Sunday, May 31, 2015 ... /////

Another insane wave of anti-Russia spin in Western media

Lots of the mass media write emotional stories about Russia's new anti-EU blacklist. For example, the BBC claims that there is The European Union anger at Russian travel blacklist.

The list of 89 EU politicians (list here) banned in Russia is clearly just a revenge for a totally analogous list of more than 100 people that was imposed by the EU. And I think it is totally sensible for Russia to say that Russia is being kind and building the mutual credibility when it makes the list public. If someone has missed that the EU, the U.S., and others have started with similar hostile exercises, he must be blind and deaf. If someone really doesn't understand that a revenge – reciprocal policies that are mostly analogous – is a matter of common sense, he is a complete loon.

If NATO decided to flatten Volgograd and soon afterwards, San Francisco would be flattened, would these people be also surprised? Are they also surprised that in this tense epoch, Russian warplanes are carefully monitoring U.S. destroyers in the Black Sea? And when foreign NGOs are starting color coups in other post-Soviet countries and a convicted ex-president of Georgia – a criminal on a "wanted" list – just became a governor of Odessa, are they surprised that Russia increased the regulation of NGOs?

It is a matter of common sense. Russia may sometimes be smashed in its face and remain silent. But as any other sovereign country, it obviously cannot behave in this way indefinitely. Continued masochism is a road to hell.

Saturday, May 30, 2015 ... /////

Silence of matter rules out realist "interpretations"

Empirical evidence directly implies that uniqueness of perceptions has to be subjective, not due to some objective mechanisms

Four years ago, I discussed the problems of the Ghirardi-Rimini-Weber (GRW 1986, paper) "interpretation" or modification of quantum mechanics. In my opinion, it's the most well-defined realist "interpretation" of quantum mechanics out there. It's also the reason why the proof that it contradicts the empirical evidence may be done most rigorously.

Here, I want to review those arguments of mine and also rephrase those arguments in terms of "subjectivity or objectivity of unique human perceptions", place the brain cells at the center, and show that the same conclusions – the uniqueness of the perceptions cannot be objective – applies universally. No "interpretation" or modification of quantum mechanics where the perceptions are unique is compatible with the empirical evidence.

A minor assault on Czech petitioners by Muslim students

Thankfully, most of the Czech written media have reported on a relatively minor incident involving Arab students that took place in the historical city of Olomouc – which I visited twice in recent years – yesterday.

This is the Upper Square (the Lower Square is nearby) with its city hall and their Astronomical Clock (not quite as pretty as the clock in Prague but still interesting). Meters away from the city hall, a group of members of "We Don't Want Islam In Czechia" NGO was collecting signatures on their petition against the EU refugee quotas.

During the last 2 weeks, the number of refugees that the European Commission wants to be given asylum in Czechia has doubled or tripled, to 3.2% of the available refugees or 1,328 folks (the percentage makes Czechia the almost canonical average EU member again) from Syria and Eritrea. With this doubling time, Czechia would be a mostly Muslim country before the Christmas – except that there would be no Christmas anymore. ;-)

Friday, May 29, 2015 ... /////

Chocolate helps weight loss, a hoax

Health and dietary science is clearly one of the softest disciplines out there but sometimes, one may still be surprised that it's softer than he has thought.

The story is the following: Exactly two months ago, media in 20 countries brought their fat readers good news. Scientists have found out that you may accelerate your weight loss if you eat chocolate with lots of cocoa on a daily basis.

The most important article for masses appeared in Der Bild, Europe's highest-circulation journal: Wer Shokolade isst, bleibt schlank! The supertitle said "Diese Studie schmeckt uns" i.e. "This study tastes well to us". It surely does, as I will discuss below.

The English-language media were somewhat underrepresented but the reports appeared in The Express, The Daily Star, The Irish Examiner, The Huffington Post, Times of India, some TV news in Texas and Australia, and others.

Because the statement sounds surprising, a sane person should ask what is the basis for the claims.

Thursday, May 28, 2015 ... /////

Relaxion, a new paradigm explaining the Higgs lightness

The Quanta Magazine published a report

A New Theory to Explain the Higgs Mass
by Natalie Wolchover that promotes a one-month-old preprint
Cosmological Relaxation of the Electroweak Scale
by Graham, Kaplan, and Rajendran. So far, the paper has 1 (conference-related) citation but has already received great appraisals e.g. from Guidice, Craig, and Dine – and less great ones e.g. from Arkani-Hamed.

The Higgs mass, $125\GeV$ or so (and the electroweak scale), is about $10^{16}$ times lighter than the Planck mass, the characteristic scale of quantum gravity. Where does this large number come from? The usual wisdom, with a correction I add, is that the large number may be explained by one of the three basic ideas:
1. naturalness, with new physics (SUSY, compositeness) near the Higgs mass
2. anthropic principle, i.e. lots of vacua with different values of the Higgs mass, mostly comparable to the Planck mass; the light Higgs vacua are chosen because they admit life like ours
3. Dirac's large number hypothesis: similar large dimensionless numbers are actually functions of the "age of the Universe" which is also large (but not a universal constant) and therefore evolve, or have evolved, as the Universe was expanding; see TRF
Too bad that the third option is often completely denied. Well, we sort of know that similar constants haven't been evolving in recent billions of years, at least not by $O(1)$, but it's a shame that the Graham et al. paper doesn't refer to the Dirac's 1937 paper at all because this new proposal is a hybrid of all three paradigms above, I think.

Raid on FIFA, extradition, timing are scary

Tomorrow, on Friday, FIFA – a top global soccer organization – will vote for its new president in Zürich, Switzerland.

The president who has been one since 1998, Josef Sepp Blatter of Switzerland (sometimes said to be the most powerful man of sports in the world), will face mainly Prince Ali bin Hussein of Jordan, an important aristocrat in his country, the current FIFA vice-president, and a great41 grandson of Prophet Mohammed (which I don't find remarkable given Mohammed's extensive and diverse sexual activities and the speedy growth of the exponential function).

Yesterday, on Wednesday, the Swiss police detained a group of seven officials, mostly from Latin America, because of charges that they have sold their votes deciding about the location of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, some choices of the cloth sponsors, and the 2011 presidential election.

The U.S. government is working hard to get these folks on the American soil. Two obvious questions are: Why America? And why now? I am sort of terrified by both questions.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 ... /////

Reviewing EPR, a "sleeping beauty" paper

Nature wrote an article with the list of top 15 "sleeping beauty" papers that were initially almost ignored but many decades later, they exploded and began to attract lots of followups.

Almost all of them are about the physics of surfaces and closely related issues in solid state physics. One exception, ranking as the #14 sleeping beauty, is the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen 1935 paper

Can quantum mechanical description of physical reality be considered complete? (4 pages, full text)
that I will critically review below. The main author came to the U.S. 2 years earlier, he was probably the primary source of the "ideas", and the two collaborators were postdocs at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton (this description of affiliations sounds just like today!).

This "sleeping beauty" woke up in 1994, i.e. 59 years after it was written. Obviously, some people would like to say that people were shallow, uncritical, and uncurious for those 59 years before some clever brave folks began to appreciate the wisdom in the paper. As you know, my summary is the opposite one. The physicists have been competent and understood that the EPR arguments weren't really right for those 59 years before the scientific community started to be flooded by folks who understood quantum mechanics at least as incorrectly as Einstein and his collaborators (without having found any results that could compare to Einstein's).

The initial letters of the authors – EPR – are currently used as a de facto synonym of "quantum entanglement" even though this paper (and Einstein's phrase "spooky action at a distance") is an alternative, fringe attack against the quantum entanglement. Einstein's and his collaborators' formulations are fresh and clear – unlike their followers' – but the paper is deeply flawed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 ... /////

Clifford Johnson's flawed ideas about string theory's raison d’être

String theory's founding fathers have been a heroic group of solitaires who were developing a remarkable theory whose X Factor only became self-evident to most of the competent theoretical high-energy physicists in the mid 1980s. At that time, during the First Superstring Revolution, string theory became a mainstream subject, the generally appreciated "only game in town" when it comes to the unification of gravity with the rest of fundamental physics.

A subject that becomes mainstream enters the same risk as a stable corporation that has already grown big: It absorbs too many people that are too ordinary, too opportunist, and too unaware of the reasons why they're in that subject and not another subject. It has too many "followers" which may also be a ticket to stagnation.

As a guy who came to string theory from an unfriendly environment – the post-communist Academia which was mostly hostile towards string theory because its own scientific results were basically zero, much like the scientific contributions of the critics of string theory elsewhere – I always felt the gap between the "real people" who know what they're doing and the "other people". And I had the worrying feeling that the younger generation contains way too many "other people", too many "followers". The "real people" among the younger generations have been dangerously rare for decades.

Monday, May 25, 2015 ... /////

Possible particle discoveries at LHC

Guest blog by Paul Frampton

Dear Luboš, here is my guest blog associated with my recent paper entitled

"Lepton Number Conservation, Long-Lived Quarks and Superweak Bileptonic Decays"
posted at 1504.05877 [hep-ph] which suggests that LHC seek three additional quarks but, as promised, I shall include a general overview of what new particles might show up in Run II.

As is well known, discovery of the Higgs Boson in Run I completed the content of the standard model. Run II at $13\TeV$, later expected to reach $14\TeV$, is just beginning and what additional particle, if any, will be discovered is surely the central issue of particle phenomenology.

Sunday, May 24, 2015 ... /////

Far-reaching features of physical theories are not sociological questions

Backreaction has reviewed a book on the "philosophy of string theory" written by a trained physicist and philosopher Richard Dawid who may appear as a guest blogger here at some point.

Many of the statements sound reasonable – perhaps because they have a kind of a boringly neutral flavor. But somewhere in the middle, a reader must be shocked by this sentence – whose content is then repeated many times:

Look at the arguments [in favor of string theory] that he raises: The No Alternatives Argument and the Unexpected Explanatory Coherence are explicitly sociological.
Oh, really?

Eurovision song contest: the ultimate kitschy PC event

Last night, about 200 million viewers in the world were watching the Eurovision Song Contest. This huge number sounds utterly incomprehensible to most Czechs. Last year, when a would-be transvestite Conchita Wurst won, the Czech TVs didn't air the contest at all. This year, people could watch it on an obscure Art Public TV channel, and 1% of the Czech population (100,000) did it.

The contest is often semi-jokingly dubbed the most successful result of the European integration and unification. And various Czech journalists compare it to the summits of the European Union. It's boring, dull, each country of Europe (including Australia) has a representative, all of them try to search for the universal common denominator of likability, almost everyone tries to be as close to the average as possible, and if someone is just a little bit further from that, he is disproportionately celebrated for his or her "courage".

And everyone seems to be dead serious about the contest. No irony or jokes can be found anywhere. Just like an EU summit.

Saturday, May 23, 2015 ... /////

Greece: parallel currency, default, solutions

Greece remains one of the main topics that markets are thinking about. Its finance minister Varoufakis promised a default on June 5th (€303 million from a 2010 IMF loan) if additional billions of euros aren't poured over the Greek black hole before that day; to feed his corrupt parasitic voters with other people's money will always be more important for him than to fulfill basic international obligations of his country.

He may be bluffing, he may be serious, we can't be sure. It sounds insane that Greece would be the first country in the world's history that would default to the IMF – in some sense, to the whole international economic community – something that no screwed dictatorial regime in Africa has managed to achieve so far. But Varoufakis and his comrades are self-described Marxists so truly insane decisions may be expected, after all.

I follow the Greek media – including those written in Greek. One thing I find remarkable is their local indication that "everything is fine" in the country. Default-related stories are actually just a small part of what they discuss. They don't think that they have a problem. This is remarkable because if the country defaults, the very fabric of the society may be torn apart. And it's only Greece that will be radically transformed.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 ... /////

Inconsequential, irrational, incorrect criticisms of PR, ER=EPR

Insights by Papadodimas and Raju (PR) and those by Maldacena and Susskind (ER=EPR) have advanced our understanding of quantum gravity in the following way:

We know that there is some Hilbert space of microstates, especially black hole microstates (or two black holes' microstates), for example from AdS/CFT. It may be described e.g. by using the energy eigenstate basis. This Hilbert space is fixed and our goal – they have started to fulfill – is to become masters of this Hilbert space. What does it mean?

It means to be able to embed, localize, or identify operators (or even operator algebras) on/into this Hilbert space that may be associated with particular measurements that we may do in the real world. In practice, it means to see how the bulk field operators (and the black hole or wormhole interior operators are the really hard ones) are embedded in the space of black hole microstates.

In this approach, quantum mechanics is primary because a Hilbert space pre-exists and the field operators have to "adapt" to it. This is very different from the approach in which a Hilbert space is produced out of local fields, e.g. as the Fock space. In such an approach, the spacetime would be primary and fundamental. Such an approach is probably inapplicable in quantum gravity.

Award-winning silly conformal gravity agitprop by 't Hooft

Since his well-deserved 1999 Nobel prize in physics, Gerard 't Hooft got used to a luxurious lifestyle and because the prize money have been gone for years, he decided to find a great new way to earn a few more extra bucks.

In 2005, The Templeton Foundation and Max Tegmark established a foundation called FQXi that has been distributing thousands of dollars for essays. Well over 90% of the winners have been crackpots, the kind of people from the Smolin environment, people whose feeble brains don't allow their owners to learn modern physics but who are great in hyping conspiracy theories and meaninglessly combine philosophical and physical buzzwords.

Oops. DG informed me that I conflated two different essay contest foundations, FQXi and Gravity Research Foundation. 't Hooft's essay won the latter.

When you are a warrior against the conventional top physics research who wants to earn the money in this way, you face the competition of dozens of fellow crackpots. But if you're the only one who is a Nobel prize winner at the same moment, your chances of winning the FQXi essay contest go up.

Monday, May 18, 2015 ... /////

Oliver Heaviside: 165th birthday

Oliver Heaviside was born in London on May 18th, 1850. He was short, a redhead, and a sufferer from poor hearing due to scarlet fever in his childhood. Due to the limited support from his parents and the hostility of the institutionalized science towards him, he has never received any PhD and almost no credit.

But he was the Gentleman we must thank to for many discoveries and inventions related to electromagnetism and for the modern notation he introduced.

Saturday, May 16, 2015 ... /////

John Bell actually misunderstood relativity, too

For the sake of unity, I adopt Bell's spelling "Fitzgerald". The physicist's name was FitzGerald.

John Bell is one of the ultimate darlings of the chronic interpreters and the anti-quantum zealots in particular. They like to maintain a widespread myth that Bell has found something important about Nature – or about quantum mechanics. He didn't. He only found something moderately important – but not completely unknown – about a class of wrong candidate theories of Nature, the local "realist" hidden-variable theories. The word "realist" is a euphemism for "classical" and it is synonymous with "non-quantum".

While this theorem has often been discussed in the debates about the foundations of quantum mechanics, Bell himself is responsible for much of the anti-quantum fog that is omnipresent these days. He said – and it was completely unbacked by any of his "solid" work – that the resolution is that Nature is realist but it is not local. The truth is the opposite, of course. Nature is quantum – i.e. non-realist – but it is local. It has to be local because the special theory of relativity demands that.

Just a few hours ago, I believed that Bell was simply ready to abandon special relativity because "realism" (i.e. the faith that quantum mechanics must ultimately be wrong) was a more important dogma than relativity for him. But only today in the afternoon, I was led to a text that shows that it was just a part of the story. He was actually ready to abandon relativity because he was a relativity denier. To say the least, he denied that Einstein has changed anything about the content of physics. In his opinion, the previous theories based on the aether were already OK and Einstein has only changed the style, philosophy, and pedagogy!

A circular cone and Judas betrayed students during high school final exams

In total, 15.7% of the students failed in their Spring 2015 "maturita", the Czech high school exit exam also nicknamed "the adulthood test". That result was a mixture of 6.5% of students who failed in Czech [meaning Czech language plus all literature], 6.3% who failed in English, and staggering 24% who failed in mathematics. The students' performance in languages is worse than the numbers suggest.

But the Czech Facebook got filled with complaints about two questions from Czech and mathematics. They were about a Biblical villain and about a cone. It's unacceptable for us to be asked about such issues, the pubescent bastards have screamed all over the Internet. ;-)

Friday, May 15, 2015 ... /////

Fun with ImageIdentify.com

Stephen Wolfram and his folks have launched another rather incredible website, one that tells you what a given photograph contains.

Wolfram Language Artificial Intelligence: The Image Identification Project (some official blog comments by SW)

I've tried lots of pictures. A photograph of the Pilsner Tower – the St Bartholomew Cathedral in Pilsen – was correctly named a "church". The luxurious apartment building "The Ehrlich Palace" was guessed to be a "hotel". Two adults with two kids looking to the camera are a "person".

A Wiener schnitzel with the potato salad turned out to be "food".

Amusingly enough, a fat girl in the train who was just decorating nails or something like that was identified as a "vertebrate". LOL.

EU breakup better than refugee quotas

Instead of thinking about some creative plans to genuinely and systematically improve the lives of all those Africans who are dreaming about moving to Europe, such as recolonialization of Africa, the apparatchiks in the European Commission – an enelected government of the EU – proposed another "clever solution", namely the EU-wide refugee quotas.

They must have completely lost their mind.

Some EU countries suffer because they include similar sceneries.

So far, they talk about a very modest group of 20,000 refugees in two years but it's obvious that this number is just a "demo" and if such centrally controlled transfers were codified, all the EU member states would soon or later see inflows of millions of people. You just can't "force" sovereign countries accept tons of refugees – especially if the overwhelming majority of the citizens opposes such a policy.

Thursday, May 14, 2015 ... /////

All realistic "interpretations" falsified by low heat capacities

For a week, I wanted to promote one topic in my 2011 text about Paul Dirac's forgotten quantum wisdom to a separate blog post.

Finally, I managed to tunnel through the barrier of hesitation and moderate laziness.

What is it? It's his observation – understood by most physicists between 1900-1930 – that most of the internal structure of the atoms has to be invisible because it doesn't contribute to the specific heat. It was one of the reasons that made it possible for Gentlemen like Dirac to see that classical, realist theories had to be abandoned and that allowed them to complete their understanding of their revolutionary new framework within months from some important insights – even though so many people remain clueless even now, 90 years later.

Many of the chronic interpreters – a term that is mostly synonymous to the anti-quantum zealots – could be able to see that their favorite classical theory – now renamed as "realist interpretation of quantum mechanics" – has to be wrong. It can be killed in seconds. In this blog post, I won't copy and paste my 2011 essay. Instead, I will try to be complementary. But the section "Absent heat capacity from electrons" in my 2011 text is overlapping with the content of this blog post.

Iran tried to buy nuclear-related compressors using fake documents

...the Czech authorities stopped the sale of the Czech product...

Reuters published an exclusive story from Prague – before the Czech media did so.

ČKD Kompresory is a Prague-based company, currently called Howden ČKD Compressors, that is producing compressors which may be used to extract enriched uranium directly from the cascades – or for some non-nuclear goals, too.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015 ... /////

No particle upon a quantum field means no information

Backreation promotes a paper,

Information transmission without energy exchange
by Jonsson, Martin-Martinez, and Kempf, which claims that in 1+1 (exception), 2+1, 4+1, and other odd dimensions, and in curved spaces, the information may be transmitted by a massless quantum field without any exchange of energy. Moreover, the signals move much slower than the speed of light and the communication involves production of no quanta in the field.

The authors play with some subtle "defect" of the Hyugens principle in odd dimensions (and other spaces) and they try to convert this "strange thing" into "other strange things". A problem is that their claims are not right.

Papal encyclical: will AGW, Catholic churches merge?

Environmentalism used to be one of the small building blocks of the nationalist socialist ideology in Germany but it kept on growing and was adopted mainly by the far left-wing, atheist youth.

However, in recent decades, another perspective on environmentalism – and especially its most radical incarnation, the global warming alarmism – was becoming increasingly self-evident. Global warming alarmism is a religion. This point was described in many TRF blog posts a decade ago, too.

Many people have made the point before 2000 but one of the first articulate texts about this topic was the 2003 speech by late TRF reader Michael Crichton, "Environmentalism As Religion".

Like other religions, environmentalism is based on the myth of the initial paradise (you wouldn't want to live in the wild and cruel pre-industrial world!) and the original sin. There will be a judgement day and people must look for salvation which separates them to good believers and evil infidels. The facts no longer matter. It is all about the belief so the huge and accumulating evidence disproving the environmentalist religious myths has no impact on the believers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015 ... /////

NASA: no warp drive results. Cranks yelling

A week ago, I discussed the recent wave of misguided enthusiasm concerning the EM drive and warp drive crackpot memes. I have reminded everyone of the simple reasons that make us known – in the same sense as we know that the Earth is not flat – that those dreams can't be realized.

At that time, over a hundred of major news outlets brought a gospel to their readers. Fuel-free and perhaps superluminal spaceships are around the corner. Thousands of loud weirdos have self-confidently filled the comment sections of their newspapers, celebrating the "breakthrough" and punishing the laws of physics for the restrictions they have never liked.

Sunday, May 10, 2015 ... /////

Croatian paramilitary units kidnap the president of Liberland

The interpretations of the events below are not meant quite seriously.

The world's newest country, the Libertarian Paradise of Liberland (Google Maps), seven squared kilometers located between the old and new stream of Danube that was defining the border of Croatia and Serbia, is approaching 1 million applicants for citizenship. Incidentally, while the correct interpretation is that the land in between the two streams of Danube was a "country of nobody" before Liberland was established, Croatia tries to claim that it belonged to Croatia and Serbia tries to claim that it belonged to Serbia.

Because the average applicants for the Liberlandic citizenship are wealthier than the average people of Croatia and Serbia (Liberland is the ultimate tax haven for the rich and for surfing girls, after all), the total GDP of Liberland already trumps that of either former Yugoslav country. The president, my Facebook friend Vít Jedlička [Veet Yed-Leach-Car], is working hard to create a new Hong Kong in the Balkans.

Saturday, May 09, 2015 ... /////

How the U.S. didn't liberate Prague 70 years ago

Seventy years ago, Prague was liberated by the regular Soviet army led by Ivan Konev – and also by the anti-Bolshevik Russian general Andrey Vlasov (who was previously captured and whose troops were temporarily changed into units of the German army). Because the continuing control of German units over my homeland after the official capitulation seems like too "big a detail" to be neglected, I still consider May 9th (and not May 8th) to be the end of Second World War in Europe.

Moscow saw a huge military parade today. Czech president Zeman and Slovak PM Fico didn't attend the parade even though they are in Moscow. I find it weird that they missed the event.

Historically, the Czech lands have belonged to the West for 900 years. However, the 1930s and 1940s saw quite some detached attitude by the Western allies to Czechoslovakia. In September 1938, the U.K. and France – our closest allies – agreed with Hitler and Mussolini that the Third Reich should have gotten the Sudetenland – a territory that was a part of the Czech kingdom at every moment in the previous 900 years. The Munich Treaty – which energized Hitler more than almost any other event before the war – is usually referred to as the Munich Betrayal in the Czech context.

Friday, May 08, 2015 ... /////

Is the vacuum empty and boring?

It depends on the observables you want to learn about

One of the tricks by which the proponents of various reactionless drives brainwash the gullible laymen is the suggestion that they can create a self-accelerating spaceship because instead of "directly" violating the momentum conservation law, they are "pushing against the vacuum".

So some defenders of this pseudoscience were writing such things in the thread. For a while, I was patient but my patience has been depleted for a long time. I just can't comprehend how someone may fail to see that "violating the momentum conservation law" and "pushing against the vacuum" are exactly the same thing expressed in different words – and they are (or it is) forbidden in Nature.

Amanda Peet's PI stringy LEGO talk

New-Zealand-born string theorist Amanda Peet was educating and entertaining a packed Perimeter Institute auditorium a few days ago:

If you can afford to spend 80 minutes, you should watch it. She dances, sings, shows numerous cartoons, and especially lots of physics.

Thursday, May 07, 2015 ... /////

Timo Soini likely to become Finnish finance minister

...and this can make a difference in Europe...

First, one of the best articles on Greece that I recently read was written by a guy with a Greek name, Prof Ted Loch-Temzelides of Rice University. In his Let the Greek Games End (Forbes), he explains why the expected Grexit will be very bad news for Greece, neutral or good news for others, and why Greece will remain unattractive for business even with a weak currency because of the bureaucratic barriers, ineffective public sector, low productivity, and public mentality that is hostile to capitalism and foreign investors. I would add that there will always be a big risk that the Greeks elect a government that will make the situation for your business even worse than it is now – or that will simply confiscate your assets, much like the Syriza Bolshevik junta just wants to rob Greece's 500 wealthiest families.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015 ... /////

EM drive, warp drive, gullibility without limits

In recent 7 days, about 100 news outlets have informed their readers about "progress" in the construction of EM drive, and sometimes warp drive, that will allow NASA and everyone else to get everywhere (L.A., Moon, Mars, other galaxies) very quickly, perhaps faster than the speed of light.

Off-topic, legit technology: GPS with sub-inch accuracy (100 times better) will come to your smartphone soon
Almost all the writers indicate that the information is trustworthy. Exceptions are rare. Ethan Siegel at Forbes is an example. The Skeptics Guide. Katie Palmer of Wired must also be praised for her explanations why it's still poppycock. (Needless to say, hundreds of aggressive kooks attacked Palmer (pic) and upvoted themselves in the comments. By upvotes, kooks defeated sane readers 100-to-1. Be aware that poppycock isn't a cock that pops, as they think, but an original Dutch word for a soft i.e. near-liquid šit.) Numerous comments in the Tesla battery thread were dedicated to this warp drive hype. I was overwhelmed and couldn't find energy to write a separate blog post about that topic. I didn't want to be attacked by thousands of flabbergasting imbeciles.

Now the density of this nonsense has sufficiently decreased for me to find the courage to write a serious blog post: hundreds of flabbergasting imbeciles is what I am used to and ready to face.

Marine Le Pen in Prague

Shannon was the first source that told me that Marine Le Pen is just visiting Prague. However, hours later, all the Czech media (surprisingly?) dedicated lots of attention to the guest.

Her Twitter account provides you with many pictures from her visit.

On the Charles Bridge, she didn't wear plastic bags – but she carried them which is almost the same thing (and it's exactly the same word in Czech).

She has made a wish while she touched the statue of John Nepomucký and this wish will come true, unless superstitions are piles of šit that fail to work, of course. ;-)

Tuesday, May 05, 2015 ... /////

AdS/MERA, tensor networks, and string theory

Very unusually, Sean Carroll wrote a blog post promoting his and six co-authors' new preprint (mostly a review) about a topic that is potentially deep and that may be right – or that isn't obviously wrong.

His wife Jennifer Ouellette wrote an even better popular review for the Quanta Magazine, as Gordon pointed out.

It's about the description of spacetime as a tensor network. This theme was implicitly used in Beni Yoshida's guest blog about quantum error-correcting codes and quantum gravity five weeks ago – and in a report about a 2013 talk by Maldacena.

Here, I want to sketch what this "quantum gravity from tensor networks" stuff is and what it's not. TRF readers surely expect me to be outraged by something. The main claim that I find outrageous is Carroll's statement that in this topic

"[p]erhaps more intriguingly, the idea of 'string theory' never really enters the game."
Wow, quite a summary.

The iconoclastic monarchs of Prague Castle

Politico.eu just published an essay by Benjamin Cunningham,

The monarchs of Prague Castle,
a text displaying the author's surprise that the colorless Czech nation never wants to find a boring president. First of all, the article makes the impression that the Czech nation is a bunch of relatively boring, average, opportunist people – while its leaders tend to be more colorful. I need to emphasize that this point is basically correct.

Klaus, Zeman, Havel a few years after the Velvet Revolution.

However, Cunningham vastly underestimates how far this expectation from the Czech leaders goes, why the Czechs ultimately find it natural to pick leaders who are not average men hiding beneath many other people's skirts, and why they are right. Let me discuss these points in some detail.

Solar cycles and 45-month oscillations of temperature

Five days ago, I wrote a blog post about the unusually strong nearly periodic oscillations in the global temperature anomalies measured by satellites. The periodicity seems to be 44-45 months or 3.7 years or so.

Your humble correspondent, Bill Zajc, and Roy Spencer have done various interesting calculations. For example, Roy Spencer told me about his calculation saying that my alternative mundane explanation rooted in the leap years cycle gives a 4-year periodicity and 10+ times smaller amplitude than what is needed.

Here, I want to make a comment inspired by the possibility that the periodicity in the terrestrial temperatures is linked to the solar cycles. Does it work well? And what is the relative phase?

Monday, May 04, 2015 ... /////

How the Kaggle restaurant contest was hacked

Kaggle.com is a server that organized the ATLAS Higgs machine learning contest but it is organizing many others. One of them is the Turkish restaurant revenue prediction that is ending tonight.

You may download the information about 137 restaurants including the revenue – along with the values of 37 real-number parameters describing each "training" restaurant (plus some "discrete information" about each) as well as the revenue. And you should guess the revenue of 100,000 restaurants for which you are only told the 37 real-valued parameters (plus the "discrete information").

You are rated according to the root mean square average of the errors of your 100,000 predicted numbers. Well, the preliminary table is calculated from about 30% of the restaurants, and the final leaderboard deciding about \$30,000 in prizes from the remaining 70% or so restaurants. If you open the current leaderboard, you will see that the BAYZ team has guessed the 30,000 numbers exactly.

Sunday, May 03, 2015 ... /////

Hydrogen fuel cars you can buy now

In the previous blog post, I have exposed my disdain for the hype surrounding mass production of something as ordinary as lithium-ion batteries. Electric power has been used for a very long time – one comparable to that of the combustion engines. It works but whether it should replace the combustion engines or fossil-fuel-driven power plants should be left to the free markets and those shouldn't be distorted by subsidies.

The same thing holds for the hydrogen fuel cells. They are actually an old paradigm, too. In fact, they were first proposed in 1838. However, until recently, the technological hurdles have been huge and that's why hydrogen fuel cells still sound as science-fiction of a sort. For many years, you could have driven hydrogen-fueled hybrid buses produced in Pilsen but you didn't expect to buy a hydrogen fuel car yourself.

Friday, May 01, 2015 ... /////

I am not getting the Tesla battery hype

Elon Musk has done and is doing great things but I seem to be bombarded by hype – not only by media hype – that just goes beyond me.

Electric cars have been around for quite some time. In the 2010 video above, Jay Leno compares an electric Ford Focus to his Baker Electric from 1909 – when my grandfather was born. The principle remained the same – and in fact, the range remained pretty much the same, too, of order 100 miles.

Now, there have been lots of semi-groundbreaking inventions. For example, Thomas Alva Edison invented the alkaline batteries which doubled the range. We still use them often. But what is the basis for all the publicity about Musk's battery transactions? What is the breakthrough? Where is the beef? Why does the whole world need to know whether Musk wants to build a battery plant in New Jersey or something like that?