Thursday, July 31, 2008 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Solar eclipse of August 1st

The solar eclipse will be total in strips of northern Canada, Siberia (there will be a live broadcast from Novosibirsk since 9:00 am GMT i.e. 10:00 am British Summer Time!), Mongolia, China: see a Google map of the path and a NASA home page for the event (NASA TV was broadcasting this event, from 6 am Eastern [American] Time: double-click for full screen or watch a recorded video, 11 minutes).

East Coast (mostly Canadian) readers will have to wake up very early to see a (very weak) partial eclipse. Most European readers should see a partial eclipse more conveniently before the noon of their local time. In Czechia, at most 1/4 of the Sun disk will be covered around 11:45 am.

In India and Pakistan (see a preview from Karachi), you will see a partial eclipse late in the afternoon, local time. A special comment for Indian readers: there are no ghosts or bad rays associated with the event. It's just a fu*king Moon blocking a part of the solar light before it reaches the Earth! ;-)

But don't look at the Sun directly, without something like multiple strong sunglasses. The power may be limited but it is still the same strong Sunlight with the same fraction of UV rays. ;-) Limit direct observations of the Sun with your eyes to a few seconds: the eye will recover. After 30 seconds, you would pretty surely burn spots on your retina!

Click the animation at the top for more data about the event (Wikipedia). Finally, another cool fresh piece of news from the outer space:

Phoenix finds water (ice) on Mars.

Leaked Olympic ceremony: video

Press "Play" only if you want to see a sketch of the opening ceremony. The video was shot by journalists from South Korea that has no nuclear weapons. ;-)

Better resolution here... (click)

Tevatron favors light Higgs and MSSM

This is the very latest graph showing the top-quark mass (x-axis) and the W-boson mass (y-axis). The blue ellipse comes from the Fermilab:

You see that LEP I (CERN) and LEP II/SLD (CERN and SLAC) were undecided but the Tevatron (FNAL) seems to prefer supersymmetry: the blue Fermilab ellipse (68% confidence level) sits inside the green (MSSM) strip. That's surely not a reason to be 100% confident but it might be a hint. ;-)

See Pete Renton's PowerPoint presentation
Note that it is primarily the W mass that determines the expected Higgs mass and with the known data, the Higgs looks extremely light. The central value is below 100 GeV and at the 95% confidence level, the God particle sits below 154 GeV. When the direct searches are included in the calculation, the 1-sigma interval for the Higgs mass is 115-135 GeV. LEP could have discovered it if they could stop it later than they did.

95% percent of the Tevatron data are still waiting and it is expected that the precision of the W-mass (and other things) will be improved by a factor of three once all the data are processed. To make it clearer for some readers, using 20 times more data doesn't change their qualitative character: it only increases the accuracy by "reducing the noise", if you wish.

Bangladesh gained 1000 squared km recently

Many climate alarmists, especially James Hansen, have been predicting a complete inundation of Bangladesh in this century. It has been one of the key examples how the "nasty" carbon-emitting rich nations are destroying the "nice" and poor ones. See, for example, page 11 of this paper by Hansen and thousands of web pages.

What is happening in reality?

As AFP, BBC, and others report, satellite images combined with old maps have revealed that the country has gained 1,000 squared kilometers since 1973 (more than 1 percent of the Czech Republic) and it seems to be continuing gaining landmass, roughly 20 squared kilometers per year.

Well, what was the mistake of the "scientists" who are predicting something completely different? Well, just as in many other cases, they have only counted contributions of one sign (negative sign) but they have completely omitted the contributions of the opposite sign (positive sign) that turn out to be completely crucial for the landmass budget, especially sedimentation and dams. New dams can reclaim up to 5,000 additional squared km in the near future, including new islands.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Black holes: quantum mechanics at macroscopic distances

SlavaM has figured out what is the best hep-th paper today. This work by a Benelux (or, more precisely, Bene) collaboration is just amazing and I am surely going to write about it:

Jan de Boer, Sheer El-Showk, Ilies Messamah, Dieter Van den Bleeken: Quantizing N=2 multicenter solutions
Let me begin.

Can quantum mechanics reveal itself at macroscopic distances? The first obvious answer is No. Quantum mechanics governs the microscopic world. However, the former dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics in Prague, Prof Bedřich Sedlák, used to be working on low-temperature condensed matter physics.

Mr Sedlák also liked the legs of a female classmate of mine - a friend who married my diploma thesis adviser (who was also a co-author of our linear algebra textbook, "We Are Growing Linear Algebra" - his name is translated as Gardener) - but concerning his discipline, he said that it is the best discipline of physics because
quantum phenomena may exhibit themselves at macroscopic distances.
He was talking about superfluids and superconductors, among other things. But he was really cheating. The relevant fields that mimic the wave function of the BCS pairs, to pick an example, are not really wave functions. They are classical fields. So what we're looking at is just another classical limit (arising from a particular combination of a large number of electron pairs), not a case of "macroscopic quantum mechanics".


Update: Physics World spreads a rumor about the first proton beams to be injected on August 9th into parts of the tunnel and on September 2nd-3rd to the whole ring.
Original text from July 28th: Martin Coles at The (Montreal) Gazette wrote a couple of excellent articles about the Large Hadron Collider. Click at the following:
Frequently asked questions (illuminating, a lot of understandable numbers!)
Deep thinking (from Galileo to the LHC, a story)
In their realm, outside Canada (Montrealers at CERN)
For a photographer and a journalist, these sensible articles are extraordinary and deserve an explanation. The main explanation is probably that Martin Coles has studied math and philosophy in Cambridge, Old England, so he is not quite just a photographer or a journalist. ;-)

Incidentally, all eight sectors of the LHC except for "78" are already below the temperature of 5 K, usually close to the final 1.9 K. Only the "78" sector is at 15 K in average (update, July 30th: close to 5 K, too). It should be cooled down soon.

I don't really like rap but if you do, play the video above. Ms Alpinekat explains the basic purpose of the four LHC experiments very well.

Slavery: the House apology lacks logic

The U.S. House of Representatives has apologized for slavery and segregation.

Full text (click)
Besides dozens of "Whereas" sentences summarizing and emotionally interpreting some random historical events whose precise role is unclear to me, the resolution says:

That the House of Representatives
  1. acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow;
  2. apologizes to African-Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow; and
  3. expresses its commitment to rectify the lingering consequences of the misdeeds committed against African-Americans under slavery and Jim Crow and to stop the occurrence of human rights violations in the future.
The point (1) is kind of fine except that the same things have already been pretty much done in the 1860s and 1960s, respectively, when the previous legal system was changed. So the point is redundant. Of course that as the society diverges from the old order, many things will look increasingly more alien to the newer generations. Is that surprising? Does America need a resolution about it? Will the Congress also denounce scalping by Native Americans as fundamentally cruel, brutal, and unjust? By the way, if it won't, what's exactly the difference? Why is it that segregation is denounced but scalping is not?

Revkin & inaccuracies in the media

Andrew Revkin wrote an essay about the way how the media deal (and should deal) with uncertainties in science:

Climate experts tussle over details, public gets whiplash (see also his blog)
RealClimate and BackReaction are among the blogs that have responded.

Andrew Revkin, a moderate climate alarmist, is worried that the uncertainties and fluctuations of the scientific results reported by the media - for example constantly changing statements about the warming/hurricane link and about the melting Greenland ice - reduce the confidence of the public in some "basic" propositions that he considers settled, especially his opinion that "we should act to stop climate change".

Well, that's too bad if he wants these "big questions" to be unaffected by the scientific results because this "irrelevance of scientific results" is the main reason why we say that climate alarmism is a new form of religion. Policymaking that is based on real science certainly should be affected by new scientific insights and it is very correct if the public is affected, too.

Although Revkin wrote his article in order to defend the highly irrational "action to stop climate change" regardless of any scientific results and his article will be viewed as tendentious and outdated as soon as the current climate hysteria will fade away (and many of us know that it is tendentious and outdated already today), his text nevertheless opens an important question:
How should the media report the uncertainties about scientific propositions?
In principle, every well-defined "Yes/No" question about Nature (and sometimes even the society) has a sharp answer: either it is "Yes" (the probability that the statement is correct is 100%) or it is "No" (the probability is 0%). In reality, scientists (and people in general) aren't sure about the answer. So their confidence is a number in between 0% and 100%. Some questions are close to 0% or 100% - those that have been pretty much settled - while other questions are closer to 50% - especially those that are not settled and that the scientists are trying to answer right now.

Let us assume that the "best confidence level" P, the probability that a particular proposition (e.g. "a warmer climate will bring more category 5 hurricanes") is correct, calculated by taking all known evidence "optimally" into account, is a number that objectively exists. Instead of the probability "P", we could also be talking about the "average expected value P" of some continuous quantity. It plays a very similar role in the following text.

What should the media be doing with this number? Well, the ideal newspapers or TV stations are able to pick the right scientists, to organize their own scientific calculation of the confidence level, and to present the true picture of reality, including the correct number "P", reflecting the best up-to-date science, to their readers or viewers. ;-)

As you may guess, these ideal newspapers and TV stations don't exist. They typically report an incorrect "P" that can deviate from the correct one in both directions. The media can make certain statements
  1. look less certain (closer to 50%) than what science says,
  2. look more certain (further from 50%) than what science says.
This classification was about the value of "P". However, there are several types of imperfections that prevent the media from giving their readers and viewers the most accurate answers. Even if we are talking about qualitative and not quantitative propositions, the most important classification of the errors is to:
  1. Statistical errors
  2. Systematic errors
Statistical errors arise because the journalists are not able to reach the best scientists and listen carefully to them. They only have the access to the local scientists or otherwise accessible scientists. A certain amount of "noise" is inevitably added because the journalists are sloppy and their understanding is imperfect. The scientists' way of talking is imperfect, too. Personal idiosyncrasies of the journalists contribute to this noise, too. News stories written by new journalists that are largely based on the stories by the previous journalists, not a direct interaction with science, further increase this noise. But if you assume that the journalists have no reason to deform the scientific results in a particular direction, this noise largely cancels if you combine many sources.

The most trustworthy media are expected to have a high signal/noise ratio: their coverage should be more accurate than the coverage by others. They should give you the most accurate idea what the number "P" is, even though the number can be encoded in words and the precise meaning of various words such as "very likely" may often be misunderstood. However, one must realize that which media are the most trustworthy ones is a dynamical question whose answer can be changing with time. The New York Times may be doing relatively well but it was never guaranteed and it is still not guaranteed that the paper would remain one of the most trustworthy sources forever.

It makes no sense to dream about a world where all media are completely accurate. You can't have such a thing in a real and free society. There will always be these statistical errors and noise. Demanding readers will always be preferring accurate sources; other readers will look for the less accurate ones, either because they don't care about the accuracy or because they can't distinguish the accurate sources from the inaccurate ones.

In some sense, the systematic errors are worse because they don't average out. They correspond to biases that always go in the same direction. If you read hundreds of stories about a topic and take the average "P" from these stories, you can still have a very distorted opinion about the true value of "P". For example, a vast majority of left-wing blogs and even the mainstream media will always tell you that the climate phenomena will be more catastrophic than what science actually says. They have all kinds of reasons why they're doing so: catastrophic and oversimplified stories sell well. Moreover, many journalists are activists who want to reduce the human freedom and to increase the regulation of the world. Or at least their bosses and colleagues want their whole teams to help to increase the regulation.

Systematic errors are bad because they can systematically "push" the answers in the same direction and lead the readers to a distorted picture of reality. However, there is a sense in which the systematic errors are easier to deal with. Imagine that you have a source with low statistical errors but a nonzero systematic error. For example, it always tells you that the number "P" is 10% higher than it actually is. Everyone knows that a newspaper has a left-wing bias. A wise reader can figure out that it is the case and develop a new algorithm that subtracts 10% from the number "P" that he can see in the source.

Well, in the real world, the bias is usually much higher than 10% (and depends on the particular question in ways that are somewhat hard to predict) and it is harder to subtract the right amount. But I wanted to show you that such an approach is possible in principle. It's like adding light to a photograph that was too dark (or subtracting light).

Among other things, this comment means that if the journalists are trying to change the opinions of their readers by systematically pushing their stories in one direction, they will fail if the readers are rational and unbiased because the readers will eventually learn how to deal with this systematic bias. That's one of the reasons why your humble correspondent can read the New York Times and treat it as a useful source of information: it has rather low statistical errors while most of the systematic errors (usually connected with politics) can be expected and subtracted.

Of course, if the readers are gullible or if they are biased themselves, they will end up with biased opinions. But it's important to notice that the newspapers can only manipulate readers who are either intellectually limited or who were biased from the very beginning, at least in the long run. You can't really permanently "convert" rational readers by writing biased stories.

And the education systems should try to educate citizens who are not gullible and who can't be manipulated easily: citizens who are able to subtract the bias if they clearly see one (or have solid evidence that it exists).

Changing stories: frequency and amplitude

One of the important points that Revkin has addressed is that the stories about the hurricane/warming link, among many other topics, change rather frequently. The stories about the healthy lifestyle are even more dramatic in this sense: is it healthy to drink water even when we are not thirsty? Yes, no, yes, no. In the climate context, Revkin is worried because the readers could start to think that science is uncertain.

Well, the main problem is that science is uncertain and far from settled, indeed. Some topics are more understood and others are less understood. But none of them, especially not those that are discussed by scientists near the cutting edge, are completely settled. As the scientists keep on doing their research, their best estimates of the probability that the warming increases the hurricane rate (or the best coefficient determining how much the hurricanes increase or decrease per one degree) is changing. Revkin wants to suggest that these changes don't influence the "big picture", namely that we should "act".

But of course that they do. The answer to the question "should we regulate CO2?" is a complicated function of other, more elementary and specific answers (including the hypothetical hurricane/warming link). It is not an answer that can be determined before others. It simply couldn't have been determined yet (because the independent variables such as the hurricane/warming coefficient have not yet been settled) and the people who think that it has already been settled are profoundly unscientific.

About 20% of the explanations why a slightly warmer climate is supposed to be dangerous has been based on the hypothetically increasing hurricane rate. In 2005, after Katrina, this ratio went rather close to 50% because some dishonest ideologues and pseudoscientists found the link convenient because of the people's immediate emotions. This was a temporary peak but even 3 years later, it is damn important whether this effect (a causally justifiable correlation) actually exists or not. It decides about 20% of the justification for the "action".

The question whether the Greenland begins to melt quickly (and to increase the sea level) decides about another 20% contribution or so. Just ask "why should the warming be a bad thing?" and see how many people will start to talk about the hypothetically increasing (or accelerating?) sea level. If you combine these two uncertain effects, that's already nearly 1/2 of the motivation to "act". And there are similarly important questions that are uncertain. How the hell can someone say that these individual scientific questions of higher-than-medium importance don't matter (as soon as the answers start to be inconvenient) for the debate? They obviously do matter. For example, if five such answers change the sign in the same direction, it may become more rational (but not quite rational) to attempt to warm up, and not cool down, the climate. And that's a big difference.

But these are the obviously tendentious, cheap, and outdated aspects of Revkin's essay. Let's look at the more general questions that are unaffected by Revkin's irrational climate change quasi-religion.

Once we accept that the scientific opinions actually keep on changing, what should the media be doing about these changes? Well, they should report them if they actually exist. And the education systems should teach all students that science may be changing and to rationally estimate how frequently and how much it can be changing. It is not a good idea to systematically teach the public that science (or its particular discipline) is more certain and fixed than it is; it is an equally bad idea to teach the public that science (or a discipline) is more uncertain and variable than it is.

The media should report the changes according to reality. Again, the ideal media don't exist. The media may err in both directions:
  1. They don't report changes and pretend that science is more "constant" than it is
  2. Their reports are changing more rapidly (or more frequently) than the actual scientific results.
In the first case, the media represent dogmatism. They are slow, they don't want to look at the reality. There are often journalistic zealots behind this highly inertial behavior and sometimes there are understandable reasons how did these people get there and why they act the way they act.

In the second case, the media suffer from a short memory and mood swings. The reason behind the frequent mood swings are often increased statistical errors that we discussed at the beginning or the desire to write diverse stories that differ from the previous ones. Sometimes, a female or male journalist who only talks to a limited local circle of sources but who frequently changes her or his friends or "friends" may be the culprit. Media-made controversies, backlashes, and back-backlashes belong to this category.

So once again, the media can be wrong in both ways. They can present a more dogmatic picture but also a more fluctuating picture than what science actually says. These errors may become systematic: some media may be systematically dogmatic (or conservative, with a specific meaning of this adjective) while others want to catch up with every newest fashionable trend. Both adjectives, "conservative" and "fashionable", are meant to be negative labels in this context: they are different types of biases.

More importantly, the media can have - and, in fact, almost always have, because of understandable reasons - another type of a systematic error: the uniformly positive (more likely than negative) correlation between the frequency of changing their stories and the desired political or societal or egotistic impact of the latest changes. What does it mean? What I mean is very simple so let me use simpler words.

If science changes in the direction they like, they report the changes very quickly and amplify them. If science changes in the direction that they don't like, they hesitate, and even if they report the change after some time, they don't give enough attention to it and they never present it as a clear-cut story.

It is not hard to see that virtually every newspaper tends to behave in this way. This behavior is another kind of systematic error. Once again, good and objective journalists should be more immune against the temptation to act this dishonestly and good and sensible readers should prefer the newspapers that don't have similar systematic errors.

It is important to note that the newspapers don't have to be explicitly lying in every article (and not even a single article) for their coverage to be dishonest. If you can statistically reveal that a certain type of stories is reported much faster, much more loudly, and with much less uncertainty than another type of stories, it is enough to see that the newspaper is biased.

Summary: the future

To summarize, the inaccuracies and biases exist, they will always exist, and they can have many forms. Sensible readers should know how to evaluate the news stories and eliminate the systematic biases. If the systematic biases are too high, they should prefer sources with lower biases. The education systems should teach the students how to choose their favorite trustworthy sources (much like they should prefer accurate clocks or anything else) and how to eliminate their residual biases.

If you're an optimist, you can predict the following: the intelligence and the rational behavior of the public will be increasing. Among more intelligent readers, the accurate and unbiased sources will be winning. Both statistical as well as systematic errors will be dropping in average. At the end, the serious media will pretty much report exactly what science actually says. There will still be fluctuations but these fluctuations can't be eliminated because science is not over (and it will never be over): the fluctuations are real and they always exist, except for the old quasi-settled facts that should be written in textbooks, not in newspapers.

If you're a pessimist, you can predict that the readers will be unable or unwilling to uncover, reject, or subtract biases and errors. The inaccurate media will be flourishing, the pressure on the media to be accurate will be dropping and criteria different from the truth and accuracy will become more important. All kinds of non-scientific pressures will start to dominate the material that is actually being published. At the end, the media reports will have nothing to do with science and the society will return to the Dark Ages. We may still be using advanced technologies that are being developed by profit-driven companies that are interested in science for financial reasons. But everything that is influenced by the public opinion will become mostly unscientific.

Am I an optimist? Well, I have some worries but I am more likely to be an optimist than not. Natural selection (even in the context of knowledge) naturally keeps on improving things, including the media. If the public is a bit intelligent and if there is at least some pressure on the public to think and act sensibly, they will learn how to search for high-quality information and this demand will influence the supply side, too. Such dynamics won't occur if one or more of the following things becomes true:
  • virtually all the people become too inherently stupid
  • the people won't have any reason (pressure or innate interest) to make their opinions compatible with science: for example, rational reasoning will become really unpopular and unstrategic
  • the whole societies will make it impossible for the information to propagate: I am talking about extreme plans of Nazis, communists, or environmentalists to ban certain kinds of public speech which, I hope, will only be realized very locally and very temporarily and won't affect the world globally again.
We will see.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Smartkit: SpinIn game

Full screen (click)
Press arrow keys to determine the direction of gravity and get the smiling box out of the rectangle.

Low climate sensitivity and other inconvenient truths

In case I haven't yet linked it, here is the English translation of an introductory text of mine about climate change:

Word file, PDF file (click)
It is several months old.

Leonard Susskind, global warming, and groupthink

Leonard Susskind's new book is selling very well. An user named Collosus [sic] wrote an interesting 3-star review:

Susskind mainly does well here. He takes the time to give a pretty good qualitative grounding in a number of important concepts. His extended discussion of entropy is particularly well done and does provide a good foundation for understanding the black hole information destruction question. However, he cannot resist making the political statement here and there and, while his physics may be sophisticated, those statements quickly indicate that his politics isn't.

His statements around global warming in particular reflect a willingness to accept assertions without any scientific rigor behind them. This reflects something that is a paradox with a lot of these popular physics books, particularly when they are written by members of the academy: it is often difficult to distinguish between the real scholarship, on the one hand, and the prevailing academic herd orthodoxy, on the other, in which many assertions are simply accepted without the requirement of evidence, much less proof.

This is a phenomenon that Lee Smolin discusses perceptively in his very good "The Problem with Physics."

Other issues include the writing, which is at best pedestrian (don't expect the literary gifts of a Brian Greene) and the insistent name dropping, apparently intended to remind the reader of his membership in the pantheon with Feynman and Hawking. Susskind's dismissive attitude towards religious scholarship (including a particularly insulting (and utterly gratuitous) passage regarding Talmudic scholars) is also troubling.

However, these is relatively minor annoyances if you're there for the physics. This book is still reasonably useful and is worth the time to read.
As a physicist, Leonard Susskind is on par with Stephen Hawking even though most media tend to obscure such things. And many other physicists besides Leonard Susskind would have serious doubts about Talmudic scholarship, too. ;-) But of course, I want to focus on global warming and groupthink.

Monday, July 28, 2008 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

A new kind of mirror symmetry

Hep-th papers on Monday

Among the 17 papers that appeared on hep-th today, a majority is about stringy topics. Thank God, things are not getting crazy.

Cvetic and Weigan design a a new "canonical" type of gauge-mediated supersymmetry breaking with an anomalous U(1) and its realization in terms of D-braneworlds in type I string theory. Predictions of superpartner masses, plus minus an order of magnitude, are included.

Joseph and Rajeev identify a (not quite) new classical limit of string theory - at very high densities (string gas cosmology) - and describe its main observables in the Hamiltonian formalism.

McLoughlin and Roiban combined the membrane minirevolution with the Penrose/BMN limit of the AdS4/CFT3 correspondence. Their BMN-like analysis of dimensions of operators in the new N=6 Chern-Simons theory disagrees with some predictions recently made using the Bethe equations.

Bedoya studies the pure spinor formulation of superstring theory at the one-loop level. The one-loop corrections to the nilpotency of Q can be used to calculate Chern-Simons corrections to the Yang-Mills low-energy limit.

Sun discusses the flat directions in supersymmetric theories. They don't exist for generic Kähler potentials in supergravity but when you decouple gravity and simplify the potentials, to end up with global supersymmetry, flat directions often occur. He discusses the stabilized vacua in the middle and the qualitative nature of this interpolation between SUGRA and global SUSY.

Sunday, July 27, 2008 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Loránd Eötvös: 160th birthday

Baron Loránd von Eötvös was born in Buda into an aristocratic family connected with Vásárosnamény, Hungary - a town near Ukraine - 160 years ago, on July 27th, 1848.

Fortunately, Lóránd wrote both in Hungarian and German which is why most of the world can learn about his results (and forget about his full Hungarian name, Vásárosnaményi Báro Eötvös Lóránd). He focused on surface tension of liquids and gravity.

His father József was a statesman, educator, and novelist who was also a friend with Franz Liszt, the composer. When Lóránd was born, his father was a minister in the 1848 revolutionary government for a while. Gusztáv Keleti, a painter, was chosen as Lóránd's tutor, and the young future physicist turned out to be real good in drawing (especially on his trips) and poetry. Later, he became one of Europe's best mountaineers (and took a lot of photographs on his trips). He has also climbed a few peaks in the Dolomites so that one of them (in the middle of the picture below) is even named after him!

He wasn't bad. But let's return to his youth.

He studied many subjects at school. His interest in maths and physics clashed with the family tradition. So he entered the University of Pest in 1865 to study the law and become a politician. (The city was merged with Buda into Budapest in 1872.) Lóránd was taking private math lessons from Otto Petzval. His father accepted that it was science, not the law, that his son should pursue.

Saturday, July 26, 2008 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Cargo cult science: a video

Many of us love Richard Feymman's 1974 commencement speech about cargo cult sciences, disciplines that seemingly seem to follow the scientific method but something must be wrong because no airplanes land.

Feynman was trying to explain what's wrong with various careless, agenda-driven, biased, preconceived mental frameworks that try to pretend that they are scientific but they don't honestly eliminate falsified hypotheses according to the results of objective tests. Feynman also predicted the global warming pseudoscience and warned scientists against being abused by the politicians:

I say that's also important in giving certain types of government advice. Supposing a senator asked you for advice about whether drilling a hole should be done in his state; and you decide it would be better in some other state. If you don't publish such a result, it seems to me you're not giving scientific advice. You're being used. If your answer happens to come out in the direction the government or the politicians like, they can use it as an argument in their favor; if it comes out the other way, they don't publish at all. That's not giving scientific advice.
Just replace "drilling a hole in the state" by "regulating carbon dioxide emissions" and you will see a very urgent warning by Feynman for our contemporaries.

But have you ever seen the details of the prototype cargo cult science? I find this social phenomenon rather amazing.

Video 1: From Mondo Cane, an Italian documentary (1962)

Go to 4:50 of this video for another footage of the cult.

What are you waiting for? Women making up 50% of Fields medal winners because someone thinks it would be nice and natural for women to be equally stellar mathematicians as men? Eggs that are both breaking and unbreaking because it would be nice to restore the time-reversal symmetry in the macroscopic world? Or are you looking for a stable, permanently happy, and flat Earth's climate without any variations that will follow the ban on sinful SUVs? Are you waiting for loop quantum gravity to make manifestly cutoff-dependent objects finite and unique?

If you do, see the video above to understand how you approximately look like from my reference frame.


Rush Limbaugh, one of the most effective preachers in the world, tells you to prepare for the Large Hadron Collider. Write your will etc. Very funny. ;-) My understanding is that Rush wants to humiliate the warming alarmists and he views the LHC alarmists as even more ludicrous than the warming alarmists. But if Rush intended to be serious about the threat, it is even more funny! ;-)

Friday, July 25, 2008 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

The Sun seen to repeat the Dalton minimum

David Archibald's analysis (click)
of the length of various solar cycles seems to indicate that right now, at the end of the (very long, perhaps 13.6 years, it's not yet really over) solar cycle 23, we seem to be in a similar situation as we were after the long solar cycle 4 (13.6 years). Both of them were preceded by very short cycles (SC3: 9.2 years, SC22: 9.6 years).
See the sun spot number charts
The following solar cycle 5 at the beginning of the 19th century could therefore be mimicked by the imminent solar cycle 24. It had an anomalously long period of rise (6.9 years) and a short period of decline (5.4). Usually it is the other way around (4 years vs 7 years in average). The solar cycle 5 was the first half of the Dalton minimum (1800-1825 plus a decade before and five years after these two cycles) that was correlated with (and maybe brought) a period a cooling.

Janet Hyde: boys = girls in math? Not really

Hundreds of media outlets - including the New York Times whose Tamar Lewin mentions Lawrence Summers in the very first sentence - uncritically report that "girls are equally good as boys" in math. This highly surprising statement is claimed to be based on a paper in Science magazine.

Janet Hyde et al.: Gender similarities characterize math performance
Janet Hyde herself, a self-described feminist psychologist, seems to be a prototypical 2nd wave feminist, too (click her picture or check her publication record). She thinks that "her biggest contribution to feminist sexology is her college sexuality textbook" (exact quote). She believes that the supposed higher rate of masturbation among boys and men has "enormous implications" which, she believes, was her second "major contribution" to feminist sexology. This difference between sexes goes in the "right" direction so these "scientists" choose to believe it and promote it. We can finally appreciate her third "major contribution". ;-)

All five co-authors are women who have been writing similar cargo cult scientific papers for quite some time.

It is enough to read a brief review in Science to see that the headlines don't follow from the paper at all. The review explains the main reason of the results: they have detected no signal because the tests were too simple. They didn't really test "g" or the ability to think mathematically but rather attainment. And the standards are dropping. David Malakoff writes:

Thursday, July 24, 2008 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Google Knol

We didn't know but it turns out that knowledge has two units, "knol" and "edge". has been registered by John Brockman's foundation for quite some time but (click!),
Google's competitor to Wikipedia and/or an alternative arena for formal encyclopedic blog articles (with reviewers, collaborators, and AdSense payments to authors), was just launched. A Google account is required for you to contribute.

(Yes, the Google guys have screwed the W.)

Share what you know
Write a Knol (click!)
More information:
Google blog
Blogger buzz
Google news

Spontaneous symmetry breaking & society

Sean Carroll is promoting a new analogy between the concept of spontaneous symmetry breaking in physics and various phenomena in the society.

I think that the analogy sounds silly but it is actually much better than he realizes, as long as you concentrate. We will look at it somewhat carefully and I will argue that the paradigm of spontaneous symmetry breaking shows why most left-wing people and social engineers, including Carroll himself, completely misunderstand what the rule of law in a democratic country means and what it doesn't mean.

Let me say in advance that the basic principle of spontaneous symmetry breaking, namely that

the symmetry is broken at long distances but restored at short distances,
is turned upside down by Carroll. This principle is very important both in physics and in the democratic society. Carroll is like a student who could memorize the term "spontaneous symmetry breaking" but he hasn't learned or understood its basic properties. F.

Physics: unification at short distances

Let me start with physics. Neutrinos and electrons look very different in our everyday world. Electrons are heavy and interact electromagnetically; neutrinos are light and their interactions are negligible.

However, it turns out that when you increase the energy of all particles to hundreds of GeV per particle or higher or - equivalently - if you study experiments to reveal the architecture of matter at distances comparable to 10^{-18} meters or shorter, you will discover something called the electroweak unification.

The properties of (left-handed) electrons and (left-handed) neutrinos will become indistinguishable. All of their interactions with the rest of the world will have the same probabilities, assuming that you replace the other particles in every process by their electroweak partners, too.

In the world of short-distance phenomena, the symmetry holds. But the Higgs boson in the Mexican hat potential makes the symmetry disappear in the long-distance phenomena. That's why photons are massless but W,Z bosons are not. That's why the electrons interact differently than the neutrinos.

Another example is the chiral symmetry breaking. At short distances, the left-handed and right-handed portions of the quarks carry two independent (approximate but almost exact) color symmetries. But at distances longer than the proton radius (QCD scale), the left-handed and right-handed components must combine into a Dirac spinor and only the "overall" SU(3) symmetry rotating them simultaneously survives.

There may exist many similar symmetries that are broken at long distances but they haven't been empirically established so far. Supersymmetry might be restored at distances shorter than something like 10^{-19} meters or less while a grand unified symmetry, extending the democracy between electrons and neutrinos to the quarks (and generalizing the SU(3) symmetry between colors of quarks from the previous paragraph that is never broken in our world), might take over at distances shorter than 10^{-32} meters.

But there also exist simpler examples outside high-energy physics. For example, materials can be found in different states of matter. H₂O can be a gas (vapor), liquid (water), or solid (ice). At very short distances, you may find out that all these seemingly different materials are made out of the same H₂O molecules: that's why you can easily change ice into water or vapor and vice versa.

When you focus on the state of matter that corresponds to low temperatures - which are also related to low energies and long distances - it is nothing else than the ice. Ice is a crystalline solid. Liquids or gases are invariant under rotations: for example, a symmetric glass of water doesn't change if you rotate it by a nonzero angle.

However, this rotational symmetry is broken by crystalline solids such as ice that pick preferred directions in space. This symmetry breaking only occurs at long distances - when you can actually see sufficiently many molecules to figure out that they like to organize themselves into a crystalline structure. But you couldn't determine that the symmetry is going to be broken by looking at a few molecules in your microscope only.

Society: equal rights of individuals

What does Sean Carroll mean by the symmetry breaking in the society? Well, he proposes that the blacks should have human rights that other groups don't have. For example, the blacks should be allowed to say "nig*er" while the whites shouldn't. But he would clearly like to extend his "symmetry breaking" to many other situations in our lives, too. One of his other proposals is that quality control shouldn't quite apply to women in science. He justifies this unusually unequal treatment of the individuals by his desire to equally treat the groups overall.

The examples from physics that we mentioned above should make it instantly obvious that this is exactly how symmetry breaking in physics doesn't work. Carroll's policies are also profoundly incompatible with the very basic rule of law in a democratic society.

In a democratic society, it is the individuals who are guaranteed equal rights and equal opportunities, if you wish. This rule is directly analogous to the restoration of symmetries at very short distances. The national and even international laws treat them - or should treat them - equally. But what these individuals do with these rights depends on where they live, whom they interact with, what they are able to do, what they like to do, and what they decide to be. The outcomes will inevitably be different.

In the example involving the states of matter, every H₂O molecule had the same "rights": it had to follow the same local laws of physics. Nevertheless, the macroscopic conglomerates of these molecules sometimes looked like a liquid and sometimes they became a crystalline solid. That's quite normal. That's how the symmetry breaking always works in physics.

Analogously, every democratic country guarantees the same rights to all individuals but they may lead to very different outcomes for different groups. It is quite normal - and, in fact, essential for a working society - that different groups end up using their rights and lives differently, depending on their traditions, abilities, and other innate properties.

Sean Carroll's idea about symmetry breaking is very different. He postulates that all the matter in the world should look like a uniform material of a constant density in a particular state of matter - I guess it is some kind of a liquid, but surely not a drinkable one. But because it doesn't seem that this is what the molecules always wanted to do, he requires that the mass, size, and interactions of every molecule must be changed in such a way that his dream about the universal water - a material containing hydrogen atoms, nitrogen, argon, iron, gold, and strangelets living in peace with each other - is respected at long distances.

So the big government has to be given the tools to control the life of every individual atom and change his or her mass, size, and interactions with his or her family and neighbors as required for the society to look like Sean's universal water at long distances.

Sorry, Sean (and social engineers of all countries), but it is both non-democratic as well as impossible to create this universal water out of gold and nitrogen. Both at the level of the materials and the societies, this is not how the world works and any kind of a society that tries to do something crazy of this sort is guaranteed to end up as a totalitarian system that is fortunately going to collapse soon or later.

It's time for the far-left people to notice that there is something absolutely fundamental and critical about the society in particular - and the world in general - that they misunderstand or deliberately pretend to misunderstand.

And that's the memo.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Roy Spencer in the U.S. Senate

(See also Anthony Watts' comments.)

I think his testimony was extremely good. You can see the anonymous faces around who don't want to hear any rational things about the climate, its sensitivity, the natural effects, and the sensible strategies to organize the scientific research in order to find the correct and important insights about the climate.

When Spencer was finished, the only thing that Barbara Boxer was able to say was to congratulate that Spencer was jokingly named Rush Limbaugh's official climatologist. She just wanted to "point it out for people to understand". She apparently thinks that this comment should settle the debate. Well, among the [unflattering word] who vote for her, it probably does.

I have great news for you, Ms Boxer. You have been named the official clown of Rush Limbaugh's show which is a higher rank than the official climatologist. Congratulations! I hope that the next time, you won't be hiding your own title, either. :-)

150 minutes of video

A more complete video from the hearings is here. At the beginning, Boxer enumerates millions of catastrophes that are caused by warming, an effect that hasn't existed at least for ten years. As her following comments reveal, her support for this fashionable nonsense is mostly motivated by her desire to spit on Bush's administration. Mr Lautenberg blames global warming and George Bush for a disease of his grandkid: quite incredible. Testimonies and questions follow. You may also go to 1:01:40 where Frank Trautenberg or Lautenberg or what is the name of the old man (D - New Jersey) asks some questions to Spencer.

See also: a 30-minute scientific talk by Spencer
I must say that these arrogant political fools drive me up the wall and sometimes I must pause the video every 10 seconds to avoid overdosing. They don't know 1% of Spencer's knowledge about the climate but they still indicate that they don't have to listen.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Schellekens & anthropic principle

Albert N. Schellekens wrote a popular 87-page preprint,

The emperor's last clothes?
It is clearly a popular text but yes, indeed, it is way more technical than some books that are considered by their authors to be more-than-popular. ;-)


Schellekens, together with Dieter Lüst and Wolfgang Lerche, wrote a paper or two in the 1980s that argued that the number of vacua in string theory was huge, comparable to 10^{1500}. So if this insight is a discovery or a "paradigm shift", they should surely be included among the fathers of this idea. Well, I am not among those who would think that these "fathers" should be excessively proud about something or even fight for priority! :-) They just wrote a high number (an upper bound) whose derivation was not quite correct and whose philosophical consequences seem irrational to me (and at any rate, they were proposed centuries ago).

At the beginning, Schellekens criticizes the people who now say that they always knew that the number was huge but they didn't find it important enough to talk about it. ;-) Well, I think that his criticism is legitimate and I am not among the people criticized by Schellekens because I never thought that the number was that huge - even though now I think it is probably true - and I do think that this question is somewhat important: those who "knew" it shouldn't have been silent. But I also think that the large number of the vacua itself doesn't imply the anthropic reasoning.

Monday, July 21, 2008 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Monckton, APS, and Medusa

The Register published an entertaining article about the funny story involving Christopher Monckton and the American Physical Society.

Recall that Jeff Marque, an APS editor, wrote in their recent newsletter addressed to a small subgroup of the APS called "Forum on Physics & Society" an obvious truism, namely that a considerable fraction of the scientific community are climate skeptics. They opened a rare arena for scientific arguments about this issue.

Needless to say, that was already way too much for the true believers. In an article proudly called Physicists forced to reaffirm that human-caused global warming is “incontrovertible”, Joe Romm of Climate Progress initiated an e-mail campaign and encouraged hundreds of readers of his website to do the following:

So this editor who single-handedly smeared the good name of the American Physical Society and the 50,000 physicists it represents is one “Jeff Marque, Senior Staff Physicist at Beckman Coulter Corporation, 1050 Page Mill Rd., MSY-14, Palo Alto, CA 94304,” Please do email him and his bosses (whose names and e-mails I will provide below) to let them know your thoughts.

What Marque has does [sic] is so beyond the realm of real scientific debate that he should be fired from his editorial position.
So you should imagine those hundreds of incoherent yet angry e-mails that the AGW zealots sent to Marque and his bosses (including Lawrence Krauss, the former FPS chair). Because of his blasphemy, they try to "fire" Jeff Marque - who is not even paid for this minor "job" of an editor. ;-) That's an example how the activist foam of the society starts to influence what's going on in the world. They can even fire people from jobs that don't exist! ;-)

(Recall how easy it was for Jo Abbess, an activist chick, to completely change an article written by the BBC.)

Nevertheless, the APS has published an article by Lord Monckton, Climate Sensitivity Reconsidered, which not only summarizes some of the well-known inconsistencies (such as the wrong fingerprint) in the greenhouse model of the climate but also offers the readers an insightful review of the IPCC methodology.

Oceans, not CO2, drove continental warming

Roger Pielke Sr discusses a new peer-reviewed skeptical climatological paper by G.P. Compo and P.D. Sardeshmukh,

Oceanic influences on recent continental warming (full text; abstract is here)
in Climate Dynamics (2008). They treat the known profiles of the ocean temperature as a possible driver and argue that this function of time is enough to reproduce the observed continental temperatures almost accurately.

This remark means that the greenhouse effect above the land is not among the most important effects while the temperature change of the oceans is primary. However, they can't say why the temperature of the oceans was changing. And of course, the greenhouse effect (mostly above the oceans) can still play a significant role for this question. But it doesn't have to.

The very statement that the ocean temperature is sufficient as a "driver" to explain the continental temperature sounds good and plausible (because of the high heat capacity of the oceans) but I am afraid that it is another example of the logical fallacy emphasized by Roy Spencer. They haven't really proven it. Correlation is not causation and even in the cases where it is, you can't quite know the direction of the causal relationship...

Carl Icahn, now on Yahoo's board, will help Microsoft

Carl Icahn, the 46th richest person in the world, won his proxy contest and was named a member of Yahoo's board. He considers Yahoo's refusal to be bought by Microsoft irrational, and so does your humble correspondent. We will see whether his new chair will be enough for the deal.

Bimetric pseudoscience and ghosts

This month, at least two preprints about "bimetric" theories of gravity have been submitted to the arXiv: one of them came from the Imperial College (IC) and the other one was written at the Perimeter Institute (PI).

Here, I want to explain why this kind of writing is ridiculously bad and lethally flawed if understood as science. I claim that the authors of these papers - and dozens of previous papers about the same subject - must be unaware of virtually all elementary facts about physics to be explained below and they should have been failed in their field theory courses.

Two geometries, two gravities, two Newtons? It may sound attractive :-) but it is physically unacceptable.

The IC paper talks about "two metric tensors" - as an example of the Variable Speed of Light misapproach - but there is really one metric tensor only (supplemented by a scalar with unusual interactions): the only thing that is "doubled" are the frames. You can define different frames - different conventions what you mean by a metric tensor and by distances.

Sunday, July 20, 2008 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Sunday: Questioning the science of climate change

An Australian TV program (playlist, 3 parts, 22 minutes in total, click)
Jennifer Marohasy is among the global warming infidels who are interviewed and she says a couple of wise things, too.

Incidentally, Hospodářské noviny, the Czech counterpart of the Wall Street Journal, informed about NASA's data showing H1 of 2008 as the coolest half-year in 12 years.

They have also included a poll: whom do you consider closer to the truth concerning global warming? Václav Klaus defeated Al Gore 70% vs 30%. It seems that among educated and affluent Czech readers, there is pretty much a consensus. ;-)

Saturday, July 19, 2008 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Black holes are politically incorrect

Benjamin has brought my attention to a hilarious story.

John Wiley Price defends his opinion that "black hole" is a racist term.
See Google News. This black commissioner is the sort of folks who are as dumb as a hoe handle and who recently began to influence the public life.

An interview...

John Wiley Price thinks that "that type of language is unacceptable". We are apparently approaching the point at which black aßholes like him will prevent us from using scientific terms such as the "black hole". (If needed, I am ready to call him a "white aßhole" because the focus is on the word "aßhole", not the word "black"!)

In fact, I predicted this story years ago which is why I have often used the term "African American hole" instead. ;-)

He asks why wasn't the term "white hole" used for such a nasty object instead of the "black hole". Well,
  1. the "black hole" was chosen for a good reason that will be explained below
  2. there is nothing nasty about black holes
  3. the term "white hole" is also used, for a similar object, and the relations with black holes will also be explained in detail.
The last, third portion of my explanation will be (relatively speaking) the deepest one and I don't expect people of John Wiley Price's caliber to understand more than 5% of the ideas.

Let me start with a simple comment. "Black" is the (non)color of objects that absorb (nearly) all incoming radiation in the visible part of the spectrum. It just happens that the skin of the people of African descent is closer to black, as defined in the previous sentence, than the skin of the people of European descent.

That has a very good reason. The stronger pigmentation has evolved to protect the deeper layers of the skin from the damaging ultraviolet rays - and this protection is more important in Africa where the solar radiation is more intense. Well, these are the reasons why the people of African descent are called by words related to "black" in most languages. There exist similar rational reasons why "blackberries" and other objects have names incorporating the same adjective.

The history of the term

In 1967, John Wheeler coined the term "black hole" to describe objects that were kind of believed to exist from the 1916 paper about Einstein's general relativity written by Karl Schwarzschild and especially the 1939 paper by Robert Oppenheimer. Their gravitational field is so strong that if you fall into them, it is like if you fall into a hole and you will never escape again. In fact, not even light is fast enough to escape from their powerful gravitational grip. Because light cannot escape, the objects don't emit any radiation and they are black.
Commercial: Spiked: The rise and rise of climate blasphemy
The term "black hole" is therefore exactly what we need. It sounds good, too. And a warning for ill-informed FoxNews journalists: a singularity is surely not the same thing as a black hole! ;-)

Yes, the black holes have the same adjective "black" in them as African Americans, for a good reason. They absorb most of the incoming radiation and don't reflect (or emit) it. If John Wiley Price doesn't want to share this feature with the black holes, he should ask Michael Jackson how to proceed.

Stephen Hawking realized in 1974 that black holes emit some radiation, after all, but it is extremely weak, especially if the black holes are large. I will be mostly neglecting the Hawking radiation in the rest of this note.

There is nothing bad about black holes

Black holes in physics are vaguely analogous to various situations in reality - for example, bureaucracy has become a black hole for lost paperwork (and wasted time of humans). But in pure physics, objects such as black holes or stars don't carry any moral characteristics. There is nothing (morally) good and nothing (morally) bad about the black holes.

In fact, black holes are beautiful and important from a scientific viewpoint. Unlike certain Texan black commissioners, black holes carry the maximum information (or entropy) that one can in principle store in a given volume of space. Their properties completely govern the very high-energy, trans-Planckian scattering of other particles. They are the most natural objects that can be used to verify the consistency of theories of quantum gravity. They became one of the huge success stories of string theory.

Valleyfair attacks: a stunning story how the media have been dishonestly hiding a nasty double hate crime because the racist criminals were black, not white

Black holes and white holes

OK, so why didn't scientists use the term "white holes"? Well, white holes should be objects that tend to emit a lot of light, much like the skin of the Caucasian people, but they don't absorb it. Do they exist? In the real world, they don't. The reason is the second law of thermodynamics, the basic law of macroscopic physics that Sean Carroll completely misunderstands.

There is an inherent difference between the past and the future. If we're thinking about a thought experiment, we may begin with pretty much arbitrary initial conditions in the past. But we are not allowed to decide about the future. The future is, and has to be, whatever follows from the past by the laws of physics. There may exist objects that are "black": they are expected to emit no radiation. But there can't exist objects that are "white" in the sense that there is no radiation coming to their surface. Why? You are simply not allowed to prevent radiation from going anywhere. Some photons are always free to travel in certain directions and hit an object that you wanted to become a "white hole".

This may sound confusing to you. Can't we just apply the time reversal and switch the role of the past and the future? Well, you can do it with spacetime diagrams but it doesn't mean that such reverted histories may occur in reality. In fact, if a plausible history involves an increasing entropy, the time reverted history makes the entropy decrease which is not physically allowed.

Black holes are the highest-entropy objects we can have so this restriction should be the most important in their context: the more entropy a system produces, the more dramatic difference between the past and the future it creates. OK, so how do the rules of thermodynamics work in the presence of black holes?

Black holes and increasing entropy

Let me assume that the reader believes me that the entropy of a large black hole is proportional to the event horizon area, namely "A/4" in Planck units. Jacob Bekenstein was able to guess this relationship by general arguments applying thermodynamics to black holes; Stephen Hawking calculated it by the methods of thermodynamics from the known temperature of the Hawking radiation. Moreover, the relationship can now be calculated and confirmed directly - by counting the microstates in string theory.

Because the total entropy should never decrease, the total area of event horizons should never decrease either.

Indeed, that's correct. And in fact, this law of "increasing event horizon areas" can be derived (and was derived, by Stephen Hawking in 1970) from Einstein's equations of general relativity themselves. Imagine a typical situation. Start with two neutral black holes whose masses are M and M. The radii of the event horizons are R=2M in Planck units so the total event horizon area is twice 4.pi.(2M)^2, i.e. 32.pi.M^2.

These two black holes may merge into one object, one black hole. After some time, it stabilizes. Its mass will be 2M, the radius will be 4M, and the horizon area is 4.pi.(4M)^2 = 64.pi.M^2, more than the initial total area of the event horizons. Indeed, the total area has increased. The important thing is that this process can never occur in reverse: a neutral black hole cannot spontaneously decay into two black holes.

More precisely, such a process is possible in the context of the Hawking radiation but such "huge Hawking particles" are extremely (exponentially) unlikely. For practical purposes, it is impossible for a black hole to split into two.

The important message here is that the classical general relativity including black holes gives a geometric interpretation to the concept of entropy. And the law of increasing entropy can be proved from Einstein's equations. The reason why we can prove this law and not the inverse law is the assumption that the black hole interiors and singularities always occur in the future light cones of normal observers, not in the past light cones.

Do the white holes exist in the Hilbert space?

When you imagine a causal diagram for a star that is collapsing into a black hole and you time-revert it, to obtain a new "object" (really, it's a history) that is naturally called the "white hole", it looks completely different: the singularity is in the past while the star is in the future. The black hole is associated with some microstates in the Hilbert space. Because the causal diagram of a white hole is so different, you might think that the white hole will have to be represented by completely different microstates - because it is so "macroscopically" different.

But this conclusion is incorrect. If you try to find the time-reverted states that are associated with a white hole, you will find the very same states as those that you linked to a black hole. There are simply no other massive microstates and all massive microstates can be used as black hole microstates. It is enough for one slice through the spacetime to look similar in the black hole and white hole case to see that the microstates are "shared". We are led to a clear conclusion first articulated by Stephen Hawking in 1974:
Quantum mechanically, black holes and white holes are the same thing.
When they're the same thing, John Wiley Price could wake up and ask his question "why don't we call them white holes?" again. ;-)

Well, they correspond to the same microstates but if you actually study how they evolve in time, their history includes objects that absorb a lot of radiation but don't emit much. There is indeed an asymmetry between black holes and white holes as long as we define them by the classical causal diagrams. Black holes can exist but white holes can't. The entropy is always increasing because the past is always given by some data carrying finite information while the future is always "derived" and thus more chaotic.

In the context of black holes, this law means that the black hole singularities appear in the future, not in the past, large black holes merge and eat objects around, but they don't decay or emit objects, and this comment applies to light, too. That's why the white/black hole microstates always manifest themselves as black holes in the real world. After all, if they were white holes instead, black morons would also think it is a matter of discrimination because the famous white holes would be everywhere, they would be the key part of the Second Superstring Revolution, and black holes would be underrepresented. ;-)

Because I am not sure that this explanation will convince anyone in this crazy world, Mike Lazaridis should better rename his "BlackBerry" before it is too late. What about a "StrawBerry"? It's not perfect either. While BlackBerry is a nasty attack on a black man, StrawBerry could be an attack on a straw man. ;-)

Meanwhile, "black sheep of the family" should be renamed to a "white wolf of the family" and the "black swan" should become the "white blackbird". A subtle problem with this new notation is that the mostly black wolves are aggressive while the mostly white sheep are peaceful. (The color of devils and angels was simply copied from wolves and sheep.) It seems that Nature is racist Herself. Is it the time to destroy Her? Or is it enough to ban any talk about the color of sheep and wolves in public? :-)

Well, let's not joking about these matters too much because they are pretty serious. I agree with Mr Mayfield that anyone who is offended by the term "black hole" needs a serious psychiatric treatment. Poor Andy Strominger and Cumrun Vafa. They've been voting for junk left-wing politicians like Gore and Kerry throughout their lives and after decades, they find out that 90% of their famous papers are racist crap! ;-)

Friday, July 18, 2008 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Phun: physics fun

This is a demo of an amazing program simulating mechanics that was created as a part of a master thesis. You should have it, too!

Phun home page
Phun download (Windows, Linux, Mac)
Phun YouTube group with many videos
Phunbox: sharing phunlets
Engineering hearts should be pleased.

EUR-CZK: Black swan No 23 goes mainstream

The graph above shows a function of time - between July 2007 and July 2008. Yes, it is an almost perfect decreasing linear function that may be predicted to hit zero in 2012. :-) If you look carefully in April 2008, the function includes a negative multiple of the delta function, besides a smooth component. The function suddenly dropped from 25.00 to 23.00 for a few hours (in Asian trading).

The event was labeled a black swan, a very unlikely and hard-to-predict event that sometimes influences the markets. (The name was chosen because black swans were unknown to the Europeans until they saw them in Australia of the 17th century.) It looked so crazy for a smooth quantity to suddenly jump to as unreasonably low a number as 23.

However, black swans may become pretty ordinary. In three months, namely 1 hour ago, the function dropped below 23 without any delta functions involved. Yes, it is an exchange rate - namely the number of Czech crowns per euro. If you think of the euro as a strengthening currency, you should look at the picture above to realize that your conclusion depends on the reference frame.

Hendrik Lorentz: 155th birthday

Yesterday, Terence Tao and Henri Poincaré celebrated their birthdays, Congratulations, especially to the former mathematician.

Hendrik Antoon Lorentz, one of the key physicists of the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, was born in Arnhem, the Netherlands on July 18th, 1853.

As a kid, his teachers were annoying him with classical languages. However, he was influenced by his astronomy professor, Frederik Kaiser, and became interested in maths and physics soon.

Because of this success, Hendrik later married Kaiser's niece Aletta, i.e. the daughter of the author of the first Dutch postage stamp, Johann Wilhelm Kaiser. Hendrik's and Aletta's daughter, Geertruida Luberta, became the first Dutch female physicist.

Thursday, July 17, 2008 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Indiana Jones IV: very good

Last night, we went to a movie theater and saw

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
and I think it was very good.
Warning: Spoilers are found below.
In fact, I think it was better than some previous parts of Indiana Jones - I wasn't able to finish one of them because it looked boring to me.

Different people enjoy different kinds of movies. Many people like movies that mimic the reality. Well, I, for one, hate socialist realism. I also hate soap operas that are full of average characters who damage the lives of others in hundreds of random and average ways. I don't need to watch a movie to see these things in a movie theater (or TV) again.

Your humble correspondent prefers movies (the typical "American movies", but they don't have to be made in America, of course) with well-defined, strong, and positive heroes he can identify with, movies with strong emotions and major punch lines. To some extent, I like spectacular effects and unusual events, as long as they follow a kind of logic that should be neither excessively contrived nor overly naive.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

McCain, computers, and Czechoslovakia

It's at least the third time when John McCain publicly talks about recent events in Czechoslovakia, a country that was dissolved more than 15 years ago.

The hosts pedagogically explain their wise and curious viewers that the split was analogous to the separation of Bennifer who must currently be called Jenn and Ben. ;-) Tomkat and Brangelina are doing just fine.

(By the way, Sam Nunn, a possible running mate of Obama, also thinks that there is a lot of things going on in Czechoslovakia.)

Comedians make fun out of McCain (click)
Incidentally, the Russian oil company now claims that they deliver the missing oil for Czechia (not electricity! We surely don't need it, being exporters of energy, and planning to triple our nuclear sources in 1 decade, to produce 100% of our needs by fission and to export the rest) to Turkey because of financial reasons: the radar is not the reason, they say.

Barack Obama is of course among the last ones who could criticize John McCain. For example, one year ago, Obama was loudly planning to call the president of Canada (to screw NAFTA). Even more entertainingly, he has visited 57 states of the United States of America.
That couldn't stop his fans from recording Obamian rhapsody.
A lot has been recently written about McCain's computer illiteracy, too. Well, I guess that both of these things are justifiable, related to McCain's age, and won't pose immediate problems because he should have a lot of staff that compensates for these holes.

But still, one could feel a bit awkward about McCain's reduced ability to learn new things. Reagan was also old but his hair was black. What do you think about these two (and related) manifestations of McCain's incomplete knowledge about the contemporary world?

Julian Schwinger died 14 years ago

Julian Schwinger (*1918) died 14 years ago, on July 16th, 1994. His adviser was Isidor Isaac Rabi, a Nobel prize winner. Schwinger himself shared his 1965 Nobel prize with Feynman and Tomonaga.

Four students of Schwinger received a Nobel prize, too: Glauber (in 2005), Mottelson (with Bohr's son), Sheldon Glashow (in 1979), and Walter Kohn (for chemistry: yes, the KITP Kohn Hall is named after him). Glashow's grateful memories of Schwinger are here.

Schwinger did most of his key work at Harvard University. During his life, he was affiliated with CCNY, Columbia, Berkeley, Purdue, MIT, and UCLA. He was more formal a physicist than e.g. Feynman.

Julian Schwinger liked to use Green's functions because he used to work with radars during the war. ;-) He was among the first people who have isolated the first finite one-loop correction - to the electron's anomalous moment. If you forgot the coefficient, look at his grave and you will see it is "alpha/2 pi".

The Schwinger effect is the spontaneous creation of charged particle-antiparticle pairs in an electric field. Schwinger found new and elegant proofs to the CPT theorem and the spin-statistics theorem originally due to Pauli. He found various loop corrections to certain classical identities - we call them anomalous Schwinger terms and they were essential for the development of anomalies.

The Lippmann-Schwinger equation is satisfied by the scattering states in ordinary quantum mechanics. On the other hand, the Rarita-Schwinger action is a unique action for spin 3/2 fields. The only consistent way to add interactions for these fields is to have supersymmetry: the fields then become gravitinos. Schwinger used to be sorry that he didn't spend more time with this issue because he would have surely discovered supersymmetry before others did! ;-) In fact, I find it plausible.

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Today, global warming causes...

Global warming hasn't been seen for ten years but despite the absence, it causes a lot of things. According to the mainstream media, during the last day, global warming caused

Leon Lederman: 86th birthday

Leon Lederman was born on July 15th, 1922. Congratulations!

He is the 1988 physics Nobel prize winner for their discovery of the muon neutrino; let me neglect all other awards. Lederman was born in New York to a Russian Jewish family and did many things, becoming Fermilab's director in 1979: he is still the Director Emeritus. He coined the colorful term "God particle" for the electroweak-symmetry-breaking boson.

But I want to say a few words about their Physics First movement trying to reorganize high-school education so that kids learn chemistry and biology after they know some physics.

To some extent, this wrong system and the universities are to be blamed for the general ignorance, he says in the video below. It's terrible that even high school teachers are uncertain about maths and physics because they're pumping the same insecurity into the kids.

I am not going to be a fanatical advocate of this viewpoint but I essentially do agree with it. I used to have problems with my 300-pound high-school chemistry and biology teacher but even if I subtract this personal issue, chemistry sucked.

It contained a lot of superficial, misleading, oversimplified quantum physics that I wasn't quite ready to accept at that point: these things had to wait until the end of the high school when I really learned quantum mechanics. This limited degree of my belief reduced my interest in the subject and it looked like a lot of meaningless memorization to me.