This and That

A few short items:

  • Nature has an editorial this week summarizing the situation with the 750 GeV possible diphoton bump. It mentions a new paper analyzing related data (the number of theory papers on this as a function of time). The paper is called A Theory of Ambulance Chasing, and claims that looking at a large collection of similar fads producing theory papers, the high-level behavior of the HEP theory community can be well summarized by a model that requires only two parameters to fit the data.
  • If you’re at Stanford tomorrow and a fan of multiverse mania, you can go hear Alexander Vilenkin talk about The Universes Beyond the Horizon. According to the Stanford PR for this

    Despite the similarities between Vilenkin’s theory and the Wikipedia summary of the film Interstellar, many scientists have hope for the multiverse theory.

    Stanford physics faculty members seem to have innovative ideas about the scientific method, with one of them quoted as claiming

    Once a reasonable idea comes, you can never say it’s wrong.

    which I guess could be taken as some sort of motto for research into string theory and the multiverse.

  • CERN is running a series of articles about the Theory group there, first one is here.
  • Norbert Bodendorfer has a nice new blog about loop quantum gravity and related topics.
  • The Templeton Foundation has mercifully stopped giving huge financial prizes to people for dubious attempts to bring religion and science together. I hadn’t even realized they had already given out this year’s Templeton Prize, which went to a British Rabbi.

    Among the many things they fund is a recent $1.1 million grant for this project on the philosophical implications of quantum gravity. They will hold a summer school this year (with Amanda Peet and Carlo Rovelli, that should be fun), and there’s a Youtube channel.

  • Chris Quigg has an interesting overview of the future of HEP physics. I particularly like his emphasis on the questions

    How are we prisoners of conventional thinking?


    Might we have misunderstood the hierarchy problem, and so need to reframe it? Perhaps it is time to ask whether the unreasonable effectiveness of the standard model (to borrow a turn of phrase from Eugene Wigner) is itself a deep clue to what lies beyond.

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7 Responses to This and That

  1. M says:

    An initial burst of interest followed by a decline is typical real discoveries (like the Higgs and neutrino oscillations) as well as of anomalies that go away. So I don’t see any real content in the chasing-ambulance paper, apart for the provocation. Its author would become famous if the 750 GeV anomaly will turn our to be real.

  2. CM says:

    The Nature editorial was worth reading. However, there was one sentence that is hyperbole at best
    “Still, people at CERN, the European particle-physics lab that hosts the LHC, have scarcely talked about anything else since. ”
    Although I am not personally at CERN but work remotely on one of the two large experiments, all the people I converse with have been intently focused on getting ready for the start of data taking in a few weeks. Discussions about the 750 GeV diphoton bump might constitute a pleasant diversion during work breaks, but there are usually more important or interesting things to occupy even break time.

  3. Bayes_or_bust says:

    @M The goal of The Theory of Ambulance Chasing is modelling the behaviour of physicists (specifically the number of papers they make) after an anomaly is announced. I don’t think there’s any suggestion (in the paper or elsewhere) that one should attempt to infer whether an anomaly is genuine or a fluctuation from any such analysis of the dynamics of the number of papers written about it.

  4. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:

    “Many of these universes collapsed and formed black holes, Vilenkin said. If the black holes are big enough, they may have inflating universes inside of them, and these expanding universes would be connected to the visible universe by wormholes.”

    …and? I take another hit off the bong and get my mind blown, or we observe some consequence of this?

  5. my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard says:

    Hi Peter. well, it seems Neil Turok agrees with you about string theory: “Instead it’s given us a huge collection of theories where, if you like, there’s no overarching theory to tell which particular version of string theory is the one that describes the world. It’s almost self-destructed…” etc. etc. (Though I disagree myself.)

    Turok also asserts (in the video at least) that the universe is simple. That is either an article of shear faith or ignorance of our current theories (e.g. QCD). He also asserts (in the text) “Our most secure knowledge about the world, about the natural world, is physics.” That is hopelessly naive and flat out wrong: has he never experienced the greenness of green (i.e. qualia?) He doesn’t give me much confidence that he knows what he’s talking about at all.

    Then (in the text) he talks about the founding principles. Well, okay.

  6. Peter Woit says:

    Thanks MMBATBTTY, I hadn’t seen that. It deserves a separate posting…

    At this point I don’t think my point of view about string theory is an unusual one at all, not surprised to hear what Turok has to say. He obviously is not ignorant about QCD, which, yes, is from a fundamental point of view extremely simple (in the limit of massless quarks, no free parameters at all (except maybe the number of colors).

  7. James Mc says:

    Hi Peter you might be interested to know Andrew Wiles was awarded to the 2016 Abel Prize

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