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Nature Physical Law From Galileo’s Pendulum Xchge

August 14, 2014

  1. 1 Patrice Ayme January 11, 2014 at 03:11

    Equations just depict ideas. Equations can be very hard. Some we have no …idea how to handle them (Navier-Stokes, a most useful equation).

    It’s hard to find new ideas. However, some, once found and accepted, can be amazingly simple. The invention of Non-Euclidean geometry just amounted to admit a pre-Euclidean idea: one could make geometry on a sphere, or a saddle, not just a plane.

    It was more of a philosophical change of perspective than anything else.

    Similarly Einstein took Poincare’s observation that the constancy of the speed of light should be viewed as a physical law, and got the Lorentz group from it. Modulo some mathematics so trivial, Poincare’ had not bother to make them explicit.

    Again a philosophical change of perspective.

    Or Einstein (again) took Planck’s idea of quantified emission of light, and decided that was proof enough that there was such a thing as light quanta Planck disapproved, but that “explained” the photoelectric effect discovered 80 years earlier (Einstein got the Nobel for that simple idea in 1923).

    Philosophical change of perspective, again.

    The discovery of Dark Matter and Dark Energy were as unexpected as that of Quantum Theory. However the Quantum “explained” right away two well-known, yet baffling, experimental facts; the non-occurring “ultraviolet catastrophe”, and the Blackbody Radiation.

    In the present situation, we are not even completely sure that Dark Matter and Dark Energy are really observed facts. The philosophical perspectives, let alone the physical ones, are vast. Breakthroughs will come, first, from simple ideas. Complicated equations will follow.

    We appreciate the brutal beauty of the universe as our judge, because we evolved that way. To find those elements of reality we call the truth. Our glorious survival blossomed that way.

    Science is what we do, as a species. And philosophy is our oracle.

    • 2 Matthew R. Francis January 11, 2014 at 07:03

      What you say sounds reasonable on its face, but there are number of problems with your arguments.

      We use equations in physics because they are effective. The Navier-Stokes equation helps us describe physical phenomena successfully; it doesn’t matter whether you understand it philosophically or not. To cite the most important example of all: people still debate over the proper way to interpret quantum mechanics, but everyone uses the Schrödinger equation and the other mathematical tools because those are the way to do quantum physics. That’s not to say the interpretation isn’t important, but the equations are essential.

      Also, you get the cosmological issues backward. Dark matter and dark energy are observed phenomena (“facts” if you will, though I dislike using that term). “Dark energy” in particular is just the name we give to the observed accelerated expansion of the Universe, for which we currently don’t have a good theoretical explanation. “Dark matter” similarly is the name we give to the simplest explanation for a wide variety of astronomical observations, from the rotation of galaxies to the sound waves in the cosmic microwave background (see the detailed discussion in for more on that second point). These are observations for which we need more theory and observation, not philosophical perspectives.

      Conceptual breakthroughs happen, but they follow hard work. Newton didn’t spontaneously come up with gravity, and Einstein didn’t spontaneously think of relativity. Both of these breakthroughs came after long strenuous efforts, and were built on ideas, experiments, and observations from many others who came before them. When we figure them out, dark energy and dark matter will be no different. After all, we’ve known about dark matter since the 1930s and dark energy since 1998 (with inklings of its existence before then). If all it took was a philosophical perspective, we’d have solved it by now.

      To reiterate, physics is hard, but worth it.

      • 3 Patrice Ayme January 11, 2014 at 12:00

        Dear Matthew: I did not say the Navier-Stokes equation had to be understood “philosophically”. I just alluded to the fact that, although it depicts fluid flow, the general existence and smoothness solutions of this non linear PDE have not been proven (I actually don’t believe they exist).

        Newton did not come up with the gravity law, by the way. He exploited it further.

        The French astronomer Ismaël Boulliau suggested that Kepler was wrong about the gravitational force. Kepler had declared that the gravitational force holding the planets in place decreased inversely to distance. Boulliau held instead that the force decreased as an inverse square law. He deduced this in analogy to light. Isaac Newton acknowledged Boulliau’s discovery.

        Nobody dares to suggest the equations related to Quantum Theory are not essential. To a great extent, they are all what defines the theory. QFT is all about guessing the Laplacian, aka the equation(s).

        The situation with Dark Stuff is not similar. They are not directly observed phenomena (just ask LHC people).

        The “observations” of both Dark Matter and Dark Energy are the fruits of (philosophical) pruning. The former depends, among other things, upon the hypothesis that gravity holds at galactic scales (some employed astronomers claim gravity does not work beyond the Solar System… as seems to be the case, at face value!) It’s hard to evaluate things we don’t know, such as galactic mass (the Milky Way has grown in astronomers’ minds recently) to make further guesses about something else.

        In the case of Super Novae studies, outliers explosions are removed from the sampling. I could not read a clear enough description of what was found (I read the original literature) to see if my pet theory survives.

        Boldly supposing that something is really going on (I know a Nobel was attributed), we are very far from being able to describe the thing (whether, for example it’s a Cosmological Constant or Quintessence field description).

        Physics is what we do, it did not start with Newton. Or Buridan, who discovered inertia, or Aristotle, who got that wrong.

        Physics, finding new physics is desperately hard, but so worth it, our lives depend upon it. They always have.


Anti-Union Derangement in the UK.

June 29, 2014
tags: , ,

Anti-European Union rage making the case for the UK leaving the EU:

  • No need to be in the EU to trade with it; after all 93% of the world is not in the EU but still survives and trades with it.
  • In fact UK trade and jobs suffer because of EU membership. From 2007 to 2012 we had a balance of payments deficit with the EU of £241 billion against a surplus with non EU countries of £51 billion.
  • Everyone goes on about the single market but there’s only a single market in goods (our weakest area) and no single market in services or digital, our strongest areas. Hence a huge deficit with Germany: the manufacturing giant.
  • Everyone similarly bangs on about car manufacturers leaving if we exit but they don’t say over 60% of UK car production is for home and non EU consumption.
  • 5% of businesses trade with the EU but 100% have to apply EU rules .
  • The CAP costs Britain £12 billion a year in opportunity costs.
  • The EU is declining as a share of global trade and the global economy.
  • of course trade is adversely affected by our loss of ability to set our own trade agreements.
  • Millions of EU economic refugees flood Britain, costing us money and of course we have our £20 billion annual budget contribution.

Deranging the Derangement:

All more or less true but somewhat silly. Take services: the union for services ought to be made. Leaving the union will not achieve that, far from it. Quite the opposite, indeed.

Take the “millions of EU economic refugees”: they actually make Britain rich. The original English population is stuck at 40 millions. So more than 56% of the augmentation of population has been caused by said “refugees”. The place with more “refugees”, London, including 400,000 Frenchmen, is the richest.

Putin is a problem, and both Paris and London, let alone Berlin, could take a hit from it. That’s real.

That Prince Charles got millions from CAP, well, it ought to be slashed, but does cost much economically comparatively to the interdiction of GMOs… The latter has made France go from # 2 agriculture exporter to # 8 or so, and sinking…

Or take shale oil and gas. Problem? It’s not the EU! It’s that, in Britain, the Crown owns the land, not the critters who call themselves British. So they don’t personally profit of digging below their heels. For some reason, they resent the idea.

(In France they would, but fracking has been outlawed there, by the French, not EU, government.)

Meanwhile the USA are laughing all the way to the bank… for the next few years.

Chris Snuggs, a UKIP member, persists:

“The EU ‘saved Europe’.” NO, THEY DID NOT. The Americans, British and allies “saved Europe” from its OWN fascism = a powerful elite DOING WHAT IT WANTS. For me, the PEOPLE are sovereign,

I want to leave the EU and be like poor, failing, miserable, lonely Switzerland ….

“Saved Europe from its own fascism”? Well maybe Chamberlain ought not to have grovel to Hitler in 1938, nor Britain sign a Treaty with the Nazis in 1935… And the USA played a dual role, as should be well known by now.

I myself admire a lot of what is going on in Switzerland, and recommend it. However, the relationship with the EU is completely enormous to Switzerland. For a number of reasons, as it is, it’s not sustainable. Moreover, what the EU tolerates from Switzerland, it does not, and would not tolerate from other countries.

Switzerland has mostly to do with direct democracy. I do not see it coming to the UK, by a long shot. Yet, I do think that the EU ought to go towards it. Scotland, and, certainly Catalonia, not to say Corsica, could do with more autonomy.


Putin Entangled Plutos

April 26, 2014

New York Times, April 26: “Russia and its allies in the European private sector are conducting a separate campaign to ensure that they can maintain their deep and longstanding economic ties even if the Kremlin orders further military action.

European banks and businesses are far more exposed to the Russian economy than are their American counterparts. Trade between the European Union and Russia amounted to almost $370 billion in 2012, while United States trade with Russia was about $26 billion that year.

As a result, they have lobbied energetically to head off or at least dilute any sanctions, making it hard for American and European political leaders to come up with a package of measures with enough bite to influence Moscow’s behavior in Ukraine.

Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, energy companies, exporters, big users of Russian natural gas and investors with stakes in Russia have counseled caution. “Neither in energy terms, nor politically, should we turn away from Russia,” said Rainer Seele, the chairman of Wintershall, a subsidiary of the large German-based chemical company BASF that is deeply entwined in Russia’s oil and natural gas trade.”

My comment:

European plutocrats have long known their Russian partners are even dirtier than them, and admired them for it. Their fortunes depend upon not seeing anything wrong with the worst ways and means. Putin is probably their ideal boss.

It is the plutocratic entanglements between the Kremlin and Western plutocrats that have made Putin and his clique so crazy, and so self assured.

Something similar, just worse, occurred with Hitler and Mussolini: so many Anglo-American plutocrats had entangled their fate with that of the Reich, that Hitler felt invincible too. Instead the Reich was played out and destroyed, and plutocracy marched on. Mussolini was hanged from an American gas station… in Milan.

At this point, unfortunately, progressives ought to chose the best choice, and it’s certainly not the dictator of Red Square, heir of a tradition that saw the Great Catherine (conqueror of “New Russia”), quarter her enemies alive on said place. Three centuries doing the bad works of the occupying Mongols has twisted the souls of Kremlin dictators, even before Ivan the Terrible.

Kiev is the real mother Russia, twice older than Moscow, and always turned to the West, rather than to the Dark Side. At some point, though, the Dark Side is not stopped by prayers or wishful thinking, but by an ever greater violence. Only one man, a complete idiot, a KGB man, much admired for his (lack of) brains, will decide of that.

Class Mind In The USA

April 22, 2014

Krugman in

Bartels shows that we are also subjectively a class society: that policy views are much more differentiated by income than in other advanced countries:

Bartels offers several hypotheses about why this may be true. But the main point to understand here is that we now know what it means when people urge us to stop talking about class, or denounce class warfare: it is essentially a demand that lower-income Americans and those upper-income Americans who care about them shut up, and stop messing with the elite desire for smaller government.

I suggest an even more fascinating graph: use, as a measure for the horizontal axis, the number of people that earn that amount of money. That would produce an astounding graph, clearly illustrating that a tini tiny minority drives the opinion in favor of small government.

A democracy is, in theory at least, the government of We The People. And then there is the real government, the government of all that have all the power, all the money, and all the money to buy all the power.

The latter purchase including that of votes, is unlawful in democracies, but lawful in the USA. That’s a way to see the USA is not a democracy, but just playing one on TV.

This makes clear that those who claim to be for “small government” truly mean that they are for “small democracy”. Their own government, the plutocratic government, is so mighty, that it molds the minds, and the agenda of all, although it’s held by just a few, as the graph I suggest would blatantly illustrate.

Progress Is No Myth

April 14, 2014

Chris Hedges tends to throw, confusedly and pessimistically, that baby, civilization, with the bath. He concludes his  “The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies” with:

“Collapse comes throughout human history to complex societies not long after they reach their period of greatest magnificence and prosperity.”

This is rather NOT true, in general. Indeed, the royal road to collapse is plutocracy. And plutocracy is a severe form of degeneracy (that we experience today). For example Rome peaked as republic, around, say 150 BCE. Instead the aristocratic historian Gibbon puts the peak of Rome under the fascist plutocracy of the Antonine emperors, 250 years later. However, then, although the Roman empire was larger in territory, the wrong philosophy could get anyone executed.

So the Antonine empire was certainly not a period of greatest magnificence and prosperity. And this is typical: plutocracy is a malignant, lethal growth that tends to kill most societies. And that’s the beauty of it: it can be fixed. By revolution. Not cynical pessimism about the “myth of progress”.

Progress is no myth. If you think it is, try prehistory and cannibalism instead.

Physics: Just Warming Up…

April 11, 2014

John Horgan writes:

Some idiot over at National Geographic just wrote a column titled “Science Is Running Out of Things to Discover,” and the commenters are hammering him.

Yeah, I’m the idiot, and I thought I’d use this blog for a follow-up.

First of all, notwithstanding the headline, my National Geographic column is really about physics, not science as a whole. The news peg is a short letter in Nature on how it’s taking longer and longer for scientists to get Nobel Prizes for their work, especially in physics…”

In his 1967 book The Character of Physical Law Feynman wrote: “We are very lucky to live in an age in which we are still making discoveries. It is like the discovery of America—you only discover it once. The age in which we live is the age in which we are discovering the fundamental laws of nature, and that day will never come again. It is very exciting, it is marvelous, but this excitement will have to go. Of course in the future there will be other interests. There will be the interest of the connection of one level of phenomena to another—phenomena in biology and so on, or, if you are talking about exploration, exploring other planets, but there will not be the same things we are doing now.”

Tyranosopher observes:

To predict something, one ought to have reasons valid in the future. Here two reasons are in evidence to claim the end of physics:

1) the delay between idea and Nobel is increasing, and, 2), as Feynman said, one discovers America only once (actually it was three or four times, but never mind).

Neither do have any theoretical validity looking forward: both reasons are empirical, and look backwards.

For example Haroche in Paris got the Nobel for the new method of seeing light, without disturbing it, with atoms. Such fundamentally new Quantum technique could well bring a revolution, tomorrow, if a deviation from the rules of the Copenhagen Interpretation of physics is detected.

Ditto for the global entanglement experiments. Quantum entanglement has been partly checked up to 15 kilometers. But certainly not up to 15 parsecs. Any deviation, any time, from the Copenhagen Interpretation, would shatter all of fundamental physics. It would not make it completely false, it would just indicate another universe of knowledge and fundamental discovery beckons.

As the present Standard Model of High Energy Physics explains no more than 5% of the mass-energy out there, one can guess that twenty times more than what we know remains to be discovered in the rough sketch of what is to be known in physics that we have.

Lord Kelvin thought we understood 95% of physics, at least, and that there were only “two little black clouds at the horizon” (the UV catastrophe and the Blackbody radiation). To explain them, Planck suggested in 1899-1900, the Quantum emission of radiation, and his constant.

Now we know, for sure, that we understand just a little patch, no more than 5%.

In pure theory, non linear effect are a mystery, from hypersonic flight, to thermonuclear fusion, to the Navier-Stokes equation… Thus begging the question that may be all this non-linearity, if it were sorted out, would have a huge impact on the foundations of Quantum theory.

Physics is not finished, it barely got started.

Health Care Nightmare

April 11, 2014

Obamacare, it was clear from the start, was going to be much ado about not much. It was the unique experience of controlling a private, for profit health care system, by expanding it, under some conditions.

No other country tried that before (in Switzerland, as in many other countries, the insurance companies are not for profit; making basic care for profit is a non sequitur).

So here we are. A big mess, little traction. A few good things, but what’s plan B, when private insurance companies raise their premiums above what’s reasonable?

Answer: well, for progressives, back to reconsidering things from scratch.

The American Health Care Nightmares are far from over.

Reference (sent and published in): Krugman’s Health Care Nightmares: