Paper submitted to J. Knot Theory and Its Ramifications

February 27, 2007

Tonight I submitted the following paper: paper.pdf to the Journal of Knot Theory and Its Ramifications – the paper hasn’t been refereed yet so I’m merely offering it here for the reader’s enjoyment.

ARISING FROM Uq(osp(1|2n)) AND U−q(so(2n + 1)) Read the rest of this entry »

Is Our Universe Decaying at an Astronomical Rate?

February 22, 2007

This post is just a copy of a thread over at Cosmic Variance. I’m copying it here because it’s an example of some of the mind-bending things that you come across in physics and mathematics, and one of the reasons that people do physics (and math). I’ve only read the post, so reading the thread should be interesting. Apparently Lee Smolin has written some comments on the thread, so it should be interesting. Lee, of course, is at the Perimeter Institute and is one of the high profile people looking at loop quantum gravity.

The thread starts here.

OO’s and BB’s
John at 3:02 am, February 21st, 2007
One nice thing about being a scientist, or at least an academic one, is that occaisionally you get your mind blown without any drugs or anything. Someone comes along and just pulls the rug completely out from under you – a total Denial of Reality Attack – and then you are left on your own to pick up the pieces.

Today at UC Davis we had a seminar from Don Page of the University of Alberta. The title and abstract of this talk sounded like science fiction, so I reproduce it here:

Don Page, University of Alberta

Title: Is Our Universe Decaying at an Astronomical Rate?

Abstract: Unless our universe is decaying at an astronomical rate (i.e., on the present cosmological timescale of Gigayears, rather than on the quantum recurrence timescale of googolplexes), it would apparently produce an infinite number of observers per comoving volume by thermal or vacuum fluctuations (Boltzmann brains). If the number of ordinary observers per comoving volume is finite, this scenario seems to imply zero likelihood for us to be ordinary observers and minuscule likelihoods for our actual observations. Hence, our observations suggest that this scenario is incorrect and that perhaps our universe is decaying at an astronomical rate.

Boltzmann brains? WTF? Intrigued, I went. This is a well-respected, highly-cited cosmologist after all. A former student of Stephen Hawking, no less. The jargon in the abstract, though bizarre, had a certain je ne sais quoi… Read the rest of this entry »

The US Department of Commerce ensuring “Fair Trade”

February 20, 2007

The US Department of Commerce’s International Trade Office (ITA) has the following web page on “Ensuring Fair Trade”, a reading of which shows that “fair trade” means quite a different thing in the US than it does in Australia.

I particularly like the phrase “Unfair foreign pricing and government subsidies distort the free flow of goods and adversely affect American business in the global marketplace.” in the third para below – are they opposed only to “unfair” government subsidies or to government subsidies per se, and I wonder what they think non-US countries’ attitudes to the US Farm Bill.

Ah – questions, questions…

Ensuring Fair Trade

ITA monitors industry access to overseas markets and works to remove costly barriers to product and service exports. According to a University of Michigan study, the average U.S. family of four still stands to gain an estimated $7,800 per year if there was total elimination of global barriers to trade in goods and services. The World Bank has reported that the elimination of global trade barriers could lift 300-500 million of the world’s poor out of poverty over the next 15 years. Read the rest of this entry »

The US trade deficit and currency revaluations

February 20, 2007

From this weeks Economist:

America’s trade deficit in goods reached $836 billion in 2006. Congressional Democrats seized on the figures to lambast the Bush administration and called for “actions to stand up for America” by ending the “unfair trade practices” of the countries and regions that account for most of the deficit: China ($233 billion), the European Union ($117 billion) and Japan ($88 billion).

I wonder if these “unfair trade practices” include more efficiently produced and/or more attractive goods from China, the EU and Japan, as well as the current valuations of the respective currencies (witness the recent pressure from the US for China to revalue its currency, and the repegging of the yuan to appreciate against the US dollar) ?

Now I don’t know if the currencies are “reasonably” valued (however this may be assessed), but it does seem odd (although understandable in terms of US domestic politics) for the US to appear to attempt to protect its industries by increasing the costs of imports through revalued currencies. But maybe there are unfair trade practices. I don’t know.

Maybe any currency revaluations will constitute a form of protectionism. If the US dollar continues its general downwards trend, it may discourage US consumers buying imports and reduce the trade deficit, which seems  a strategy of some US politicians. It’ll be interesting to watch US trade politics given that there is a stronger current of protectionism in Congress and the weakened President’s trade negotiating authority runs out in July this year.

There’s nothing like misquoting a political opponent…

February 15, 2007

You’d think that government ministers would check easily verifiable facts when writing essays in national newspapers, wouldn’t you?

Ian Macfarlane or his staffers obviously don’t, as shown in this opinion piece (Brown plan will leave nation an industrial backwater) in today’s Australian.

Obviously, the piece is designed to strengthen the idea that the Greens are economic loops, completely apart from reality, and that they shouldn’t be allowed to influence public policy. Let’s look at the first para:

GREENS leader Bob Brown wants to shut down the coal export industry in the next term of government. But his latest assault on the growing Australian economy would have ramifications far beyond what would be a devastating outcome for our coal industry.

But Bob Brown doesn’t want to shut down the coal export industry in the next term of government, notwithstanding the fact that this has been reported and commented on for a couple of days. Instead, The Greens want something quite different, as detailed in this press release on the Greens web-site:

The Greens believe that we need to move beyond Australia’s reliance on coal. Last week, I called on whoever wins office at this year’s election to commit to a plan to phase out coal exports. That plan must be in place by the end of the next term of government so that we can move beyond coal as a matter of urgency. It might take decades for the task to be completed, but the scientists are telling us that we must start immediately.

Ah, there’s nothing like misquoting a political opponent to discredit them.

Howard on Iraq: potential electoral strategy for the ALP

February 14, 2007

Although a bit player in the Iraq war and only contributing troops to Iraq to affirm the Australia-US alliance, Australia’s policy towards the Iraq war is one of the key elements in Australian national politics, and it will probably be one of the core elements in this years federal election, if not directly, then as a proxy for the ability of each party to make good decisions in government.

I don’t know what a good approach to the situation in Iraq is, but the recent Parliamentary stoushes on the Iraq war offer an opportunity for the ALP. Howard is clear on what he thinks constitutes a bad policy on the Iraq war (withdrawal of coalition troops), but he doesn’t know what is a good policy, ie how to win it.

The following electoral lines immediately emerge: “Howard’s way to win in Iraq: hope” or “Hope: Howard’s policy on Iraq”. Read the rest of this entry »

Obama on Howard’s criticism

February 12, 2007

I heard the following story on the ABC radio this morning:

“I think it’s flattering that one of George Bush’s allies on the other side of the world started attacking me the day after I announced [my candidacy],” Senator Obama said.

“I would also note that we have close to 140,000 troops in Iraq and my understanding is Mr Howard has deployed 1,400.

“So if he is…to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and sends them to Iraq, otherwise it’s just a bunch of empty rhetoric.”

Ah yes, we well know that John Howard often offers empty rhetoric. As Kevin Rudd mentioned (referred to in the same story), Howard has potentially undermined the Australian-US alliance (especially if Obama is elected US President). He should distinguish between the underlying Australian-US alliance and the current relationships between the individuals in the US and Australian governments.