Monday, February 27, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Ludvig Faddeev: 1934-2017

Giotis brought us the bad news that Ludvig Faddějev died yesterday. To theoretical physicists, he is primarily known as a co-father of some ghosts (namely Faddějev-Popov \(bc\) ghosts, along with Victor Popov, which are the "good ghosts" in the core of the modern covariant, BRST quantization of theories with local symmetries) and as a forefather of quantum groups.

He was born in Leningrad in 1934 (go polar bears: do you agree that the janitor looks like Faddějev? OK, Faddějev was in between the janitor and Arnold Schwarzenegger). His father was a well-known algebraist, his mother was doing numerical linear algebra. Not a bad pedigree. But he wanted to revolt and chose an occupation that was entirely different from his parents'. So he went to theoretical physics instead of mathematics even though he received a very good background in mathematics, partly thanks to Fock and Smirnov.

Obviously, my comment about the "very different field" was meant as a joke. His work remained very close to mathematical physics and like Dirac, he has always considered the mathematical beauty to be the key principle in the search for the laws of physics. As he said in the interview embedded below, that's why he considered himself a "mathematical", not "theoretical", physicist and why he was thinking differently than Landau's school that focused on the "physical sense". I am probably using the terms "mathematical physics" and "physical/mathematical sense" in a different way than he did so it's hard for me to agree with this logic.

Sunday, February 26, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Peter Thiel, the shadow U.S. president

Sanity is getting restored at many places of America.

Just two years ago, Ráchel Doležalová – the white woman pretending to be black – was leading a regional movement of the black women and she was even a university professor. Her leadership reminded me of "Her Excellency" in the Polish cult sci-fi movie The Sexmission – in that movie, the boss of the underground hardcore feminist dystopian society turned out to be male.

These days, Ráchel Doležalová is jobless and expecting to become homeless soon, too. That makes much more sense than her being a leader. Note that I spelled her name according to the Czech standards because I think that she has displayed not just some white trickery but a rather typical Czech way of cheating. She is basically a Czech crook in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Peter Thiel – who was mocked and ostracized in some corners just a few months ago – has become a key Trump adviser if you use the words of the British left-wing daily, The Independent, or Trump's shadow president in the Silicon Valley, if you prefer the language of Politico.com.

Thiel's Palantir [data mining company] spreads its testicles in Europe (OK, maybe they were tentacles, who cares) and was a major force assisting the NSA to spy on the whole world. Lots of Thiel's current and former associates are getting various important jobs.

The case for string theory: 60 symbols

Tony Padilla is a cosmologist who has recorded numerous successful videos about science and mathematics. Many of them showed some interesting mathematics, some of the videos on the same channel (not connected with Tony) were embarrassing (e.g. the video "quantum mechanics, an embarrassment").



Three weeks ago, he released this 16-minute video at the "Sixty symbols" channel (OK, it's really "SIXTΨ SγMBΦLS", I had to waste a minute by writing these symbols; fortunately, fewer than 60 were needed). It already has over 150,000 views and 98% of the votes are positive.

Saturday, February 25, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Should physics teaching respect the historical chronology?

At his Forbes blog, Chad Orzel wrote the essay

Why Do We Spend So Much Time Teaching Historical Physics?
which, in my opinion, sensibly describes the advantages and disadvantages of "following the sequence of events in the history" while teaching physics. Maybe I could say that I agree both with his points and their balance.

Orzel starts by saying that there are people who find it natural to bring the undergraduate freshmen as quickly as they can near the cutting edge of physics – to modern physics that includes relativity and quantum mechanics – once they get into the college. People don't want the well-known 19th century stuff and the nontrivial new things that the laymen usually don't know make the university a cooler place.

In the past, some of us were defending some exposure of students of high schools if not basic schools to quantum mechanics, too.

However, when this strategy is applied, he argues, one usually ends up with lots of students who just don't understand why some idea – like the wave-particle duality – was introduced at all. Like other instructors, Orzel often answers "Because I say so" when he is asked some "Why" questions. The pedagogic procedures often rely on references to the authorities which is counterproductive and unscientific in spirit.

Time crystals would be a perpetuum mobile

One of the widely shared recent articles at Phys.org was

Time crystals—how scientists created a new state of matter
three days ago. The text claims that Frank Wilczek's 2012 idea about quantum time crystals has been experimentally proven to be right. Not bad. Time crystals have previously attracted some funding from Microsoft, too. Great. Frank Wilczek is playful, smart, and cool but I find this whole industry to be nothing else than a children's game meant to fool themselves. What has been seen is completely trivial while Wilczek's claims that were actually new and provoking are demonstrably impossible.



What's going on?

A normal crystal may have atoms or molecules at regularly spaced places (a lattice)\[

(x,y,z) \in \ZZ^3.

\] In some units or a coordinate system, the three coordinates are integer-valued. This setup breaks the group of spatial translations from the continuous group \(\RR^3\) to the discrete subgroup \(\ZZ^3\), assuming that the crystal is infinite. Now, Wilczek's general idea is that he wants the same "symmetry breaking" to be applied to the translations in time, too. Effectively, his new "material", the quantum time crystal, is doing something special – or reaching the maximum value of some observable – at moments \(t\in \ZZ\) in some units, too.

Friday, February 24, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Climate: America elected Donald, not Ivanka, Trump

A week before the inauguration, I mentioned that Rex Tillerson was basically the main honorary climate alarmist in the Trump administration. Well, it is true if you only look at the official "secretaries", not all the people who have lots of genuine power.

If you look at all the people, the main obstacle for the restoration of climate sanity in the U.S. is the most beloved kid of Donald Trump among the five, Ivanka Trump. She isn't a lukewarmer like Tillerson – she is a downright climate alarmist. Because Melania Trump stayed in New York with her and the president's son Barron, Ivanka Trump is playing the role of the de facto first lady. Her Jewish husband Jared Kushner is therefore logically the alternate U.S. president operating behind the scenes.

Ivanka Trump is beautiful, smarter than almost all the miss contestants who otherwise look like her, and she is a progressive. Most of us became certain about this statement after her 2016 Republican National Convention speech. People applauded but it was exactly the kind of speech you would expect at the competing Democrats' gathering. Child care, equal pay, and similar stuff.

Thursday, February 23, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Revival of bootstrap

After many stories of a very different kind, the Quanta Magazine finally published a story about some exciting work done by top theoretical physicists based on some precious and ambitious old ideas:

Physicists Uncover Geometric ‘Theory Space’
Natalie Wolchover wrote a story about bootstrap which contains lots of the right information – old basics as well as some cutting-edge research in recent years – and it's sort of incredible that there are no serious bugs in her text, as far as I can see.



Her story also boasts this periodic animated GIF with 16 frames which is cool by itself.

Werner Heisenberg really started the story in 1943 when he introduced the S-matrix – the evolution operator from the "minus infinite time" to the "plus infinite time" (within the framework of quantum field theory that Pauli, Jordan, himself, and others began to construct in the late 1920s and early 1930s) and conjectured that the right form of the S-matrix could follow from consistency conditions and nothing else. When lots of messy hadrons began to be discovered in the 1960s (and perhaps already in the 1950s – some of his quotes were "backdated" so it's not easy to give time stamps to every piece of this history), Heisenberg also conjectured that the consistency would dictate the properties of all particles and all of them would be some compromise between elementary and composite particles. By this belief, Heisenberg stood against a major industry in these two decades that was dedicated to the identification which particles were elementary and which were composite.

What he said about uniqueness couldn't be quite true because we know numerous theories – and their inequivalent S-matrices – which seem perfectly consistent so some conditions have to be added. But the idea was out.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Spitzer finds a more habitable extra-solar system than ours

I would still bet it's uninhabited

An hour ago, I bought an amazing astronomical telescope for $4. It's a pretty good price, I think, but when it was new, it was actually sold for the same price in the supermarkets! ;-) It's meant to be a gift for an 8-year-old but I've never had such a big telescope in my life and it really works. Sadly, the sky is cloudy now.



An extraterrestrial dog

Many of us were eagerly expecting the press conference on NASA TV at 7 p.m. Prague Winter Time (see also the NASA exoplanets web). I am watching it now.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Iodine-131 news are being misinterpreted, overhyped

A few days ago, a commenter linked to an alarmist and Russophobic article in The Sun about the radioactive iodine-131 over Europe. I happen to think that the Czech journalists are doing a better job than the the world media in most of these stories combining science and politics which is why I decided to translate a Czech report in Novinky.cz, a mainstream left-wing server.



Our high school physics teacher was playing songs by this excellent band for us instead of one lecture. He was a fun guy – and he has also faced some sanctions for romantic relationships with his female student. ;-)

A part of Europe including Czechia informs about the radioactive iodine-131 in the air, the source is unclear

In Czecha and six other European countries, measuring stations have detected a tiny amount of the radioactive isotope of iodine, iodine-131. Its concentration is, according to the French IRSN Institute for Defense Against Radiation, negligible and doesn't pose a threat for human health. The source of the isotope must be linked to the human activities but its location is unclear.

Monday, February 20, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Why robots shouldn't pay income taxes

Bill Gates has done many cool things and even earned some money. But I simply had to laugh when I saw an interview in Quartz (see also a response in Fortune, Google News) where he says that robots should pay income taxes. The most important paragraph says:

Bill Gates: Certainly there will be taxes that relate to automation. Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed and you get income tax, social security tax, all those things. If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.
The motivation behind similar monologues is obvious – people think that jobs are threatened by robots, people may become unemployed, and social problems may result from that. Some mechanisms to slow the progress down could be helpful and the extra resources could be used to reeducate the workers etc. (I actually disagree with all these general philosophical starting points as well but they won't be the topic of this blog post.)

It's the detailed calculation of the "punishment for robots" that I found hilarious. Gates explicitly says that
a robot should pay the same income tax, social security tax, and probably health insurance as the human worker(s) whom the robot replaced.
LOL. That's entertaining by the concentration of the complete misunderstanding of the technological progress, mechanisms of taxation, goods that one gets for inflation, and everything else.

Saturday, February 18, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Return Crimea to Ukraine? Return to Earth, please

In the first month of his presidency, Donald Trump did many things that were nice surprises to me – because I was far from certain that the campaign pledges could have been taken seriously. He basically does what he promised when it comes to immigration from the Middle East and Mexico, the wall, trade deals, climate hysteria, and other things (which will hopefully include tax cuts in the next two weeks). However, his relationships with Russia are disappointing so far.

Days ago, his guy Flynn was basically professionally assassinated by the intelligence services for some probable contacts with some representatives of Russia (the Russian embassy?). I do think that guys like Flynn should interact with various Russians very frequently. It didn't help him that he had to lie about some of the contacts.

However, the insanity conservation law seems to be approximately obeyed when it comes to unrealistic U.S. demands from Russia. In particular, I was shocked when Rex Tillerson – often identified as a man with highly constructive relationships with Russia in the past – basically demanded Russia to return Crimea to Ukraine. Even many folks in the Obama team managed to learn not to say similarly stupid things in the recent year or so. It's even more disappointing when you hear such things from Trump himself because this demand is totally dumb.

Euler's disk on TBBT

If you're watching the tenth season of The Big Bang Theory, you must know that the latest episode started with Euler's disk, a supersized spinning coin. Here's a very helpful 2016 video about Euler's disk:



The disk is usually sold as a big and heavy cylindrical steel with chrome on it along with a mirror that has a shallow hole so that the "big coin" stays near the center. You should definitely buy the bestselling $35 Toysmith Euler's disk – which has 251 reviews (it almost looks like the heroes of The Big Bang Theory were using this exact shiny $35 product, or was it this one for $40?) – and also the #1 bestselling fragrange on Amazon.com, the Ivanka Trump spray. The #2 bestselling thing in beauty is the Ivanka Trump Roller Ball, whatever it is. Not bad for a woman who isn't even a real climate skeptic and who teaches her kid Chinese instead of Czech.

Friday, February 17, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Entanglement: why two schoolkids always answer questions oppositely

More than a week ago, I discussed an article by Natalie Wolchover who was apparently shocked that when some optical data from the stars are used to produce pseudorandom numbers, an experiment testing entanglement with some random choices for the detectors produces the same results as the experiment where only terrestrial gadgets are used as the pseudorandom generators.

What a surprise: numbers that look like some random mess with the same distribution lead to the statistically identical outcomes whether or not they were calculated from stars or dice. Come on, people. This is totally basic common sense. There can't be any correlations of the terrestrial experiments with the random stellar data. To believe that there are such correlations – that the experiment cares whether the stellar data were employed – isn't just analogously silly as astrology. It really is a special example of astrology! This is what astrology really means: local events on Earth do care about some immediate properties of the celestial bodies! Well, they don't. None of the data from local, repeatable experiments on Earth can be correlated with some independent data about the celestial bodies.

You may also say that the belief in these correlations with the stars is on par with the Movie Pi where the digits of \(\pi\) were assumed to know all the information about the movements of the stock markets and prophesies of the Jewish Bible, among other things. Please, give me a break. It may be an inspiring movie but everyone who has spent at least some time by looking at the actual relationships between events in the world, not necessarily the "physical laws" in the narrow and technical sense, must know that this is the kind of a relationship that cannot exist and elementary evidence is enough to justify this assertion.

Now, an appendix to Wolchover's article about the stellar entanglement conspiracies (that were "surprisingly" not detected by an experiment)

How to Tame Quantum Weirdness
was written by Pradeep Mutalik, a writer who was previously mentioned because of a confusingly ambiguous article about the Sleeping Beauty Problem. The title talks about taming of quantum weirdness but I think the actual purpose is to spread the illusion or delusion that quantum mechanics and the entanglement are weird.

Children trained to behead Western men... in Chicago

All of us have gotten used to the beheading of people in the Muslim world. Sadly, it was often the real people who were beheaded – such as Western visitors or this 12-year-old boy. Our ancestors enjoyed similar exercises some 700 years ago – and in some cases, much more recently. The Muslim world is still socially living in the Middle Ages so we shouldn't be surprised that certain practices look disturbing to us.

Some two years ago, this culture has spread to a country that is much closer to us, Ukraine. Here, in Ivano-Frankivsk, Western Ukraine, people burn an effigy of Putin and children were happily dancing around the burning man. Ukrainians are almost people just like us. They speak a Slavic language that Czechs partly understand and Ukraine is the most important source of gastarbeiters in our economy. But their homeland lives in a different atmosphere. You may find numerous videos about badly treated effigies of Putin in Ukraine.

OK, the Daesh territory and Ukraine still belong to the "East". This is not how masses of people train their children in the West, is it? Oh, wait a minute.

Thursday, February 16, 2017 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

How anti-Asian prejudices helped to poison symplectic geometry

In a recent blog post discussing a recent Quanta Magazine article on symplectic geometry, I told you that I was rather confident that feminism and lesbian activism has affected the stories, and how they were presented.

This contribution wasn't 100% and in this text, I want to argue that another part of the "identity politics", namely the unpopularity of the Asian mathematicians within a certain clique of Western mathematicians, has been important, too.

First, let me remind you that I am confident that feminism and related politics has influenced the tone of the Quanta Magazine article about symplectic geometry because the author admits that he hasn't interviewed the main heroine, Dr Katrin Wehrheim, but he read an "MIT Women in Mathematics" article about her which was all about the beauty of affirmative action and where Dr Wehrheim also claimed that it is a characteristically female virtue to focus on things that she doesn't understand (in mathematics). So she basically identified her critical attitude to proofs by Dr Fukaya as a feminist, women's contribution to mathematics that men are less capable of making. Kevin Hartnett has demonstrably read that feminist profile and I know too much to have serious doubts that it was a main reason why he decided about the "heroes" and "villains" in the way he did. He shouldn't have taken sides at all because he doesn't understand these technical issues at a sufficiently deep leve.

But Dr Wehrheim and Mr Hartnett aren't the only players in this strange confrontation in the symplectic geometry circles.

Winston Churchill, the astrophysicist

Winston Churchill was one of the most consequential leaders of the 20th century. Some months ago, I watched a movie about him that claimed that Churchill did many of the impressive things in order to prove to his father that he was no loser. It worked rather well because I don't have a clue who his father was.

Aside from the successful resistance to the Third Reich, Churchill supervised the construction of the British radar and their nuclear program. His focus on science and technology in warfare was self-evident. As early as in 1931, he wrote a text estimating the amazing power hiding in the fusion of hydrogen nuclei – most people would be incapable of estimating these things (and maybe even knowing qualitatively what's going on) today. He was also writing about evolution. Already as a young man, he pointed out that Islam was the most retrograde force in the world, an insight that some people failed to get even one century later.

But he's been an essayist, too. A new issue of Nature (thanks, Willie Soon!) printed astrophysicist Mario Livio's text

Winston Churchill’s essay on alien life found (a free copy via SciAm)
which mainly discusses a 1939 text by Churchill about astrophysics and life in the outer space. And he was rather amazing.