# The Triumphs and Travail of the Theory of More Than Everything

Shamit Kachru gave the physics colloquium at Rutgers yesterday. His title was “The Theory of More Than Everything” and I heard from people who attended that he was promoting research into the “Landscape” as a new model of how to do theoretical physics, especially cosmology.

I was down there today and heard two talks in the mathematical physics seminar, by Abhay Ashtekar and Tom Banks. Ashtekar’s talk was a standard exposition of a few of the basic ideas of loop quantum gravity, also reviewing an attempt to apply these ideas to cosmology. The talk by Banks was titled “Triumphs and Travails of String Theory”. The first hour was about the triumphs, giving a pretty standard survey of the supposed accomplishments of string theory. Banks emphasized the importance of supersymmetry, and described string theory as not quite background independent, but depending only on a choice of “asymptotic background”. He dealt with matrix models, holography, BPS states, dualities, getting gauge bosons out of string theory, and AdS/CFT.

His talk contained quite a lot of content, unlike some promotional talks of this kind, but it did come off a bit like an hour-long infomercial (“And, there’s even more! It slices, it dices, it ….”). The last five minutes were devoted to the travails of string theory, of which, according to Banks, there is really only one (although he did mention that the lack of observed supersymmetry is also a problem). The one travail is the fact that the cosmological constant seems to be positive, so the universe is de Sitter, not anti de Sitter or flat. This creates well known problems with defining an S-matrix. He went on to explain the “Landscape” idea with its de Sitter states that are only metastable, saying this “leads to a new philosophy of doing physics that many are exploring”. He didn’t seem interested in directly criticizing this new philosophy, but did end by promoting his own, different, ideas about how to deal with the cosmological constant problem.

During the question session afterward, someone asked if there was any overlap between loop quantum gravity and string theory. After some hemming and hawing by the speakers, Michael Douglas spoke from the audience, saying that since string theory was really 20 or so different kinds of approaches to quantum gravity, it was quite plausible that LQG was another related one.

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### 21 Responses to The Triumphs and Travail of the Theory of More Than Everything

1. Plato says:

I thought Lubos and Peter might like a picture of the Landscape of the Week link:)

2. Plato says:

Dear Chris,

OK – I’ll stop doing the book, provided that you explain what a “dimensional advocate” is.

If we were to suspect that all matter distinctions existed in some other form then the solid things we see, we understand I think that before spit can bcome from saliva, one had to had the emotion first?:)

Now if DRL was having a emotive experience, in his psychological state, the manifestation of the liquid(saliva) would have taken a condensation of thinking, to arive at such a conclusion.:)

If such solid things are to be taken for granted, we then know that if DRL was a dimensional advocate, he would have known that the spit arises from thinking emotively:)

LOL

3. Chris Oakley says:

My Dear Plato,

OK – I’ll stop doing the book, provided that you explain what a “dimensional advocate” is.

Do they for example charge less or more than ordinary lawyers?

4. Plato says:

I’m writing a book about Dionysus, loosely based on Jim Morrison (or should it be the other way round?).

Chris please don’t.:)It takes all of ones faculties to enter into such allegorical states that you need some anchor, not drugs:)

You see both Lubos and Peter are under the arch of science, yet they both move from different perspectives? Although they agree on (?)that science should validate?

John Baez speaks on the abstractness of quantum gravity and we experience abstract values, in brane scenarios.

So whose right? Whose on firm ground?

5. Chris Oakley says:

‘…addicted to imaginary power and fractally vibrating nonsense, incapable of judgment, phase-locked into an eternal inward self-indulgent “journey of discovery”.’

‘If you classify the 60’s and 80’s you have spoken to many who have travelled paths before you.’

What are you guys on, man, and more importantly, where can I get it?

I’m writing a book about Dionysus, loosely based on Jim Morrison (or should it be the other way round?). I won’t need to take drugs to write the more high-faluting bits as I can just borrow phrases from the comments section of this blog.

6. Plato says:

DRL,

The radicals of the 60s and the 80s have combined to breed a race of intellectual midgets, addicted to imaginary power and fractally vibrating nonsense, incapable of judgment, phase-locked into an eternal inward self-indulgent “journey of discovery”.

You failed to identify the relation I drew between Peter and LUBos. I asked if you applied the question which one would follow which process of thought. Lubos would point to heaven, while Peter would be showing his hands where?

Plato knew of pythagorean studies.:

Anyway you tried to compact a much information in a short space of time(dimensional advocate?:) as you could by using words that have deep association to your “feelings about the views of strings“? That it was hard to remove the emotive impact of your bias from the saliva you spit. I am sorry:)

But this is a view, that I have shown and the struggle to this day:) Peter looks hard around, and some of the religious orientated although firmly attached to ground by Peter’s Dialogue, recogize the need for defining this higher attribute?

If you classify the 60’s and 80’s you have spoken to many who have travelled paths before you.

Would you quickly denounce their contributions as we would in moving forward the thought experiments of Solvay?

Although we would harbour differing points of view we do not denounce each other. We use each other to fuel what is truth? Right?

7. D R Lunsford says:

Oops – in my rant, I mistook “3 Minutes” with “Brief History of Time” – sorry. “3 Minutes” is a nice book on some level. I suppose all trimuphalism seems to get to me.

I hate being mad. Science is supposed to be fun.

8. D R Lunsford says:

Pythagoras was a stringer! Oh how rich.

This website illustrates all that is wrong with physics. A crew analogous to the Neocons has taken over, who must fill every moment with world-shaking radicalism and triumphalism, couched in the most airy-feathery faux-wonderment about things that are not real. “Light shining from the fifth dimension” – what sort of nonsense is that?

This all seems to have started with the Dr. Seuss Lectures on Physics, otherwise known as “The Dancing Wu-Li Masters”, and the Disney Guide to Cosmology, “The First Three Minutes” (a time formerly reserved for running trailers of coming attractions). The success of these meant it had became possible to fill the exquisite yuppie-radical bombasto-conservative mind with all manner of self-propagating nonsense. It is, after all, more fun for most to indulge in reflexive hallucinations rather than make the effort to get to facts – it is easy to bash Pauli and Dirac and Einstein and ignore what they say, because they are “establishment” figures ripe for a knockover, pitiful old-worlders from a nighttime of the soul. The febrile postmodern narcissist must always ponder the universe as revealed in his own reflection, distorted by passive consumption of endless surreal images that compete with his wan self-awareness in his infinite reflecting pool. It is not enough to let one’s mind reach only to Vega – the narcissist-addict’s grasp must extend to the far reaches of what passes for imagination.

The radicals of the 60s and the 80s have combined to breed a race of intellectual midgets, addicted to imaginary power and fractally vibrating nonsense, incapable of judgment, phase-locked into an eternal inward self-indulgent “journey of discovery”.

It makes me ill. That’s what I think.

9. Plato says:

Which is the String Theorist and which is the LQGist

It seems the struggle is deeply embedded in consciousness? That we have brought forward age ole struggles, to do them all over again?

What do you think?

10. Mubos Lotl says:

the parents of “Mubos Lotl” whom I assume is either Lunsford himself or someone very similar – should spank their son thoroughly

Why, Lubos, do you deny writing the words I cited from your own blog? Perhaps you would like to explain their real meaning if I have misinterpreted them? That is, perhaps you can explain how being rude and obnoxious will help string theory to get moving again. AdS, here we come!

11. Anonymous says:

It’s true, Tom Banks is much older than he was 15 years ago.

12. Plato says:

Lubos
Your questions may be fine, but they don’t go as far as string theory, and I don’t have time to explain vacuum bubbles in QFT now.

I was thinking of supersymmetrical reality.

Symmetry breaking, and I looked at the current universe, and it structures. For me, this evolution lead from Planck epoch through to cosmic clumping(cosmic string)from it’s origination. Andrey Kravtsov images are really helpful along with Max Tegmarks research.

But yes QFT, in comsological proportions, had to be consistent with the dynamics of the universe?

I understand your time, and appreciate post.

Peter can clear up the identity of name arranger in a minute, using blogspot. Best not to speculate. Standards here of human beings, should be impeccable, dealing with such fine subjects.

13. D R Lunsford says:

Lubos, I have better things to do on my limited worldline than to mock you. When I want to point out how utterly clueless, arrogant, and annoying you are, I need not retreat behind a mocking alias.

14. Luboš Motl says:

I don’t know if physics should be like wrestling, but what I know is that D.R.Lunsford’s parents – and the parents of “Mubos Lotl” whom I assume is either Lunsford himself or someone very similar – should spank their son thoroughly. They should try to avoid the evolution of their son to a moral and intellectual cripple. But it may already be too late.

15. Luboš Motl says:

Hi Plato!
I was talking about papers of Tom (about background independence) such as

http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-th/0011255

http://www.slac.stanford.edu/spires/find/hep/www?rawcmd=FIND+A+BANKS%2CT+

Your questions may be fine, but they don’t go as far as string theory, and I don’t have time to explain vacuum bubbles in QFT now.

16. D R Lunsford says:

This issue of NEW is beyond surreal. Bon-Motl wants to make physics into wrestling.

I walk away, muttering, drooling, and weeping.

17. Mubos Lotl says:

String theory is in trouble at the moment, but recently an explanation for this has been given. According to Lubos Motl, “Current string theorists and physicists in general are just too “nice”, and this atmosphere is correlated with the reduced amount of progress that we’re doing (whichever is the cause vs. the effect). I know that Nima Arkani-Hamed agrees with me, for example, and the people who say the opposite statement seem to be disconnected from reality.” According to my model, “niceness” is a scalar field generated by good-natured, polite string theorists, which has the effect of “uplifting” the anti-de Sitter background to an apparent de Sitter state. The solution is for string theorists like LM and Arkani-Hamed to go against their fundamental natures and adopt the manner of unusually obnoxious
10-year-olds. The result is that the vacuum will subside back into its natural AdS state. True, this will ultimately destroy the cosmos, but at least it
will reveal that string theory is correct.

18. Plato says:

LubosTom has also investigated the question under which conditions you can create a bubble of a different vacuum within another vacuum/Universe

During a first-order phase transition, the matter fields get trapped in a false vacuum’ state from which they can only escape by nucleating bubbles of the new phase, that is, the true vacuum’ state.

Do you have any other information resources that would help clarify this in terms experimental considerations like this membrane in a vacuum? (make sure you let it load)

Would it be wrong to think of (mem)branes in this context?

A few Saturdays ago, he had his heart set on bubbles. “We have a copy of C. V. Boys’ book Soap Bubbles here on the ISS. It was published in 1911 and it’s still a wonderful treatise on thin films. Every space station should have a copy,” he laughs. “I wanted to see what thin films and bubbles might do in zero-g and felt it was a topic ripe for discovery.”

19. Lubos Motl says:

Tom Banks is a very nice person. I am happy that he keeps on emphasizing some ideas that are more important for him than many others.

Tom believes that supersymmetry may play a more fundamental role in the scheme of things than just a particular symmetry of physics. And he’s studied the question of background dependence in depth. His remark that difference asymptotic boundary conditions define different superselection sectors that can be treated as separate theories is a very good remark.

Tom has also investigated the question under which conditions you can create a bubble of a different vacuum within another vacuum/Universe.

I am sure that Tom has said many things that most others don’t emphasize enough.

The measure of importance that Mike Douglas assigned to LQG seems to be the maximum one can imagine to be realized – it would be just the 21st equivalent/related approach to the same theory of quantum gravity (called “String/M-theory”), if it’s correct. Of course, I don’t think it is, but the idea that LQG should be visualized as a structure comparable to the *whole* string theory is absolutely ridiculous. It’s like comparing Castro’s Cuba to the USA. In the best case, you may try to compare Cuba to Florida, or loop quantum gravity to D-branes on orbifolds (by Douglas and Moore), for example. Of course that the brane on orbifolds will still be a more important insight about quantum gravity than loop quantum gravity, and Florida will defeat the current Cuba. But at least, these are somewhat more reasonable comparisons.

20. Peter says:

I think the last time I heard him speak was nearly fifteen years ago, so my main impression was “Gee, the guy looks a lot older”. To be fair, the extent to which he was trying to sell string theory was no greater than most other talks of this kind. He did try and pack more content in than many such talks, which is what gave the impression of relentless adding on of more wondrous features.

21. JC says:

Does Banks normally sound like a “used car salesman” type in his talks?