Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Man-made and hence a fairy-tale?!

Does the substance of what is called Pythagoras' Theorem remain true whether or not humans are aware of it? If yes, this is something not-found-in-Nature but not-a-fairy-tale; man-made but transcending man. There is thus no real problem with religious compositions having been created by man, apart from the claim that they were god-given, which by itself is not a problem (e.g., Ramanujan thought that his results in mathemetics came from Namagiri Devi). The real question is do they embody knowledge? The claim of knowledge cannot be simply because "it is god-given"; our usual methods of validating knowledge must be applied. Exactly like Ramanujan's results in mathematics have to be validated by the methods of mathematics even if the results originated with the Devi.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Supersymmetry vs QCD

Inspiring discussion - Dr. Peter Woit finds a declining trend in the number of articles on Supersymmetry (SUSY) since about 2015. See here. 

But what meaning can we draw from the absolute number?  I find it meaningful to compare with some other subject in particle physics.  I think "QCD" (quantum chromodynamics, the strong force) is a relatively stable subject of study, and it is about something real, unlike SUSY, which has proven to be quite speculative.

So here it is.  The data had to be collected by hand, so there might be transcription errors.

But the downward trend in SUSY relative to QCD begins around 1999.  Maybe particle physics is a bit healthier than expected.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

The American Madness Journal

 The author of the American Madness Journal is taking a break, but, I hope will continue writing in 2023 his delightful, on-the-mark observations of what Tom Nichols described as the "infantilization of American life, in which we must accommodate and work around the behavior of grown men and women who not so long ago would have been pushed out of public life either by our collective political disgust or by responsible shareholders who would insist that their corporate leaders get back to work instead of making a spectacle of themselves". 

 Yes, I mean Shower Cap's Blog! Enjoy!

PS: it is too much to hope for that the American descent into madness would cease and deprive Shower Cap of material.  So accept in good humor any good that comes out of this.

Sunday, December 04, 2022

Sri Ganesh

मुदाकरात्तमोदकं सदा विमुक्तिसाधकं 
कलाधरावतंसकं विलासिलोकरक्षकम् । 
अनायकैकनायकं विनाशितेभदैत्यकं 
नताशुभाशुनाशकं नमामि तं विनायकम् ॥१॥

Thursday, October 27, 2022

The politics of health policy

A paper published in PLOS ONE, U.S. state policy contexts and mortality of working-age adults, results in this USA Today article: "More Americans die younger in states with conservative policies, study finds". 

What is the factual situation that the PLOS ONE paper sets out?
Americans die younger than people in most other high-income countries. With a life expectancy of 78.8 years in 2019, Americans died 5.7 years earlier than people in Japan, the global leader; 3.3 years earlier than their northern neighbors in Canada; and 2.5 years before their closest geopolitical allies in the United Kingdom. Shockingly, U.S. life expectancy falls between two middle-income countries—Cuba and Albania. 
Within the United States, life expectancy differs markedly across geographic areas such as states and counties. In 2019, it ranged from 74.4 years in Mississippi to 80.9 years in Hawaii. U.S. life expectancy has stagnated, largely because of higher mortality among adults 25–64 years of age. According to a comparison of U.S. life expectancy to the average of 16 other high-income countries in 2006–2008, deaths before age 50 accounted for 67% of the shortfall among U.S. men and 41% among women. 
Mortality rates provide another sobering picture of the early deaths among so many individuals in the United States. Based on rates from 2019, for every 100 babies born in the United States, two will not survive to their 30th birthday, six will not reach age 50, and 16 will die before they can enjoy retirement at age 65. Like life expectancy at birth, differences across states in mortality rates among adults ages 25–64 are striking.
In the PLOS ONE paper but not mentioned in the USA Today article are things like this:
Fig 4 demonstrates that, for women and men and across all lag times, lower working-age mortality from alcohol-induced causes was associated with more liberal labor policies and more conservative marijuana policies.
We examined four counterfactual scenarios in which all policy domains in all states were set to the maximum liberal score of 1 (Scenario 1) or the maximum conservative score of 0 (Scenario 2); the maximum liberal score of 1 applied to all domains except marijuana and health and welfare, which were set to 0 and 0.5, respectively, because conservative marijuana policies were associated with lower all-cause mortality, and no association was observed for the health and welfare score (Scenario 3, “Hybrid”); and domains trending in conservative or liberal direction were set respectively to their 0 and 1 extremes (Scenario 4,”Status Quo”).
Scenario 1 is "all liberal" and Scenario 3 includes conservative marijuana policy "because conservative marijuana policies were associated with lower all-cause mortality". These are the results:
In their simulation for 2019, Scenario 1 results in 86,181 fewer age-adjusted deaths among women and 84,949 fewer deaths among men, for a total of 171,030 lives saved. Scenario 3 results in 92,057 fewer deaths among women and 109,393 fewer deaths among men, for a total of 201,450 lives saved. So adopting liberal policies for essentially everything but marijuana results in 201,450 - 171,030 lives saved = 30,420. 

That is, the cost of liberal marijuana policy is 30K lives per annum.

Now, suppose this above was well-settled science, with widespread validation of the results. How would this inform policy advocacy of the two political parties? 

Among the Republicans of today, there is no regard for science, and driven purely by partisan concerns, they would ignore all of this. 

More interesting are the Democrats, who are much more reality-driven, but who also have a strong faction in favor of liberalizing marijuana. Will they give up their pot dreams in favor of lives? Or will they argue that those 30K lives per annum is an acceptable cost to pay for whatever benefits marijuana liberalization provides (e.g., maybe less incarceration, or some measure of social justice)?

Monday, October 24, 2022

On Dark Matter

Some quotes from "New Directions in the Search for Dark Matter",( by Surjeet Rajendran, John Hopkins University.  

The paper is a good backgrounder on how we might find out what dark matter is comprised of; but there is also a philosophy of physics that has largely been forgotten in all the stringy revolutions.

The existence of dark matter proves that there is physics beyond the standard model. But, other than its existence, observational limits on its properties are extremely weak.


Given the vastness of this parameter space, how can we hope to make progress? When confronted with this vastness, there is a human tendency to artificially restrict it by focusing on “theoretically well motivated” dark matter - in this context, “theoretically well motivated” means particles that theorists have already written down for some other reason. While it is certainly possible that the existence of dark matter may be tied to the solution to some other problem in particle physics, such a connection is not a logical requirement. It is a fantasy to think that the particle spectrum of the world can be figured out entirely from first principles. I have not come across a physicist who has convinced me that their refined sense of theoretical insight would have allowed them to figure out (without experimental input) that the Standard Model is a SU (3) × SU (2) × (1) gauge theory with the SU (3) confined at low energies, the SU (2) × (1) broken in a weird way leaving an unbroken (1), with three generations of quarks and leptons that have hierarchial yukawa couplings with only the top quark possessing a naturally large yukawa coupling while also containing nearly massless neutrinos and a highly fine tuned Higgs boson. Our job as physicists is to discover what nature actually is rather than attempt to constrain it from the armchair.


A skeptical reader may ask if we should actually care about technical naturalness. After all, we now have very solid evidence of at least two fine tuned quantities in our universe - the cosmological constant and the higgs boson itself. Neither of these terms are protected by symmetry and the absence of symmetry did not prevent their existence, creating confounding theoretical problems. Our job as physicists is to figure out what is out there in the world instead of imposing philosophies on it - especially philosophies that are already empirically known to be violated.


The identification of the nature of dark matter is pretty clearly one of the major problems confronting particle physics. It is exceedingly unlikely that humanity will solve this problem from the armchair by guessing a sufficiently pretty theory. Physics is an experimental field - the belief that we can figure out what is out there in the world without experimental input has always just been a silly fantasy. Given the vastness of the parameter space of dark matter, there is a tremendous need to dramatically widen the experimental program that has been pursued to detect its properties. Now, it could have been the case that this dramatic widening could only come at great cost - if every probe of a part of dark matter parameter space required billions of dollars and thousands of working hours, we will not be able to appreciably probe the dark matter parameter space in our lifetimes. Luckily, this is not the case - the methods and experiments described in these lectures are experiments that can be pursued by a small number of investigators at the cost of several million dollars per experiment. It is thus possible to sustain a robust ecosystem of dark matter experiments which will cover a significant range of parameter space. While the creation of such a program is not up to me, I certainly hope that this broad ranged program will come to be realized.

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Goldfinch on zinnia