that there are many more forests than they could see 30 years ago.



In the good old times, rain forests were one of the main symbols of environmentalism. They're so pretty and diverse. (You know, I am an old environmentalist who has participated - together with Greenpeace guys - in weekly voluntary events to help the trees in the Bohemian Forest and elsewhere!)

That old environmental problem was arguably captivating but it has never gained the political power of the contemporary greenhouse religion, especially because of its local (and distant) character. People may be just revealing that even the old problem was based on a deep misunderstanding of the internal mechanisms of Nature and Her inherent strength.

I guess that the higher concentration of CO2, the gas we call life, is contributing to the fast expansion of the new forests, too.

Rudolf Mössbauer: 80th birthday

Rudolf Mössbauer was born in Munich on January 31st, 1929. Congratulations!

He has been an eager teacher who thought it was important to explain anything and everything to everyone else, including your cat. Now he is a Prof Emeritus at Caltech. He has taught physics of neutrinos, neutrons, electroweak theory, and other things.

Of course, he is most famous for his 1957 discovery of the Mössbauer effect, or "Recoilless Nuclear Resonance Absorption" if you happen to be himself and you still want to look excessively modest. :-) See his 1961 lecture about it and the paper in German.

He received the 1961 physics Nobel prize for that. He was promoted to a professor in advance so that Caltech wouldn't become the place where Nobel prize winners are treated as postdocs. :-) Well, he actually shared the award with Robert Hofstadter who studied electron scattering in atomic nuclei. Right now, the most culturally important fact about Robert Hofstadter is that Leonard Hofstadter from The Big Bang Theory (CBS) was named after him. ;-)

Friday, January 30, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Emergence of thermodynamics from statistical physics

I have seen - and participated in - a nearly infinite discussion at Backreaction, started by a paper about not-quite-conservative solutions to the black hole paradox, where a couple of armchair physicists (and sometimes professional armchair physicists) were simply not able to understand some basic things about statistical physics, thermodynamics, and their relationships. I am always amazed where the self-confidence of the people who are parametrically as dumb as a door knob comes from. These pompous fools never want to realize that they're just wasting other people's time by their stupidity - or maybe they do realize it? Besides Sabine, a physics kibitzer called Peter was genuinely obnoxious. Why are so many loud people who talk nonsense about physics called Peter?

As far as I understand the sociology of these things, basic philosophical postulates of statistical physics and thermodynamics - and their key relationships - should be taught and usually are taught when you're a sophomore, an undergraduate student. These things have been known for more than a century - in classical physics - and quantum mechanics has only made certain limited corrections to this basic philosophy (related to the probabilistic nature of predictions and quantization of various quantities). It's just completely baffling for me when someone who has misunderstood everything about these basic issues is flooding some weblogs that are trying to pretend to be close to the actual physics research.

Thursday, January 29, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

LHC: black holes living for seconds?

Yesterday, I had to spend hours with a debate about global warming under my article at The Invisible Dog, a famous Czech personal internet daily of Mr Ondřej Neff, a well-known science-fiction writer, called Rationally About Weather And Climate - a modified Czech version of Weather and Climate: Noise and Timescales.


Yes, it seems that the skeptics have won once again. ;-) The IPCC's proxy, Dr Ladislav Metelka, is an OK chap and he's not even terribly radical. But he has shown his remarkable ignorance in many ways.

For example, a reader asked him why the IPCC seems to predict that the temperature change per CO2 concentration change is speeding up as the concentration goes up, in violation of the logarithmic law. Metelka answered some incoherent nonsense that the IPCC result includes all feedbacks, and it can therefore be accelerating. Of course, the real explanation was that the reader had calculated "temperature change OVER concentration" instead of "temperature change OVER concentration change".

He forgot to subtract 280 ppm from the concentration, and when he did it right, it worked as expected: the influence is slowing down. The reader understood the error (and the correct answer) completely. I am sure that he must have learned the feeling of being sure that his knowledge is more robust than the knowledge of the self-declared best Czech mainstream climatologist.



Black holes at the LHC

But there is one more type of alarmism that began to spread in the media, the LHC alarmism. You know, the LHC will create a black hole that will destroy the Earth. A few days ago, a new wave of this stuff began to penetrate through the media. See e.g.
MSNBC: Study revisits black-hole controversy
FoxNews: Scientists not so sure 'doomsday machine' won't destroy world
and others (Google News). The story is based on a new preprint by Roberto Casadio, Sergio Fabi, Benjamin Harms,

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Balling, Michaels: Climate of Extremes

I received a book by Patrick Michaels and Robert Balling Jr, "Climate of Extremes". It is a very nice book that is crowded with graphs and information.

At the beginning, Michaels announces that he will have to leave his school in June 2009 because the current conditions don't allow him to keep both his scientific integrity and the funding. You will find some embarrassing quotes by leading IPCC scientists and Al Gore. But then the real book begins.

The authors classify themselves as believers in man-made contributions to global warming but disbelievers in the climate apocalypse. Rationally speaking, I agree with them.

Hořava, Lifshitz, Cotton, and UV general relativity

Let me start with some fun:

Click the picture of April Motl, my very distant relative who is "getting to the heart of the matter", too.
;-) Amusingly enough, in 1998, I was using pen name April Lumo for a while.




Petr Hořava wrote an interesting preprint:
Quantum gravity at a Lifshitz point
(see also: November 2007 talk in Santa Barbara)
He wants to find a "smaller" theory of quantum gravity than string theory, so he looks at the hypothetical UV fixed point (a theory without a preferred scale) that could flow to Einstein's equations at long distances. Fixed points are an intellectual value that the CMT and HEP cultures share.
See also NYU about Hořava-Lifshitz gravity for more comments about the paper and the sociology surrounding it...
This research program has been unsuccessfully tried many times in the past. The new twist is that his proposed fixed point is non-relativistic. Normal scale-invariant relativistic theories have a scaling symmetry that affects space and time equally. Dispersion relations tell us that "E=p" and we say that the exponent "z=1". Ordinary non-relativistic mechanics scales them differently and "E=p^2/2m", giving "z=2". His starting point is even more non-relativistic, with "z=3". But he wants to get to "z=1" at long distances.

Weather in the year 3000

Gene Day has sent me a cute article at MSNBC. Do you want to invite your friends for a barbecue party in the year 3000, a few years after the collapse of the Thousand Year Reich? And do you need to have plans for different weather scenarios?

Expect 1,000-year climate impacts, experts say.
Although science can only remove the noise and predict something specific about the atmosphere for a month in advance, while the behavior in any further future seems to be an intractable problem, the average experts got used to "predictions" of the weather for the year 2100 or 2200. No one is going to check these predictions during the people's careers - which is great - and because other people want to listen to them, anyway, these forecasts became widespread.

So if you want to be ahead of your climatological colleagues these days, 2100 or 2200 is not enough. So Susan Solomon is telling us that the catastrophe is going to be lasting.

Even if we stop all production of CO2, she says, the Earth will be "dying" at least until the year 3000 because the "murder" we are committing against Gaia is "irreversible". One of the greatest catastrophes is that the sea level will jump by 1 meter by the year 3000 just because of the CO2-related greenhouse heating expansion. What a cataclysm: it's almost a millimeter per year, roughly 10 times slower rate than when we were going out of the last ice age.

Moreover, it is extremely logical (for them) to talk about the year 3000 and use these speculations as a justification of an immediate "action", in the year 2009. There must exist a time machine or a wormhole between the year 2009 and 3000 if they can be linked in this way. Believe it or not, the fate of the people in the year 3000 depends on your decision on January 27th, 2009! :-)



She can't possibly be serious when she says that a 1 meter change of the sea level in 1000 years is bad. During the last 20 millenia, the sea level naturally jumped by 120 meters which is 6 meters per millenium. If you focus on the interval from 15,000 years ago to 7,000 years ago, the rate doubles. The rise was more than 10 meters per millenium. Relatively to these rates, the sea level rise nearly stopped 7,000 years ago or so.

Why did it stop so quickly? No, there was no discontinuity of the laws of physics. The reason was that the glaciers have disappeared from the bulk of the Earth's surface so there was no ice left to be melted - except for Greenland and Antarctica which might naturally melt (even without any human intervention) in a few thousand years, too.

You know, ice can sometimes naturally melt, lady!

It is no coincidence that 6,000 years ago or so, the ancient civilizations started to be born and flourish. The reason is that ice is pretty bad for life while the warming was damn good for them. Snow and ice are clean and cute but that's exactly why there's almost no life in them.

Sunday, January 25, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Anti-quantum zeal

A few days ago, we talked about the lethal flaws of the Bohmian mechanics.


It was very far from the first time when I noticed that rational arguments don't play an important role in the debates about the interpretation of quantum mechanics because one side always ends up by saying that regardless of any arguments, canonical quantum mechanics makes no sense. They won't hear any answer until you tell them the answer they are waiting for, namely that the microscopic world behaves just like the world they know from their everyday lives.

You know, when I was 15 or so, I was also "disappointed" by the philosophical framework of quantum mechanics.

It looked weird and incomplete. What I wanted to see as a theory of everything was just a more complete version of Einstein's equations of general relativity. I spent quite some time by attempts to develop alternatives to quantum mechanics. However, because I cared about the experiments, they had to be explained. So I was stealing methods and tools from quantum mechanics, one by one, seeing that it was inevitable, and eventually I had to steal all of quantum mechanics, including its probabilistic interpretation.

There simply can't be an alternative. Everyone who thinks that there is one is deluded and misunderstands some very important things about modern physics.

You know, to describe the measured discrete quantum numbers of atoms (or the interference of particles), you need the wave function and the conditions of its single-valuedness. On the other hand, particles are observed at specific points. And unless you accept the probabilistic interpretation of the wave function, with no additional classical degrees of freedom or hidden variables, you will ruin not only quantum mechanics but also the other pillar of the modern physics, relativity, as you can see by a detailed analysis of the EPR experiments.

Unlike the previous essay, this one will attempt to be more sociological in character.

Evidence vs prejudices

All these conclusions above may be surprising but they indisputably follow from the scientific evidence. You know, whether or not an electron has a uniquely defined classical position or spin before it is measured, is just another scientific question that can only be answered by scientific tools. It is not a philosophical or religious question.

The situation is analogous to the question whether the Earth was orbiting the Sun or vice versa.

Saturday, January 24, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Microcanonical leftists & cap-and-trade system

Do you prefer the microcanonical ensembles over the canonical ones? Then you're a leftist, a TRF theory claims. ;-)

In thermodynamics, a microcanonical ensemble chooses microstates according to the value of their energy (or another extensive quantity) that must belong to an interval. Each microstate in the ensemble has the same weight.

A canonical (or grand-canonical) ensemble chooses a temperature or a chemical potential (or another intensive quantity) and allows different microstates to contribute differently, by the exponentially decreasing weights. The average energy is calculated out of the temperature.

I have always found the canonical ensemble to be the more natural one, for many reasons. The microcanonical weights are discontinuous and depend on an arbitrary choice of an interval (and its length). The canonical weights are smooth and admit a natural calculation in terms of a periodic Euclidean time.

Now I believe that this preference of mine is a by-product of my being a rightwinger. ;-)

Conservative people like to define fixed laws in the society that apply to everyone, and it is up to everyone what he or she does with them. The outcomes are not known in advance and they depend on the detailed dynamics - the Hamiltonian, if you wish.

On the other hand, leftists prefer plans (like in a planned economy). So they decide what the energy should be in advance and eliminate every microstate that doesn't agree with their plans. Those (microstates or people) who make it through the microcanonical filter must be treated in an egalitarian way while the rest is sent to a Gulag.

Cap and trade system

We recently encountered this funny analogy during a discussion of the carbon cap-and-trade system. Is that a better idea than ordinary taxes, or fees paid for every ton of CO2? In the cap-and-trade system, one first defines the "emission goals" for everyone (the cap part) and companies are then allowed to buy or sell the indulgences or "credits" (the trade part).



This costs us about half a trillion dollars a year right now.

Is that a market-economy solution? Well, if the "caps" were natural, the "trade" part would surely be more market-friendly than strict pre-determined plans required from everyone. Such a trade could increase the efficiency of the system.

On the other hand, there's still the microcanonical "cap" part here which is completely artificial and dirigistic in character. There would be no indulgence market if there were no caps. The strictness of the regulator will always be the main force that will determine the price of the indulgences. That's why we have seen the price of carbon credits oscillate wildly, by many orders of magnitude.

Price oscillations surely exist in genuine market economy, too. However, these particular price oscillations - in the carbon markets - were clearly driven by the government policies. And I find them almost completely unnatural and counterproductive.

If the carbon dioxide emissions are viewed as "finite damages", someone should have at least a vague idea what are the damages caused by one ton of CO2. I believe that they're zero, if not negative, but those people who believe that CO2 hurts should have a positive number in mind and an argument that justifies it.

This number should be simply added as an extra tax. You can still emit whatever you want but it will cost you some money. The difference between the cap-and-trade system and a tax is the same as the difference between the microcanonical and canonical ensemble in physics. The main difference is that the cap-and-trade system admits a variable price of one ton but the variations are primarily determined by the regulators, anyway.

To put it differently, it is not true that the cap-and-trade system is more market-friendly than the extra taxes. It's because the whole nonzero price of the whole market is effectively dictated by the government - in the same way as if the government determines the new tax rate. In a genuine market, the price to emit 1 ton CO2 would clearly be zero. The indulgence price swings look like genuine price swings in the free markets but they are not: they just reflect the hawkish or dovish mood of the regulators and the precise details about their choice of the caps (which moreover increase the risk of insider trading and corruption).

Moreover, if it turned out that the carbon indulgences must be extremely expensive to achieve a sizable reduction of CO2 emissions (which would be likely if we saw no new technological breakthroughs), the damages to the economy could become much higher than even what the alarmists believe to be the damages caused by the CO2, which is simply wrong.

So if any policy of this form ever has to be adopted, a new tax is the cleanest solution. The best formula for the CO2 tax rate was promoted by Ross McKitrick, the T3 tax. The tax rate would be determined by the measured warming of the tropical troposphere where the greenhouse effect should leave the cleanest and strongest fingerprints.

Needless to say, during the recent years, the T3 tax would have been negative because we have seen cooling, especially in this particular part of the atmosphere, so I guess that according to this policy, CO2 emitters should have been paid extra money!

The T3 tax should satisfy everyone. Those people who don't believe that CO2 production causes significant temperature change have pretty much equal chances to expect a loss as to expect a profit, and those who believe that the warming will escalate because of CO2 production should be looking forward to a high carbon tax rate. ;-)

Hippie non-solutions to the black hole information problem

Sabine Hossenfelder and Lee Smolin wrote a down-to-earth manifesto called

Conservative solutions to the black hole information problem (PDF)
about the qualitative approaches to describe the survival or death of the information inside the black holes. The paper uses the adjective "conservative" 18 times. That's quite a high frequency for hippie and feminist authors who clearly have no idea what the word "conservative" means - either in politics or in science.

Why don't they omit these political adjectives that, as they must know, are not apt for their ideas? Would it be too much to ask? They seem to abandon the last traces of the rational thinking - an attitude that I don't consider to be a "conservative" virtue.

The fact that it is the horizon below which the information is guaranteed to be lost (semiclassically) simply because causality prevents it to get outside, and not the singularity (which is irrelevant for the information loss puzzle), has been repeatedly explained in detail, for example in Black hole singularities in AdS/CFT (and by Moshe Rozali and others), so that I am pretty sure that a significant fraction of the lay readers start to understand this elementary point, too. Smolin and Hossenfelder are clearly not among them.

The authors reasonably sketch four or five possible macroscopic fates of the Schwarzschild black hole, including
  1. the correct Penrose diagram of an evaporating black hole
  2. possible evolutions that involve naked singularities
  3. a crazy star-like degeneration of the black hole that avoids both horizon and singularity
  4. a future with a baby universe born inside (A) or a massive remnant (B)
Clearly, only the option (1) is an acceptable macroscopic description of the spacetime with a black hole in it, and every acceptable - or "conservative" - solution must be compatible with the general shape of spacetime sketched in (1), as we will show again momentarily. This choice doesn't quite solve all the puzzles yet but it is inevitable.

Friday, January 23, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Steven Weinberg on condensed matter physics culture

We have written a lot stuff on the emergent phenomena and various cultures in physics, including the difference between the relativistic and particle-physics cultures.

But when I looked at Clifford Johnson's blog an hour ago or so, I saw his comments about an interesting article by Steven Weinberg in the CERN Courier:

From BCS to the LHC
Clifford Johnson seems to disagree with Weinberg but I think that his reasons to disagree are based on a misunderstanding. Well, it shouldn't be shocking that my general philosophical opinions about physics are probably indistinguishable from Weinberg's opinions. Let me try to defend his viewpoint.

There are many ways in which high-energy and condensed-matter theorists use similar methods and tools that are often helpful in the other discipline. The two cultures overlap and flows of ideas are sometimes helpful. But as Weinberg correctly says, there is a huge gap between the goals, aims, values, motivation, and sources of satisfaction in between the two cultures.

I always knew this to be the case but a few years ago, many friendly discussions with those roughly five condensed-matter theorists in the Society of Fellows - like Yaroslav Tserkovnyak (now UCLA: Privet!) - have convinced me that the differences are much deeper than I had previously thought.

U.S.: global warming is the least concern

As Benjamin (and Marc Morano) has pointed out,

global warming is the smallest concern
for the U.S. citizens among 20 topics they were offered.

It is clear that most people usually return to some common sense after some time, and because of the weak economy (#1 topic) and a cool winter, it is clear that possible & imaginary threats and expensive proposals to avoid them simply can't be important for the people, regardless of the actual merit of this fearful science (which happens to be non-existent).

Cosmic-climate link supported by muons that see the stratosphere

Also, we follow Anthony Watts, the web's best science blogger in 2008 according to a large poll, and bring you a weekly dose of the peer-reviewed denialist literature.

In a press release, a new paper in Geophysical Research Letters is promoted:
S. Osprey and hundreds of authors: Sudden stratospheric warmings seen in MINOS deep underground muon data
This scientific work actually comes from high-energy physics. Deep underground, in an iron mine in Minnesota (the same state where Minnesotans for global warming live) that is controlled by the Fermilab's MINOS collaboration, one can use a detector to measure the intensity of cosmic rays (well, the flux of muons, the electrons' 206.8 times heavier siblings) and these measurement display an unexpectedly strong correlation with the weather (temperature) in the upper atmosphere called the stratosphere. The link was especially strong and surprising during sudden, multi-day-long stratospheric warming episodes in the Northern Hemispheric winter.

In other words, underground muons can now be used to reconstruct the stratospheric temperature! The correlation between the cosmic rays and the climate is pretty much proven by now.

The direction of the causation

Still, don't judge too quickly: you must be careful before you declare this to be a proof of the Svensmark-Shaviv cosmoclimatological theories because the MINOS correlation is at least partially (and possibly mostly) caused by the influence of the temperature on the production of muons from mesons - the opposite direction of the causal influence than climatologists would care about.

To be sure, the causal relationship between the underground muon flux and the stratospheric temperatures can go in both ways - both directions can contribute to the correlation.

The cosmic mesons may speed up the creation of low-lying clouds which usually cool down the surface, but because they reflect more of the solar radiation back to space, they give more opportunity to the stratosphere to heat up: more cosmic rays mean a warmer stratosphere.

The opposite relationship exists, too. A warmer stratosphere is "expanded" and the fraction (and the typical position) of the mesons destroyed by the air is influenced, too. That's why the fraction of mesons with long enough life to decay to muons is also affected. But let me admit that the sign of the relationship in this paragraph isn't quite clear to me at this point.

At any rate, most forcings predict the opposite changes of the trend for the stratosphere than for the troposphere. For example, the greenhouse effect cools down the stratosphere much like it heats up the troposphere.

Sociology & other MINOS stuff

If you care about the sociology, the MINOS authors are almost as numerous as the IPCC and their average IQ exceeds the IPCC's IQ roughly by 7 points. ;-) The list of authors includes my Harvard ex-colleague, Prof Gary Feldman, who is clearly even higher on this scale. :-)

This is the second article on this blog that is largely dedicated to MINOS. The first one was not related to the climate: it was about the neutrino oscillations:
Bush lost a few neutrinos in Minnesota


There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama. Via Gene Day. ;-)

Bohmists & segregation of primitive and contextual observables

A student named Maaneli decided to defend his favorite theory, the Bohmian model of quantum phenomena.

Update: See also Anti-quantum zeal for a sociological discussion of these issues.
This picture, originally pioneered by Louis de Broglie in the late 1920s under the name "pilot wave theory", was promoted and extended by David Bohm in the 1950s. Because Bohm was a holy Marxist while de Broglie was just a sinful aristocrat, the term "Bohmian mechanics" for de Broglie's theory has been used for decades and I will mostly follow this convention, too. ;-)

At any rate, there is no real reason to fight for priority because the theory is worthless nonsense. The framework tries to describe the quantum phenomena in a deterministic way.

What is the pilot wave theory?

In this approach, the wave function is an actual wave, a "pilot wave", analogous to the electromagnetic waves. Besides these classical degrees of freedom, there are additional classical degrees of freedom, the positions and velocities of the particles.

These positions are influenced by the "pilot wave" in such a way that the pilot wave drives the particles away from the interference minima.

More precisely, if the probability distribution "rho(x)" for the (effectively unknown to us, but known to Nature in principle) particle's position "X(t)" at "t=0" agrees with "|psi(x,t)|^2", it will agree with it at later times "t", too. Such a law for "X(t)" can be written down - as a first-order equation - while the classical "psi(t)" obeys the classically interpreted Schrödinger equation.

Thursday, January 22, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Cell phone battery and the fridge

A month ago, during the 0 °F cold snap, it looked like my cell phone whose (18 months old) battery used to last for 10 days at the very beginning got discharged after 2 days or so. Even with a new battery (not from the same company but arguably having the same capacity), the energy disappeared quickly. What would you think was the reason?

I decided that the cold weather could have something to do with it. When it's cold outside, the energy from the Li-ion battery is not released efficiently and some circuits might think that the battery is already getting empty. However, the battery emptied itself in 2-3 days even when the cell phone was kept at home, around 20 °C.

This looked hopeless. Maybe, the cell phone is not being charged completely, because of some memory effects or a wrong idea about the voltage needed to have a full battery. But if there is a mistake based on a wrong calibration, the argument above must be revertible: if you recharge your cell phone in the fridge, the circuit must think that it's not yet full, and it will try to charge it more fully than if the recharging occurs outside the fridge.

I tried to charge the cell phone in the fridge and indeed, it seems that the lifetime has been extended, at least to 4 days (and counting). Do you think it's possible, reproducible, and that my explanation is correct? Do you need to be a chemical engineer who studies Lithium batteries to give me a sensible answer? ;-) If you agree with my method, is the battery fixed for another year or do I have to charge it in the fridge all the time? Will it work? Can I recommend it to others to fight the aging of their batteries?

Dramatic update

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Klebanov and Maldacena about hyperbolic cows

In the new issue of Physics Today, Juan Maldacena and Igor Klebanov write a semi-popular "feature article" about the 11th anniversary of the AdS/CFT correspondence:

Solving quantum field theories via curved spacetimes (PDF)
One of the way to describe a negatively-curved space (in this case the Euclidean AdS2, or the Poincaré disk) is in terms of hyperbolic cows:



Physicists have been using spherical cows as an idealization of the real ones for centuries but only at the end of 1997, they finally discovered another comparably important idealization, the hyperbolic cow. Well, if these comments sound less technical than expected, you should prepare for the rest of their article that could be more technical than expected.

HadCRUT3: autocorrelation and records

Eduardo Zorita was kind enough to look at my previous

calculations of autocorrelation and frequency of clustered records
that used the GISS data.

Because I claim that the probability of their clustered records is above 6% while they claim it to be below 0.1% and because both of us know that my higher result is caused by a higher autocorrelation of my random data relatively to theirs, Dr Zorita told me that he thought that my autocorrelation was much higher than the observed one.



However, it's not the case. The only correct statement would be that my autocorrelation is higher than theirs. But my autocorrelation matches the observations while theirs is much lower than the observed one.

One of the technical twists of our discussion has been that I switched to the HadCRUT3 monthly data. We have much more resolution here: 159 * 12 = 1908 months of global (and other) temperature anomalies. In a new
Mathematica notebook (PDF preview),
I did several things:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

The Friendship Algorithm

Episode 2x13 of The Big Bang Theory:

Watch at YouKu (click the right lower corner of the video rectangle for full screen)
Sheldon develops a scientific procedure for making friends. ;-) Well, it's a bizarre episode but it's also fun.

Reid has pointed out that Natalie Angier of the New York Times wrote another ideological article about women in science, pretending that it is "baffling" why women's percentage in maths and physics doesn't seem to increase.

She also quotes some other zealous feminists who said that "diversity is a form of excellence". Oh, really? I thought that diversity is, by its very definition, a form of mediocrity and averageness because "diversity" is meant to reproduce the distributions of the average society.

Finally, she expects Obama to promote her feminist values. Well, I might be an uncurable optimist but I don't see any evidence that Obama agrees with those obnoxious frigid women more than he agrees with me.

Sitcoms and "stereotypes"

It makes sense to mention this particular feminist article because she also blames The Big Bang Theory for the "stereotype" of having geeky chaps and a blonde attractive young woman. Well, realism is a major reason why I like TBBT so much.

Monday, January 19, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Weather and climate: noise and timescales

To see that our nation is not quite innocent, click the frog and review a shameful "climate change" event sponsored by the Czech government.

A few days ago, an alarmist nicknamed Tamino (Grant Foster) wrote a shallow posting about the extrapolation of trends:

What if?
Foster argues that one can't blindly extrapolate trends, especially not the cooling ones. Well, I agree with the first part of the sentence but unlike Foster, I think that one should blindly extrapolate neither cooling nor warming trends. I agree that the absence of a warming trend since 1998 (and the fact that 2008 was the coolest year since 2000; and it was also cooler than 1998, of course) doesn't mean that we know that there won't be any warming in the next 50 years. But in the same way, the existence of some warming in the last 100 years doesn't mean that there will be the same - or even much larger - warming in the 21st century.
Related: Rasmussen: Only 41% of Americans believe that climate change is man-made
And the absence of a warming trend in the last 10 years indicates that it is somewhat likely that there won't be any warming trend in the following 10 years, either. In other words, even if "man-made climate change" exists, it is almost certainly not going to be an urgent problem at the time scale of a decade or shorter. Every sensible person should agree that short-term observations of either sign cannot be extrapolated to an arbitrarily far future.

But every sensible person should also agree that the observed temperatures do matter, and as their total volume grows bigger, their importance for our conclusions should increase, too. If someone talks about an "underlying trend" but his "underlying trend line" is allowed to deviate from the observed temperatures for arbitrarily long times and by arbitrarily large amounts, the "underlying trend line" is clearly scientifically meaningless and should have no impact for a rational decision-making.

Hep-th papers on Monday

There are ten pretty interesting hep-th papers today.

Orientiholes

The last one, by Frederik Denef, Mboyo Esole, and Megha Padi, elaborates on a very clever way to look at type IIB orientifold compactifications: translate them into black holes. To do so, they compactify the Universe on a three-torus, T-dualize all of it, and end up with a black hole in a Universe where a left shoe may become a right shoe after a round trip. ;-)

This allows them to count the vacua via the black hole entropy - they're able to say e.g. that a sector of compactifications contains 10^{777} vacua - and study some of their detailed properties, including a new orientifold variation of the OSV identity (which doesn't involve any squares of the partition sums). Very interesting.

All classical N=8 SUGRA amplitudes

The first paper, by J. Drummond, Mark Spradlin, Nastya Volovich, and Congkao Wen explains a recursive algorithm to calculate all tree level amplitudes in the N=8 supergravity: quite a powerful technical result (although the experts in this sub-field usually care about loop amplitudes more than they do about complicated tree-level ones). They build their new comprehensive algorithm on a similar recent algorithm for N=4 Yang-Mills theory: the only novelty is that some invariants have to be squared and new dressing factors have to be inserted.

Universal, inflating N=1 SUGRA

There are actually three papers today that deal with the N=8 SUGRA. The second one I mention, by James Gates and Sergei Ketov, argues that one chiral superfield coupled to the minimal flat space supergravity is equivalent to a higher-derivative supergravity built from the chiral curvature superfield. That allows them to view the early inflation and the present acceleration by the dark energy to have mathematically isomorphic roots - roots that they also try to trace to a dilaton-axion stringy origin.

3D toy model of N=8 SUGRA as a TOE

The third paper where the N=8 SUGRA is important was written by Jean Alexandre, John Ellis, and Nikolaos Mavromatos. They study the emergence of various composite fields in three-dimensional coset field theories - with holons and spinons being the elementary building blocks - and argue that these mechanisms are also important for qualitatively new physics of the N=8 SUGRA in four dimensions that may be relevant for its application as a "TOE", a statement that is surely both both exaggerated and somewhat obsolete.

Predicting a wrong, negative C.C.

George Ellis and Lee Smolin have arguably submitted the first paper co-authored by the second author that I could agree with, even though all the content can be summarized in the following sentence: if there are infinitely many semi-realistic vacua with the cosmological constant clustered around minus epsilon - and no counterparts with a positive epsilon, as suggested by some recent papers e.g. Shelton-Taylor-Wecht -, then it is fair to say that the weak anthropic principle (apparently incorrectly) predicts that the cosmological constant is negative.

Well, there are at least three facts that make this trivial (and probably obvious to many experts, because whether or not string theory predicted or predicts a negative C.C. has been discussed for years: of course not) conclusion weaker than tea. The stability and the physical character of the Shelton-Taylor-Wecht vacua has not really been established; it has not really been established that there are no corresponding positive-C.C. vacua; and the weak anthropic assumption is wrong which means that even an infinite multiplicative underrepresentation of a class of vacua doesn't kill it. ;-)

AdS/QCD: quark-gluon plasma

Johanna Erdmenger, Matthias Kaminski, and Felix Rust study an N=4 gauge theory coupled to N=2 matter, looking for mesons etc., and they claim that their results about their spectrum (and widths) are relevant for the quark-gluon plasma regime of ordinary QCD.

Dimensional reduction of monopoles

Brian Dolan and Richard Szabo consider the dimensional reduction of compactifications with spheres and focus on the effect of the reduction on the magnetic flux through the sphere, especially on the magnetic monopoles. They look at the Kaluza-Klein tower and its Yukawa interactions and make some tools more controllable by switching to a fuzzy sphere instead of the ordinary one.

No fixed points in Yukawa systems

Holger Gies and Michael Scherer study the UV properties of some toy models of the Higgs mechanism with various fermions and Yukawa couplings. They use the term "asymptotic safety" even though IMHO it should be reserved for the (unlikely) existence of UV fixed points in gravity. They show that some models admit no non-trivial UV fixed points.

QFT on quantum graphs

E. Ragoucy computes properties of a "quantum field theory" on graphs - which should probably be called "quantum mechanics" only, using the standard jargon. The author calculates physical properties including scattering amplitudes and conductance.

Orientable objects?

D. Gitman and A. Shelepin discuss "orientable objects" associated with some fields on the Poincaré group. I don't understand their point and the meaning of their "objects" but frankly speaking, I tend to doubt that dozens of pages that seem to be struggling with some elementary facts about the Poincaré group and spinors contains something really new. If I am wrong, some of their unexpected conclusions sound rather sharp - for example, you need ten quantum numbers to describe an orientable object. ;-)

Saturday, January 17, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Arctic global warming reaches the CSA



A Santa Claus in Indiana

The American South is usually thought to be a hot place. However, Alabama is now colder than Alaska.

Big Chill (AP)
Record cold temperatures (Google News)
In Central Europe, we've had temperatures around -15 °C or 0 °F for weeks and it is fair that those folks in the U.S. South taste it, too. Meanwhile, we expect a dramatically warmer end of January - around the freezing point. Time to find the swimming suits again. ;-)



OK, not quite swimming suits but the Minnesotan global warming anthem is pretty apt now again. See also Imagine there's no global warming by John Lennon. ;-) These days, when you say Minnesota, I imagine these jolly guys whose smile always survives the freezing weather in similar songs. But a decade ago, I had completely different things in mind.

In 1999, my friend, mathematician Petr Čížek, invited me to a journey across the Midwest etc. which I didn't attend because of looming qualifiers at Rutgers. In Minnesota, his Russian friend, a lively girl, borrowed the steering wheel and tried to drive on a road under construction which is fine because you could go in the left lane as there is no traffic there.

Well, except for a truck that instantly killed the two (and other two students from the car spent months in hospital).



For an electric car, Cadillac Converj Concept looks pretty hot and aggressive.

Google Chrome 5.0

I believe that only since the arrival of the 2.0 version, Google Chrome has become the best Internet browser on the market.

Download Google Chrome 5.0.396.0 or later (dev channel, May 2010 or later)
If you can't upgrade your Chrome to the "hot" dev channel (with most frequent, weekly updates), download and run the Chrome Channel Changer.

Generally, Chrome is extremely fast. What I love are the configurable search engines. For example, when press ALT/D and write the generalized URLs like
or many others, I automatically obtain the corresponding searches at google.com, news.google.com, news.google.cz, SPIRES, Pilsner public transportation (line 30), maps.google.com, and dozens of others. It's very convenient. Right-click the address bar with the URL to modify the search engines. The tabs that can be consolidated, split, or permuted easily are also pleasant.



Click to magnify the screenshot.

The new pre-beta version 2.0 seems to be working perfectly and it has several new features, including

Friday, January 16, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Fighter pilot to lead NASA

The tension between Michael Griffin and the new Obama administration has been sufficiently strong to expect Griffin's resignation. It will take place almost exactly during Obama's inauguration.

Space.COM announced that Obama plans to name Jonathan Scott Gration as the new boss of NASA.

His military experience is impressive - he might be classified as a hero and a natural authority - and I am sure that many conservative readers will be happy about such a choice. On the other hand, I am not that sure that the choice is good for NASA as a scientific institution.

Jan Kaplický (1937-2009)

Today, the wife of Czech architect Jan Kaplický gave birth to a child. That would be good news for Kaplický.


Unfortunately, he died on the street today, too. My condolences to his family. His most famous building that has been realized is Bull Ring in Birmingham, followed by the Lord's Media Centre in London.



He became famous as the author of a controversial project for a new building of the Czech National Library near the Prague Castle. It's been nicknamed octopus, blob, or jellyfish. It's been argued that the extraterrestrial aliens have landed and melted the Prague Castle and the building above was what was left. According to some YouTube dudes, the library was attacking people in some Marshmallow commercials. :-)

Smartkit: Cryptogram

Full screen...
Try to solve this cryptogram. Play. Click an empty box and choose your letter - or drag the green letters to the blue ones with a mouse.

Hint: The cryptogram hides a quotation by a late author who is considered wise even though he would probably find the black holes politically incorrect. The proposition both praises and criticizes the mankind's scientific skills.

Obama okays coal industry

The Wall Street Journal
argues that the coal industry, responsible for about 1/2 of the U.S. energy, is going to do just fine under Barack Obama.

The anti-fossil-fuels environmentalists who want coal and oil to be replaced by solar energy don't realize one important thing. Coal is solar energy, too. It is a solar energy that has been conveniently packaged by the Earth's geological processes much like meat is nothing else than nice plants that have been packaged by metabolism (Rajendra Pachauri should listen to both parts of the sentence!).

Coal comes from the same beautiful Sun that has been buried much like in the famous song by Rammstein:



The Sonne been buried, bringing a new ice age. But if you watch the video clip to the very end, you will see that the Sun may be revived again. Drill, baby, drill.

Killing the information softly

The information has been complaining, until 1996 or so, in this way:



Yes, Strominger plays with his fingers, stringing her life with his words. I wanted to make sure that almost everyone finds something enjoyable in this posting. ;-)

Moshe Rozali has written something about the black hole information paradox. He praised Juan Maldacena's 2001 paper about the information inside eternal AdS black holes, the paper that was essential for Stephen Hawking to convince himself and admit that the information was preserved. And he discussed the preservation of the information.

Information is not lost, in principle

In the AdS/CFT context, a black hole may also be described as a generic thermal "gas" of gluons and quarks. A new particle that enters this bath will eventually distribute its energy among all the other particles.

Thursday, January 15, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

The Killer Robot Instability

Episode 2x12 of The Big Bang Theory:

Watch at ZSHARE.NET (right-click the video for full screen)
With 11.8 million viewers, which has set a new record, this episode was, for the second time, the #1 in ratings.

Record-breaking years in autocorrelated series

As Rafa has pointed out, E. Zorita, T. Stocker, and H. von Storch have a paper in Geophysical Research Letters,

How unusual is the recent series of warm years? (full text, PDF; see also abstract),
in which they claim that even if we consider temperature to be an autocorrelated function of time with sensible parameters, there is only 0.1% probability that the 13 hottest years in the list of 127 years (since 1880) appear in the most recent 17 years, much like they do in reality according to HadCRUT3/GISS stations.

If we add a non-autocorrelated noise, typical for local temperature data, the temperature readings become more random and a similar clustering of records becomes even less likely because the autocorrelation that keeps the probability of clustered records from becoming insanely low is suppressed. This matches the reality, too, because local weather records usually don't have that many record-breakers in the recent two decades.



What percentage of civilized planets shoot An Inconvenient Truth?

But after detailed simulations, I am confident that the main statement of their paper about the probability in the global context - 0.1% (that would strongly indicate that the recent warm years are unlikely to be due to chance) - is completely wrong.

The correct figure for the global case is between 5-10% (depending on the damping of the long term memory, and we will argue that the 10% figure is realistic at the end), if you allow record cold years as well as record hot years, which you should because both possibilities could feed alarmism. If you ask about strict record hot years only, pretending that the alarmists wouldn't exist if we were breaking record cold years :-), you should divide my probability by two.



The last alarmist planet I generated: temperature anomaly in °C in the last 127 years. About 10% of randomly generated realistic temperature data look like this and satisfy the 127/13/17 record-breaking condition - by chance. Click to zoom in.

At any rate, the probability is rather high and it is completely sensible to think that the clustering of the hottest years into the recent decades occurred by chance. In roughly one decade per century, we get the opportunity to see this "miracle" (13 hottest years occurring in the last 17 years).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Final digit and the possibility of a cheating GISS



David Stockwell has analyzed the frequency of the final digits in the temperature data by NASA's GISS led by James Hansen, and he claims that the unequal distribution of the individual digits strongly suggests that the data have been modified by a human hand.

With Mathematica 7, such hypotheses take a few minutes to be tested. And remarkably enough, I must confirm Stockwell's bold assertion although - obviously - this kind of statistical evidence is never quite perfect and the surprising results may always be due to "bad luck" or other explanations mentioned at the end of this article.

Update: Steve McIntyre disagrees with David and myself and thinks that there's nothing remarkable in the statistics. I confirm that if the absolute values are included, if their central value is carefully normalized, and the anomalies are distributed over just a couple of multiples of 0.1 °C, there's roughly a 3% variation in the frequency of different digits which is enough to explain the non-uniformities below. However, one simply obtains a monotonically decreasing concentration of different digits and I feel that they have a different fingerprint than the NASA data below. But this might be too fine an analysis for such a relatively small statistical ensemble.
This page shows the global temperature anomalies as collected by GISS. It indicates that the year 2008 (J-D) was the coldest year in the 21st century so far, even according to James Hansen et al., a fact you won't hear from them. But we will look at some numerology instead.

Looking at those 1,548 figures

Among the 129*12 = 1,548 monthly readings, you would expect each final digit (0..9) to appear 154.8 times or so. That's the average statistics and you don't expect that each digit will appear exactly 154.8 times. Instead, the actual frequencies will be slightly different than 154.8. How big is the usual fluctuation from the central value?

Cosmology of F-theory GUTs

Dmitry Podolsky has brought my attention to a semi-popular explanation of cosmology in the F-theoretical grand unified models by Jonathan Heckman,

Cosmology of F-theory GUTs,
who is one of the young big shots working on this bottom-up phenomenology with Cumrun Vafa. The model is very predictive and quite a lot of these predictions seem to make sense.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Best European Blog: a victory


Well, a winner (click the logo)...

Thank you very much for your votes in the poll that was choosing the best European blog. Out of 6,200 votes, we received almost 34% of votes, defeating nine competitors.

Additional thanks to Eduardo who nominated TRF in this category.

Our continental neighbors in the Asian category saw some adjustments of the votes which have actually changed the winner but Europe is more honest and our lead was more substantial. So there were no changes made to our score and No Pasaran picked the silver medal for its 21% of votes.

This is primarily a success of the TRF community and readers like you. Thank you again. I don't like awards but it is somewhat pleasant not to feel hunted all the time. :-)

Monday, January 12, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Stalagmites support cosmoclimatology

In this weekly dose of the peer-reviewed skeptical literature about the climate, we look at some new evidence for cosmoclimatology.

In a news story called

The earth's magnetic field impacts climate: Danish study
AFP informs about a new article in the U.S. journal "Geology" by Mads Faurschou Knudsen and Peter Riisager (Denmark):
Is there a link between Earth's magnetic field and low-latitude precipitation? (full text paper, PDF)
The page with the abstract...



In the last 5,000 years of data, they found a strong correlation between
  • the Earth's magnetic dipole moment, as extracted from lava flows and burned archeological materials, on one side
  • and the amount of precipitation in the tropics, as extracted from Oxygen-18 inside the stalactites and stalagmites in Oman and China, on the other side.
The only plausible explanation of this correlation is Svensmark's mechanism of cosmoclimatology: the oscillating geomagnetic field regulates the amount of galactic cosmic rays that reach the lower layers of the atmosphere which subsequently influences the amount of cloudiness and precipitation (and temperature).

Stereograms and dinograms

Dmitry Podolsky chose an autostereogram, one of the types of stereograms, as a symbol of holography in quantum gravity. It is a pretty good choice, as I will argue later. He has also reminded me of some fun we had back in 1995 in Prague.



Two very smart Slovak classmates of mine (we became the last freshmen who joined the college as federal, Czechoslovak students) saw an interesting exhibition somewhere in Prague with some crazy pictures that looked completely two-dimensional and chaotic, but if one looked at them properly, they became completely three-dimensional.

You may also look for images of stereograms or articles explaining holovision or volumetric display.

Reconstructing the secret know-how

They described their "stunning" perceptions so well that even though they didn't quite know how the pictures worked and I hadn't seen them, it was possible for me to reconstruct the algorithm and write a working model in Turbo Pascal, together with a pedagogical explanation in the Pictures of Yellow Roses (a now-defunct math-phys student journal written in Czech); see the automatic translation to English.

The article included (and still includes) a working program in Turbo Pascal and I will describe most of the article below.

Although I can run Turbo Pascal programs within DOSbox 0.72 on Windows Vista, I decided to refresh the programming languages a bit and translate the Pascal program into Mathematica 7. It was a seemingly straightforward exercise but when I was converting some functions and procedures to more natural expressions in Mathematica, I confused "Min" and "Max" several times which made the program generate rubbish.

Entropa: celebrating the European entropy

Because Ukraine is going to sign the gas treaty with Russia again, without the insulting added declaration, the Czech EU presidency doesn't seem to have enough useful work to do, so they decided to switch to some creative arts for a while. :-)



The EU taxpayers are going to pay EUR 50,000 to Mr David Černý (beware of an excessively funny website!), a highly independent artist - if you want me to describe the nutcase politely - whose most famous piece so far has been the Soviet tank No 23 (the first one that liberated Prague in 1945 and has served as a memorial for decades) which he painted pink.

As far as I can say, his second most famous statue is the swimming statue of Saddam Hussein called "Shark".
















At any rate, he is going to get the rental costs for an EU puzzle called "Entropa" which shows the diversity of Europe by decomposing it into separate pieces of artwork whose shape usually resembles the country and whose content either confirms or negates some prejudices about the corresponding nation. See
ENTROPA: a PDF file
for the main presentation which includes the pictures and their funny descriptions. You may also read some comments about this event:

Sunday, January 11, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Pravda: Earth on the brink of an ice age

Pravda: Earth on the brink of an ice age
argues that those nice 12,000 warm years are approaching their end and the following 100,000 years will impress us with a new ice age. ;-)

Well, there is surely a potential for a 5-8 °C cooling in a few thousands years (or tens of thousands of years) - because the human civilizations that we know from the history textbooks already started in an unusually warm period (see the scary left side of the last, black graph on the image below) - but should we expect the cooling soon?
Update: David Archibald has reminded me of this picture (with an imminent icy prediction) from the 2000 article in Science by Berger and Loutre. Archibald included it in his cute book, Solar Cycle 24, as Figure 3.
Well, an imminent cooling is surely possible but the article doesn't look like the most convincing piece of science to me - both because of technical reasons, missing references, as well as entertaining, otherwise unimportant mistakes (for example, they claim that the Serbian astronomer Milutin Milanković was Czech).



But I would like to ask you what you know and think about the reconstruction of the climate record from the Milankovitch cycles. How good a fit can we actually obtain by combining the known astronomical cycles with well-chosen coefficients?

There are indications that the purely astronomical theory fails to describe very low-frequency signals - with approximately 100,000-year or 400,000-year periodicity - whose observed amplitude seems to be much larger than the theoretically predicted one: natural climate change at very long timescales seems to be much more intense than our theories say.

Reincarnation of an infalling observer

In this essay, I would like to talk about physics and perceptions inside black holes.



The picture of reincarnation above was sketched by Prof Krishna :-). Note that the death and the birth are two faces of the same object, namely the infinity, through which they are connected.

While our treatment will try to be more serious than what you have seen so far, similar spiritual considerations will actually be unexpectedly important, especially when we get closer to the singularity. Why? Well, we should start with the question:

Saturday, January 10, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Russia-Ukraine gas disputes

The delivery of the Russian gas to Europe has been stopped because Russia has accused Ukraine of stealing the gas on the Ukrainian territory, a claim that Yushchenko vehemently denies. The first thing to say is that none of us can be certain whether the accusation is true or not.


The dispute is probably going to end soon and the gas delivery will be restarted - because Ukraine has agreed with the Russian proposal to put independent monitors on its territory, largely thanks to the EU Council boss, Mr Mirek Topolánek: see eu2009.cz for official info from the Czech EU presidency. But let us look at the dispute, anyway.

Many people tend to decide according to their prejudices. And the prejudices in the West usually say that the Ukrainians are the good guys while the Russians are the bad guys.



One of the proposals for a Gazprom building in St Petersburg. Click for more.

Well, give me a break with this stupidity.

Ukraine and Russia are two parts of the same cultural territory. In fact, Ukraine is the real historical "cradle" of Russia; it is more Russian than Russia itself. People in Central Europe who actually have some experience with both nations know that both of them are poor, essentially Russian-speaking nations from the East. Members of both nations tend to be employed in low-paid occupations and they are ocassionally connected with the Russian-speaking mafias.

Friday, January 09, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Vanishing entropy of extremal black holes?

Sean Carroll, Matthew Johnson, and Lisa Randall have submitted a provocative paper that tries to defend an old unpopular idea that the entropy of extremal black holes is exactly zero.

Their new argument is that the nonzero entropy calculated in hundreds of careful stringy papers, agreeing with the nonzero Hawking-Bekenstein entropy, actually refers to a different spacetime than the "pure" extremal black hole, namely a spacetime that has an extra "AdS2 x S2" patch in it. Here is the main picture:



The object in the middle is the Penrose diagram of a non-extremal charged black hole. They slowly adjust the mass/charge relationship to approach the extremal limit. The extremal black hole is the object on the right. Instead of saying that the pink regions are the only ones that survive in the limit, they say that in the limit, the non-extremal black hole becomes a union of the extremal one (pink) and some additional "AdS2 x S2" space (a brown wiggly strip in the middle of the diagram), and it is the latter space (also redrawn as a straight strip on the left) that is supposed to carry the nonzero entropy.

Thursday, January 08, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Eurosocialists insulted by common sense

By the way, a good news in the journalistic world. The Wall Street Journal becomes the first important newspaper that praises Czechia for A Prague Spring for Political Honesty.
The European socialists have read the refreshing if not brilliant essay by the Czech president in the Financial Times,
Do not tie the markets: free them.
Václav Klaus explains that all moments could be called "exceptional" but this adjective is usually used in order to manipulate with the people. And he argues that Europe should weaken if not repeal various environmental, social, health, and other regulations and "standards".

How did the socialists react? Well, you can guess! ;-) They went ballistic:
Eurosocialists angrily rejected Klaus' calls.
The article above is pretty entertaining, so let me respond to individual paragraphs:
They urged the Czech Premier Mirek Topolánek to issue an immediate statement declaring that the president speaks for himself and not the government and that his views do not reflect the priorities of the EU Czech presidency.
Very nice but before 1989, I have seen a lot of virtually identical stuff. For example, in 1977, everyone was supposed to sign Anti-Charter 77. The government should also denounce the witches, right? Why do they exactly think that Klaus' opinions do not reflect the priorities of the Czech EU presidency?

UAH MSU: month-on-month cooling

UAH MSU satellite records have released the December 2008 data. The anomaly shows 0.074 °C of cooling since November which is pretty substantial (100 °C per century haha).

Unfortunately, the newest numbers are not yet on the website I linked so we have to rely on private channels of Anthony Watts which are surely reliable because they are coming from the very center of UAH MSU. ;-)

Of course, the data show 2008 as the coldest year of the century that began 8 years ago. So far because we may see colder years in the future.

However, I just wanted to draw a few UAH graphs, anyway. So they don't contain December 2008 yet. First, here are the graphs that you rarely see: the temperature of the world's oceans and land:



Click any graph to zoom in. You can see that the land was warming by about 50% faster rate than the ocean, 0.16 and 0.11 °C per decade, and you may hypothesize that some effects of the civilization have influenced this observation. It would probably be incorrect to talk about the "urban heat island" effects because the satellites are unlikely to be affected by the popular barbecue parties at the weather stations.

Here are the two hemispheres:



Shift/click the picture to open a bigger one in a new window. (That's an even more important keyboard shortcut than tabulator/enter that changes the color of a ball.)

You see that the Southern Hemisphere is warming up more than 3 times slower than the Northern Hemisphere which is another reason to think that the observed changes are not really global in character. If you care, the Southern polar regions are cooling by 0.08 °C per decade. I am not going to post these graphs because that would be a more serious blasphemy than the pictures of Mohammed! :-)

Genes and memes, ideas and empty words

Because a large part of the Spanish online community seems to be infected with a meme of a ball that changes its color upon clicking (almost 1 visit to TRF per second, meneame.net is the reason for the propagation of this meme, or a nonsense of the day, if you wish to follow their terminology), let me write something about the memes.

A few weeks ago, I had an e-mail exchange about memes with a reader of TRF whom I have also met in the real life - unlike many of you. Greetings, Tom.

He argued that the concept of a "meme" is an amazing discovery because it allows us to understand the fascinating phenomenon of a "Mexican wave" that moves around the Earth every 24 hours and that affects a field that is defined as the density of the vibrations of five-inch sticks referred to as toothbrushes. 

How is it possible that these toothbrushes move in unison? It is surely a divine phenomenon proving that memes are jumping in between the brains of different people. And the extraterrestrial aliens would surely be talking about "memes" all the time when their attention would focus on the Mexican wave of toothbrushes on the Earth, Tom argued.  ;-)

As you may expect, I was skeptical about these big assertions about the importance of "memes" because the aliens would probably be thrilled by very different things than "memes" or "toothbrushing waves" and they could even use the toothbrushes themselves in ways that we couldn't have predicted.



So let me defend my viewpoint.

Memes: a few positive words

I am personally using the word "meme", at least sometimes. What does it mean? It is a small idea, an elementary building block of an ideology, a partial method to look at a particular or general problem, or a myth, a joke, or a viral video or another computer file that people send to each other to have some fun, and what is important for every meme is that it can spread just like an infection. It is very stupid to click at the ball in the previous posting. But people are doing it nevertheless. And they lead other people to do the same thing.

There exists a clear analogy of this behavior to the concept of the genes. Much like genes, memes are "selfish", if you allow me to use Dawkins' colorful adjective. They have their own identity - or at least it's the point of "memetics" to imagine that they do - and they want to become more powerful and to control a larger portion of the world. So they are using and abusing the environment in order to spread. Each of them may choose a different strategy.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Nonsense of the day: click the ball to change its color

Tontería del día: Pincha en la bola para cambiarla de color

Full screen here...
Special bienvenido for Spanish visitors!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

NCDC: the U.S. cool down by 0.49 °F per decade

The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) became the first major source of temperature data that has published its December 2008 figures. As a reader of Anthony Watts' blog nicknamed "crosspatch" revealed, you can now draw graphs that include the whole year 2008. Here is one:



Click to zoom in. The graph shows the average U.S. temperatures in the most recent 10 years - between 1999 and 2008 - in Fahrenheit degrees. Here is how I created it:

  • go to an NCDC page
  • in the form, choose "Mean Temperature, Annual, United States, From 1999, To 2008, Base Period 1901-2000"
Keep the output type for the sake of simplicity and click "Submit". 

If you want my colors, take a screenshot of the right size, negate its colors, and fill the outer region by the TRF background color #113322 (17, 51, 34 decimally). ;-)

Record cold temperatures in 2009

Update: For the summary of the average temperatures in 2009 and its ranking, as written at the end of December 2009, click the link in this sentence.




Current U.S. temperatures in °F.
See Anthony Watts' blog for more comments.


Record cold temperatures have arrived to the United Kingdom, Canada (24 consecutive days below -24 °C in a city). Cold Siberian air has also hit Central Europe, France, and Italy. London is colder than Antarctica. Literally. The cold snap is costly.

The temperature in Pilsen and Czechia in general keeps on oscillating around -10 °C, too. The snow around is clean and pretty. The coldest official Czech weather station, Stráž pod Ralskem, has seen -25.1 °C.

Journalists are also freezing in Colorado and Wyoming, among other places, while North Dakota continues to see record snow.



Poor people in chilly India solve the situation by burning books; at least 55 people have died. I hope that they have enough copies of An Inconvenient Truth, like in Belgium (I invented the joke before them!). Sorry, the picture above are commies in a warm weather, not poor people in a chilly weather.