this was 2016

The diphoton excess at 750 GeV turned out to be a statistical fluke after all. The first hint hat it was not a real signal was the lack of excess dijet events at that energy.

The good news of 2016 was that advanced LIGO announced the detection of gravitational waves and the era of gravitational wave astronomy finally began.

In business news, the oil price finally bottomed at 26.66 - too low and too late for several US oil companies. A wave of bankruptcies triggered major losses in corporate bond markets and many market observers blamed the Fed and previous quantitative easing programs for the misallocation of capital. But the Keynesian view prevailed and the Fed abandoned its rate hiking program and instead initiated QE4 and QE5.

However, the new QE programs came too late to rescue the stock market and political observers considered the market turmoil a major reason Hillary Clinton lost the election to Donald Trump, who convinced voters that he will make the stock market great again. Hillary's surprise announcement that she finally filed for divorce from Bill was not enough to turn her campaign around.

In other news, season 2 of Better Call Saul was a great success as expected, but most Hollywood movies in 2016 were disappointing - also as expected.

Merry Christmas



In case the holidays are becoming too boring at some point, I have a simple game for you and a 2nd player:
You need a round (i.e circle) or rectangular table and lots of coins, all of the same size. Now you take turns placing one coin after another on the table. The coins cannot be moved once they are placed and they cannot touch each other. The first player who does not find enough space to place another coin shall lose this game.
Now make sure that you are the first to place a coin, because then there is a simple winning strategy.
But what is this strategy?

via Der Spiegel


... in other news ...

... the LHC may have generated particles at 750 GeV of a new kind, beyond the standard model. Assuming that this is real, the obvious question is how to explain it; Jester examined a simple toy model borrowed from the standard model, while Lubos reported on more interesting explanations, e.g. a sgoldstino or a radion.

Meanwhile, Peter Woit emphasized that the latest LHC run has further pushed up limits on superpartner masses and the probability that susy will be discovered with the LHC is significantly lower now.

Away from the LHC it might be possible to test (some ideas about) quantum gravity with heavy quantum objects, as reported by Sabine Hossenfelder.

Last, but not least, it turned out (already a year ago) that the spectral gap problem, studied by solid state physicists, is undecidable if the Hamiltonian is complicated enough; Scott has more about it .

the universe and me

I have argued many times before that the many worlds interpretation does not really work. It seems that Stephen Hsu came to the same conclusion. In the comments to his blog post Lubos explains (once again) why Copenhagen is the only valid way to use quantum theory - just like string theory is the only valid way to think about everything.

I agree to a large extent with Lubos, because the split between observer and quantum world seems rather natural to me. I am always absolutely certain of my state, but apparently have to use quantum theory to describe everything else.
The natural endpoint of Lubos' argument, that there just is no (classical) reality except the observer's observations, is solipsism.

And this really "works well" as a consistent understanding of quantum theory in most cases, except for one issue: The solipsist cannot explain where I came from, just as the Copenhageners are puzzled where those observers actually come from.
The usual story of sex and babies does not work for the solipsist, because mama and papa are only images of my imagination. If I die the world ends, so where did it come from? (*)
If the Copenhagener agrees that there were no observers present at the big bang, then where do they and the universe come from?

Historically, cosmology and quantum gravity were the main reason deWitt, Hawking et al. became interested in the many worlds interpretation, but the rest of us perhaps just needs to get used to the fact that I just don't know everything.


(*) I should add that it is certainly possible that other worlds exist, some similar to mine and some very different. Obviously, I cannot use the experience of my world to assign probabilities to that; there is no valid measure for such a many worlds hypothesis.