Unparticles, Unpolitics, and Their Possible Signatures

December 11, 2007

“Unparticles” and “unpolitics” are two seemingly unrelated concepts which you might never have heard about before, so let me start by explaining the first one.

So, what is an “unparticle”? In particle physics it has recently been suggested by Howard Georgi, that there exists “stuff” which cannot be thought of as particles:

Unparticle Physics 

but nevertheless could be observed at the LHC accelerator in CERN, due to start in 2008. He calls this stuff “unparticles”. This is an intriguing and controversial idea, since our world seems to be well-described in terms of particles.

The idea of unparticles comes from the principle of scale invariance, meaning that the physics of a system remains the same regardless of a change of length (or equivalently energy). Such a scale transformation looks like x -> x’ = (e^s) x. A theory of particles can only be scale invariant if the particles have zero mass and charge: A scale transformation multiplies the mass with a rescaling factor raised to the mass dimension. The standard model of particle physics is surely not scale invariant; the photon, for example, is massless, but its charge is non-zero. However, it is possible that there is another sector of the standard model, the “unparticles”, which interacts so weakly with the known particles of the standard model that they have not been observed; and which is exactly scale-invariant. It is difficult to describe the detailed physics of such a sector, but important characteristics at low energy can be derived from scale invariance. One important consequence is that unparticle stuff will look in the detector like a non-integer number of invisible particles. For example, it could happen that 3/7 particles were missing in the detector. Such an observation would be a very clear sign of something interesting going on!

While you might need a 2 billion EUR detector like LHC to discover unparticles, “unpolitics” is easy to recognize. But, what is “unpolitics”?

While following the general election in Denmark in Nov this year, I thought that a new term, unpolitics, should apply to one of the parties, called New Alliance (Ny Alliance). However, I later realized that such a term already existed, but used as meaning “apolitical”, or “not being concerned with politics”. This is not exactly how I am going to define it. 

 Ny Alliance (New Alliance) is a danish political party which was founded in May 2007 by Naser Khader and two others. Naser was a member of the Social Liberals Party, but wanted to counter the influence of the right-wing and xenophobic Danish People’s Party. At first, this project gave New Alliance a lot of momentum, and early opinion polls indicated that they could secure 12 out of 179 seats in the Parliament. In the November election they only managed to get 5 seats, and a times it was uncertain if they would be able to be represented at all. Why was this so? One of the main reason, I think, is that New Alliance is a typical representative of what I will call “unpolitics”.

Unpolitics is “stuff” in the world of politics, which is represented by political persons, but which not really can be thought of as politics. In unpolitics, the most important elements are often popular persons, but with no, or just very few, really new ideas. One idea of New Alliance was to reduce the income tax to 40%; a member even suggested that the 40% could be experimentally implemented on Denmark’s third-largest island. This proposal was quickly abandoned. Another idea is free food for school children. New Alliance has been notoriously slow in formulating a detailed party program. When asked about concrete political questions, the typical answer was that such an answer could not be given, since they represented a “new” approach towards danish politics. Their main reason of existence just being to counter the influence of another party. In reality this did not happen. 

Therefore, a possible signature of unpolitics is this. Unpolitics is scale invariant: at every scale – large and small – you don’t find any “stuff” of politics, just popular persons.

References: Howard Georgi’s two papers on unparticles, hep-ph/0703260, and 0704.2457 [hep-ph]

Global Temperature, Global Warming?

March 17, 2007

What is global warming? Most people would answer this seemingly simple question with something like the following (see the article at wikipedia.org):

Global warming is the observed increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s near-surface air and oceans in recent decades and its projected continuation. […]

One would think that all scientist agree on this definition. However, actually they don’t.

Some scientist would say that it does not even make sense. The June 2007 issue of the Journal of Non-equilibrium Thermodynamics includes a paper of Christopher Essex (U. of Western Ontario), Ross McKitrick (U. of Guelph) and Bjarne Andresen (Niels Bohr Institute), with the interesting title:

Does a Global Temperature Exist? [PDF]

In this paper it is argued that the concept of a “global temperature” is thermodynamically as well as mathematically meaningless. First of all, you cannot just add local temperatures on the Earth and then take the average to define a single “global” temperature of the Earth. Secondly, the average is not canonically defined. For example, taking a box of air with temperature 0 degrees and an identical one with temperature 100 degrees would lead to an arithmetic average of 50 degrees (add the two numbers and divide by two). However, the geometric average in this case, obtained by multiplying the two numbers (in degree Kelvin) and taking the square root is 46 degrees. Thus claims of distaster – or not – maybe a consequence of the averaging method used.

So, what is Global Warming? Can it be defined in a sound way, both from a physics and mathematics viewpoint?

Eli Rabett over at Rabett Run thinks that this paper is “a bowl of steaming crap”; I guess Lubos Motl thinks otherwise.

Update: The climate-friends at RealClimate.org thinks that this paper is irrelevant.

Fogh, Lies and Videotapes?

January 26, 2007

Our Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen does not fancy a certain documentary film which was shown on Danish national television in December 2006.

And you can understand why. At least if you remember, that Denmark is at war in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan.

“The secret war” (Danish: “Den Hemmelige Krig”) is about the fact that during the war in Afghanistan in 2002, Denmark handed over prisoners to the US soldiers (at least on one occation — the 18th of March, 2002) even though USA would no longer respect the Geneva-convention, and possibly that the Danish Government, led by Fogh Rasmussen, did not reveal this to the parliament.

A memo [PDF] by Donald Rumsfeld, 19th of january, 2002, states that

[…] Al Qaeda and Taliban individuals under the control of the Department of Defence are not entitled to prisoner of war status for purposes of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

This was known publically soon thereafter. On the 28th of January, 2002 in the New York Times:

Vice Pres Dick Cheney and Defense Sec Donald H Rumsfeld say war captives in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will not be designated as prisoners of war, regardless of what decision administration makes on Sec of State Colin Powell’s request for review of how Geneva Convention on captives’ rights might apply; […] Cheney says convention does not apply to captives because they are not conventional soldiers, but terrorists operating outside internationally accepted norms;

In this way, the movie rightly questions the basis for Denmarks participation in the so-called “war against terror” in Afghanistan.

Fogh Rasmussen flatly rejects an independent investigation of the events in Afghanistan in early 2002, and as to whether the Geneva conventions has been violated. On the other hand he ask for an investigation as to whether the Danish national television, DR, made any factual mistakes in the movie.

Double standards, anyone?

State of the Union 2007

January 24, 2007

Last night, President Bush delivered his 2007 State Of The Union address.

After last years State of the Union Address, Lubos Motl thought that Bush was a genius (or rather, that he was “shining”); this year Lubos uprightly noted that “Bush had to drink some water”.

And this is basically how interesting President Bush’s talk was.

At any rate, I found the following statements worth emphasizing:

[…] Some in this chamber are new to the House and Senate — and I congratulate the Democratic majority. Congress has changed, but our responsibilities have not. Each of us is guided by our own convictions — and to these we must stay faithful. Yet we are all held to the same standards, and called to serve the same good purposes: To extend this nation’s prosperity … to spend the people’s money wisely … to solve problems, not leave them to future generations … to guard America against all evil, and to keep faith with those we have sent forth to defend us.

First, we must balance the federal budget. We can do so without raising taxes. What we need to do is impose spending discipline in Washington, D.C. We set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009 — and met that goal three years ahead of schedule. Now let us take the next step. In the coming weeks, I will submit a budget that eliminates the federal deficit within the next five years. […]

A future of hope and opportunity requires that all our citizens have affordable and available health care. When it comes to health care, government has an obligation to care for the elderly, the disabled and poor children. […]

Tonight, I propose two new initiatives to help more Americans afford their own insurance. First, I propose a standard tax deduction for health insurance that will be like the standard tax deduction for dependents. Families with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $15,000 of their income. Single Americans with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $7,500 of their income. […]

[…] Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America’s economy running and America’s environment clean. For too long, our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments … raise the price of oil … and do great harm to our economy.

It is in our vital interest to diversify America’s energy supply, and the way forward is through technology. We must continue changing the way America generates electric power by even greater use of clean coal technology … solar and wind energy … and clean, safe nuclear power. We need to press on with battery research for plug-in and hybrid vehicles, and expand the use of clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel. We must continue investing in new methods of producing ethanol — using everything from wood chips, to grasses to agricultural wastes.

[…] Let us build on the work we have done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years — thereby cutting our total imports by the equivalent of three-quarters of all the oil we now import from the Middle East.

To reach this goal, we must increase the supply of alternative fuels by setting a mandatory fuels standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 — this is nearly five times the current target. At the same time, we need to reform and modernize fuel economy standards for cars the way we did for light trucks — and conserve up to 8 1/2 billion more gallons of gasoline by 2017.

[…] America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. These technologies will help us become better stewards of the environment — and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.

[…] In the sixth year since our nation was attacked, I wish I could report to you that the dangers have ended. They have not. And so it remains the policy of this government to use every lawful and proper tool of intelligence, diplomacy, law enforcement, and military action to do our duty, to find these enemies, and to protect the American people.

[…] In order to make progress toward this goal, the Iraqi government must stop the sectarian violence in its capital. But the Iraqis are not yet ready to do this on their own. So we are deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq.

[…] My fellow citizens, our military commanders and I have carefully weighed the options. We discussed every possible approach. In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance of success. Many in this chamber understand that America must not fail in Iraq — because you understand that the consequences of failure would be grievous and far reaching.

[…] Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field — and those on their way.

[…]American foreign policy is more than a matter of war and diplomacy. Our work in the world is also based on a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is required.

Not the worst speech by President Bush — I must admit — maybe even better than the one in 2006, which, to say the least, is not much. But again, a speech of a very lonely president who is trying to reach out to skeptical Democrats.

The full text of the Presidents speech can be found here; official transcript from the White House — including applauses — can be found here.

For further discussion, dig into the excellent Chicago Tribune blog, The Swamp.

Danish People’s Party: Xenophobics and Nazis ?

August 20, 2006

The Danish People’s Party (in Danish “Dansk Folkeparti”, or just DF) is a populistic anti-immigration right wing party known for its extreme Islamophobia, directed towards individuals perceived to be either Arab and/or Muslim. (I’ve written about DF earlier here).

DF currently has 22 seats in the Danish Parliament (out of 179), making it the third largest political party in Denmark. Its extreme success has meant that prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen politically has been completely dependent upon the DF; for example the government has passed extremely restrictive asylum legislation. However, unlike similar parties the DF has been careful in its foreign connections, and has been at pains to moderate its language, even though in reality obscure racist-like as well as “Islamophobic” statements by members of DF are very common.

Apart from moderating its language, the DF has also – at least publicly – tried to moderate its group of members. And for obvious reasons. Here is a very recent example:

According to an article in the Danish newspaper, Ekstra Bladet, local presidents has welcomed nazis as members of DF. Ekstra Bladet called the presidents of 13 randomly chosen local party societies. Four out of seven presidents did not mind having Nazis as members, and three out of six presidents would accept people who were members of the extreme right wing and nationalistic group “Dansk Front”, which DF officially opposes.

(You can understand why; according to The Danish Security Intelligence Service, “Dansk Front” has connections to the militant neo-Nazi network “Blood & Honour”; see here).

Does this mean that being a member of “Dansk Front”, or in other ways supporting Nazism makes you more welcome in the Danish People’s Party? At least “off the record”?

Bubbles of “Nothing”

July 30, 2006

Note: Technical details and discussion are written with small print and can be skipped in a first reading 😉

What is a bubble of “nothing”? The answer clearly depends on which area of reality you are thinking about. I’ll illustrate this with a few examples.

In physics, a “bubble of nothing” refers to an effect discovered by Witten twenty years ago. Witten showed that the standard so-called Kaluza-Klein vacuum, Minkowski spacetime cross a circle M x S^1, is unstable to nucleating a “bubble of nothing”. It is of course important to have some criteria for determining whether a ground state of the form M x S^1 is reasonable as a unification of gauge fields with general relativity.

First of all, one should impose that this vacuum should be stable at the classical and the semiclassical level. The Kaluza-Klein vacuum is classically stable but unstable against semiclassical decay. Now, even if a state is stable against small oscillations, it may be unstable at the semiclassical level. This can occur if the state is separated by only a finite barrier from a more stable state. It will then be unstable against decay by semiclassical barrier penetration. To look for a semiclassical instability of a vacuum state, one looks for a ”bounce” solution of the classical euclidean field equations.

How is this applied to the Kaluza-Klein vacuum? First you analytically continue the Kaluza-Klein vacuum to euclidean space, i.e. to

ds^2 = dx^2 + dy^2 + dz^2 + dt^2 + dphi^2,

where phi is a periodic variable running from 0 to 2pi R, so that dphi is the line element of the circle S^1. Equivalently,

ds^2 = dr^2 + r^2 dTheta^2 + dphi^2.

A solution to the Einstein equations with the same asymptotic behavior is

ds^2 = dr^2/(1-k/r^2) + r^2 dTheta^2 + (1-k/r^2) dphi^2.

This is actually the five-dimensional Schwarzschild solution (but should not be interpreted as a black hole). Regularity at the point where r^2 = k, requires that we set k = R^2, where R is the radius of the circle. The metric of the resulting space – continued to Minkowski space – is

ds^2 = dr^2/(1-R^2/r^2) + (1-R^2/r^2) dphi^2 – r^2dpsi^2 + cosh psi^2dOmega^2.

This space is nonsingular and geodesically complete (which roughly means that there are no possible light-rays that suddenly “end”, like there are in spacetimes with black holes); it is the space that the Kaluza-Klein vacuum decays into.

What happens in the decay of the Kaluza-Klein vacuum is that a hole spontaneously forms in space. As a function of time, t, the boundary of the hole is at x^2 = R^2 + t^2. After a very brief time, this hole – or bubble of “nothing” – is expanding to infinity at the speed of light. So, why is it called a “bubble of nothing”? This is because the Kaluza-Klein vacuum decays into nothing, or more precisely into a space which is bounded by a bubble of nothing – space does not exist “inside” this bubble – which is expanding to infinity and pushing to infinity anything it may meet!

In pseudoscience the examples of “bubbles of nothing” are abundant. I’ll just mention two examples. One is the crackpot book The Final Theory by Mark McCutcheon; another one seem to be the research carried out at The Quality of Life Research Center in Copenhagen, directed by holistic physician Søren Ventegodt.

In politics, there are plenty of examples of “bubbles of nothing”. Recently, there are the examples of various reactions to Israel’s extreme aggression against the palestinians and the people of Lebanon (the massacre in Qana being just one very recent example)- such as those by president Bush, Rice and many others (however strange, my friends over at Cosmic Variance have had nothing to say about this conflict). Another one is Bush’ veto against research in stem cells. (In an upcoming post I’ll explain why research in stem cells is so important).

In sports, a recent example of a “bubble of nothing” was apparently Floyd Landis’ “victory” in the 2006 Tour de France. But to be fair this doping “scandal” might in itself be a “bubble of nothing”. This is, however, not very likely (as recent findings showed that some of the testosterone in his body had come from an external source) and Floyd might end up being considered by historians as the most naive and stupid “winner” of the Tour de France.

The list of “bubbles of nothing” is endless. Other examples, anyone?

Update: Floyd Landis’ B sample was positive; welcome in the historybooks and adieu to the title as the winner of the 2006 Tour de France…;-)

Bush, Lies and Videotapes

March 3, 2006

A later article in the Boston Globe, with an almost identical title discusses related matters.

It seems quite clear that President Bush has been lying about his knowledge of the potential dangers of Hurricane Katrine in late August, 2005.

Bush was informed about the possible impact of Katrina on Aug. 29th (according to the newly released transcripts, from a video conference on the day Hurricane Katrina struck), where he said that “the government is fully prepaired” and – sadly enough – four days later with New Orleans completely flooded, the President advised he was doing all he could but that no one could have anticipated the devastation and destruction that the hurricane brought.  

You can see the trancript of part of the briefing on Aug 29th here

Could no one have anticipated this? No one? Really?

On Aug. 29th, I posted the following comment on kasperolsen.blogspot.com

“Katrina” Closing in on New Orleans 

The hurricane “Katrina” is on its way toward the southern states of the U.S., and is considered one of the most powerful hurricanes ever encountered. Its center seems to be moving in the direction of the city of New Orleans.

After leaving Florida, where 7 people were killed, the hurricane is now moving towards the central Gulf Coast, while it is enhancing its power.

All citizens of New Orleans (around 1.3 million people live in New Orleans and its suburbs) have been ordered to evacuate the city, before “Katrina” is expected to hit some time Monday morning, as New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin declared a state of emergency Sunday.

The city of New Orleans is mostly situated below the ocean-level, and with top sustained winds near 90 m/s, an average rainfall of maybe 400 mm, and with a predicted storm surge reaching maybe 8 meters (the highest levees around New Orleans are 5 meters high), it sounds very likely that New Orleans could be completely flooded – while wood-frame buildings will be destroyed and high-rise buildings will sway dangerously, some even to the point of total collapse.

For more information, take a look at:New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and Google News (at least 5,400 related articles).

Why did the Administration then act so slowly and why did the President have to defend himself, saying that nobody could have predicted that something like this could happen?

I gave a possible answer a few days later on , also on kasperolsen.blogspot.com:

Katrina vs. Iraq vs. Bush

What is the reason behind the Bush-administrations lack of timely response to the horrible situation after Hurricane Katrina’s destruction in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida?

Tens of thousands of people (very likely most of them black and poor) have not been able to leave the city of New Orleans. It was not too difficult to estimate the impact of Katrina on New Orleans, for example, several days before it hit the city. And what did the government do? Why did Bush find it more important to stay on vacation, instead of directing and preparing aid for the possible areas affected by Katrina? Was it more important to keep babbling about how important the war in Iraq is?

The estimated cost of Katrina is now well above $30 billion, but this is of course just a first estimate. In comparison, the cost of the war in Iraq is at least $5.8 billion a month (I found this figure at military.com). So, I suggest, that Bush cuts the war in Iraq by 5 months (and hopefully more), to help the people of New Orleans and other victims of a natural disaster.

A natural question is why tens of thousands of people did not leave the city of New Orleans? (A state of emergency was declared on Sunday). Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff apparently has the answer at hand (from Washingtonpost.com, today):

“The critical thing was to get people out of there before the disaster,” he said on NBC’s Today program. “Some people chose not to obey that order. That was a mistake on their part.”

But actually, there was no help available for citizens to evacuate. Most of them left behind were poor, with no cars or money to take care of their own transportation.

You can read more about the disaster at the excellent weblog Cosmic Variance of Clifford, Sean, Rise, Mark and JoAnne, here and here.