Wednesday, April 23, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Neutron spectroscopy constrains axions, chameleons

Tobias Jenke of Vienna and 11 co-authors from Austria, Germany, and France have performed an interesting experiment with neutrons in the gravitational field (although they have done similar experiments in the past) and their new preprint was just published in the prestigious PRL (Physical Review Letters):

Gravity Resonance Spectroscopy Constrains Dark Energy and Dark Matter Scenarios (arXiv, PRL)

Semi-popular: APS, ArsTechnica, Huff. Post
Recall that neutrons' wave functions in the Earth's gravitational field have previously been mentioned on this blog as a way to debunk the "gravity as an entropic force": LM, Archil Kobakhidze.

Click to zoom in: outline and results.

What have they done?

Max Planck: a birthday

Click here to read the text at 450 words per minute without moving your eyes. Tell me how quickly you may comfortably read, please.

Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck was born in Kiel (near Hamburg) on April 23rd, 1858, to a family of theologians and lawyers with many children. He spent some early years in Munich.

A devoted yet moderate Christian, he is the father of quantum theory. How did it happen? Well, in 1894, he was hired by electric companies to create energy-efficient light bulbs. ;-) So he had to study their spectrum.

Looking at the black body

In 1900, he was able to interpolate in between two formulae (the low frequency classical Rayleigh-Jeans law and the high frequency Wien's law) describing the radiation of a black body. A few months later, he was even able to derive the resulting formula from a funny assumption that the energy of an electromagnetic wave is not quantized but rather a multiple of \(E=hf\).

(The factors of \(2\pi\) are arranged in the old way because it was easier to type it, even including this explanatory sentence, but with MathJax, \(E=\hbar\omega\) is easy, too.)

Textbooks often say that Planck wanted to solve the ultraviolet catastrophe, i.e. the high-energy divergences of the Rayleigh-Jeans law. While it is a theoretically natural story, it is historically misleading because Planck's goals were different. Planck has been looking for heuristic ways to justify the novel, quantum, exponential Wien's law since 1899. Finally and happily, Planck came to "an act of despair ... [he] was ready to sacrifice any of [his] previous convictions about physics." And he introduced the quanta ("a purely formal assumption"...) at the end of 1900.

Einstein gave Planck's assumption about quanta a more real meaning when he explained the photoelectric effect in 1905. Only in the 1920s, Arthur Compton convinced the people that photons were real when he observed his photon-electron scattering.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

21% of Americans believe the Big Bang

Lots of media (e.g. CNET) bring us the gospel about a survey organized by the Associated Press and GfK among 1,000+ Americans. They were asked about their beliefs in various claims made by the scientists.

Only 4% doubted that smoking causes cancer; over 80% actively claimed it does. Only 8% doubted that cells contain a consequential genetic code; almost 70% actively argued that they did. The reality of the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago was the least believed proposition, getting about 20%. That's vastly lower than the number of Americans who believed in various religious insights such as the resurrection of Jesus Christ or the claim that the weather patterns get less favorable in the wake of the human sins (the so-called "climate change" religion is bought by nearly 1/3 of Americans).

Two string pheno papers

I hope you have survived the Easter if you had to undergo one. There are at least two interesting hep-th papers on string phenomenology today. Alon Faraggi wrote a 35-page review

String Phenomenology: Past, Present and Future Perspectives
which focuses on the old-fashioned heterotic string model building, especially the free fermionic ones. Those were the first research direction that convinced me more than 20 years ago that it had everything it needed to have to become a TOE.

Faraggi doesn't discuss inflation at all and it's questionable whether good inflation scenarios have been studied within the compactifications he prefers. That defect of his paper is more than compensated by the other paper I want to mention.

Sunday, April 20, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Islamofascists take over the "secular" school system in Birmingham

Yesterday, the Telegraph published quite a shocking story

State schools isolate non-Muslims
about a leaked official report uncovering the Islamist Blitzkrieg takeover of schools in Birmingham. Not surprisingly, it is the most widely read article in the Telegraph now and it has received almost 3,000 comments.

The latest, 2011 U.K. census says that only 3 million (5%) Britons are Muslims; they are mostly immigrants from Pakistan and their descendants, as the well-known semi-joking map above shows.

The largest Muslim population, over 200,000, lives in London but Birmingham has almost 200,000 as well. While it's the home to the second largest community of Muslims in the U.K., the concentration is much higher than it is in London. Still, you would expect that a group of something between 14% and 22% would behave as a... minority. You would be wrong.

Saturday, April 19, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Lawrence Krauss brings some lively insights and delusions to Czechia

A visit that the narcissist had to like

Tonight, people called me to remind me about a program on the ČT24 channel of the Czech Public TV:

Hyde Park Civilization (1-hour interview with Lawrence Krauss, Czech video) at "English version" at the bottom of the page above to watch dze Czenglish version of the program (around 5:30, English starts again, after a few minutes in Czech only)...
A one-hour interview on the public TV isn't a negligible thing. Note that the Hyde Park Civilization program was previously mentioned on this blog in 2013 when they discussed the LHC.

Holy Body Chapel in Olomouc's convent, now a part of the Palacký University, is where AFO initial and concluding ceremonies take place...

In 2006, I got used to the U.S. journalists' obsession with not very good physicists and downright crackpots such as Lawrence Krauss and Lee Smolin. You could think that one may escape from this pseudointellectual populist shit to Central Europe but you know, we've been a part of the Western civilization for 1,000 years so it shouldn't be shocking that Czechia isn't safe enough.

Cosmologist and especially professional anti-Christian exhibitionist Lawrence Krauss is attending the 2014 Academic Film Festival AFO (previously discussed on TRF) as the main guest. He has filled a hall in the historical capital of Moravia.

The page presents Krauss as a "top world-class scientist": not bad for a mediocre cosmologist. On Friday, they would screen his and Richard Dawkins' film "The Unbelievers", a more intelligent version of a concert of Pussy Riot in the churches across the world (I haven't watched it yet; Woody Allen and Stephen Hawking appear there, too). The movies got poor rating from critics for its sloganeering replacing a substantive debate and the self-glorification of the stars – and it has earned a funny $14,400 in the box office. But in Czechia, it may be sold as the ultimate achievement of cinematography.

Friday, April 18, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

David Mermin on Quantum Bayesianism

Many physicists, when they get older (and, in some unfortunate cases, long before that), have the tendency to reduce their powerful brains back to the era of Newton or ancient Greece and "undo" their knowledge of quantum mechanics. People like Gerard 't Hooft – and even, to a much lesser extent, Steven Weinberg and Leonard Susskind – start to pay lip service to fundamentally deluded ways to squeeze the laws of quantum mechanics into the straitjacket of classical physics, using one (or many!) of the several popular, comparably misguided strategies: hidden variables of one kind or another (including the Bohmian pseudoscience), collapse mechanisms (including GRW), the many-worlds interpretation (with some parallel universes that "really exist" just like other planets), and others.

David Mermin is an optimistic counterexample. His views have been evolving. Mermin is the actual originator of the "shut up and calculate" dictum often attributed to Feynman. But I think that when he said it for the first time, he coined it in order to humiliate Feynman's – and generally orthodox – positivist attitude towards these questions. Over the years, he got fully converted to the Copenhagen school's positivist, intrinsically subjective understanding of the quantum phenomena. He learned how to love Bohr. He realized that Einstein was just wrong in his debates with Bohr, and so on.

Thursday, April 17, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

The mild civil war in Ukraine

Thankfully, the number of the new casualties in Ukraine remains relatively low. Whether we call the confrontation "a civil war" is a matter of terminology and only with the hindsight we will acquire in the future, we will be able to decide whether it is an appropriate word for the recent events.

The attitude of the would-be mainstream Western politicians, institutions, and media (and the brainwashed hundreds of millions of average citizens who never question anything they are fed) looks staggeringly hypocritical, cruel, and just plain idiotic to me. My overall sentiment concerning the U.S. interventions has been positive until recently. You know, I live in a city that was grateful to the U.S. army for the liberation from Nazism. (Unfortunately, this liberation wasn't enough to give the words "Western Bohemia" the same ring and political meaning as the words "West Germany" LOL.) This positive sentiment has survived doubts about the U.S. excursions to Yugoslavia – where I would already notice a significant anti-Serbian xenophobia of the U.S. approach – and neutral or counterproductive interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.

The U.S. had the moral right to "do something" in Afghanistan after 9/11 while, as we know today, it didn't have a sufficient justification for its operations in Iraq a decade ago. However, I think that with the hindsight, the results in Afghanistan are worse than those in Iraq. Afghanistan is really "unfixable". It is foolish to expect that Afghanistan may be turned into a productive capitalist democracy similar to the Western ones. It is a highly undeveloped nation on drugs which has no real chances to be "like us". Iraq is different and the intervention may already be seen as a net positive.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Another anti-physics issue of SciAm

High energy physics is undoubtedly the queen and the ultimate reductionist root of all natural sciences. Nevertheless, during the last decade, it has become immensely fashionable for many people to boast that they're physics haters.

The cover of the upcoming May 2014 issue of Scientific American looks doubly scary for every physicist who has been harassed by the communist regime. It resembles a Soviet flag with some deeply misleading propaganda written over it:

A crisis in physics?

If supersymmetry doesn't pan out, scientists need a new way to explain the universe. [In between the lines]
Every part of this claim is pure bullshit, of course. First of all, there is no "crisis in physics". Second of all, chances are high that we won't be any certain whether SUSY is realized in Nature. Either SUSY will be found at the LHC in 2015 or soon afterwards, or it won't be. In the latter case, the status of SUSY will remain qualitatively the same as it is now. Top-down theorists will continue to be pretty much certain that SUSY exists in Nature in one form or another, one scale or another; bottom-up phenomenologists and experimenters will increasingly notice the absence of evidence – which is something else than the evidence for absence, however.

But aside from this delusion, the second part of the second sentence is totally misguided, too. Supersymmetry isn't a "new way to explain the universe". It is another symmetry, one that differs from some other well-known symmetries such as the rotational or Lorentz symmetry by its having fermionic generators but one that doesn't differ when it comes to its being just one aspect of theories. Supersymmetry isn't a theory of the universe by itself (in the same sense as the Standard Model or string theory); supersymmetry is a feature of some candidate theories of the universe.

Years of Living Dangerously

An expensive, $20 million superstitious program on drought and CO2

Update, April 16th (blog post originally released on April 12th): Nielsen ratings concluded that the premiere of "Years of Living Dangerously" was only watched by 294,000 people (compare with 16+ million for The Big Bang Theory), confirming my 04/12 predictions below that the ratings would be poor. If you divide, you see that an average TV viewer (or those paying for the commercials) would have to pay over $68 for the TV series to become profitable.
By most quantitative criteria, James Cameron is the world's most successful film director and film producer. He has earned almost $1 billion just for himself and some of his works are blockbusters – like Titanic and The Terminator; let me not include Avatar here. He's also a deep-sea explorer. You can have some unusual hobbies if your worth approaches a billion.

However, when it comes to issues like the climate, he is just batshit crazy. He's much more religious about this nonsense than Osama bin Laden was religious when it came to the Allah doctrine. So he also decided to shoot a completely unoriginal, redundant, 9-part TV documentary (9 hours in total), Years of Living Dangerously.

The first episode, included in the video above, will be aired tomorrow. I have actually watched it – partly in the background because I had other work. It is a collection of unnecessary repetitions of footnotes from An Inconvenient Truth. What seemed incredible to me was how boring the "documentary" was. I can't understand why the creator of Titanic just can't make a more persuasive documentary.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Podcast with Lisa Randall on inflation, Higgs, LHC, DM, awe

I want to offer you a yesterday's 30-minute podcast of Huffington Post's David Freeman with Lisa Randall of Harvard

Podcast with Randall (audio over there)
The audio format is thanks to RobinHoodRadio.COM.

They talk about inflation, the BICEP2 discovery, the Higgs boson vs the Higgs field, the LHC, its tunnels, and the risk that the collider would create deadly black holes.

Monday, April 14, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Andrei Linde: universe or multiverse?

Some time ago, before the BICEP2 discovery (in July 2012, weeks after the Higgs discovery), Andrei Linde gave an 82-minute talk at SETI, a center to search for ETs.

Because Linde and his theories – even some more specific theories – seem to be greatly vindicated by the BICEP2 announcement, it may be interesting to listen to his more general ideas about the subject. Linde is a pretty entertaining speaker – the audience is laughing often, too.

Sunday, April 13, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Stanislaw Ulam: 105th birthday

I didn't have enough time in the morning but the 95-vs-105 numerical error is still very painful because my late maternal grandfather was born in 1909, too

Stanislaw Ulam was born in Lviv, Galicia, on April 13th, 1909. His broader family, the Ulams, was a very wealthy one in the region. His immediate family was doing fine but not great. He would study at the Lviv Polytechnic Institute which was a Polish school. It's useful to keep these nationalities in mind when you think about Western Ukraine – where Lviv belongs today. Achievers like Ulam would be Polish Jews for quite some time. But Galicia didn't belong to "Poland" at that time; it was a part of "my country", Austria-Hungary.

He was invited to the U.S. by Hans Bethe and has been affiliated with the IAS at Princeton, Harvard, U. of Wisconsin, U. of Colorado, U. of Florida, and Los Alamos National Laboratory at various moments. He became a U.S. citizen in 1941 – before he began to work on the Manhattan Project. He did quite some important calculations over there – both on hydrodynamic calculations of implosions, and the statistics of multiplicative processes. He was the boss of a group of female computers. Female computers are constructed out of women; at that time, they contained less silicon than they contain today. ;-)

Friday, April 11, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Harvard professors' fossil fuel divestment letter

I was told about a letter signed by some Harvard faculty urging the president and the Harvard Corporation to eliminate the fossil-fuel investments from the endowment and to otherwise harass and discriminate against the fine folks who work in that industry and the other investors:

HarvardFacultyDivestment.COM (open letter)
Fortunately for Harvard and the system (because Harvard is considered a role model by many others), Drew Gilpin Faust – the new president that replaced Larry Summers – continues to be sensible. See what she recently told the brainwashed babe at the Harvard Yard.

This is not an actual Harvard-University-affiliated logo. Instead, it is a notorious Czech one but I won't be sued for having used that, I guess. ;-)

There are over 4,000 academic employees at Harvard and this letter has been signed by 97+20 or so professors so far. So they represent a tiny fraction. I am sure that this blog post itself will help to add some more signatures. It is surely not my goal ;-) but I don't really care much because I believe that the petition will remain extremist and it won't get above the 2,000 signatories when one could talk about a majority opinion.

Needless to say, the first thing I have checked was the list of the signatories. How many people do I know? What is the composition?

Sheldon's farewell to string theory: a fun episode with some serious problems

For almost 7 years, I have been an enthusiastic fan of The Big Bang Theory. The CBS sitcom is in its seventh season. Each episode lasts 20 minutes or so. So far, 155 episodes have been aired. I am pretty sure that I've seen every single one of them – on average, I've watched an episode of TBBT 3 times – partly in the original, partly in the Czech dubbing which I started to love pretty soon. The initial seasons have a higher number of views than the newest ones.

So you may see that I have spent something like 155 hours of quality time with the sitcom. This figure vastly understates how important the sitcom has been in the scheme of my cultural inspiration. Last week, on April 3rd, they aired the 154th episode, The Indecision Amalgamation, which was the last problem-free one. Sheldon was deciding whether to buy XBOX or a new PlayStation, Raj had to simultaneously deal with two potential girlfriends, and Penny got a useless advice from a frustratingly nostalgic Wil Wheaton on whether she should accept an offer in a bad movie.