Reality Conditions

Friday, June 30, 2006

Quantum Links

* Via both Uncertain Principles and Physics Musings, I found a blog that has immediately made it to my sidebar, Quantum Quandries, and its post on criteria for judging interpretations of quantum mechanics. It is a meta-meta-QM post, discussing neither QM nor its interpretations, but which minium set of criteria should satisfy an interpretation to be an acceptable one. The list (a pretty long one) looks highly reasonable to me, and I think few people would dispute it. ...But is there any interpretation which satisfies all the criteria?

* The relation of the interpretation of QM to the interpretation of probability theory is discussed by Steve Esser at Guide to Reality.

* The unvaluable Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a new and very interesting article on Quantum Field Theory. Some of the issues discussed in it are touched upon in the comment thread of this recent post of mine, where I discuss with Sigfpe the implications of the Unruh effect.

* There is an interesting discussion of Loop Quantum Gravity going on at Jacques Distler's blog, where Lee Smolin braves into enemy territory to defend LQG against the criticism of scores of string theorists.

And that will be all for today. I have to rush back home to get in time to see the Germany - Argentina match. For the record, I have stated my opinion that whoever wins this match will also win the World Cup. Let's hope it is us...

Thursday, June 29, 2006

And the Pot and Kettle Prize goes to... William Dembski!

Once more via the Philosophy Papers Blog, I find a new paper by William Dembski, tireless advocate of Intelligent Design . I will not give you the title yet; first I'll quote a couple of things from the paper. First, Dembski talks a bit about medieval alchemy and its failure as a research program and says:

This is the problem with alchemy. To characterize a transformation scientifically, it needs to be specified explicitly. Alchemy never did this. Instead it continually offered promissory notes promising that some day it would make the transformation explicit. None of the promissory notes was ever redeemed. Indeed, the much sought after philosopher's stone remains to be found. [2]

I was expecting the footnote [2] to say "or so it was until Harry Potter found it" or something like that, but Dembski does not share my taste in humour. More seriously, one would also expect, after this beginning, that Dembski is going to address the common criticism against ID, that it is a vacuous theory because it does not make any definite predictions or specify any mechanism for the "design" to occur. This expectation could be reinforced by seeing Dembski quote in the paper the famous cartoon:

As this is a pretty fair representation of the way critics see ID, it is clear that Dembski is now going to explain us at last how does ID fill in "step 2", or at least give us a reasoned argument why it shouldn't fill it. Isn't it?


The title of the paper is:

Evolution as Alchemy

Yes. Dembski is accusing evolution of lack of specifity and of leaving steps unexplained as miracles. What's more, in all the paper he does not acknowledge even once that critics say precisely that about ID, not even to refute the idea.

The argument is (unsurprisingly) poor, relying basically on one analogy: just as alchemy said that metals could be transformed into gold, without specifying the process by which this happens and only believing it out of metaphysical commitment to Neo-Platonism... so evolution says that non-life can transform into life, or one species into another, without specifying a causal process and only believing it out of metaphysical commitment to Materialism.

This is such a brazen, blatant, wrong-at-so-many-levels misrepresentation of evolution that I don't really know where to start ranting about it. And having to go back to my work, I think I will not rant about it at all, and instead leave a quick comment at Jason's or PZ's and ask them to do the ranting. It's their job, after all...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Social Constructivism: my present take

PTJ has an interesting post at The Duck of Minerva explaining in what sense the flooding there has been, appearently, at Washington D.C. is a "social construction". Way back close to the beginning of this blog, I credited PTJ for explaining in a clearer way than many what this means, and I have to do it again now.

I reproduce below the comment I left there, with a few minor edits:

Very interesting post. I'll sure keep it fresh in mind next time I write about these questions.

The reason I prefer some kind of scientific realism over social constructivism is that it doesn't put strain between what you call the empirical and the metaphysical views. "Empirically", in our ordinary scientific (non-philosophic) discourse, all human and social affairs are superveninent on physics, and the "arrows of explanation" (as Steven Weinberg says) go always in the direction of physics. They reach it only after many intermediate levels, and there is no way to reduce directly sociology to physics or even to biology or individual psychology; granted. But it seems clear to me that there is one sense in which the complete physical state of the universe implies all its higher-level states as well, while the opposite is not true. There is a sense, an "empirical" and not philosophical one, in which the world is fundamentally physical, and all human and social affairs are just a broad, high-level description of very complex physical phenomena that occur in the surface of one tiny planet. This is for me a scientific fact, not a philosophical one.

I find social constructivism difficult to embrace as a philosophy because, putting social practices at the center of the "metaphysical" description, it is at odds with the view of the universe I build up studying it empirically. Perhaps there is no real contradiction, but I do feel a tension. At the very least, I will have to see really convincing philosophical arguments to overcome that tension and embrace social constructivism. I find ideas such as (quoting you) "there is no essence to the current flooding beyond our construction of the event. It could be a different event (not just the same event with a different meaning) if we were different and if we had different cultural resources to deploy" tantalizing but very difficult to pin-point as to exactly what they mean, and how to build up a world-view based on them. Rorty's books are the clearest expression I have found of this kind of idea, and therefore I usually prefer to think in terms of "pragmatism" rather than "social constructivism". But even Rorty leaves too many questions unanswered for my taste, and his brush is often much too broad to be convincing. So for the moment, I continue to call myself a scientific realist.

Monday, June 26, 2006

More on the compatibility of evolution and theism: Reply to Pruss

Loyal readers of this blog may remember that a few months ago I wrote a post critizing a paper by philosopher of religion Alexander Pruss. Briefly, Pruss argued that even if accepting every detail in the naturalistic story told by science on how humans came into existing by evolution, a theist should nevertheless not accept the scientific claim that the theory of evolution explains our existence, because for a theist the true explanation must be the will of God to create us (perhaps operating via a careful setting of initial conditions of the universe), and both explanations are incompatible. I criticized this position because in my opinion it confuses natural explanations with trascendental ones, which in my opinion do not clash, and gave also a couple of specific arguments against it. Go read it for the details..

Now Pruss has found the post and left a comment answering my criticism. I will copy here parts (almost all) of the reply and answer to them in turn, as I think it may be of interest to readers who are unlikely to check comments in old posts (does anybody know how to enable easily a "recent comments" feature in Blogger?)

Pruss says:

I think you make three powerful objections:

1. A scientific theory cannot contradict a theological claim, and specifically no scientific theory can contradict the claim that God created human beings.
2. My argument equally applies against all statistical explanations.
3. Scientific explanations are "in-story" explanations, instead of transcendent ones.

Let's look at these. I think (1) is false. A scientific theory that held that human beings are a mere illusion would contradict each of the Western monotheistic religions, and would contradict the claim that God created human beings. No current scientific theory, I guess, holds that human beings are a mere illusion, but one could imagine such a theory. Most religions make at least some claims that are or were at least in principle empirically testable. Thus, Christianity holds that Jesus's body never rotted in the grave. This is an empirically testable claim. And if something is an empirically testable claim, then is it not the sort of thing science could in principle contradict?

My answer is: I did not claim that scientific theories can never conflict with religious ones (or if it seems I did, then it was sloppy writing). In a more recent post I specifically discuss this question, I mention your same example of Jesus's body as a Christian empirical claim, and I thus decide that Gould's NOMA is an unrealistic proposal. What I had in mind is that a specific scientific theory, which makes reference to the natural order and testable properties of it, cannot contradict the particular religious claims that there exists a God who trascends altoghether the natural order and who created it and humans by way of it. Perhaps I should restric my claim to "realistic" scientific theories excluding bizarre counterexamples like the humans-as-illusions one, although I am not sure if the latter is a scientific theory –lots of details ought to be fleshed out on what does "illusion" mean in that context. This aside, I don't see how a theory describing the natural world can contradict a religious claim describing something trascendental to it. The story analogy sets a clear distinction here, in my opinion.

Going on:

As for (2), whether this is so depends on difficult theological questions. My argument applies in every case in which a statistical explanation is being offered for something that God specifically intended to bring about. Now some theologians, especially of a Calvinist stripe, think that everything that happens was specifically intended by God. But other theologians think that God does not specifically intend everything he foresees will happen. Thus, he might specifically intend initial conditions and laws of nature, without specifically intending each of the consequences. Some of the consequences are ones that God, perhaps, does not care about because they are morally neutral. A lot of non-Calvinist theologians think that God does not, for instance, intend any evil states of affairs. It is crucial to my argument that God specifically intends a human species to exist. How do we divide up the universe into the things God intends and the things God doesn't intend? I have no idea. But if one thinks that God doesn't intend evil states of affairs but does intend at least some good states of affairs, and I think most theists who are not of a Calvinist-style persuasion think this, then one is committed to a division. The principle of double effect is relevant here--one can foresee an effect without intending it.

OK, I must confess that being ignorant of much of theology, I had thought the disctintion between "intended" and "nonintended" effects of creation to be more implausible than you show it to be. Still, I think my argument holds some weight. You are commited not only to making that distinction and separating the whole universe between those two classes, but also to rejecting that scientific theories give correct explanations for all things in the first category –only for those in the second ones. Let’s say that God "intended" a beautiful mountain that arised from tectonic plate movement, but "forsaw but did not intend" an earthquake caused by the same movement. Even if the two events receive similar geological explanations, you must say that the scientific account is explanatory only for the latter and not for the former. This strikes me as strange.

Now (3) is, I think, the most powerful objection. But in a way it's not an objection. One of my suggestions was that we could weaken evolutionary theory to keep all the causal claims but drop the ambitious explanatory claims. You are suggesting that science never makes the ambitious explanatory claims. I think this isn't right, but if it were, it would simply mean that scientists have already followed this recommendation, and not just in biology but in all the sciences.

But I think (3) isn't right, either in the case of all science or just evolutionary biology. Most biologists, I suspect, think that evolution refutes Paley-style teleological arguments that start with the complexity of biological organisms and claim that God's will is the best explanation. Now if evolution does not actually provide "true" explanations, then evolutionary "explanations" are irrelevant to refuting Paley-style teleological argumentation. Moreover, if scientific explanation is not real explanation, then inference to best explanation becomes of dubious value, and if you take the (controversial) view that inference to best explanation is central to science, scientific realism is endangered.

Scientific explanation is really continuous with a lot of ordinary, daily-life explanation, where we say that the milk went sour because it was left out and that the wind blew down the sign. If scientific explanation is not "true" explanation, then neither are daily-life explanations. And now the view becomes rather like occasionalism. Occasionalism holds that there are no real causal connections between events in this universe, but God does everything directly. The striking of the match doesn't cause the fire, but when God is pleased to have the match struck, then God is pleased to cause the fire. The view in question is the same, except that instead of denying physical causation, it is explanation that is denied.

I think there is a slight misunderstanding here. I said that scientific explanations are "in-story" ones, but in my view that does not make them "untrue". They are just the appropiate explanations at the natural level, and completely fine as they stand. I am actually not a religious person, tending to be sometimes weakly agnostic and sometimes more strongly disbeliever in any trascendental real; so I would hardly embrace the view that natural science does not "really" explain things. I see science's business as investigating this natural world in which we live, and providing natural explanations for the facts in it. I also believe that if there is another level to reality it is unknowable for us. The believer thinks he knows that another level exists, and that our natural world is related to it in a way describable with the story-author analogy. For him there is a different level of explantion, one in terms of a trascendental deity and its intentions. I would think that in the story analogy the two levels of explanation are not conmensurable; to say that Othello killed Desdemona because Shakespeare decided it is not a "deeper" or a "truer" explanation than to blame it on his jealousy and Iago's scheming. It is an explanation in a whole different level. But even if you are commited theologically to say that God is the ultimate and deepest explanation (at least for those things he "intends") I think you can admit that this is not the kind of explanation that is relevant for science, and with which scientific theories can be weighed against. I don't see my position as close to occasionalism at all; I actually think that you are being cuasi-occasionalist in the specific case of evolution (and all other things intended by God) while I see all scientific and ordinary explanations, which I agree with you in viewing as continuous, as capable of being perfectly true; they are (for theists) complemented by the trascendental ones, not contradicted by them in any case. (Of course, there are religious doctrines like Creationism which do not set God's activity on the trascendental level but frame it explicitly involving empirical claims; but we are both agreed in rejecting this and accepting all ordinary facts of evolution)

You say against this that if evolution is set as refuting Paley-style design arguments then it is clearly a competing explanation with the theological one. I think what really happens is that the Paley argument is an argument ad ignorantiam; it points to some features of the world and says "there is no scientific explanation for this". Evolution refutes this claim by providing such a scientific explanation, but even if evolution was empirically false (imagine for example the universe had turned out to be too young for evolution to have proceeded) the inference to God as best explanation would in my opinion still not be a scientific one. Hume's refutation of the design argument preceeds Darwin in a century, after all, and I find it convincing. Without evolution we would be stuck with a feature of the world with no scientific explanation, so science would have to accept living beings as a brute fact of the universe, as we might accept elementary particles now. It would be no business of science to infer from this a trascendental designer.

Going back to the main point, perhaps the whole disagreement is pragmatical in the end, on how to use "explanation". As I said recently, I suspect many philosophical disagreements are of this kind. I think your use of "explanation" in a way that allows clash between "in-story" and trascendental ones is inconvenient. Going back to the geological example, you are bound to tell geologists (if you believe God intends mountains but not earthquakes, which I am suggesting just as an example) that they cannot be Christian and hold that geology provides a real explanation for mountains; they ought to "drop their ambitious explanatory claims" in the case of mountains but not in the case of earthquakes, even if from a scientific standpoint they recieve parallel explanations. This must be baffling for them! Of course, perhaps you would not insist in this kind of thing except for evolution of intelligent creatures, for which God's intention is a central theological doctrine. But anyway I don't think this is a good idea. It is creating a rift at the scientific level between people like Ken Miller and people like Richard Dawkins, when their disagreement is in fact only at the metaphysical level. I think that given how the incompatibility of evolution and theism is being used as a battlecry for creationsim, to which Miller and Dawkins are allied in opposing, this is not a wise move.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Others Think, We Link

* Scott Aaronson has a delightful little fable about physicists and computer scientists. Those silly physicists with their baffling lack of rigour don't come out looking too well, but Dave Beacon defends our professional honour with a counter-fable (to which Scott replies in the comments with a counter-counter fable).

* Starting at The World Fair, lots of Science Bloggers have been pondering a question inspired by one of the greatest comic lines in The Simpsons: What kind of a scientist is Batman?

* Already some ten days old, but I wanted to comment on the post "What is Existence?" at Philosophy, et cetera. Richard expresses in it a suspicion that many "ontological" disputes are not substantial disagreements but just about different ways of talking about the same reality. I have had the same suspicion for a long time, not only about ontology but about other areas of philosophy as well; the difficulty in this sort of philosophical deflationism is the one Quine pointed out against Carnap, that both scientific and philosophical disputes involve both "factual" and "conventional" matters in an entangled way, and there is no clear distinction between them. So if we "go pragmatical" about ontology and declare it just a decision on a convenient way of talking, we risk falling down the slippery slope to a full Rortian pragmatism in which all truth, even scientific, is just a decision on a convenient way of talk. I hope to collect some thoughts on this and write them down when I overcome the laziness about thinking and writing philosophical posts I have felt lately.

* Is Star Wars fascist? At least its logo is, according to Adam Roberts at The Valve. If you click on this link, it means you are likely to be a geek; so while you are at The Valve you may as well go to this other recent post, which in turn links to a bizarre videoclip remixed from Lord of the Rings, and scholarly discusses its prosody.

* Continuing the geeky theme, my sinful friend has a cute picture of Jedi squirrels.

* History-spork continues to reliably deliver laughs once every six weeks or so, now targeting The First Knight for the usual sarcastic catalogue of inconsistencies and historical absurdities.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sean Carroll on the String Wars

This year is witnessing an unprecedented large attack against string theory in the popular arena, with Peter Woit and Lee Smolin publishing books with criticism of it and its dominance in beyond Standard Model theoretical physics. Is string theory right, wrong or not even wrong? What is a layman to make of this? Well, for starts, he or she could move over to Cosmic Variance and read the excellent and level-headed post Sean Carroll has written. The discusion in the comments is also surprisingly civil and substantial, perhaps because a certain L.M. has not weighed in yet.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Chris Bertram Dixit

Yesterday there was a thread started at Crooked Timber in which people discussed ad nauseam whether the most popular sport on Earth should be called "football" or "soccer" in English. After many people giving their opinion on which was the most correct term, today Chris Bertram nailed it:

Having just watched the end of Argentina-Serbia, the correct term is “magic”.

For the Department of Shameless Self-Promotion

My new paper (second published, and first to come out of my PhD research) has appeard today in the Arxiv:

How often does the Unruh-DeWitt detector click? Regularisation by a spatial profile

Authors: Jorma Louko, Alejandro Satz
Comments: 28 pages, 1 figure

We analyse within first-order perturbation theory the instantaneous transition rate of an accelerated Unruh-DeWitt particle detector whose coupling to a massless scalar field on four-dimensional Minkowski space is regularised by a spatial profile. For the Lorentzian profile introduced by Schlicht, the zero size limit is computed explicitly and expressed as manifestly finite integral formula that no longer involves regulators or limits. The same transition rate is obtained for an arbitrary profile of compact support under a modified definition of spatial smearing. Consequences for the asymptotic behaviour of the transition rate are discussed. A number of stationary and nonstationary trajectories are analysed, recovering in particular the Planckian spectrum for uniform acceleration.

If you want to know what this is about without reading the paper, I wrote a couple of months ago a (rather) nontechnical explanation of my area of research (here), and a more technical summary of what my paper was to be about (here). Feedback from readers of the paper, and even suggestions for improvements (as it has not been sent for peer-review yet) are most welcome.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Blogroll Update

Additions and changes:

Two new (at least to me) physics blogs with interests close to those of this one: At String School and Road to Unification.

Links updated to several of my often-checked blogs which have moved to join the Science Blogs community: Jason Rosenhouse's Evolution Blog, Mike Chu-Carroll's Good Math, Bad Math, Coturnix's A Blog Around the Clock, and Chris's Mixing Memory. Science Blogs seems to be growing exponentially with the goal of encompassing the whole scientific blogosphere, though physics is still quite underrepresented (and biology takes the cake). So I expect it will be a long time till I am invited to join... I have become addicted to regularly checking updates in all Science Blogs via the last 24 hours aggregator, and anyone interested in science should as well.

One new addition to the Philosophy Blogs section: Philosophers' Playground. I keep discovering interesting-looking philosophy blogs and then losing them because I forget to link to them. Perhaps it's wise, because more the more links I see in my blogroll, the greater the temptation to check them in work hours...

This one does not make it to the blogroll because of its temporary nature, but deserves a mention here: the World Cup Blog. Joining blogs from each of the 32 participating countries, and offering liveblogging with extensive commentary for every single game, this is the best place in the blogosphere -perhaps the best place in the Web- to follow the World Cup. It is strange that am completely indifferent to football for the most part of my life (I haven't followed the local Argentinian championship since I was 14 years old, nor the national Argentinian team for the last 3 or 4 years, except during the Olympic Games) but when a World Cup arrives I feel compelled to watch every game I can, and discuss and make comments as if I knew something...

Monday, June 12, 2006

Low Energy Quantum Gravity and Matter-Gravity Entanglement

These were the topics Bernard Kay, from the University of York, talked to us about in a seminar last Friday. He has a rather ambitious theory, claiming to resolve in one single sweep many foundational issues in physics: the nature of black hole entropy, the information loss paradox, and the mysteries surrounding Schrodinger's Cat in ordinary quantum mechanics.

The theory has 5 axioms:

1) A quantum state is always represented by a pure state density operator.

2) Time evolution is unitary.

3) There is a well-defined split of the Hilbert space between a matter and a gravity component: H = Hm x Hg (please imagine that “x” enclosed in a circle).

4) Gravity degrees of freedom are unobservable. Observables on H take the form A x I where A is an observable on Hm and I is the identity on Hg.

5) The entropy of a black hole is the entropy of matter-gravity entanglement: the Von Neumann entropy of Hm when Hg is traced over (which is equal to that of Hg when Hm is traced over).

Bernard said these axioms are proposed for low energy quantum gravity, by which I understand he meant the ranges where quantum field theory in curved spacetime is normally used (e.g., black holes masses much larger than the Planck mass) though a calculation he did later used an even weaker, Newtonian approximation for gravity, which is also prominent in the paper the talk was based on.

According to Bernard, Axiom 4 explains why there are no macroscopic "Schrodinger Cat" quantum superpostions. Write such a superposition as a sum of two macoscopic states of matter M1, M2 with associated gravitational fields G1, G2. On the assumption of axiom 4, calculate the density operator for the matter subspace only; the link paper contains the calculation with a toy Newtonian model, which gives as result that the states M1, M2 appear decohered. The interference between them is supressed exponentially in the mass of the system divided by the Planck mass.

(When this point in the exposition was reached, Kirill Krasnov raised his hand to say: "But the gravitational field can be measured –by sitting in this room and not floating around I am measuring it!" Bernard asked him to be patient, but I’m not sure he provided an answer to this at the end. More later.)

On the other hand, it is Axiom 5 which provides a solution to the problems related with black hole entropy and evaporation. Bernard mentioned two such problems: The first is that usually in physics entropy is not a fully "objective" quantity because it is associated with a particular "coarse-grained" macroscopic description of a system; however, there seems to be nothing subjective in black hole entropy equaling A/4. The second is that if entropy increases during collapse to a black hole and subsequent evaporation, then evolution cannot be unitary because the Von Neumann entropy of a pure state is conserved in unitary evolution. The resolution offered to these problems is that the entropy is not that of the whole state but just that of the matter component of it, which grows because we ignore the (according to the axiom, unobservable) gravity part. Moreover, this generalises to arbitrary systems and even the whole universe, providing -according to Bernard- an explanation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics!

One argument Bernard used to support his position is that in standard accounts a black hole is in thermal equilibrium with its enviroment, and is thus described by a Gibbs mixed state which is the tensor product of a mixed state for matter and another one for gravity. Then the total entropy S of the system should be the sum of the entropies Sm and Sg. Which of this three entropies is equal to A/4? The "thermodynamical" calculation of black hole entropy points to Sm as the answer, while Hawking's derivation from the action of pure gravity points to Sg. In Bernard's picture, the total state is pure and its entropy is not the physical one measured; the partial entropies Sm and Sg turn out to be equal from axiom 5.

Going back to the interpretation of quantum mechanics, readers familiar with Penrose's views will notice a resemblance. But Kay's theory, as I understand it, is philosophically different from Penrose's. Penorse is worried by the ontological interpretation of a superposed state, and posits an objective collapse of the wavefunction driven by quantum gravity. Kay does not seem to address the ontological problem: his solution is very similar to the standard "fapp" solution based on decoherence, with the difference that instead of an "enviroment" Kay has "the gravitational field" as the unobserved degrees of freedom that make interference between macroscopic lumps of matter supressed. Towards the end of the talk Kay mentioned that his theory makes predictions undistinguishable from those of standard quantum mechanics, in particular for the crucial experiment to test macroscopic superpostions that Penrose has proposed (described in his The Road to Reality). I asked after the talk how could predictions from this theory be identical to standard QM if macroscopic superpositions are unobservable in principle in it; in standard QM macroscopic superpositions are only unobservable in practice, because of enviromental decoherence, but with enough care protecting a system from decoherence they can be observed regardless of the mass. He said he needed to think further on that question.

Some doubts and questions this theory leaves me with: The question about standard QM it purports to answer, "why don't we see macroscopic superpositions?", seems to me answered already by conventional decoherence effects; the ongoing mystery unsolved by that is what counts as a measurement and what is the ontological status of "wavefunction collapse", but Kay's theory seems silent on these issues. There is also the ad hoc assumption that gravity is unobservable, and the need to answer Kirill's question (if our measuements of gravity are said to be "indirect", why aren't those of other fields indirect in the same way?) And black hole entropy seems much more likely to be related to correlations between the observed exterior and the unseen interior, than to correlations between matter and gravity as such, where I see no a priori reason to declare one of them unobservable. Other opinions?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Back into business

The reason for the hiatus can be disclosed now: I have taken a short holiday to my family home in Buenos Aires. The main reason, or pretext, was the important family ocasion of my grandfather's 80th birthday. The ten days I spent there were a rush of seeing relatives and old friends as much and as many as possible, which led sometimes to days rather more stressful (but also more enjoyable) than a standard workday at Nottingham. I did not explain about my trip in my previous post because my visit was planned to be a surprise for almost all my friends, many of them readers of this blog.

One other thing I did in Buenos Aires last week was officially recieving my Physics diploma from the University of Buenos Aires; I finished my degree there almos two years ago, but the diploma takes all that time to go through the bureaucracy. A feature of the ceremony that may be amusing for readers from countries without this tradition is that we are required to swear an oath before recieving the diploma, saying that we will uphold the Constitution and use our knowledge for the good of society. (So, I can't build a death ray? Darn.) There are four possible oaths; in increasing degree of de-sacralization they swear: "For God and the Country, over the Holy Gospels", "For God and the Country", "For the Country", and "For your honor". The latter option is by far the most preferred one. (You can read all the four texts here.)

I had planned to include in this post photos of my family party, of the diploma ceremony, of me with my friends in the best ice-cream place in Buenos Aires, of a true Argentinian barbecue at my suspicious friend's country house (people in Britain are under the strange illusion that you can put just some burgers and sausages over a grill and call it a barbecue), and of my cynical friend beating up my suspicious friend at the samesaid country house. But some technical problems with my computer have made it impossible for the moment. Instead if you want to know more about my holiday you can for the moment go and read how my cynical friend brags about beating me in a game of Black-Jack. The bragging is a bit exaggerated considering that I lost only 6 pesos, which is barely more than £1, don't you think? (You will notice that in that post my suspicious friend and I recieve the code names Antares and Cecilio; my code name is a reference to Cecil Terwilliger, to whom I bear a proud resemblance)