Monday, February 03, 2014


I’ll be traveling for the rest of the week, so be warned of a period of silence.

Wednesday I’m giving a seminar in Nottingham, and after that I’m attending a workshop in Oxford. The workshop topic is “The Structure of Gravity and Space-time” and it’s part of the project “Establishing the Philosophy of Cosmology”. Sound more ominous than it is: They’ll have a session on the question whether there exists a “fundamental length”, which is what brought me on their invitation list. There will also be sessions on bi-metric gravity, massive gravity and strings and space-time structure, which sounds very promising to me. We’ll see how much philosophy infiltrates the physics. A preliminary program is here.

The girls are doing well, now attending Kindergarten. Our pediatrician didn’t raise any concerns at the 3-year checkup, except for Lara’s vision problems. She’ll get new glasses next week. The ones she has now always slip down and hang on the very tip of her nose, so we hope that the new ones will stay put better.

Lara and Gloria can open and remove all our children safety locks now and I’ve put away the door keys because I’m afraid they’ll lock themselves in. They also picked up lots of swear words since they attend Kindergarten. They don’t really know how to use them properly, which is often unwillingly funny. We’ve made a little progress with the potty training, but unfortunately the kids declare plainly they’re “too lazy” to go without diaper. It is similarly unfortunate that several older children at the Kindergarten still use binkies. Gloria told me the other day she will learn to use the toilet when she can “reach the ceiling”. She also declared that since Gloria came out of mommy’s belly, Lara must have come out of daddy’s belly. Everything far away is “Stockholm” and that’s a magical place where mommy goes and brings back gifts. They’re getting more entertaining by the day.

I finally replaced my old digital camera because some of the buttons were broken, and now have a Canon DSLR (EOS 1100D) which I am so far very happy with, though the learning curve is steep. I used to have a SLR Camera 15 years ago. You know, one of these things were you had to wind back the film and carry it to some store and wait a week just to see how badly you did. Remember that? The DSLR looks and feels quite different from that, as with all the menus that I keep getting lost in. Maybe reading the manual would help. In any case, I spent some weeks hunting after the kids. Below are some of my favorite photos.


  1. They say:

    "We will focus on a few metric and fundamental theories of space time and gravity, to discuss what the theoretical philosophical inputs and
    phenomenological outputs are for each..."

    I disagree, philosophical considerations should not be an input to a physical theory. You can contemplate about the philosophical implications all you want but after the theory is established on solid mathematical and theoretical ground.

    Things have changed dramatically in science during the last century. Philosophical considerations and human intuition is a physicists's worst advisor IMO. Just follow the math and extrapolate all the theoretical lessons learnt from established physical theories.

    But I see that it is funded by the John Templeton Foundation. Well that explains everything...

  2. The workshop looks interesting Sabine. I wish I could go to that sort of thing. Looking at the program though, it reminds me of some fringe event where a bunch of "my theory" guys are all talking past each other and not one of them really understands relativity or how gravity actually works. Anyway, unlike Giotis I don't have any issues with philosophy, and if JTF offered me money I'd take it. Oh, and I notice you mentioned GRBs. I presume you know all about Friedwardt Winterberg's firewall. IMHO that's the one that's right.

  3. "unwillingly funny"

    "Lycasin's known side effects include bloating, intestinal gurgling, and flatulence." Point of fact, the bottom line is explosive - read the Amazon comments.

    It sounds like a delicious bowl of fun quietly put out at difficult government offices, uncooperative daycare centers, tenure committees, boring conventions....

  4. Does anyone else not see any photos?

  5. Sabine mentioned the German Kindergarten with a capital K (all German nouns are always capitalized). This is what would be termed pre-school in the States. The kindergarten in the States corresponds to the German Vorschule (which means "pre-school"). In other English-speaking countries, terms like "nursery school" or "playgroup" are used for the German Kindergarten.

  6. Phillip,

    It's an embedded picasa album. It works fine for me both with Chrome and Modzilla. I know it doesn't display on some mobile devices. What are you using? Best,


  7. Tried it in Mozilla and IE. Might be a proxy problem at my end.

  8. Congratulations on your beautiful family; your daughters are already trending towards the intelletual field I see. A couple of links related to your Ivory Tower post which you may find of interest:

    P-curve fixes publication bias:; "Scientific Research is Unreliable, Unreliable Scientists report," a blog post by James Joyner, professor at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College:

  9. It doesn't work if you haven't got flash installed.

    Usually its peer pressure at the daycare which helps with the toliet training, i.e. when a few of them do it, they all tag along. Hence Ana was trained by the time she was three.


  11. Giotis,

    Maybe you are trying to be ironic? In your third paragraph you state that Philosophical considerations and human intuition is a physicists's worst advisor IMO. Then, in your next sentence you say we should Just follow the math and extrapolate all the theoretical lessons learnt from established physical theories. Undoubtedly you realize that the second sentence is stating a philosophical position, i.e., how physics should be done. How does that not conflict with your preceding sentence?

    I agree with you, things have really changed in the last 90 years or so, as guidance from philosophical considerations (or more correctly, guidance from intuition about how things "should be" based on accumulated experience and prejudices) has taken a back seat to more productive mathematical approaches. However, can you agree with this: Just as "times changed" and progress in developing quantum theory and its implications was much faster once physicists abandoned their reliance on prior intuition and prejudice, a time can come when, once again, "things must change" to make substantial progress? Input from philosophy (philosophy properly practiced is another form of rigorous thought, contrary to common preconceptions) may turn out to be valuable in that case.

    Of course, you and anyone else are free to ignore explicit philosophical input in formulating a theory or world view. But it may turn out that rigorously thinking about a theory from a philosophy standpoint can help point to unjustified/unnecessary assumptions or other forms of erroneous thinking about the foundations of the theory. That could be very helpful to progress.

  12. @Giotis,

    As i understand it, the Templeton Foundation funds physics research out of frustration as a private sector. Because publicly funded physics research does not yield practical results to the crisis. And that is unprecedented, since long term research was not the core element in private funding. 'The math' is currently inadequate to provide answers to the crisis in physics (singularities, infinities, ...). This stagnation taking to long, frustrates the private sector, and so they have set up their own research, hoping that some day somebody or some group comes along with a different angle on things to make progress again. The good part is that those researchers are more independent, and independent minds is what we need here. The academic departement of physics should react by reorganising itself including physics education, or there relevance, status and credebility will decrease in the upcoming 10 to 20 years, as the tortoise takes over the lead from the rabbit, the rabbit having remained to passive for to long in its comfort zone.

    Greetings, Koen

  13. "As i understand it, the Templeton Foundation funds physics research out of frustration as a private sector."

    No, Templeton's agenda is something else, and they state it quite clearly.


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