Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Gravitational Waves and Andrei Linde gets a surprise.

Yes the great gravitational wave breakthrough was as expected announced yesterday.  Stanford University Professor Andrei Linde, one of the founders of inflation theory, and his wife fellow Stanford Professor the string theorist Renata Kallosh got a surprise visit:


Assistant Professor Chao-Lin Kuo surprises Professor Andrei Linde with evidence that supports cosmic inflation theory. The discovery, made by Kuo and his colleagues at the BICEP2 experiment, represents the first images of gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time. These waves have been described as the "first tremors of the Big Bang."
The original paper published yesterday at 10:45 a.m. is here.

Linde's shock at the result... "5σ r=0.2", Linde says "0.2!" in surprise.

It is surprising . The article on arXiv concludes:
Subtracting the various dust models and re-deriving the r
constraint still results in high significance of detection. For
the model which is perhaps the most likely to be close to re-
ality (DDM2 cross) the maximum likelihood value shifts to
r = 0.16 +0.06 −0.05 with r = 0 disfavored at 5.9σ. These high
values of r are in apparent tension with previous indirect limits
based on temperature measurements and we have discussed
some possible resolutions including modifications of the ini-
tial scalar perturbation spectrum such as running. However
we emphasize that we do not claim to know what the resolu-
tion is.
They are saying that their value of r which is the ratio of the tensor polarization from gravitational waves to the scalar polarization from the inflaton field, after correction for the effects of gravitational lensing, is incompatible with with the indirect limits established by satellite temperature measurements. From this r = 0.2 is surprisingly high.

These incompatibilities  need to be ironed out before this result is fully accepted.  This is just a
note of caution.  Lets hope everything is fine and we have witnessed a scientific revolution as big as that introduced by the CMB anisotropy results and the birth of precision cosmology.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Landscapes of Science

 I have always been interested in the concept of a "landscape" in scientific theories.  A "landscape" is a representation of a higher dimensioned potential energy surface in a simplified three dimensional plot.  A couple of years ago I posted this comment in a thread about Conrad Hal Waddington's ideas on epigenetics (his term for developmental processes in biology not to be confused with the current misuse and abuse of the terminology):



"I can still remember the shock of insight from seeing a diagram of the epigenetic landscape in one of C.H. Waddington’s books when reading it over 40 years ago now.
I am impressed to this day by the usefulness of the “landscape” concept in diverse fields of science. In chemistry the potential energy surfaces of molecules and reactions are a landscape representation. In evolutionary theory there are of course fitness landscapes and finally on the grandest scale the cosmological landscape of string theory.
They are all of course higher dimensioned potential energy surfaces simplified to a 3-D representation in a 2-D projection. I wish the current evolutionary biologists would draw them the right way though, like physicists, chemists and the late great C. H. Waddingtion did. The vertical axis is potential energy and stable states are the lowest levels on this axis. So there are fitness valleys not fitness hills. A test “marble”, “ping-pong ball” atom or organism will tend to roll down to the lowest level in the metaphor of terrestrial gravity operating in a landscape."
 Comment in Why Evolution Is True

I have continued to think about the landscape metaphor in science.  The landscape is a simplified representation of a mathematical object in a potentially highly dimensioned hyperspace.  The usefulness of the concept in such diverse scientific fields  must represent some underlying similarities of the mathematics involved.

An example of a chemical potential energy surface from the article When is a Minimum not a Minimum



Here is Waddington's epigentic landscape from 1957 showing the potential developmental pathways for the ball (embryonic cell) as it rolls down the landscape.


What is the fundamental difference between difference between the two landscape representations ?  More to come.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Jerry Coyne Attacks Jim Al-Khalili and Gets Free Will Wrong Again

Jerry Coyne continues his naive nineteenth century mechanistic materialist denial of modern compatibilist views on free will.  He has launched a determinist attack on Jim Al-Khalili's ideas on free will, whose views I personally agree with.  Jim Al-Khalili is a Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Surrey and he has hosted several BBC productions about science.  He is currently President of the British Humanist Association.

It is late in the evening and I am tired and about to go to bed.  So I won't write a critique of Jerry's position, but instead I will post a link to one post on this thread on his blog where I think the poster got it just right as a substitute here

He quotes Jim Al-Khalili:



“our actions still determine which of the infinite number of possible futures is the one that gets played out.”

What Jerry fails to understand in his Jihad for determinism is that for modern quantum cosmology only the ensemble is deterministic so we face an "infinite number of possible futures".  That is the wonder of the world we live in.




When I get it together I intend to discuss Jim Al-Khalili's ideas on quantum biology.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Reading a Champagne Label

BEAUMONT DES CRAYÈRES GRAND PRESTIGE BRUT CHAMPAGNE

This weekend we opened a bottle of this champagne. The  Beaumont des Crayères Champagne was born in 1955 when a group of winegrowers from the village of Mardeuil near Epernay, formed a cooperative.  The Grand Prestige Brut is made from; 40% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier grapes.

This Champagne is crisp with powerful apple and citrus fruit notes, pale straw yellow with a lively and persistent mousse.  Overall an excellent Champagne.   We have found that often the best value for money, on a quality to price ratio is to be had from the Champagne cooperatives, beating the big better known Champagne houses hands down.   Not that the Beaumont des Crayères Cooperative is small, with 240 members it produces half a million bottles a year.

"My only regret in life is that I didn’t drink enough Champagne“
John Maynard Keynes

Reading The Label

The main parts of the label are relatively obvious; The name of the brand, Champagne the wine's Appelation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) and an alcohol content of 12%  etc are all shown.  At the bottom of the label a line containing lot of specific content in small print is present:

"Elaboré par Beaumont des Crayères à Mardeuil, 51530, France, CM-826-001 Produce of France"

First is the name and address of the producer, here showing that the origin of the grapes is the village of Mardeuil.  CM-826-001 is the producers Professional Registration Code.  The letters CM denote that the producer is Coopérative-manipulant that is a cooperative of growers who also make and sell Champagne under their own labels.  The first two letter of the code shows the type of champagne producer.  Most of the champagne you will see on the shelves is NM (Négociant-manipulant) meaning it is from a Champagne house.  Here is a list of the two letter codes:

ND (Négociants-Distributeur) – A  company selling Champagne it did not make
RM (Récoltant-Manipulant) – grower producer – A grower who sells grapes to the houses as well as buying grapes from other growers and making his own Champagne
CM (Coopérative-manipulant) – cooperative producer – A coop of growers who also make and sell Champagne under their own labels
NM (Négociant-manipulant) – a Champagne house – Producer who buys grapes in volume from growers to make Champagne
MA (Marque d’Acheteur) – a buyers own brand – A brand name owned by the purchaser such as restaurant, supermarket, wine merchant


If you live in Ontario Beaumont des Crayères is available from the LCBO

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Wicked Witch is Dead



As Berthold Brecht wrote of his character Arturo Ui,  "the bitch that bore him is in heat again "  For Thatcher the bitch that bore her is in heat again with so called austerity policies designed to transfer wealth from the 99% of the population to the richest 1% being rampant throughout the world with heirs like Cameron in Britain and Harper here in Canada implementing them.



As I said to an Argentinian fellow graduate student over twenty years ago now.

"it is a pity we couldn't both have lost the Falkland's war, you would have still got rid of the generals and we would have got rid of Thatcher."

It is a pity that Britain's first woman prime minister will be remembered for the destruction of all civilized norms in her country rather than helping to save it like Argentina's first woman President Cristina Fernandez.




Here is Billy Bragg's Comment on her death:

"This is not a time for celebration. The death of Margaret Thatcher is nothing more than a salient reminder of how Britain got into the mess that we are in today. Of why ordinary working people are no longer able to earn enough from one job to support a family; of why there is a shortage of decent affordable housing; of why domestic growth is driven by credit, not by real incomes; of why tax-payers are forced to top up wages; of why a spiteful government seeks to penalise the poor for having an extra bedroom; of why Rupert Murdoch became so powerful; of why cynicism and greed became the hallmarks of our society.

Raising a glass to the death of an infirm old lady changes none of this. The only real antidote to cynicism is activism. Don't celebrate - organise!"

It is ironic that the mad cow who through her agricultural policies gave the world mad cow disease should die in the throws of dementia.  I will never forgive her for destroying the country I grew up in.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Most Embarrassing Graph in Modern Physics

Over at cosmologist Sean Carroll's blog he is discussing The Most Embarrassing Graph in Modern Physics and the interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.

For what it is worth, I threw in my two penn'orth:

http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2013/01/17/the-most-embarrassing-graph-in-modern-physics/#comment-81859


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hives the Great Swedish Garage Rockers

My wife recently saw the Hives on the Carson Daily Show.  She was really impressed which really surprised me as normally she is not so much into the punk and related stuff I like but I guess garage may be more accessible.  They are really a great live band I have enjoyed their work for about ten years now (thanks Thierry for recommending them).

I have embedded this video of them performing the same "Go Right Ahead" together with "Insane" from their new album "Les Hives" live at the Camden Roundhouse London last month. 

One reason for posting it is the Roundhouse brings back many memories for me.   A long time ago I saw Pink Floyd there before they became famous and Boring Old Farts. This was when Syd Barrett was still with them and before the mother-fuckers had driven him mad while they were still an interesting experimental band.  I also attended the first secret unannounced London performance of Cream there. It was supposed to be their first public performance but a friend who played base in Geno Washington's Ram-Jam Band saw their real first performance at a Club in High Wycombe a couple of days earlier.  He had played a festival with Pink Floyd and talked to some of the members off stage.  They tried to convince him that their type of music was the "future of music" (shades of Wagner) unfortunately they were partially right.

I remember attending an excellent production of Brecht's stage adaptation of Gorky's Mother at the Roundhouse while I was a student.  The most impressive production I saw at the Roundhouse was the original production of Ballet Rambert's "Cruel Garden" inspired by the life of Garcia Lorca.  I will never forget this performance, my wife and I found it deeply moving.

Anyway for some fun dynamic Swedish garage rock keep on playing The Hives.