Tuesday, September 23, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

An interview with Edward Witten at a bizarre place

Most events in the "science journalism" of the recent years have been really strange, to put it extremely mildly. So the following thing is probably just another example of the rule. But listen.

John Horgan is a loud, violent, and obnoxious critic of science who believes that science has ended. In fact, he has also written extensive texts about the end of mathematics. The oppressive numbers, functions, and groups have collapsed and all this fantasy called mathematics is over, Horgan has informed his readers.

Before he published a loony "book" titled "The End of Science" sometime in the mid 1990s, he would also interview Edward Witten (in 1991). Well, the word "interview" is too strong. Horgan himself had to admit that it was a childish yet brutally malicious assault on theoretical physics in general, string theory in particular, and Witten as a person.

Now, in the wake of the Kyoto Prize that Witten won – congratulations but no surprise – we may read another interview with Witten in the Scientific American's blogs hosted by... John Horgan.

Physics Titan Edward Witten Still Thinks String Theory “On the Right Track”
I don't actually know whether Witten knew that he was being interviewed by the e-mail but the text surely makes you believe that he did and we're told that some "publicist" behind the Kyoto Prize had to choose Horgan as the "interviewer". Oh my God.

Monday, September 22, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Why I remain a BICEP2 believer

Because I can see the non-dust pattern with naked eyes...

Just three days ago, I wrote a blog post about BICEP2. So I wasn't terribly excited to write down another blog post once the Planck Collaboration published a paper claiming that the BICEP2 could be due to dust, especially because I don't find the Planck paper to be terribly new, interesting, insightful, or game-changing.

A random image, taken from Perceiving randomness: egalitarian bias

They've been saying similar things since the spring and the arguments they presented today don't seem stronger than the previous ones.

Their fits don't seem to be too good without the error margins and as far as I can say, they are inflating the errors by inventing various kinds of "extra errors" (such as the "conversion error") in order to dilute and obfuscate the signal that they may have failed to discover, despite their superior gadgets and huge funding. This production of spurious errors sort of reminds me of Gerhard Schröder's invention of new taxes such as the environmental tax, the beverage tax, the bad weather tax, and others (Schröder wasn't a sufficiently arrogant hardcore thief to propose a carbon tax, however!).

Much of this tension is a clash of personalities. I think that what BICEP2 has shown is the experimental science of the best kind and unless some embarrassing error emerges (I really mean something like a loosened OPERA cable: it hasn't emerged so far), I will continue to think of them highly even if their discovery is ultimately reduced to dust (or another background). Like proper stereotypical experimenters, they didn't really believe a word that the theorists like to say (all proper experimenters think that gravity is actually caused by leprechauns and GR is just a theorists' fairy-tale for babies to sleep smoothly; but if a theorist needs the experimenters to empirically determine something, the good experimenters are as reliable as a vacuum cleaner). However, after they spent a very long time by efforts to show that their signal is due to something else, they published a paper with the discovery claim and it was undoubtedly right that they did so. Science couldn't operate if the publication of a discovery were viewed as a blasphemy.

A simple explanation behind AMS' electron+positron flux power law?

Aside from tweets about the latest, not so interesting, and inconclusive Planck paper on the dust and polarized CMB, Francis Emulenews Villatoro tweeted the following suggestive graphs to his 7,000+ Twitter followers:

The newest data from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer are fully compatible with the positron flux curve resulting from an annihilating lighter than \(1\TeV\) dark matter particle. But the steep drop itself hasn't been seen yet (the AMS' dark matter discovery is one seminar away but it may always be so in the future LOL) and the power-law description seems really accurate and attractive.

What if neither dirty pulsars nor dark matter is the cause of these curves? All of those who claim to love simple explanations and who sometimes feel annoyed that physics has gotten too complicated are invited to think about the question.

NYPD was only able to arrest 100 "climate" communist criminals so far

...along with 1 polar bear...

Off-topic: the 8th season of The Big Bang Theory was started yesterday. If you have missed those episodes, don't miss the next ones.
On Sunday, "The People's Climate March" took place in Manhattan. According to their counts, it was attended by 310,000 communist and socialist hecklers; the figure includes about 100,000 hecklers who were actually observable in the visible spectrum.

These individuals brought the world another clear piece of evidence that the global warming movement has nothing whatever to do with science, despite the often repeated outrageous lies that it has; it's all about the extremist ideology and some people's straightforward strategy to make profit out of this political junk that controls the hearts of a not quite negligible fraction of the bottom of the contemporary human society.

According to their yelling and banners, most of the demonstrators wanted to undermine and burn capitalism and corporations and establish communism or socialism or the same inhuman regime described by other words. It's very clear that the extremist communist fringe of the political spectrum is what represents the "grassroot movement" behind the delusions about "climate change". These people have been loud, obnoxious, and manageable – but they may potentially become dangerous.

Meanwhile, Avaaz and 350.org, two fraudulent organizations promoting the climate hysteria, have abused the large amount of rabble that has accumulated on the streets of New York to get some extra funding. The immorality of all these mechanisms couldn't be clearer.

Sunday, September 21, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

A conversation with Nima Arkani-Hamed

On behalf of the Science Museum in London, science historian Graham Farmelo hosted a conversation with a top particle physicist of his generation, Nima Arkani-Hamed, on November 14th, 2013.

A 55-minute video of excerpts from the event was posted just two months ago. You may speed the video up by a factor of 1.25 or 1.5, if you wish ("options" wheel).

Nima has said lots of interesting and important things about theoretical physics of the 20th century (it's easy to highlight the breakthroughs of the 20th century in 3 minutes: relativity, quanta, and their cooperative applications: as a team, relativity and QM are hugely constraining), the recent past, the present, and the future; the LHC and the Higgs boson, and lots of related things. What the fundamental laws can and can't explain (the theories are effective and hierarchical)?

We're at a rather special era because we're beginning to ask a new type of questions that are deeper and more structured, Nima said.

Kaggle: quantifying the African soil

If the most important task for the mankind and the computerkind (the fourth best friend of man's, after puppies, books, and women) was to recognize tau-tau semileptonic decays of the Higgs boson, the second most important task was to

predict the properties of the African soil.
Currently it's the only open Kaggle contest whose data aren't huge – in gigabytes – and that also offers the winners a few bucks.

You download a 13 MB training file and an 8 MB test file – an order of magnitude smaller files than what one needed in the Higgs contest.

Saturday, September 20, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Antarctica is a climate denier, too

Absolute record high in sea ice area improved by a few percent

These days, the climate alarmist media are full of tirades against the penguins.

Children should only be allowed to play with the polar bears and not the penguins, we often read, because penguins are evil conservatives, anti-Gore and anti-Stalinist mavericks and contrarians paid by the Koch brothers and the dirty Big Oil. Why did the climate alarmist whackos begin to hate these cute animals (and even erase Linux from their hard disks and stop rooting for the ice-hockey team in Pittsburgh)?

If you open the Cryosphere Today and especially a graph of the absolute Southern Hemisphere sea ice area, a graph from the places where the penguins live, you will see that these days, the sea ice area is surpassing the all-time record high. Well, "all-time" only means the recent 35 years but this period of time is still longer than most people's memory.

It's apparently politically incorrect for ice to accumulate and to say "f*ck you, you f*cked up alarmist aßes". A well-behaved ice with civil awareness should melt away and scream "help to save the planet and introduce a new tax and new bans!".

Friday, September 19, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

A pro-BICEP2 paper

Update Sep 22nd: a Planck paper on polarization is out, suggesting dust could explain the BICEP2 signal – or just 1/2 of it – but lacking the resolution to settle anything. A joint Planck-BICEP2 paper should be out in November but it seems predetermined that they only want to impose an upper bound on \(r\) so it won't be too strong or interesting, either.
It's generally expected that the Planck collaboration should present their new results on the CMB polarization data within days, weeks, or a month. Will they be capable of confirming the BICEP2 discovery – or refute it by convincing data?

Ten days ago, Planck published a paper on dust modelling:
Planck intermediate results. XXIX. All-sky dust modelling with Planck, IRAS, and WISE observations
I am not able to decide whether this paper has anything to say about the discovery of the primordial gravitational waves. It could be relevant but note that the paper doesn't discuss the polarization of the radiation at all.

Perhaps more interestingly, Wesley Colley and Richard Gott released their preprint
Genus Topology and Cross-Correlation of BICEP2 and Planck 353 GHz B-Modes: Further Evidence Favoring Gravity Wave Detection
that seems to claim that the data are powerful enough to confirm some influence of the dust yet defend the notion that the primordial gravitational waves have to represent a big part of the BICEP2 observation, too.

Thursday, September 18, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

AMS in PRL: the positrons do stop increasing

...but the evidence for an actual drop remains underwhelming...

In April 2013, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02), a gadget carried by the International Space Station that looks for dark matter and other things and whose data are being evaluated by Nobel prize winner Sam Ting (MIT) and his folks, reported intriguing observations that were supposed to grow to a smoking fun proving that dark matter exists and is composed of heavy elementary particles:

AMS-02 seems to overcautiously censor solid evidence for dark matter

AMS: the steep drop is very likely there
I had various reasons for these speculative optimistic prophesies – including Sam Ting's body language. It just seemed that he knew more than he was saying and was only presenting a very small, underwhelming part of the observations.

Poroshenko in the U.S. Congress

The Americans' stupidity is staggering

I have always belonged to the top 1% of my nation and other environments (including the Harvard environment) when it came to the defense of America, Americans, their record, their views, and their values. Of course that I often had to point out some other, bigger advantages that compensate most of the Americans' complete misunderstanding of the world geography and the reality outside the U.S. borders in general.

After I completed watching this 43-minute speech of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko in front of the U.S. Congress, you will probably believe me that in my whole life so far, I have never considered the overwhelming majority of the Americans to be this breathtakingly stupid – dangerously stupid and pretty much uniformly stupid, in a very bipartisan way.

A top 2% Kaggle Higgs solution

Guest blog by Hongliang Liu (UC Riverside)

This blog is for describing my selected top submission sent to the Kaggle Higgs competition. It has the public score of 3.75+ and the private score of 3.73+ which has ranked at 26th. This solution uses a single classifier with some feature work from basic high-school physics plus a few advanced but calculable physical features.

1. The model

I choose XGBoost which is a parallel implementation of gradient boosting tree. It is a great piece of work: parallel, fast, efficient and tune-able parameters.

The parameter tuning-up is simple. I know GBM can have a good learning result by providing a small shrinkage eta value. According to a simply brute-force grid search for the parameters and the cross-validation score, I choose:

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Ambulance-chasing Large Hadron Collider collisions

Guest blog by Ben Allanach on the impure fun of rapid-response physics

B.A. is a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Cambridge. He is a supersymmetry enthusiast, and is always looking for ways to interpret data using it. You can watch his TEDx talk giving some background to the LHC, supersymmetry and dark matter, or (for experts) look at the paper that this blog refers to.
“Ambulance chasing” refers to the morally dubious practice of lawyers chasing down accident victims in order to help them sue. In a physics context, when some recent data disagrees with the Standard Model of particle physics and researchers come up with an interpretation in terms of new physics, they are called ambulance chasers too. This is probably because some view the practice as a little glory-grabbing and somehow impure: you’re not solving problems purely using your mind (you’re using data as well), and even worse that that, you’ve had to be quick or other researchers might have been able produce something similar before you. It’s not that the complainers get really upset, more that they can be a bit sniffy (and others are just taking the piss in a fun way). I’ve been ambulance chasing some data just recently with collaborators, and we’ve been having a great time. These projects are short, snappy and intense. You work long hours for a short period, playing ping-pong with the draft in the final stages while you quickly write the work up as a short scientific paper.

A couple of weeks ago, the CMS experiment released an analysis of some data (TRF) that piqued our interest because it had a small disagreement with Standard Model predictions. In order to look for interesting effects, CMS sieved the data in the following way: they required either an electron and an anti-electron or a muon and an anti-muon. Electrons and muons are called `leptons’ collectively. They also required two jets (sprays of strongly interacting particles) and some apparent missing energy. We’ve known for years that maybe you could find supersymmetry with this kind of sieving. The jets and leptons could come from the production of supersymmetric particles which decay into them and a supersymmetric dark matter particle. So if you find too many of these type of collisions compared to Standard Model predictions, it could be due to supersymmetric particle production.

Global billionaire political power index

The Czech and Slovak media were somewhat excited about a fun new "index" by the U.S. sociologist Darrell West:

The global billionaire political power index
The 15 world's politically most influential dollar billionaires are said to possess these faces:

You see that the fifth one is a Slovak-born food industry mogul and Czech vice-PM Andrej Babiš, the leader of a somewhat kitschy "apolitical" Czech movement ANO (=YES).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Does only NATO, and not Russia, enjoy the right to send weapons to Ukraine?

In the last week, after a decision from the previous Friday, a ceasefire regime was established in Ukraine. People are still killing each other in the Donetsk Region but the shooting may be interpreted as "sporadic" which is why both sides of the civil war continue to officially respect the ceasefire.

While these advances towards peace are promising and all ethical people in the world should want the de-escalation of the situation to continue, some warmongers and lunatics in the EU and Washington D.C. have introduced new sanctions against Russia exactly during these promising days – sanctions against a country that they labeled the culprit of all the evil in the world. They openly said that the sanctions may depend on their satisfaction with the developments in Ukraine. This is incredible because this comment implicitly means that Russia (which is not really a party of the conflict at all, as a country) is automatically classified as the culprit of all failures in these people's lives and their friends' lives. Not even the Nazi party was treating the Jews in this simple way.

On one hand, fuzzy satellite photographs from wrong times and wrong places produced by a Google-Earth-serving photoshop company – photographs with speculative probabilistic interpretations that have already been taken down from the web – are the only "evidence" that the Russian Federation as a country is helping the anti-Kiev militias, and this seems like enough for the warmongers to cripple the international trade and to treat Russia as a criminal country. On the other hand, the standards are very different.

The defense minister in Kiev has literally boasted that his side of the civil war in Ukraine is already receiving arms shipments from NATO member states. It's exactly the same thing on the other side of the conflict – except that in this case, the deliveries are obviously real because they have been officially confirmed. However, the Western press doesn't urge everyone to cut the U.S. and other countries who are doing that from the international trade, to isolate the country, and similar things. A bit of double standards, right?

Kaggle Higgs: lessons from the critical development

Vaguely related: Mathematica Online (in the cloud) became available yesterday, see Wolfram's blog. Unfortunately, it's not quite free.
When the Kaggle Higgs contest switched from the public 100k "public" (preliminary) collisions to the official 450k "private" (final) collisions a few hours ago, your humble correspondent's team (including Christian Velkeen of CMS, with a 15% share) dropped from the 1st place to the 9th place (correction: it's 8th place now, Friday Sep 19th). This corresponds to the hypothesis that the changes of AMS will be comparable to the "full combined noise" 0.1 or so.
Fun link: See all of my/our 589 submissions' preliminary scores, final scores, filenames, and comments (with a somewhat funny and esoteric terminology). It's the last, HTML file over there; save it and open locally.
Because the "random" changes of the score were generally this high, you could say that chance decided about the winners, and the 0.045 gap between the winner and my team was our bad luck. Still, I feel that the three guys at the top – Melis, Salimans, and the marijuana guy – didn't become winners by pure chance. All of them are professional big-data programmers of a sort. It's true of everyone in the top 10 and almost everyone in the top 100, too. I am not aware of anyone who was significantly helped by some physics wisdom.

I still think it's clear that much (well, almost exactly 1/2) of my/our improvements done from the public xgboost demo – whose score actually increased from the preliminary 3.60003 to the final 3.64655 – was genuine. After all, those who only used the basic xgboost code ended up at the 357th-450th place, well below my 9th. But instead of an increase to 3.85060 as seen on the preliminary leaderboard, the actual increase was just to 3.76050. The efficiency is lousy because my methods to rate the improvements were amateurish: the preliminary AMS is much better than nothing but it isn't a good enough measure to safely beat the top players.

Sunday, September 14, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Higgs the mass killer: in defense of Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking was brought to deep financial troubles when he lost $100 against TRF guest blogger Gordon Kane after the two men have agreed on a bet that the Higgs boson would or wouldn't ever be discovered, or something like that. (I have won $500 for an analogous bet: yes, the Higgs boson has been discovered.) So evil tongues could argue that it's the reason why Hawking says that Higgs has made physics less interesting – and now why he accuses the Higgs particle of the plan to destroy the world.

Will it destroy the world?

Probably not but the threat, while small, has a totally legitimate scientific justification.

Yahoo News were among the tons of sources that have offered the disturbing prophesy by the famous physicist. Matt Strassler and especially Don Lincoln (full) wrote nice texts that try to calm the public and present Hawking's warnings as scientifically misleading.

I wouldn't be equally critical.

George Kukla (1930-2014)

A well-known Czech American climate skeptic
This happened already 3 months ago but wasn't really covered in the blogosphere...

I re-learned from Willie Soon that George Kukla died at age 84 of an apparent heart attack. His Columbia University wrote a biography of him with a somewhat insulting title.

Kukla received a Medal of Merit from Czech president Václav Klaus in 2011.

Jiří (=George) Kukla was born in Prague in 1930. His journey around the world was colorful. In the 1960s, he would manage to be an adviser to Fidel Castro. But he would also work in China, Chile, Antarctica, and Eastern Europe.

I. P. Pavlov: 165th birthday

A Russian patriot and anti-communist whom communists had to nurture

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, a pioneer of physiology, was born in Ryazan (200 km Southeast of Moscow) in September 1849. At Technet.cz, Karel Pacner published a fascinating chapter of his book about the geniuses of the 20th century.

Friday, September 12, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Extracurricular activities are indeed just "extra"

I am happy to report that I agree with Scott Aaronson – and obviously with Steve Pinker – that the universities should focus on the learning and scholarly work while sports and similar things should be treated as cherries on a pie.

Also, I agree with them that the standardized tests are – if you allow me to use a quote we invented along with Winston Churchill – that the standardized tests are the worst method to "rate" applicants except for all other methods that have been tried. ;-)

Thursday, September 11, 2014 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

One-half of CO2 doubling achieved

Detectable impacts on the climate are yet to be seen

When the CO2 level in the atmosphere surpassed 400 ppm a short time ago, many alarmists would celebrate this symbolic achievement. Oh, the CO2 concentration is so high! It's a signal from the heaven, a shot from the Aurora telling us to start another world revolution because our previous one, that of 1917, has already faded away and it wasn't enough for us, anyway. The number is so round, and so on. Of course, nothing new happens when the CO2 level reaches 400 ppm – it's just another number that only looks special because of an arbitrary decadic numeral system we happen to use today. The Earth has seen concentrations around 6,000 ppm as well and 4,000 ppm would be just fine for all life forms we know today. By far the closest worrisome CO2 concentration is 150 ppm in which most existing plant species stop growing (ice ages have only forced them to easily withstand 180 ppm or so).

Another numerically special value of the concentration was achieved two years ago or so but unlike 400 ppm, it wasn't hyped by anyone. The hypothetical effect of CO2 on the temperatures (well, almost certainly real effect theoretically; hypothetical from an empirical viewpoint because the effect is so incredibly weak) is often quantified – converted to numbers – when we talk about the "climate sensitivity", i.e. the increase of the global mean temperature caused by a doubling of the CO2 concentration.

The doubling defines more natural benchmark values of the concentration because it suggests that we should look at the behavior of the temperature assuming the exponential growth of CO2. That's natural because the temperature increase is approximately (very accurately) proportional to the logarithm of the CO2 concentration increase (thanks, John). Consequently, every time you double the CO2 level, the temperature increases by the same amount (ignoring non-CO2 drivers). The global mean temperature as a function of the CO2 concentration is\[

T(c) = 14.5^\circ {\rm C} + {\rm sensitivity} \times \frac{\ln (c/280\text{ ppm})}{\ln 2}

\] The temperature 14.5 degrees Celsius is the holy "optimum" global mean temperature that the climate alarmists want to see forever (yes, they will also protect our blue, not green planet from future ice ages when the temperature would otherwise drop by 8 °C as many times in the past) because it was how things probably were in 1750 although no one can really reconstruct the temperature in 1750 with a sub-degree accuracy (and even today's "global mean temperature" depends on so many technicalities that it's fair to say that it isn't defined at a sub-degree accuracy, either). The ratio of logarithms may also be written as the "base two logarithm" but I wanted to use basic functions only. Note that \(\ln 2\approx 0.69315\).

The coefficient "sensitivity" is theoretically equal to 1.2 degrees Celsius if we ignore all the feedbacks. The total figure when feedbacks (especially those related to various forms of water in the atmosphere) are included is unknown and it may be higher or lower than 1.2 degrees Celsius. One of the unjustified assumptions of the climate change ideology is that the full figure has to be higher. The higher value of the climate sensitivity you defend, the greater influence over the climate alarmist paramilitary movement you achieve. If you believe that the value of the total climate sensitivity is below an offensive threshold, you are a heretic. The offensive threshold used to be 3 degrees Celsius but the alarmists were forced to lower the threshold of heresy to 1.5-2.0 degrees Celsius because those values are obviously consistent with all the known data (and probably still overestimates).