Today, the Moriond 2017 particle physics conference ends. Especially the CMS has presented the newest results – analyses of some 35 inverse femtobarns of the data collected at the two protons' total energy of \(13\TeV\).
Almost a decade ago, I made an asymmetric bet against Adam Falkowski, a particle phenomenologists now in Paris. He claimed that supersymmetry wouldn't be found before a deadline and I claimed it could be. If it were found, I would have won $10,000. If it weren't found, I would pay $100. So it was a 100-to-1 bet, basically implying the consensus probability of the early enough supersymmetry discovery at 1%. I accepted the bet because my subjective probability of a SUSY discovery was much higher than 1% and I still think it was reasonable – and an analogous assumption is still reasonable for the next collider.
The deadline was defined a bit arbitrarily – but it was "after the results of at least 30/fb of the data at design energy are collected". The design energy was \(14\TeV\) and \(8\TeV\) is clearly lower – the collisions at this lower energy may produce SUSY particles about 10 times less frequently than those at \(14\TeV\) – but \(14\TeV\) is close enough to \(13\TeV\) so it's obvious that those 35/fb at \(13\TeV\) that we have are basically equivalent to 30/fb at \(14\TeV\). So right now it's the ideal balanced moment that almost exactly agrees with the conditions of our bet, I think, and because supersymmetry hasn't been discovered yet, I should pay $100 to Adam.
As I have already mentioned, this lost bet is a technicality for me and doesn't change my belief that supersymmetry somewhere in Nature, beneath the Planck scale, is very likely and SUSY around the corner is always a possibility. I am sure that many of you agree that the opposite result would be way more interesting – from the financial viewpoint, from the viewpoint of our TRF community, and because of the excitement it would create among physicists.
Today, the Moriond 2017 particle physics conference ends. Especially the CMS has presented the newest results – analyses of some 35 inverse femtobarns of the data collected at the two protons' total energy of \(13\TeV\).
After Sabine Hossenfelder wrote her critique of "the world is a simulation" paradigm, I was a bit jealous about one apparent phenomenon: that her readers seemed to agree with her. Well, it didn't last long. After Scott Aaronson vented his absolutely stupid ideas about the same problem, many of his computer-science-worshiping but otherwise uneducated readers were apparently redirected to Hossenfelder's blog and started to give her a hard time.
The most obnoxious troll that repeatedly posted at Backreaction is nicknamed _Shorty, a man from the British Columbia who loves his air gun, guitar, and video games. For some reasons, this self-evident mediocre know-nothing thinks that it's very important for the world to hear what he thinks about the character of the physical law. It wouldn't be too hard to predict what an interaction between a physicist, even one such as Hossenfelder, and a stupid yet aggressive man who is "into the computer games" is going to look like.
Go to the Character of the Mathematical Thought list...A week ago, Doug K. sent me an essay
Like many postmodern promoters of feel-good education, Devlin argues that we should reduce the teaching of all hard mathematics at school. After all, almost no one actually needs mathematics in his life so it's fine. This change will reduce the math anxieties and math phobia in the society, make the world a better place, and so on. At the same time, most people will understand what is mathematics, how and where it is used, they will have a positive attitude to it, and they will be ready to learn it as soon as they need some because math phobia won't be deterring them.
Please, give me a break.
Four days ago, I praised Sabine Hossenfelder's remarks about the hypothesis that our Universe is a simulation. It's rather clear that complexity theorist Scott Aaronson disagrees on some fundamental issues, as he wrote in his
In short: blame it for being unfalsifiable rather than for being falsified!He claims that it's not a problem to reconcile the universe-as-a-computer with the Lorentz invariance, too. On the other hand, Hossenfelder (like your humble correspondent) emphasizes that all the predictions similar to "certain computer-like glitches, such as the failure of accuracy or continuity and deja vu cats" seem to be falsified. So at some imperfect but high confidence level, the "simulation hypothesis" has been ruled out. Aaronson doesn't like it and he's wrong.
In the morning, my antivirus software suddenly told me that my main defragmenter is a virus.
Just to be specific: I have used the German AVIRA software (web) with the red umbrella icon for over 15 years. It's probably not the most patriotic thing to do because Czechia has turned into an antivirus superpower largely thanks to Avast which recently devoured its competitor AVG (for $1.3 bn) and the company's headquarters stayed in Prague. Avast actually has more employees than Avira etc. Avast was founded as a communist-era co-op in 1988, AVIRA is two years older. Almost all people on the Avast board are non-Czech today, however.
I think that AVIRA does a good job and I've seen some reports that it's among the antiviruses that don't slow down the PC too much.
The other part of the story is that I believe that fragmentation of files slows down PC and I am running a defragmentation periodically. I've tried many but Auslogics Disk Defrag Free seems like the best choice on the market – it's much faster than most others and it visualizes things appropriately and gives you all the information about the fragmented files, the number of fragments, and other things.
Off-topic: I know that many ex-fans have already grown tired of The Big Bang Theory but I haven't and for folks like me, CBS has approved the 11th and 12th seasons of TBBT. Via syndication, the show has earned over $1 billion for Warner, I haven't been sent a penny (let alone Penny) yet.In the recent decade, the German politician elite has drifted towards the arrogant, politically correct far left corner. Recall that Angela Merkel's predecessor was the social democrat Gerhard Schröder.
This 2002 parody of a famous Spanish ketchup pop song, "The Tax Song", still showed the innocent politics that Western politics had known for decades. Schröder was a social democrat and it was therefore sensible to assume that he wants too high taxes, too many taxes (I can't even tell you with any certainty whether high taxes were characteristic for his tenure), and he's making fun of the citizens who probably don't like to pay this much. The only other theme of the song I can identify are the accusations that Schröder had to color his hair, otherwise they couldn't have been so youthful.
Although Merkel's CDU should be more conservative than Schröder's SPD, I find it obvious that Merkel is more left-wing than Schröder was. He was really a guy with some common sense who was immune towards most of the insanities – and he's still resistant towards e.g. the postmodern Russophobia that is largely driven by Vladimir Putin's being too conservative for the self-anointed progressive ideologues who have multiplied like locusts in the West.
Phys.org informs us about lots of legitimate news but sometimes it loves to spread hype about some absolute nonsense. When it switches to the nonsense mode, it usually promotes the craziest articles to the "featured" category. On Friday, they posted a crazy article about a topic that everyone should be able to understand,
Two Plutos, taken from the article about a Daesh astronomer who wants to rename Pluto to the Moon of Mohammed LOL. See also ISIS plans to carry attacks on Pluto.
The main proponent of the new definition is Mr Kirby Runyon (and "Mr" should be understood in the same way as when Dr Gablehauser talks to Mr Howard Wolowitz), a graduate student at John Hopkins, a Christian, and an owner of a cat. Quite some credentials.
Sabine Hossenfelder writes a lot of wrong texts, especially about issues that depend on some nontrivial calculation. But she is often reasonable when she discusses certain conceptual issues, including the general properties of quantum mechanics (and the absence of non-local influences in QFT etc.).
The latest example of the penetrating texts is
But let's look primarily at the comments by Hossenfelder and her readers – who surprisingly seem to agree.
It's been almost a week since we discussed Jacques Distler's confusion about some basics of quantum field theory. He posts several blog posts a year, a quantum field theory course is probably the only one he teaches, and he was "driven up the wall" by a point that almost every good introductory textbook makes at the very beginning. I expected that within a day or two, he would post a detailed text with the derivations saying "Oops, I've been silly [for 50 years]".
It just didn't happen. He still insists that the one-particle truncation of a quantum field theory is perfectly consistent and causal. In particular, he repeated many times in his blog post (search for the word "superluminal") that the relativistically modified Schrödinger's equation for one particle (with a square root) guarantees that the wave packets never spread faster than the speed of light. Oops, it's just too bad.
For more than a decade, I've been urging the responsible people to stop their support and especially government funding for the climate hysteria, a political movement that pretends to be all about science even though it brutally violates even the basic principles of the scientific method and threatens the integrity of the institutionalized science, prosperity of whole countries, and the freedom of their citizens.
There have been partial victories that have made us smile at one moment or another. But up to 2007, it seemed clear that the movement was growing and after 2007-2009, whatever the exact date of the Peak Climate Alarm was, it still seemed extremely likely that the climate alarmists were here to stay and consolidate their influence – much like we thought that communists were here to stay in Czechoslovakia in the late 1980s.
Well, the victory of Donald Trump was the first event that seems to change the big picture and reverse the trends in major ways – the first sign that the climate hysteria could be unsustainable, after all, much like Nazism, eugenics, communism, and other fads currently residing at the dumping ground of history. We didn't know whether Ivanka Trump and Rex Tillerson would "allow" the U.S. president to do something that has been a not so negligible part of the campaign. But things look better again.
Yesterday, a Czech expert in spintronics and nanoelectronics Mr Tomáš Jungwirth has provoked some naive Czech patriots who think that their homeland is very good in things like science:
Researcher: Czech science is average, wins few ERC grants (Prague Monitor, widely discussed in Czech press)Jungwirth is a member of the European Research Council. Well, I think that I was still a high school student when I was pretty much decided that the Czech contributions to science in general and physics in particular are pretty much negligible. In fact, before I came to the college, I was already worried whether there could be someone in our homeland who could teach me/us things needed for the cutting-edge physics etc.
Just to be sure, the Czech education bringing you up to the early 1970s or so is very good, I still think. But at the research level, the numbers speak clearly:
Researchers from other EU countries submit two or three times more applications for ERC grants than those from the Czech Republic, Jungwirth said. Moreover, 12 percent of the grant applications are successful on average, while Czech projects succeed only in 5 percent of cases. Czech projects have won ERC 25 grants worth 41 million euros since 2007, while Austrian and Hungarian projects have won 189 and 54 grants, respectively.Austrian and Hungary - totally comparable countries – have won 7.6 and 2.2 times more grants than Czechia, respectively. The deviation of these numbers from 1 obviously cannot be considered noise and – despite the EU's numerous fundamental shortcomings – I don't think that it's an effort of the evil EU organs to hurt Czechia, either.
The LHCb detector is way smaller and cheaper than its fat ATLAS and CMS siblings. But it doesn't mean that it can't discover cool things – and many things. The letter \(b\) refers to the bottom quark. It's often said that the bottom quark is the best path towards the research of CP-violation and similar things.
But for some reasons, the LHCb managed to discover five new particles without any bottom quark – at once:
The collaboration proudly tweeted about the new discovery and linked to their new paper,
BigThink.com was founded in 2007 and Larry Summers and Peter Thiel were among the initial financial and intellectual investors in the project. I am confident that it used to interview many exceptionally intelligent people and they were talking about nontrivial topics and arguments. Five years ago, I mentioned an interview with Lisa Randall about string theory.
If you look at the recent videos at the BigThink YouTube channel, they look like rather lame pop scientific and pseudoscientific topics that you find everywhere on the Internet. You don't need a pedigree of famous founders for such a website.
The 4-minute monologue of Bill Nye is a great example of the intellectual deterioration of BigThink.com in recent years. The diatribe seems to be a response to a Fox News exchange between Tucker Carlson and Bill Nye. Recall that Carlson mainly wanted Nye to say to what extent the humans have driven climate change. Nye wasn't capable to say a damn thing that would be relevant in that 9-minute-long Fox News interview. He had weeks to "think big" about these matters and now, when he added a 4-minute monologue, he still failed to say anything that would be relevant or at least intelligent.
The country in the heart of Europe is terrified by the counterproductive, treacherous approach of the EU apparatchiks to gun laws
Czech political parties experienced a somewhat rare wave of unity today which was unfortunately not shared by most of the European Union. The European Parliament voted 491yes-197no-28abstain to ban the sales of new semi-automatic guns.
The largest community in my homeland that is affected are the owners of Model 58. It's known by the Czechoslovak acronym Vz 58 and "vz" stands for "vzor" i.e. "template". After Kalashnikovs appeared, all socialist countries were basically forced to adopt the exact Soviet design. Czechoslovakia got an exception because if a country with this somewhat legendary arms industry were forced to accept the Soviet technology, it would be rather offensive. Vz 58 appeared as a Czechoslovak answer to the Kalashnikovs. It's a full replacement but all the parts are actually different and the Czechoslovak rifle is arguably better than the Soviet competitor.
In recent weeks, I was involved in various discussions about the education of mathematics in Czechia. One of the topics was the "playful" Hejný method (a long CZ thread) to teach mathematics to kids which may be fun and useful but it's simply not a legitimate replacement for mathematics as I define it.
Yesterday, someone asked me to solve one page of undergraduate problems in mathematical statistics. Compute the averages, variances and standard deviations, medians, quantiles, draw some histograms, use computer software to do a quadratic fit. And also compute the probability that you get all 4 kings out of 32 cards in a pile of 7. An hour of work. I did consider the problems nicely chosen and adequate for someone who should have background in any experimental science etc.
But they were taken from an exam (a take-home exam?) for mostly female students who want to get a bachelor degree and become nurses. That's tough because I do think that most nurses just can't do a big majority of these things. But the statistics course is mandatory and right now, unlimited nurses do need the bachelor degree. It looks like an anomaly: Ways to deal with a senior who urinated himself could be more useful for them than the calculations of the residual variance of a quadratic fit. ;-) Some lawmakers are preparing a reform that will allow nurses to work without the bachelor degree – the high school plus a year of a "higher school" will be enough. But it's not reality yet.
At the end, however, I have big sympathies for the instructor who is trying hard to convince the students to learn these things. If you asked me, I would probably agree that people with college degrees in science-related disciplines – and medicine is one of them – should be able to do most of these things, at least in principle. It's not possible for most people to know such things and again, I do agree that nurses shouldn't necessarily be "college-educated folks".
The mathematics instructor is universally hated by his students, of course. This is the level that primarily determines my emotions. I just couldn't support the students in their bitter jihad against the noble man. The fact that some soon-to-be-nurses are being pushed to learn things they don't need is one thing. But this guy was hired to teach college-level mathematical statistics and it's simply right to do it right. It's in no way insane to expect the college students majoring in a science-based discipline to know how to do these standard things after two semesters of statistics!
Young physicists in Austin, be careful about some toxic junk in your city
Three weeks ago, in the article titled
The textbooks (and I mean all of them) start off by “explaining” that relativistic quantum mechanics (e.g. replacing the Schrödinger equation with Klein-Gordon) make no sense (negative probabilities and all that …). And they then proceed to use it anyway (supplemented by some Feynman rules pulled out of thin air).Did the following text defend the legitimacy of Distler's frustration? Well, partly... but I would pick the answer No if I had to.
This drives me up the fúçkïñg wall. It is precisely wrong.
There is a perfectly consistent quantum mechanical theory of free particles. The problem arises when you want to introduce interactions.
Giotis has pointed out that the Czech Public Radio recorded a 15-minute English-language interview with Czech string theorist Petr Hořava while he was visiting his old homeland.
I hope that this cutely simple HTML5 audio tag with the MP3 file works for everybody.
For years, Petr has been working at Berkeley. He's well-known as the co-author of the Hořava-Witten "M-theory on spaces with boundaries" that carry the \(E_8\) gauge supermultiplet, as they demonstrated.
I was surprised that several TRF readers (Marthe, Abbyyorker, John Moore, and perhaps others) don't understand why the methodology keeping "ensembles of inequivalent models" that have survived some tests isn't science i.e. why Scott Adams is right in the recommendation #1 to climate fearmongers.
On Monday, Scott Adams actually dedicated a special blog post exactly to this problem. He wrote that when some media promote an old paper from the 1980s that apparently made rather accurate predictions of the climate for the following decades, it doesn't mean anything because it was one paper among many and we're not told about the number of similar models whose predictions were wrong. So everything he knows is compatible with the assumption that the successful model was just one that was right by chance – it was cherry-picked but there doesn't have to be any reason to think that its authors know something that others don't. They were just lucky. Adams mentioned analogies dealing with financial scams. If you send thousands of e-mails with various investment recommendations, it's almost unavoidable that one of them will be successful thrice in a row. If you later cherry-pick this successful recommendation and sell it as a proof of your prophetic skills, then you are a crook and your clients are gullible morons.
Some people apparently really believe that it's an example of OK science when the climate modelers are working with an ensemble of mutually inequivalent models, sometimes eliminate some of them, and they implicitly if not explicitly say that all the "survivors" in their ensemble of models are simultaneously or collectively right. Well, different theories just cannot be simultaneously right and this process of mindless selection of "packages that seem to work well" just isn't science. When we're trying to address a physical system in which many factors matter at the same moment, it's obvious that we must still try to answer questions separately.
I embedded the Feynman monologue above because he says that many activities try to pretend to be scientific but they're pseudosciences. These pseudosciences – social sciences are examples – haven't gotten anywhere (yet). They didn't get any laws. This is exactly true for the "model ensemble enterprise" in the climate science, too. They're not proposing and separately testing any actual laws or statements. People who are doing these things just play with some complex mushed potatoes and when they have a sufficient number of moving parts, it's unavoidable that for some choices of these moving parts, a good enough agreement – within any pre-agreed error margins – will be achieved for some of them.
Eclectikus told us that Dilbert's creator Scott Adams – who has correctly predicted Trump's triumph and described a psychological theory behind Trump's victory – has written a wonderful guide telling the climate alarmist propagandists
I tend to agree with this "insight into Adams' skull". It seems hard to imagine that someone would understand these "15 things that are fishy about the alarmists' claims" so clearly and he would still take the alarmists' statements seriously. In fact, I think that Adams' isolation of the problems, clarity of his understanding of these problems, and the comprehensiveness of his list places him above most of the "amateur climate skeptics" whom I have met. If he understands some of the skeptics' arguments more clearly than most of the skeptics, is it plausible that he ends up as an alarmist?
It's plausible. I just find it very unlikely. It seems much more likely to me that he is just playfully rewriting his identity, much like when John Cook was signing 3% of the comments on his server as Luboš Motl. ;-)
Last week, Charles Murray, a prominent sociologist known for his analyses of the IQ distributions (he co-wrote "The Bell Curve" with a Harvard colleague) was planning to give a talk at the Middlebury College in Vermont.
This 43-minute-long video shows what happened. Before his speech was supposed to begin, several officials were explaining how important it was for the university to listen and participate in peaceful discussions, even about unpopular views.
It didn't help. Around 19:10 in the video, after Murray articulated his first sentence, a mob composed of young people began to chant and do mess – the last 25 minutes in the video – and prevented Murray from saying anything. They were chanting all those primitive far left extremist slogans which were not only offensive but also proved that the young people didn't have a clue what Murray's work is all about. So the lecture was cancelled. The professor Ms Allison Stanger who accompanied Murray was physically attacked and had to be hospitalized, despite two big bodyguards who generally tried to protect these two.
Jay Parini and other professors at that college realize that some basic rules of Free Speech 101 were grossly neglected. However, the wild young people keep on calling themselves "college students" and they are basically dictating the atmosphere – and what is possible and what is impossible – on that college.
I am sorry but the officials at that college should dismiss these students. The fact that it hasn't taken place indicates that the college president is either incompetent or a coward. These young people are obviously not intelligent, disciplined, and ethical enough to be college students. We often talk about the decreasing standards of the college education but sometimes this deterioration shows up clearly in front of our eyes.
A zoo would be a much more appropriate place to keep these young people than a college. Let me emphasize that I recommend this habitat to the participants of that protest regardless of their race, gender, or ethnic background.
In mid January, Chad Orzel didn't like some hype about a "proposed solution to the cosmological constant problem":
An article in the Physics World promoted an April 2016 paper by Josset, Perez, and Sudarsky recently published in PRL
The 97% crackpot Lee Smolin praised the idea as a speculative approach in the best possible sense that is revolutionary if true. The 60% crackpot George Ellis said that the proposal was viable and no more fanciful than what's being explored by contemporary theoretical physicists – his English isn't as good as mine so I had to improve this man's prose.
Orzel found these comments too diplomatic and, as a "progressive" (a far left whacko), he decided to look for the best possible debunker with the only politically correct number of penises (zero) who should debunk this stuff: Sabine Hossenfelder.
Under my previous (QM-on-graphs) blog post about the Riemann Hypothesis, Dilaton was forgiven for having brought us some cute internet banalities ;-)
while Akhmeteli pointed out a paper that seems even more promising than my most recent specific attacks:
First non-metallic magnet at room temperatures
One month ago, I mentioned that Harvard's Isaac Silvera and his collaborator claimed to have developed metallic hydrogen. Unfortunately, four weeks later, the small piece of this possibly amazing matter was eaten by Ike's dog, in an incident that resembles the burning of the microscopic Japanese art by a magnifying glass during a vernissage in the Czech 1974 comedy "Joachim, throw him to the machine".
Phys.org and UPI were among the first English-language sources that revealed a result that could be equally cool and more controllable (because larger) – a non-metallic magnet:
Room temperature organic magnets derived from \(sp^3\) functionalized graphene (Nature Communications)Mr Jiří Tuček [George Smallfat] was the lead author of the 12-member collaboration in a regional material center at the Palacký University in Olomouc, Moravia, Czech Republic. Belgian and Japanese colleagues have already joined the search for applications and better theoretical descriptions.
Lisa Randall has argued in her review in The New York Times that
Randall says that the best popular books bring something both to the beginners as well as the readers who already know something. However, Rovelli only chose the audiences without any physics background and adjusted his writing appropriately. He nicely communicated the grandiose revolutionary changes that took place in the recent century or so. Because of the adjustments and other things, the result isn't great.
I still like to spend some time with the Riemann Hypothesis. In this 2016 blog post, I explained that the Riemann zeta zeroes roughly appear in a Fourier transform of delta-functions located at places \(\ln(n)\) or \(\ln(p)\) where \(n\in\ZZ\) or \(p\) are primes.
Is there a way to prove that all the nontrivial zeroes \(s\) of the zeta function, i.e. values of \(s\) obeying \(\zeta(s)=0\), satisfy \(s=1/2+it\) where \(t\in \RR\)? Riemann thought he could prove that theorem but the proof wasn't ever found and it seems likely now that he didn't have one.
Ahmed Adel Emara was asking interesting questions about the delayed choice quantum eraser and various modifications of it.
In the experiment, see this chart, a photon first goes through the double slit. Right behind both slits, a "BBO" makes sure that the photon gets split into an entangled pair.
The upper photon is encouraged to land on a photographic plate, D0, where a single photon normally contributes to an interference pattern. The entangled lower partner, the idler photon, goes to some mirrors and undergoes another treatment. In the delayed choice quantum eraser experiment, it ultimately lands in one of the detectors D1,D2,D3,D4. It's designed in such a way that if the detection of the idler photon occurs in D3 or D4, the which-slit information can be extracted, so the interference pattern is gone for the upper photon as well (the slit is the same for both photons). If the idler photon lands in D1 or D2, respectively, the which-slit information cannot be extracted, and the upper photons in these cases do create an interference pattern in D0, but only if you treat the D1 and D2 cases separately – these two interference patterns are "complementary" to each other.
One of the questions that Ahmed basically asked was whether there would be an interference pattern if you replaced all the detectors D1,D2,D3,D4 for the idler by another photographic plate D0' (dee-zero-prime).
To say the least, Marine Le Pen is one of the three top (bold face) candidates in the April-and-May presidential elections in France. All the other candidates are elementary particles: Fillon, Proton, Macron, Neutron, Hamon, Meson, Mélenchon, and Positron. It's an eye-catching sign of the lack of diversity that all of the men who run have names that end with an "-on" given the fact that none of the men in the list Bidault, Blum, Auriol, Coty, De Gaulle, Poher, d'Estaing, Mitterrand, Chirac, Sarkozy, and Hollande did. You may be forced to go back to Napoleon to find the most recent previous elementary particle that led France. ;-)
She's too complex for them and the elementary particles and their allies do everything they can to get rid of their competitor who is so different.
Two days ago, a committee of the European Parliament voted 18-to-3 to strip her of her immunity in the case of some tweets. Today, the whole Parliament has confirmed that decision by an "overwhelming majority" – we were not told what the numbers actually were. Thankfully, my MEP voted against the proposal. He wrote that "he doesn't like when the political contest is waged through the criminalization of the competitors". Exactly.
...as long as it is defined as presented...
Petr N., a Czech guy who also sent me the first e-mails about the 9/11 attacks 30 minutes before my PhD defense in New Jersey began at 9:30 a.m. in 2001, informed me about a wonderful new story in numerous media, a story about the Chinese quantum radar.
For example, some journalists in New Zealand boldly claim:
Czech L-159's – used by the Iraqi Air Force along with some F-16's – are almost an order of magnitude cheaper than F-35's but they're still credible aggressor fighters. Too bad that the Donald can't import things from his first wife's homeland.
There could be better radars that could be called "quantum radars" for one reason or another but the claims about the "quantum radar" turn out to be based on a paper written by authors who completely misunderstand quantum mechanics, e.g. crackpots. Because the authors are Chinese, they must be classified as Chinese crackpots.
Guaranteed minimum income or basic/unconditional/universal income is a policy in which a country pays every citizen (that's at least in the "universal" case) a certain fixed amount of money.
It's an alternative, and in my view far more efficient and natural, method to deal with welfare, poverty, tax exemptions per taxpayer, and many other things. It's basically equivalent to the negative income tax that was defended by Milton Friedman (and tested in North America in the 1960s and 1970s) – click at the link in this sentence to see his arguments in favor of it (I basically share all of his thinking).
The rule is simple. At least when the income is small enough (modifications may reflect progressive taxation), a citizen that earns \(X\) dollars per year will pay\[
R \times X - BI
\] to the government. It's a simple linear function. When the result is negative, the government pays something to the citizen (his income tax is negative, if you wish). In particular, if the citizen earns nothing, he will still get \(BI\) dollars (it stands for "basic income") a year from the government. On the contrary, the high earners pay the percentage \(R\) of their income.
Special exceptions should apply when \(X\lt 0\). People who make a "loss" should better not be refunded too much (or at all), otherwise people would start to invent tricks how to report a loss.