Thursday, February 11, 2016 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

LIGO discovers a black hole merger 1.3 billion light years away

I guess that many of you have both watched and listened to (!) the National Science Foundation event in the National Press Club, Washington D.C., too. If you haven't, you should listen to the press conference here, it's already been recorded and posted. The sound starts at 0:18:05 and ends at 1:29:30. YouTube succeeded in guaranteeing a smooth transmission of the live stream to the 90,000 (peak) viewers. (You may check the NYT movie and article, too.)

All the rumors I have heard of were 100% true – and those 50 percent of TRF readers who said Yes Yes Yes in our poll were right – but we still learned some numbers that surprised me.

The event was headed by the director of NSF France Anne-Dominic Córdova. Caltech LIGO director David H. Reitze was the first scientist who quickly announced "we did it" a few minutes after the sound in the YouTube video started at 10:30 DC time. He was followed by Gabriela Gonzalez, the spokeswoman of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC).

Founders of LIGO, Kip Thorne (Caltech) and the "main" inventor Rainer Weiss (MIT), spoke a lot. The third co-founder, Ronald Drever (Caltech), is unfortunately ill now. Joseph Weber who tried to detect the waves by the Weber bars (he died in 2000) was mentioned. A Russian journalist argued that the idea was stolen from the Soviet Union, anyway. ;-) See John Preskill's article for some history and credits or a LIGO timeline.

All of the comments were pleasure to listen to. They have said lots of things, shown various simulations, and played sounds similar to those that the readers of the LIGO category on this blog have been exposed to. Well, but you may still listen to the actual chirp [also: YouTube] from the merger (hidden in some noise, just like in the Black Hole Hunter game).

Wednesday, February 10, 2016 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

What gravitational wave astronomy may hear

On Monday, LIGO finally officially admitted that there would be a press conference tomorrow, as we predicted in the poll, at 10:30 am, in the National Press Club, a gentleman journalists' building that is very close to the White House. In 2011, I embedded a talk that the Czech ex-president Klaus gave there. Oops, it was one in Canberra but who cares. ;-)

LIGO's colleagues in Italy, Virgo, should hold an event at the same moment, i.e. 16:30 Central European Time. This should also be webcast – and there are hints that these people will actually be at CERN, not in Italy, and the webcast will actually be aired via, too.

But you should already bookmark this YouTube page on the NSF channel where webcast will start in 29 hours. See also an NSF press release.
Incidentally, the arXiv already boasts a theory paper about the first black hole mergers detected by LIGO. ;-) It seems clear to me that they pretend to be ignorant of some numbers that they actually know.

Our latest blog post on LIGO has 12,000 views so far (and 1,000+ Facebook likes LOL) and there are lots of other responses by the media to the tomorrow's event that is gaining the official status these days. An unusually intelligent article written by David Castelvecchi appeared in Nature:
Gravitational waves: 5 cosmic questions they can tackle
Like your humble correspondent and Bill Zajc, Castelvecchi points out that the discovery that will be announced tomorrow is much more than a confirmation of the gravitational waves – something that good physicists had no doubt about. It's also an excellent source of information about the detailed physical processes that have emitted the waves. And because the black hole merger that has been seen isn't the last event that people will have observed by gravitational waves, we may "hear" lots of new information through the gravitational wave detectors in the future.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

The utter insanity of Woit's Rutgers colloquium

I did my PhD at Rutgers University, the State University of New Jersey. Those were 4 interesting years – ending by the PhD defense on 9/11/2001, 9:30 am, some 50 miles from the Twin Towers.

Shortly before I came to Rutgers in Fall 1997 (not counting a visit in Spring 1997), it was a powerful thinking machine, arguably a top 5 place in string theory in the world. (This comment does not say that Rutgers is not good today, it's very good; and it does not imply that a new graduate student like me was the cause why Rutgers ceased to be at the absolute Olymp of theoretical physics, I was too small a master for such big changes. In the mid-to-late 1990s, it was simply natural for the richer universities like Harvard to attract folks from that "hot field" that did much of their recent important work at "slightly less obvious" top places such as Rutgers and Santa Barbara.)

Before the brains were absorbed by some of the "more expected" famous universities in the U.S., string theory faculty at Rutgers as a group were known – relatively to other physics professors at Rutgers – for their unusual contributions to science and also funding and they enjoyed some teaching advantages relatively to non-string faculty, and so on, a setup designed to further improve their efficient research. I was always imagining how hard such a setup would have been in Czechia, due to jealousy, a feature of the Czech national character.

Monday, February 08, 2016 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Compactified M-theory and LHC predictions

Guest blog by Gordon Kane

I want to thank Luboš for suggesting that I explain the compactified M-theory predictions of the superpartner masses, particularly for the gluino that should be seen at LHC in Run II. I’ll include the earlier Higgs boson mass and decay branching ratio predictions as well. I’ll only give references to a few papers that allow the reader to see more details of derivations and of calculated numbers, plus a few of the original papers that established the basic compactification, usually just with arXiv numbers so the interested reader can look at them and trace the literature, because this is a short explanation only focused on the LHC predictions. I apologize to others who could be referenced. Before a few years ago it was not possible to use compactified string/M-theories to predict superpartner masses. All “predictions” were based on naturalness arguments, and turned out to be wrong.

Saturday, February 06, 2016 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

LIGO wows: black holes heavy as 36+29 merge to 62 Suns + 3 Suns of gravitational waves

Confidence 5.1 sigma, ringdown to a Kerr black hole seen, too

Update: On Monday, 2 pm DC time, LIGO at Twitter has officially announced the press conference on Thursday. An hour later, the LIGO website posted an announcement, too. VIRGO in Italy organizes an event at the same moment, 16:30 Italian time. CERN should do a webcast, too. But please bookmark this YouTube page where the webcast will start on Thursday.

For those of us who "knew" that there would be an announcement of a LIGO discovery (timed to coincide with the publication of their paper in Nature) involving a black hole merger, was there a reason to watch the Thursday February 11th 10:30 am press conference in D.C. (National Press Club)? You bet. As recently as 10 hours ago, we still didn't know some numbers and details that were going to thrill us despite the previous knowledge.

Whenever I was asked why I am still very excited even though it's obvious to me that gravitational waves exist, I forgot to say one important thing. By the detection of the waves, we're not testing just the existence of the waves. We're testing the predictions of general relativity for the unbelievable extreme processes involving black holes, their orbital motion, and their merger. Clearly, I do believe that GR makes the right predictions for all this stuff but even Einstein, the father of GR, refused to believe in the very existence of black holes. Lots of new effects "beating" GR could have taken place, he thought. But he was wrong. There's nothing there – and pure gravity unavoidably becomes the master.

Is there some excitement left for Thursday?

In this case, Clifford Burgess and the Science Magazine have really spoiled much of the Thursday party. But if it's your first encounter with the data, you may experience the shock and awe now.

Friday, February 05, 2016 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

LIGO's D-Day: Thursday, D.C., 10:30 local time

According to a conglomerate of the information from three exclusive sources, the LIGO collaboration is preparing the press conference for Thursday, February 11th, and it will take place on 10:30 am, Eastern Coast Time, in the U.S. Capital.

Geekwire (and Alan Boyle) has mentioned our poll where people have been voting for a few days.

Google CZ doodle celebrates a woman we've never heard of

Františka Plamínková was a brave democrat, kindergarten advocate, and a rank-and-file politician, too

Half an hour ago when I opened Google for the first time today, I was greeted by this "doodle" (modified logo) that contained the portrait of a woman I couldn't recognize. "Who's that?" I asked myself. And I immediately answered: "It must be some feminist and the U.S. company would love such people to be popular here." Indeed.

One click is enough to get a bigger picture and find something about Františka Plamínková. (The first name is the female counterpart of Francis, the surname is the feminime adjective derived from a Little Flame. She was born 141 years ago.) Honestly, I was not familiar with the name or at least, I didn't realize that I was. At the end, she doesn't even seem to have a page on the English Wikipedia – something that thousands of Czechs do have. This already says a lot about the "non-mainstream" status of the folks at Google within the Czech society.

Thursday, February 04, 2016 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Does the Moon cause more rain?

The Telegraph (via Stack Exchange) promotes a provoking paper

Rainfall variations induced by the lunar gravitational atmospheric tide and their implications for the relationship between tropical rainfall and humidity (PDF)
by Kohyama and Wallace (University of Washington) in Geophysical Research Letters.

Their claim may be summarized by a slogan of mine: since it's sunny because of the Sun, it must be rainy because of the... Moon. ;-)

Wednesday, February 03, 2016 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Why string theory, by Joseph Conlon

I have received a free copy of "Why String Theory" by Joseph Conlon, a young Oxford string theorist who has done successful specialized work related either to the moduli stabilization of the flux vacua, or to the axions in string theory. (He's been behind the website, too.)

The 250-page-long paperback looks modern and tries to be more technical than popular books but less technical than string theory textbooks. Unfortunately, I often feel that "more technical than a popular book" mostly means that the book uses some kind of an intellectual jargon – but the nontrivial physics ideas aren't actually described more accurately than in the popular books.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Lída Baarová, Goebbels' only true love: film

We went to see the new Czech movie, "Lída Baarová" ("Devil's Mistress" in the U.K.), about the most famous Czech actress before the war (along with Adina Mandlová) and Joseph Goebbels' mistress.

At the end of the trailer, the old Baarová (not really her...) says: I have loved a criminal. But that isn't a crime by itself, is it?

It's a romantic film that also says quite something about one of the faces of the Czech nation, the face that was highly compatible with the German Nazism. Spoilers are all over the place.

Five Czechs kidnapped by Lebanese government, freed

Czech justice chose to befriend Lebanon, piss on the U.S.

In July 2015, five Czechs were kidnapped in Lebanon. With some help of Google Translate, I quickly decoded their identities. When a bug/typo is fixed, it was attorney Jan Švarc, translator Adam Homsi (the only exotic name among the five), regional (South Bohemian) TV makers/hosts Miroslav Dobeš and Pavel Kofroň, and military reporter Martin Psík whose name I first misindentified as Merlin Pešek etc. Mr Psík was arguably the main "ace" that was believed to be most valuable for the Czech government.

Monday, February 01, 2016 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Confidence in LIGO rumors: a poll

I am sort of interested how much people believe in rumors, in this case rumors that LIGO is going to announce the discovery of gravitational waves (see a PhD comics explanation of those). You may have read about the rumors on this blog and elsewhere. My most important source of the rumors is a person at a major enough physics place.

I've heard about the date, 11th February (next Thursday), from her or him, too (exclusive communication). Some cosmologists have reported cancellations of LIGO members' events on that day, too.

Did the FBI assassinate an Arizona-based writer and rancher?

The Oregon sit-in has led to the first casualty. When the ranchers were driving somewhere, police stopped them. The ranchers' de facto spokesman LaVoy Finicum (who lives in Arizona) raised his hands (as the FBI video shows) but after some unclear movements, he was shot dead.

Cliven Bundy and others say that it was an assassination of a man who has surrendered. A person claims to be an eye witness of this murder.

18-year-old Victoria Sharp who was there claims that 100 or so shots were fired by the FBI (not three, as the FBI claims) and the FBI is lying about tons of other things, too. However, another driver claims that Finicum was preparing to shoot at the police.

Saturday, January 30, 2016 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Transparency, public arguments: a wrong recipe for arXiv rejections

OneDrive: off-topic: tomorrow, Microsoft will reduce the free 15 GB space by 10 GB and abolish the free 15 GB camera roll space. Old users may click here and after two more clicks, they will avoid this reduction if they act on Sunday!
Crackpot blog Backreaction and its flavor appendix called Nature believe that it was wrong for the website of scientific preprints (100k papers a year, 1.1 million in total) to reject two submissions by students of quantum information who attempted to rebrand themselves as general relativists and argue that you can't ever fall into a black hole.

Thankfully, Ms Hossenfelder and others agree that the papers were wrong. But they still protest against the fact that the papers were rejected. Or to say the least, there should have been some "transparency" in the rejection – in other words, some details about the decision which should be followed by some arguments in the public.

I totally disagree with those comments.

I sympathize with Weinberg's classroom gun ban

Americans, especially the conservative ones, are proud about the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution that guarantees the right to keep and bear arms. Many TRF commenters consider this right very important and I won't make them too happy now.

A picture I took in 2005

A new law has stressed the right to carry weapons at university campuses. Locally, institutions could have declared exceptions and ban weapons. But the University of Texas decided not to have such exceptions. And even thought Austin isn't "really" Texas, the laws apply there, too. So something had to happen:

Nobel Laureate Becomes Reluctant Anti-Gun Leader (Texas Tribune)
See also The Star Telegram and Google News. Steven Weinberg (82) who teaches astrophysics in the spring semester has simply declared that he won't allow guns in his classroom.

Bizarre White House claims about Putin's billions

Update: funnily enough, hours after I posted this blog post, a U.S. journalist at RT used the same adjective bizarre for these attacks.

On Monday, the BBC aired a documentary in which Adam Szubin, a near-top official of the U.S. Treasury Department, called Putin a picture of corruption. Some claims about Putin's paying billions to relatives and friends were mentioned, along with suggestions that Putin – while officially getting the same salary I was getting as junior faculty – might be the wealthiest person in the world or close to it.

Putin is buying a breakfast

Fine. There has always been some corruption in Russia. One may speculate that it still exists. Szubin may have heard some detailed information that supports such conspiracy theories. And individual people may be expected to be much more attracted to conspiracy theories than others. However, there was a shocking development on Thursday. John Earnest, a spokesman of Obama's, said

that the Treasury’s assessment best reflects the administration view.
By that time, I didn't even know that Szubin's speculations were "the Treasury's assessment". And now, they're probably the official statement of the United States of America.

I had to laugh out loud – and read thrice – when I saw this stuff for the first time. Was that supposed to be a statement by Obama? Is it his childish way to ignite the Third World War? Even if there were reasons for such beliefs, what's the purpose of similar proclamations emitted by the White House? Are these comments supposed to be associated with Hillary and make her look tougher?

Needless to say, Lavrov and others have protested the accusations.