La (difficile) revue de presse du ‘SOTEU’

À mon grand regret, je n’ai pas pu suivre le discours de Mr Barroso ce matin, ni le débat qui a suivi, pour cause de j’ai-pas-que-cela-à-faire-malheureusement.

J’ai évidement chercher commentaires et contenus dans les sites institutionnels et autres blogs spécialisés, mais également dans les médias plus généraux.

Sauf que, et ce n’est pas vraiment une surprise, il semble que pour la plus part des citoyens, le discours de Mr Barroso sur l’état de l’Union (SOTEU) n’existe pas.

Ce qui a retenu l’attention c’est l’annonce par le Président de la commission d’une taxe sur les transactions financières. Le Monde mentionne le SOTEU comme le cadre des annonces de la Commission,  même chose sur Libération (en fait les deux trouvent leur source à l’AFP). Le Figaro mentionne le discours entre guillemets dans une brève, mais n’en dis rien dans un papier plus développé. En version anglaise, le guardian utilise également les guillemets mais donne des extraits du discours de façon assez recherché. La BBC donne une très brève mention de la nouvelle taxe.

Au niveau de la télévision, j’ai vu passer un sujet très court et très vague dans le 20h de France 2, le site web de la chaîne propose également des courts articles (1,2) écrit qui ne mentionne pas l’existence du SOTEU.


Neutrinos on hyper-drive

Last week, the world of physics and beyond was shaken by the news (largely distorted by the media) than neutrinos may be able to go faster than the speed of light, thus breaking the speed record in the universe and also the theory of relativity pioneered by A. Einstein.

During the last euro-apéro, it has been suggested that I write a short note to explain what just happened and what it means for us(you) normal human beings.

What’s a neutrino ?

That is a very good question, in fact the neutrino is not the best known particle in physics. Still, there is plenty to tell about it. First, it is one of the building blocks of the Standart model, which describes very well how the world around us works at the tiniest scale (less than one femtometer, the femtometer is to the meter what the millimeter is to 1 trillion kilometers).

The neutrino is not charge (that means not sensitive to magnetic fields) and is very light.

The consequence is that neutrinos do not interact often with matter. Actually, hundreds of billions of them are passing through your body as you are reading these words, but no worries, it is very rare than a neutrino collides with any atom in matter. It is therefore very difficult to study the properties of this particle.

What has been measured ?

In the experiment that made the news last week, the time of flight of neutrinos have been measured between a production facility in CERN (near Geneva) and a special detector in Gran Sasso (Italy), more than 700 km away. As said before, interacting very rarely with matter, the neutrino don’t suffer on their way and there is no need to build any tunnel or guide between the production and the detection.

It has been measured an early arrival of the neutrino, as early as 60 nano seconds (or 60 trillionth of the second), in respect to the time the light would need to go the distance. It is a very tiny difference, on a race track it would be as if the neutrino cross the 100m finish line while the light is 2.5 centimeters behind.

Why does it matters ?

As we told, the difference is very tiny, but it is six time bigger than what the scientist who published this story claim to be their resolution, i.e. the accuracy of their measurement. And all that we know about physics of particle today is very clear on the speed limit of the universe, nothing should go faster than light, for a lot of reason, one of which being that A. Einstein told us so. The relativity theory have been tested and proved to be right time and time again and it is a very robust theory that won’t be overturn unless we have evidence that it is flowed.

So ?

What will scientist do now ? First, they will try to reproduce the experiment to confirm the results or prove it to be just an error in the analysis. Theorist will also work on the problem to try find how such things as faster-than-light-neutrinos can exists.

In the long run, it is very unlikely that the relativity theory will be proved incomplete, more likely, we will learn a lot on the nature of the neutrino (maybe finally measure its mass, or discover wether the neutrino is its own-antiparticle) and its interaction with matter.

Nothing moves faster than the speed of light, so you may as well relax.#


José remet-ça !

Comme l’année dernière, José (Manuel Barroso, le président de la Commission Européenne) se plie à nouveau à l’exercice de l’Etat de l’Union – discours dont le nom, mais pas la substance, est emprunté aux state of the union addresses aux USA – et prononcera son discours le mercredi 28 Septembre, à 9 heurehoraire idéal pour toucher les citoyens.

Si on se réfère à l’édition 2010 1,2,3, l’exercice tiendra encore une fois plus de la communication que de l’orientation décisive des politiques Européennes. Si J. M. Barroso avait vraiment pour tâche de décrire l’état de l’union entre les pays européens aux citoyens, je n’aurais pas aimé être à se place ; mais nous entendrons bien plus probablement un mashup des communiqués de la Commission et autres phrases pleines de bonnes volontés, nous invitant à travailler ensemble etc. à l’intention uniquement des personnes déjà membres de la bulle-UE.

Pour rendre ce discours un minimum ludique, il y a – heureusement pour nous, euro-geeks – une nouvelle édition du jeux associé: le Bingo1,2, qui est à conseiller aux parlementaires européens pour cette occasion.


Debt crisis, strongly interacting systems and collective motion

It is a mathematical fact that system formed of many parts (a set of variables ) strongly interacting together (what would be put in equation as ) tend to develop a collective behavior (i.e. the variable are linked together). This collective motion can take several forms : periodic variations (), chaotic evolution, or self-enhancement ().

It is very unlikely, unless the system has been very finely tuned that the variables will have a stabilized path, where all variations are damped in the system, i.e. always gets back to a nominal value of .

What does that have to do with the euro crisis ? Simple, replace the system and its parts by the economy, the markets, the banks, the credit agency, … and the interactions by the news report, the press release, the internet, the constant flow of information, … And here it is, the financial ever-falling crisis of the moment, when nothing can stop the down trend for the simple reason that the system is locked into crisis mode.


Vers la sortie (démocratique)

Il y a deux jours, des rumeurs sur un possible referendum sur l’euro en Grèce ont été entendues – et vivement démenties.

Serait-ce une bonne idée ?

  • En un sens, ça se pourrait. Après tout, beaucoup de critiques de l’UE et de la gouvernance de l’eurozone pointent un manque de démocratie et des décisions supposément prises en aveugles par des technocrates distants. Quoi de plus démocratique alors qu’un référendum pour permettre aux citoyens de s’exprimer.
  • Cependant, un referendum a de nombreux inconvénients. Principalement, il s’agit d’une question pour/contre qui manque de subtilité. En période de crise, les citoyens ne vont pas nécessairement faire le meilleur choix, car leur vote risque d’être émotionnel et à courte vue.
Une fois que la crise sera passée, des referenda seront les bienvenus – et en général, toute plus grande implication des citoyens dans la politique européenne sera une bonne chose. Mais maintenant n’est peut être pas le bon moment.


The democratic way (out)

Yesterday, some rumors on a possible referendum on the Euro in Greece were heard – and strongly denied.

Would it be a good idea ?

  • In one way, it could. After all, many critics of the EU and the eurozone governance is the lack of democracy and the supposedly blind decisions taken by distant technocrats. What would be more democratic than a referendum to let people express themselves on the topic.
  • However, a referendum has many drawbacks. First, it is a yes/no question, there is no room for subtlety. Moreover, in a time of crisis, people will not necessary make the best choice, because their vote might be emotional and  shortsighted.
Once the crisis is over, referenda will be much welcome, and in general true implication of citizens in the european politics will be good. But now is not the right time…


A simple example of why we need the Euro

Three weeks ago, I traveled to Finland, on academic business (by the way, partially funded by the EU)… This might seem like a very simple story and nothing extraordinary, but it may be good to remind of this today : I did not have to change any currency. Finland is part of the eurozone and my cash was accepted – as it should – and my credit card was not charged any currency exchange fees.

Maybe it seems like a very lite reason to defend the euro, but that is one that affects all citizens…