Friday, March 27, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Oligarchs, biofuel, and conflicts of interest

I am not among those who would believe that rich people shouldn't be allowed to do politics. In fact, they may even do some of these activities at the same time. And Silvio Berlusconi's activities in Italy seemed borderline OK to me. But I am shocked by many people's selective inability to see the risks (and actual wrongdoings), especially in the case when the politicians are very rich entrepreneurs.

When talking about the post-Soviet realm, we often talk about "oligarchs". This word comes with some negative connotations. Some of them are unjustifiable signs of racism of a sort. When a wealthy Russian guy is doing the very same thing as his American or Italian colleagues, he may still be just an "oligarch" rather than a legitimate mogul or tycoon.

Well, sometimes the negative flavor may be justifiable. What is the difference between the "bad oligarchs" from the post-Soviet countries and the "good moguls" from the West? I think that the assumption is that the "oligarchs" are mixing their political and economical powers in ways that are not kosher and that abuse the poor existing standards when it comes to the enforcement of laws.

Thursday, March 26, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Flight 9525: a suicidal act?

This blog post was written hours before it was revealed that co-pilot Andreas Lubitz appeared to want to 'destroy the plane': prosecutor, and is therefore obsolete (but my basic guess about the "suicidal act" was right)

My half-sister has been afraid of flying for many years. For two days, there is some evidence that she had a point.

The crash of Germanwings 9525 occurred 100 kilometers Northwest of Nice, and she's been living in Nice for many years. And yes, she has flown with Germanwings – a subsidiary of Lufthansa – in the past.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

CMS: a 2.9-sigma \(WH\) hint at \(1850\GeV\)

Unfortunately, due to a short circuit somewhere at the LHC, a small metallic piece will have to be removed – which takes a week (it's so slow because CERN employs LEGO men to do the job) – and the 2015 LHC physics run may be postponed by up to 5 weeks because of that.

Wolfram: You have the last week to buy Mathematica at a 25% discount (a "pi day" celebration; student edition). Edward Measure has already happily bought it.
Meanwhile, ATLAS and CMS have flooded their web pages with new papers resulting from the 2012 run. In most of these papers, the Standard Model gets an "A".

Tuesday, March 24, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Czech plan to abolish daylight saving time in EU

I thought that the members of the European Parliament don't have the right to propose any laws but this rule must be inaccurate because today, the European Parliament will discuss the proposal by Mr Petr Šilar (Christian Democratic Union – Czechoslovak People's Party) and his brothers (these are not comrades) to abolish the constant switching from the winter time to summer time and back.

On Saturday-Sunday night, on March 29th, Europe is scheduled to switch to the summer time again: the period between 2 am and 3 am won't ever take place. Similarly, sometime in the Fall, for its big success, the 2 am through 3 am hour is repeated twice.

Sunday, March 22, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Artificial limbs, cyborgs, and humans with improved DNA

Recently, there have been lots of stories in the newspapers about genetic improvements of the humans, about mind control, and artificial organs that directly communicate with the brain etc. We have probably entered the era in which all these things have in principle been mastered and the gradual improvements of people's ability to "help" humans in similar ways have become an unavoidable scenario for the future.

For example, this video shows an artificial arm that has been trained to behave almost as good as the real one (it has earned 70% of the "score" of Nature's prototype) after brachial plexus injury. See The Lancet article by Prof Oskar Aszman et al. (Vienna) and a Gizmag review of the work plus Google News.

Some muscles have been transplanted, and the artificial limb has been added on top of that. Impulses from the transplanted muscles are being read and evaluated – after weeks of training exercises that may be analogous to the machine learning strategies at – and the people ultimately learn how to control the new metallic organ while the limb learns to listen.

EU commission guess: Greek default on April 9th

Last night, I was reading the Sunday edition of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung where the first seemingly trustworthy estimate of the day when Greece runs out of cash has appeared. See Deutsche Welle for a new story in English.

A statue of the Greek government

The European Commission – a body that is supposed to be the government of the European Union – has some folks in Athens and they should know something about the amount of cash in the Greek government coffers and about the daily inflows and outflows.

The last day when Tsipras' boys will boast liquidity should be April 8th. On the following day, Greece is supposed to make a half-a-billion-dollar repayment and that should already be too much for their financial abilities unless they will receive some new aid. Interestingly enough, Tsipras will visit Moscow on April 8th so it can't be excluded that Russia will provide Greece with cash just hours before the otherwise predictable default.

Saturday, March 21, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

No clairvoyants win a Prague contest

For three months, clairvoyants, psychics, and fortune tellers in Prague – and Czechia – have had the opportunity to win $4,000 in a very easy way. Just arrive to the Nový Smíchov mall, paranormally look through the safe box over there, see what's inside (or be a prophet or soothsayer and predict the objects that would be written in this blog post), and write the correct answer – "a toothbrush, a [restaurant] bill, and a walnut [marble would be tolerated]" – to a web form.

Socialite, sponsor, and trader Václav Dejčmar (who co-hosted my black hole talk in Prague-Barrandov in January) contributed the money and the toothbrush. Leoš Kyša, the vice-chairman of Sisyphus (the Czech counterpart of CSICOP; the name is chosen because the fight against paranormal beliefs looks like a fight against windmills) added the bill, and Jakub Kroulík from Deceitful Players (, a gang of playful skeptics who have learned to do everything that psychics can do, added the walnut.

You know, many psychics and fortune tellers have to work hard and get $10 from one client. You need to repeat it many times to earn $4,000. So the safe box could be handy.

Friday, March 20, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

LHC insists on a near-discovery muon penguin excess

None of the seemingly strong anomalies reported by the LHCb collaboration has been recognized as a survivor but many people believe that similar events are not being overlooked by TRF and they rely on this blog as a source, so I must give you a short report about a new bold announcement by LHCb.

20 March 2015: \(B^0\to K^*\mu^+\mu^-\): new analysis confirms old puzzle (LHCb CERN website)
In July 2013, TRF readers were told about the 3.7 excess in these muon decays of B-mesons.

The complete 2011-2012 data, which was just 3 inverse femtobarns because we talk about LHCb (perhaps I should remind you that it is a "cheaper" LHC detector that focuses on bottom quarks and therefore on CP-violation and flavor violation), have been analyzed. The absolute strength of the signal has decreased but so did the noise so the significance level remained at 3.7 sigma!

Petr Vopěnka: 1935-2015

Sadly, the Czech newspapers informed us about the death of Prof Petr Vopěnka, a prominent Czech mathematician whom I knew in person (as a student).

Incidentally, in recent years, he was affiliated with the regional university here in Pilsen but I never met him here; he mostly used the affiliation to write some mostly historical books, and he wrote many books.

As Google Scholar tells you, he wrote some papers that were famous, relatively to what was usual in Czechoslovakia.

A neat story on SUSY in Business Insider

A large percentage of the people and the "mainstream media" have all kinds of crazy opinions, often combined with downright hostility towards science in general and modern theoretical physics in particular. Supersymmetry has been a frequent target of numerous outlets in recent years.

But the 2015 LHC run is getting started and it's an exciting time – surely not a good time for bitterness – and one sometimes finds newspapers that turn out to be great surprises. Today, I need to celebrate the story

Here's how proving supersymmetry could completely change how we understand the universe
by Kelly Dickerson in the Business Insider. She explains why the Standard Model seems to be an incomplete theory and how SUSY helps with the fine-tuning of the Higgs mass; gives a dark matter candidate; and moves a step closer to experimentally establishing string theory, a theory of everything.

It also honestly states that there's no direct experimental sign of SUSY yet, and that the LHC may change this situation soon or not.

Solar eclipse coming to Europe in few hours

If you're somewhere in Europe, expect the partial solar eclipse sometime between 9 am (the Moon will first bite into the "2 o'clock" place of the solar disk) and noon local time (the Moon will leave the Sun at the place "9 o'clock" or so). For example, Czechia will see the eclipse to peak around 10:47 am Prague Winter Time when about 75% of the area of the solar disk will be hidden by the Moon (France will peak at 80% etc.) and the remaining Sun will be U-shaped (the shadow will be close to "noon" of the solar disk).

A babe explains the solar eclipse in 2 minutes
We the Europeans won't see a solar eclipse that is this strong until 2026. Today's eclipse is rather intense because we also have the Supermoon on the same day – a coincidence. The sky looks completely clear or sunny so we should be lucky today.

Today's solar eclipse will also be a total one in a thin strip going mostly through the Atlantic ocean, on the Eastern side from the Greenland and then towards the North Pole (a coincidence).

Thursday, March 19, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

University of Delaware defends Legates against witch hunt

Three weeks ago I mentioned a witch hunt started by a hardcore Arizona communist named Raúl Grijalva – who is now a Congressman because the Democrats apparently consider similar individuals cool – which was inspired by some previous attacks against Willie Soon, a well-known climate skeptic from Harvard-Smithsonian.

David Legates from University of Delaware is another skeptic who has also co-authored numerous papers – some of which were sent to me by Willie – and because of his proximity to Willie, Legates was quoted as the #1 witch after Willie by Grijalva's letter that demanded to strip the university-affiliated climate skeptics of their privacy and dignity.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Netanyahu, reparations, finger, letter to Iran, and Victory Day

I did expect Netanyahu's Likud to win – and I wanted it to win in the Israeli parliamentary elections.

Off-topic: solar eclipse will arrive to Europe on Friday morning. An animated map shows the eclipse will be total at an Atlantic Ocean path avoiding the Eastern beaches of Greenland; partial in much of Europe.

The country isn't necessarily living at an unprecedented time – every moment is "special" in some way. However, the present may be dangerous enough, with the Iranian nuclear bomb on the horizon and indications that the government of the most important ally is effectively ready to abandon Israel as a growing portion of the left-wing politicians start to view the alliance with Israel as a partisan issue.

Those are obvious reasons to re-elect the existing prime minister whose positions were rather clear and who was doing his job very well, as far as I can say.

Czechs can't view this variation of the Moldau as an alien song – especially because the lyrics is based on the same simple land-centered theme as the Czech anthem.

The way how the Israeli polls were covered by the Western mainstream media up to this very morning was another example of these journalists' dishonesty. We were bombarded by speculations about the end of the Netanyahu era who was poised to lose. And even hours ago, the results were said to be "neck-to-neck", a tie, and so on. Sorry but there has never been a good basis for similar claims; the victory was as sound as most of the victories that are considered sound elsewhere.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Umbral moonshine and Golay code

Many of us greatly liked Erica Klarreich's article

Mathematicians Chase Moonshine’s Shadow
in the Quanta Magazine. The subtitle summarizes the article as "Researchers are on the trail of a mysterious connection between number theory, algebra and string theory" and it is a balanced and poetic overview of the history of moonshine, its shadowy generalization, and some recent results in the subfield.

In his 1975 paper, Andrew Ogg actually promised a bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey to the person who proves the connection (page 7-07: "Une bouteille de Jack Daniels est offerte à celui qui expliquera cette coïncidence"). But this bottle seems more pedagogic, especially for readers who are teenagers. Ogg was tempted to buy the bottle to Fields Medal winner Borcherds but Conway said "no, Borcherds only proved things, and not explained the connection". Well, I think that by now, the connection has also been "explained" (and Conway only disagrees because he thinks that the bottle will keep on motivating an army of bright mathematicians on further work) but it seems that Ogg hasn't given the bottle to anyone yet!

I want to offer you some more technical remarks about these amazing mathematical structures and their new organization. The mathematical structure I want to focus on is the Mathieu \(M_{24}\) group and the error-correcting code, the binary Golay code, from which the group may be deduced.

Monday, March 16, 2015 ... Français/Deutsch/Español/Česky/Japanese/Related posts from blogosphere

Nuclear land mines along the German border

Because the Kremlin has just revealed that it was ready to put its nuclear arsenal on high alert one year ago if the crisis around Crimea escalated, it makes sense to be reminded that nuclear weapons may be used and they are somewhat harmful.

As children, our generation was trained to be hysterically afraid of the nuclear war. Such a war would have to be blamed on the evil imperialists, the official story went, but of course, our camp of peace had to prepare an appropriate response, too. The global nuclear war was almost as popular a cataclysmic scenario as the "global warming" was in recent years.

I must say that even many of the anti-communist teachers we were happy to have were very afraid of the huge nuclear arsenals. One of the popular myths was that there were enough nuclear bombs in the world to break the globe into two comparably large bodies. At the basic school, I wasn't able to construct a clear order-of-magnitude calculation showing that it was nonsense – I clearly became able to construct similar arguments (and/or I only became familiar with the numbers needed as input) only many years later.

Would such nuclear confrontations lead to the end of the world? I think that the truth is somewhere in between. The cataclysmic prophesies were exaggerated but the damages would be far worse than those we know from the worst conventional wars. There is actually a lot of extra space between the Second World War and destruction of life on Earth!

In 2011, we were reminded about some war plans of the Warsaw Pact from years 1960-1964. Stalin was an evil man but the plans for a nuclear war between the two blocs became much more dramatic after his death and I think that they peaked sometime in the 1960s.