Friday, August 31, 2007

Anthropic Principle Postdiction

Recently I made a useless prediction with the Anthropic Principle, you can read it here.

Here I have a better use for the principle, I use it to postdict (i.e. I say what already happened) my present position.

I am in Illinois, prior to this I was in Mexico, Cambridge in Massachusetts, Mexico, California, and Mexico. In that order. Starting from Mexico in 1973. Since I finished my graduate studies for a Master's Degree, I went to Santa Barbara, California. Since I finished my research I got a Ph.D. degree in 1981. Since I was teaching physics in Mexico I went back. I was accepted at MIT, and spent one year there doing research. In 1983 I went back to Mexico, until 1994 that I came to Illinois for one year. Until 1998 I went back and forth between Mexico and Illinois, because my University paid my visits. In 1998 I got a job at Lucent Technologies, in Naperville, until 2001 that my services were not required. Since then I have had some odd jobs in Illinois.

All those events are accidental. My life could have been different, but since I am in Illinois now, by the weak anthropic principle, I have postdicted all the random walk.

Either I think it is a miracle that I am here, or the whole exercise is useless. I guess the second is true.

Information 1

This is a continuation of Information written some time ago.

It is important to determine the nature of Information because our life, in the long term, may depend on it.

If as Ward and Brownlee argue the Earth is going downhill already, the only way out from the limitations we have is for Information to have a reality that escapes whatever Ward et al. considered.

More specifically, if Homo sapiens' Information can exist in different forms, with no need of DNA or powered by the Sun, maybe there is a way out. That is if we will be as conscious in those other forms as we are in our original carbon based body.

Ray Kurzweil claims that we are about to find out, on the other side of the Singularity, the power of technology and biology unification. Long Live Cyborgs!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Katrina, Half Way or Less

Today is the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I just finished reading Ward and Brownlee's book on the Death of Planet Earth. They claim that we are either half way through or above the hill. Our house is dying. While the End of the World might be abstract, Katrina is concrete.

We can see there the end of the US as we know it, or at least of the idea of the US. Today is sad day.

“They wanted them poor niggers out of there.”

Malik Rahim commenting on what has happened in New Orleans since the levees were destroyed. Katrina really missed New Orleans and if the levees had protected the area, New Orleans would have been fine.

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Under a Green Sky

Professor Ward recently published the book "Under a Green Sky". He explains his theory of how extinctions happen with no meteorites necessary. It is enough to have trace elements in the atmosphere start a chain reaction that can leave the sky literally green.

Big bubbles of poisonous gases can kill many animals. In fact it already happened in a smaller scale a few years ago in Africa. People were peacefully sleeping in their town when a big bubble of CO2 came out of a lake nearby and all the animals and people died in the town.

As I understand his ideas, Prof. Ward is telling us that the Earth is not as stable as some of us will want it to be. We live in a fragile world, and we know for sure that it is not going to last more than a few billion years more.

It will be wise to heed his advice and treat our Earth with gloves, it can take less beating than most of us might think.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Life and Death of Planet Earth

Professors Ward and Brownlee from the University of Washington wrote a biography of our Planet, "The Life and Death of Planet Earth". Prior to that they wrote "Rare Earth".

For the first time there is scientific knowledge to predict the long term future of the Earth. Astrobiology is a new science, one of of these authors is a biologist and the other an astronomer. Astrophysicists have known for some time now, that stars are born go through middle age and die. In that sense, one should expect that planets go through a life of their own. What is new in this contribution of Ward and Brownlee is the life part of it. Since the 70s James Lovelock presented the idea that our planet is alive, but only until now one can see more clearly how does it happen, and in what sense the Earth is alive.

Ward and Brownlee tell us that one important organ keeping our planet going is the cortex. More specifically the continental plates provide an important service to the complex of interactions that leads these thinkers to consider the life on Earth as an integral part of other more inorganic services that it provides. The motion of continents will reverse course somehow in the next billion years or so, and life will go back also. The thesis is that we are at a peak of complexity, i.e. our Planet is in middle age and already in its way to death.

In "Rare Earth" they argue that plants and animals need the very special conditions on Earth, and it is very unlikely that other planets produce complex life. In this new book, they argue that the amount of time the Earth spends in this high complexity stage is short. Only one or two billion years out of the twelve billion alloted to our Sun and Planet.

It is a little discouraging to say the least, that complex life cannot go for longer. The only way out, the way I see it, is that we start right now to figure out how to extend intelligence life outside of our alloted space, and our alloted time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

American Nightmare:Gonzales “wrong and illegal and unethical”

What I’ve experienced in the last six months is the ugly side of the American dream.” David Iglesias.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Julius Wess, 72, Theoretical Physicist, Is Dead

Julius Wess, a theoretical physicist who plumbed the universe for unseen symmetries, including those in a theory that led to a prediction of a new class of fundamental particles, died Aug. 8 in Hamburg, Germany. He was 72.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Can Millions of People Live in Israel?

Lately I have been thinking on the millions of babies that are born each day. Is there enough space, clean water, and clean air for them in our houses? Maybe, but I am worried.
Now I was thinking of Israel. There are already millions of Palestinians and Israelis there. Can they accommodate millions more that are sure to come?

Obviously I do not know the answer.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tajmar's Gravitomagntic Effect

Here I propose an idea to explain Tajmar's measurements.
Each electron-hole pair couples very weakly to the gravity field frame attached to the Earth. Since the Earth is rotating it produces a local rotation, this rotation produces a parity violation between the North Hemisphere and the South Hemisphere. The groups that have measured this effect are one in Austria and the other in Australia. The measured asymmetry confirms this parity breakdown.
Now, how can a small gravitomagnetic effect be observed?
There is at least a factor of at most 1023 to help in the observation, the amount of elementary particles in any macroscopic piece of matter. All that is needed is a coherent response. That is, all the elementary particles have to act like a single macroscopic object. That is what superconductivity could do in these observations.
Coherent matter may be behind amplifying this small gravitomagnetic effect to big measurable parity breaking effects.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Elvira Arellano

I posted two pieces from the New York Times. One by Frank Rich and one by a group of American soldiers in Iraq. It seems to me that it is OK now to criticize the government.

Elvira Arellano is criticizing the government in her own way. She spent one year in a church in Chicago that offered her sanctuary. She decided to face the consequences of the arrest warrant against her for breaking the immigration laws of the US. She went to Los Angeles and was taken into custody by federal agents and sent to Mexico immediately. She is going to be soon with her parents in Maravatio Michoacan Mexico.

Geography is destiny. I bet she will be back.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The War as We Saw It

The New York Times

August 19, 2007
Op-Ed Contributors


VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)

The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.

A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.

As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.

Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight against Al Qaeda.

However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.

In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a “time-sensitive target acquisition mission” on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse — namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.

Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.

Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.

The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.

Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. Washington’s insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made — de-Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of a loose federalist system of government — places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.

Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict — as we do now — will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.

At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. “Lucky” Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.

In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.

Buddhika Jayamaha is an Army specialist. Wesley D. Smith is a sergeant. Jeremy Roebuck is a sergeant. Omar Mora is a sergeant. Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant. Yance T. Gray is a staff sergeant. Jeremy A. Murphy is a staff sergeant.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Saturday, August 18, 2007

He Got Out While the Getting Was Good

The New York Times

August 19, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist


BACK in those heady days of late summer 2002, Andrew Card, then the president's chief of staff, told The New York Times why the much-anticipated push for war in Iraq hadn't yet arrived. "You don't introduce new products in August," he said, sounding like the mouthpiece for the Big Three automakers he once was. Sure enough, with an efficiency Detroit can only envy, the manufactured aluminum tubes and mushroom clouds rolled off the White House assembly line after Labor Day like clockwork.

Five summers later, we have the flip side of the Card corollary: You do recall defective products in August, whether you're Mattel or the Bush administration. Karl Rove's departure was both abrupt and fast. The ritualistic "for the sake of my family" rationale convinced no one, and the decision to leak the news in a friendly print interview (on The Wall Street Journal's op-ed page) rather than announce it in a White House spotlight came off as furtive. Inquiring Rove haters wanted to know: Was he one step ahead of yet another major new scandal? Was a Congressional investigation at last about to draw blood?

Perhaps, but the Republican reaction to Mr. Rove's departure is more revealing than the cries from his longtime critics. No G.O.P. presidential candidates paid tribute to Mr. Rove, and, except in the die-hard Bush bastions of Murdochland present (The Weekly Standard, Fox News) and future (The Journal), the conservative commentariat was often surprisingly harsh. It is this condemnation of Rove from his own ideological camp — not the Democrats' familiar litany about his corruption, polarizing partisanship, dirty tricks, etc. — that the White House and Mr. Rove wanted to bury in the August dog days.

What the Rove critics on the right recognize is that it may be even more difficult for their political party to dig out of his wreckage than it will be for America. Their angry bill of grievances only sporadically overlaps that of the Democrats. One popular conservative blogger, Michelle Malkin, mocked Mr. Rove and his interviewer, Paul Gigot, for ignoring "the Harriet Miers debacle, the botching of the Dubai ports battle, or the undeniable stumbles in post-Iraq invasion policies," not to mention "the spectacular disaster of the illegal alien shamnesty." Ms. Malkin, an Asian-American in her 30s, comes from a far different place than the Gigot-Fred Barnes-William Kristol axis of Bush-era ideological lock step.

Those Bush dead-enders are in a serious state of denial. Just how much so could be found in the Journal interview when Mr. Rove extolled his party's health by arguing, without contradiction from Mr. Gigot, that young people are more "pro-life" and "free-market" than their elders. Maybe he was talking about 12-year-olds. Back in the real world of potential voters, the latest New York Times-CBS News poll of Americans aged 17 to 29 found that their views on abortion were almost identical to the rest of the country's. (Only 24 percent want abortion outlawed.)

That poll also found that the percentage of young people who identify as Republicans, whether free-marketers or not, is down to 25, from a high of 37 at the end of the Reagan era. Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster, found that self-identified G.O.P. voters are trending older rapidly, with the percentage over age 55 jumping from 28 to 41 percent in a decade.

Every poll and demographic accounting finds the Republican Party on the losing side of history, both politically and culturally. Not even a miraculous armistice in Iraq or vintage Democratic incompetence may be able to ride to the rescue. A survey conducted by The Journal itself (with NBC News) in June reported G.O.P. approval numbers lower than any in that poll's two decades of existence. Such is the political legacy for a party to which Mr. Rove sold Mr. Bush as "a new kind of Republican," an exemplar of "compassionate conservatism" and the avatar of a permanent Republican majority.

That sales pitch, as we long ago learned, was all about packaging, not substance. The hope was that No Child Left Behind and a 2000 G.O.P. convention stacked with break dancers and gospel singers would peel away some independent and black voters from the Democrats. The promise of immigration reform would spread Bush's popularity among Hispanics. Another potential add-on to the Republican base was Muslims, a growing constituency that Mr. Rove's pal Grover Norquist plotted to herd into the coalition.

The rest is history. Any prospect of a rapprochement between the G.O.P. and African-Americans died in the New Orleans Superdome. The tardy, botched immigration initiative unleashed a wave of xenophobia against Hispanics, the fastest-growing voting bloc in the country. The Muslim outreach project disappeared into the memory hole after 9/11.

Forced to pick a single symbolic episode to encapsulate the collapse of Rovian Republicanism, however, I would not choose any of those national watersheds, or even the implosion of the Iraq war, but the George Allen "macaca" moment. Its first anniversary fell, fittingly enough, on the same day last weekend that Mitt Romney bought his victory at the desultory, poorly attended G.O.P. straw poll in Iowa.

A century seems to have passed since Mr. Allen, the Virginia Republican running for re-election to the Senate, was anointed by Washington insiders as the inevitable heir to the Bush-Rove mantle: a former governor whose jus'-folks personality, the Bushian camouflage for hard-edged conservatism, would propel him to the White House. Mr. Allen's senatorial campaign and presidential future melted down overnight after he insulted a Jim Webb campaign worker, the 20-year-old son of Indian immigrants, not just by calling him a monkey but by sarcastically welcoming him "to America" and "the real world of Virginia."

This incident had resonance well beyond Virginia and Mr. Allen for several reasons. First, it crystallized the monochromatic whiteness at the dark heart of Rovian Republicanism. For all the minstrel antics at the 2000 convention, the record speaks for itself: there is not a single black Republican serving in either the House or Senate, and little representation of other minorities, either. Far from looking like America, the G.O.P. caucus, like the party's presidential field, could pass for a Rotary Club, circa 1954. Meanwhile, a new census analysis released this month finds that nonwhites now make up a majority in nearly a third of the nation's most populous counties, with Houston overtaking Los Angeles in black population and metropolitan Chicago surpassing Honolulu in Asian residents. Even small towns and rural America are exploding in Hispanic growth.

Second, the Allen slur was a compact distillation of the brute nastiness of the Bush-Rove years, all that ostentatious "compassion" notwithstanding. Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove are not xenophobes, but the record will show that their White House spoke up too late and said too little when some of its political allies descended into Mexican-bashing during the immigration brawl. Mr. Bush and Mr. Rove winked at anti-immigrant bigotry, much as they did at the homophobia they inflamed with their incessant election-year demagoguery about same-sex marriage.

Finally, the "macaca" incident was a media touchstone. It became a national phenomenon when the video landed on YouTube, the rollicking Web site whose reach now threatens mainstream news outlets. A year later, leading Republicans are still clueless and panicked about this new medium, which is why they, unlike their Democratic counterparts, pulled out of even a tightly controlled CNN-YouTube debate. It took smart young conservative bloggers like a former Republican National Committee operative, Patrick Ruffini, to shame them into reinstating the debate for November, lest the entire G.O.P. field look as pathetically out of touch as it is.

The rise of YouTube certifies the passing of Mr. Rove's era, a cultural changing of the guard in the digital age. Mr. Rove made his name in direct-mail fund-raising and with fierce top-down message management. As the Internet erodes snail mail, so it upends direct mail. As YouTube threatens a politician's ability to rigidly control a message, so it threatens the Rove ethos that led Mr. Bush to campaign at "town hall" meetings attended only by hand-picked supporters.

It's no coincidence that this new culture is also threatening the Beltway journalistic establishment that celebrated Mr. Rove's invincibility well past its expiration date (much as it did James Carville's before him), extolling what Joshua Green, in his superb new Rove article in The Atlantic, calls the Cult of the Consultant. The YouTube video of Mr. Rove impersonating a rapper at one of those black-tie correspondents' dinners makes the Washington press corps look even more antediluvian than he is.

Last weekend's Iowa straw poll was a more somber but equally anachronistic spectacle. Again, it's a young conservative commentator, Ryan Sager, writing in The New York Sun, who put it best: "The face of the Republican Party in Iowa is the face of a losing party, full of hatred toward immigrants, lust for government subsidies, and the demand that any Republican seeking the office of the presidency acknowledge that he's little more than Jesus Christ's running mate."

That face, at once contemptuous and greedy and self-righteous, is Karl Rove's face. Unless someone in his party rolls out a revolutionary new product, it is indelible enough to serve as the Republican brand for a generation.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Researchers create gravity in lab experiment

Scientists funded by the European Space Agency have measured the gravitational equivalent of a magnetic field for the first time in a laboratory. Under certain special conditions the effect is much larger than expected from general relativity and could help physicists to make a significant step towards the long-sought-after quantum theory of gravit

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Anthropic Principle Prediction

I predict that most of us disappear tomorrow.

My weak anthropic principle statement is that we made it this far, because all conditions were right. If tomorrow we disappear, as Alan Weisman considers in his book, "The World Without Us", then the anthropic principle is right. We made it this far, until we didn't.

This may be the most useless prediction ever for Homo sapiens. We could not know what was coming our way, even though we were warned by Al Gore, and Leo DiCarpio. If I survive, since I do not really believe my prediction now, it will be depressing to see a politician and an actor more in tune, than a mere scientist like myself, to what was coming.

If we do not disappear tomorrow, my weak anthropic principle prediction is wrong. Either way I made a useless prediction.

At this point the Goldilocks mystery intrigues me. But I do not know if it means anything, even less how to use it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Do We Know What Will Happen Tomorrow?

Karl Rove resigns August 31, 2007. Could have I said that yesterday? No.

I do not talk to him or people that know him. I can think about the possibility. Something along these lines. He has been called to testify to Congress and he has refused, ergo he leaves to be left alone.

There are at least two problem with that kind of thinking. First, that is not what he said. He wants to spend more time with his son studying in San Antonio. Even though he is not going to live in San Antonio, I very much doubt his son needs another roommate, even less somebody much older than him, that very likely is not cool. Second I need a lawyer to prove something like that, if true that may qualify for comptent of court, which I understand is punishable. So what is a simple citizen like me supposed to do?

To live in ignorance and be surprised every day when something happens. Maybe tomorrow we find out that George W. Bush is planning to leave office early, say by September 1st.

Karl Rove RESIGNS!!!

Karl Rove, deputy chief of staff to the Bush administration, announces his resignation, says he will be out by the end of the month.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Freeman Dyson

Freeman Dyson writes in Edge Magazine

"Here I must confess my own bias. Since I was born and brought up in England, I spent my formative years in a land with great beauty and a rich ecology which is almost entirely man-made. The natural ecology of England was uninterrupted and rather boring forest. Humans replaced the forest with an artificial landscape of grassland and moorland, fields and farms, with a much richer variety of plant and animal species. Quite recently, only about a thousand years ago, we introduced rabbits, a non-native species which had a profound effect on the ecology. Rabbits opened glades in the forest where flowering plants now flourish. There is no wilderness in England, and yet there is plenty of room for wild-flowers and birds and butterflies as well as a high density of humans. Perhaps that is why I am a humanist."

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Ilya Prigogine

When I was a physics graduate student in Mexico, I felt that life was impossible. I understood the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and to me, it seemed to imply that I should not be there learning physics.

I came across an article in "Physics Today" by Ilya Prigogine, where he explained that the problem was with the concept of equilibrium. I assumed that the Second Law applied to all systems, and the Law is very clear, only ISOLATED systems, have to obey the Law. Life was consistent with the Law if we consider the Earth as an open system. If we do put a barrier and no sunlight goes through, we will have a closed system and life will cease.

I accepted Prigogine's explanation and was reassured when he went on the get a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977.

During the rest of his life Prigogine developed Non Equilibrium Thermodynamics. Life is still a mystery to me, but some recent ideas from science make me believe that life is a natural phenomenon, and a very special one.

Kevin Rose on the NYT Editorial Page

The New York Times

August 8, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Is There Wisdom in Crowds?
International Herald Tribune


'It's the wisdom of the masses that makes up our front page," says Kevin Rose. He is the founder of a Web news site called Digg that rates stories, videos and other content on the basis of how many people like them. Editors need not apply; Digg is proud to have none.

Of course, the "wisdom of the masses" produced a few 20th-century bummers, not least in Germany, Italy, the Soviet Union and China. Collective wisdom is often an oxymoron.

But the Internet has made the views of crowds more accessible - "crowdsourcing" is the geek jargon - while rendering them less dangerous. The cacophony can be overwhelming and undiscerning. Give me a serious food critic any day over the agglomerated diners' gibberish of the Zagat guides.

I am no doubt in a minority on that. Zagat has proved a global winner, as has American Idol. We live in an age when people love to know what everyone else thinks and the means exist to convey those thoughts instantaneously online.

Rose, whose background is in computer science rather than journalism, started Digg in 2004. It now has 18 million unique visitors a month. The idea behind the site is that it "surfaces the best stuff as voted on by our users."

By clicking to indicate you like or "digg" an item, you propel it toward page one. An algorithm edits. Citizen journalists rule. Rose, 30, tells me he wants "to give power back to the community."

The results are interesting. Among the "world" stories doing well of late - front pages exist for whatever category of news you choose - is an item about a New Zealand pizza chain using President George W. Bush's image for an advertisement.

Other strong performers include a chart comparing U.S. gas consumption to the rest of the world, how Paris Hilton lost her inheritance, and a piece about 2,500 French citizens forming the words "We will never forget" on Omaha beach last month.

"Funny," says a commentary on the latter, "whenever a French person does something anti-American, we hear about it." But when 2,500 French do something pro-American, it's only news on Digg.

A life spent in newspapering does not endear me to outfits that consign editors to the Paleolithic age. Digg needs content to be dug by its community; it provides none itself. Rather, it relies for "stuff" on my colleagues. Journalists once wrote stories. They now provide fodder for cannibalization.

Still, this is the future - communities jabbering rather than edicts falling. Barriers have crumbled, between states and between producer and consumer. That, on balance, is good for the world, if not necessarily for newspaper companies.

The collective wisdom of Digg produces an intriguing distillation. But it only begs the question: What makes stuff - a story, a book, whatever - a hit rather than a flop?

Until recently, Brent Stinski was a student at Cambridge University doing a doctoral thesis on the psychology of art and entertainment. In prosaic terms, he was looking into why Harry Potter boomed but "Superman Returns" was a bust.

That is an elusive quandary. Most entertainment products, be they books or movies, don't work. About 10 percent of what film companies or publishers or recording studios put out accounts for 90 percent of revenue. The big hit salvages myriad failures.

I once covered the publishing industry - or rather, the publishing lottery. Any price for a book could be justified if a suitably inflated hypothetical sales number was used for a prospective profit-and-loss statement.

Now, Stinski wants to do something about that using collective online wisdom in a slightly different way from Rose. His new Web site, called Media Predict, amounts to a virtual stock market for manuscripts, television pilots, rock bands and the like.

Traders with the equivalent of $5,000 in fantasy cash buy shares in the material they believe in. Whatever rises on this prediction market ought in theory to be the things entertainment moguls should buy and back.

"There's a crying need to link major media companies with the user-generated movement," Stinski says. "Going with your gut is inefficient for media and not very satisfying for viewers." Already, Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, is working with Media Predict to select a manuscript for publication.

I feel queasy about the wisdom of the masses. But Digg and Media Predict give me pause. I may indeed have been hard on the French. More worrying, I have published three books and was grossly overpaid for all of them.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Tornado Hits Brooklyn; Subway Back in Service

Most of the New York City subway system was back in service by this evening’s rush hour after a fierce morning storm disrupted transit service throughout much of the region and unleashed a rare and destructive tornado that whipped southwestern Brooklyn with winds of up to 135 miles an hour.

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“Pieces of the roof were all over the place. It was a big bang.”

Tornado hits Brooklyn!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Affluence, Deniers, and My Town

Dr. Clark from the University of California at Davis seems to have revived an eighteenth century historical theory. He collected data from England to prove that country people had moved to the cities there and started the Industrial Revolution. He found the opposite; the children of the rich survived and produced the middle class that spawned this historical event.

Also scientists have found genetic evidence to date the origin of the lactose resistant gene to 5000 years ago, when culture started. Maybe then biology and history have a closer coupling than I had thought until now.

Accepting without conceding, just for the sake of argument. English people and their descendants are more advanced than most of us in the rest of the world. If that is so, why are they denying the reality of global warming in the US? It is not clear to me that the people behind the "Global Warming is a Hoax" movement in the US Senate led by Mr. Inhofe, are Anglo Saxon, I will just assume it; he said:

"Climate Change Update
Senate Floor Statement by
U.S. Sen. James M. Inhofe(R-Okla)

January 4, 2005

As I said on the Senate floor on July 28, 2003, "much of the debate over global warming is predicated on fear, rather than science." I called the threat of catastrophic global warming the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people," a statement that, to put it mildly, was not viewed kindly by environmental extremists and their elitist organizations. I also pointed out, in a lengthy committee report, that those same environmental extremists exploit the issue for fund raising purposes, raking in millions of dollars, even using federal taxpayer dollars to finance their campaigns."

I pose here that all peoples of the Earth, have more of a chance of saving the Earth, than any self appointed chosen people.

This brings me to the recent article in the New York Times Magazine on Carpentersville, Illinois. This small town in the Fox River, is confronting a very common conflict in the US these days. A massive and disorganized migration from Mexico to the US that has many people scratching their heads for answers.

This issue is more than my limited knowledge can handle. I wouldn't venture a prediction. Nevertheless my gut feeling is that we Mexicans have come to stay. When more nationalities participate in the US public debate, there is more of a chance to find solutions to so many vexing problems.

The truth about well-funded global-warming deniers

If you think those who have long challenged the mainstream scientific findings about global warming recognize that the game is over, think again. the denial machine is running at full throttle—and continuing to shape both government policy and public opinion.

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In Dusty Archives, a Theory of Affluence

Gregory Clark believes that the Industrial Revolution occurred because of a change in the nature of the human population.

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Bellwether Mexico Election Goes Smoothly

TIJUANA, Mexico, Aug. 5 — Voters went to the polls on Sunday in Baja California to decide between a conservative economist from the president’s party and a colorful tycoon who owns betting parlors and comes from a storied political family in the once dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Negative Numbers

I like to tell students that negative numbers were invented to solve the equation:

1 + x = 0

There is a story line that goes with that introduction, I will spare you here from it.

What I write about here is one of the weird implications of some of these equations. Richard P. Feynman many years ago invited theoretical physicists to consider negative probabilities. Another application of these weird numbers are bank accounts. I own a big amount of negative money. Then you have negative temperatures hotter than positive infinity. Negative pressure that according to a friend of mine, solves several deep problems of modern physics. The particular negative numbers I consider here are the permeability and permittivity of metamaterials.

Professor Leonhardt and Dr. Philbin from the University of Saint Andrews in Scotland have recently written:

"Repulsive Casimir forces [16]-[22] have been predicted to occur between two different extended dielectric plates, in the extreme case [17] between one dielectric with infinite electric permittivity ε and another one with infinite magnetic permeability μ. They have not been practical yet and are subject to controversy [19, 20]. The closely related case of repulsive van der Waals forces has been studied as well [23]. Here we consider a different situation inspired by Casimir’s original idea [5]: imagine instead of two extended dielectric plates two perfect conductors with a metamaterial sandwiched in between for which ε = μ = −1 (Fig. 1A). Such materials can be made of nanofabricated metal structures [10]-[14]. One of the conducting plates may be very thin and movable, which gives a key advantage in observing repulsive vacuum forces."

With this proposal of negative electrical permittivity and magnetic permeability it may be possible to make levitating nanomachines. Somehow these machines may be pumping negative energy from vacuum fluctuations.

Levitation breakthrough proposed

A way of making levitation possible using a mysterious force of nature has been proposed by two British physicists. Their ideas are now being looked at seriously by a leading American scientist who may put them into practice. The theory will not enable people to fly like Peter Pan but could revolutionise nanotechnology and the design of micro-mac

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In Mexico City, Possible Discovery of an Aztec Ruler’s Grave

MEXICO CITY, Aug. 4 (AP) — Mexican archaeologists using ground-penetrating radar have detected underground chambers they believe contain the remains of Ahuizotl, who was the emperor of the Aztecs when Columbus landed in the New World. It would be the first tomb of an Aztec ruler ever found.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Our Town

When I first met with Judy Sigwalt and her fellow village trustee Paul Humpfer this past April, they were, understandably, feeling assured, if not emboldened. A few weeks earlier, with the endorsement of the two local newspapers, they were elected to their village board on the platform that their town, Carpentersville, Ill., ...

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The Secrets of the World's Richest Man

Mexico's Carlos Slim makes his billions the old-fashioned way: monopolies. The 67-year-old tycoon controls more than 200 companies -- he says he's "lost count". In all, his companies account for more than a third of the total value of Mexico's leading stock market index, while his fortune represents 7% of the country's annual economic output.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Negative Energy States

Gerard 't Hooft states:

"The disappearance of the negative energy modes is very troublesome, however. In a single oscillator, one might still say that energy is conserved, and once it is chosen to be positive, it will stay positive. However, when two or more of these systems interact, they might exchange energy, and we will have to explain why the real world appears to have interactions only in such a way that only positive energy states are occupied. This is a very difficult problem, and, disguised one way or another, it keeps popping up throughout our investigations. It still has not been solved in a completely satisfactory manner, but we can try to handle this difficulty, and one then reaches a number of quite interesting conclusions. In short, our problem is this: in a deterministic theory, one can reproduce quantum-like mathematics in a multitude of ways, but in many cases one encounters hamiltonian functions that are either periodic (in case time is taken to be discrete), or not bounded from below (when time is continuous). Can the real world nevertheless be approximated by, or rather exactly reproduced in, some deterministic model? What then causes the hamiltonian of the real world to be bounded below, with a very special lowest energy state, the ‘vacuum’, as a result? Without this positivity of H , we would not have thermodynamics. The hamiltonian is conjugated to time. Is there something about time that we are not handling correctly?"

In Mexico, Rebel Politician Courts the Law-and-Order Vote

The colorful former mayor of Tijuana, Mexico, stands an even chance of being elected governor of the state of Baja California, despite allegations against him.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Mexico's State of Discontent (Time Magazine)

Whatever it was that went "poof" at an entrance to the Sears outlet in the Plaza del Valle Mall in Oaxaca City was certainly not big enough to be called a "bomb." It did damage to the door and a couple of glass panes but an "explosive artifact" was the most threatening term local law enforcement were willing use to describe it.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Gauge Symmetry and Information Loss

In his London Lectures, Professor t' Hooft gives a possible reason for the gauge principle.

One can change the gauge of a field theory and NOTHING HAPPENS. He thinks that this may be related to information loss. A huge amount of information is lost in our Universe.

There can be no ‘quantum cosmology’.

Gerard 't Hooft so states in his Imperial College Lecture. In the same lecture he said:
"We furthermore conjecture that information is not conserved in the deterministic description."

Furthermore he asserts:

The notion of ‘free will’ is given a meaning that deviates from most standard views on the subject;[5][6][7] ours[8] appears to go back as far as Benedict de Spinoza: an individual’s actions are completely dictated by laws of Nature, yet this does not exempt us from our responsibilities for our actions. The ‘free will postulate’ is presently seen as an axiom in the reconstruction of the interpretation of quantum mechanics. This postulate will not be needed in the form usually given. We replace it by the condition that a theory or model of Nature should give appropriate responses for every conceivable initial state.

So, in investigating our model, we have the ‘freedom’ to choose our initial state at will; whatever that state is, the model should tell me what will happen next. This is referred to as the ‘unconstrained initial state’ requirement.[9]"

He goes on to state that:

"Because of the periodicity, we must have

e−iHT = 1 → H = 2πn/T = ωn ; n = 0, ±1, ±2, . . . . (3.2)

This is exactly the spectrum of a quantum harmonic oscillator, except for the emergence of negative energy states. The states with n < 0 are forbidden, for some reason. Of course, we also do not have the ‘vacuum energy’ 1/2 ω , which would have emerged if we would have required e-iHT = −1 . This minus sign is as harmless as an overall addition of 1/2 ω to the hamiltonian, but perhaps it will mean something in a more complete theory; we will ignore it for the time being."

Maybe we will know the meaning of negative energies with the work of Professor 't Hooft.

If There is a Higg Boson, Here is What you Might See.

The Chilean physicist, Ivan Schmidt, and his SLAC friends, show us in their recent paper at the LANL electronic repository, what we might see if we look.

In their abstract they write:

"The predicted cross section for the production of the Standard Model Higgs coming from nonperturbative intrinsic bottom Fock states in the proton is sufficiently large that detection at the Tevatron may be possible."

Quantum Mechanics as an Emergent Theory.

Gerard 't Hooft gave lectures at Imperial College, here, and here you can find the papers he wrote.

Ozomatli on State Dept. tour

Grass is still green. Rain still falls down. I still cant get laid. Rest assured the world hasn't gone completely mad, and yet..."The U.S. sends the antiwar L.A. band on a diplomatic mission to the heart of the Arab world." ... "Didn't they know that the two-time Grammy-winning band was born at a labor rights demonstration 12 years ago..."

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Greg Palast on The Crimes of the The Times

Cutely buried in the 18th paragraph in a story about Alberto Gonzales on Sunday was a slyly-worded updated confession by the New York Times that, in 2004, the Bush Administration leaned on its editors to spike a story about illegal invasions of citizens’ private records (”data mining”).

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Wikipedia:Today's featured picture (animation)/August 1, 2007

Territorial evolution of Mexico An animated image showing the territorial evolution of Mexico, showing each change to the internal and external borders of the country. The animation begins with the 1824 Constitution of Mexico and continues to the present-day configuration.

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