I’m trying to finish writing up something about equivariant cohomology for the BRST project, slowed down by realizing there was something interesting about this that I didn’t understand. Soon that should be sorted out….
In the meantime, here are various other things that might be of interest:
The El Naschie/Elsevier saga continues, latest here.
There’s a new book out from Cambridge University Press entitled On Space and Time, which has chapters from different authors stretching from solid physics to theology, with lots of quantum gravity in between. The editor, Shahn Majid, is blogging here, on a site run by Cambridge.
Evidence for time travel has appeared in the British newspaper The Independent, which recently published an editorial by Mike Duff about string theory that appears to have come through a worm-hole connected to about 13 years ago.
There really are good reasons that theorists who insist on devoting their lives to absurdly speculative models of extra dimensions which have nothing to recommend them other than not being obviously inconsistent should stop promoting these things in the press. One of these reasons is that doing this tends to lead to articles like this one on Fox News.
British theorists at Durham are getting some new funding.
American scientists are lobbying for their piece of the stimulus pie that should be cooked and ready to serve within the next couple weeks. An editorial by David Gross and Eric Kandel is here, a letter from 49 Nobelists here. The latest news indicates that the NSF and DOE are still in line for massive short-term budget increases.
In France, President Sarkozy argued in a speech that French scientific research needs to be reformed, with the economic crisis that originated in the U.S. a good opportunity for the French to modernize and do things more the way they are done over here. Many French scientists are reacting with “shame and anger”, and planning on joining a general one-day strike this Thursday. I know little about the problems and virtues of the French research system, but perhaps scientists there should tell Sarkozy it’s a deal if he is willing to put up the sorts of cash the current U.S. administration is discussing.
There have been a few physics arXiv preprints that seemed worth a mention recently, although all of them have been discussed extensively by Lubos, who seems to be saner these days:
Given this richness of string theory, it might even be logical to adopt the perspective in which string theory is not a candidate for a unique theory of the universe, but represents instead a natural extension and logical completion of quantum field theory. In this picture, string theory would be viewed – just as quantum field theory – as a powerful technological framework, and not as a single theory.
If string theory is such an apparently vast structure, it seems natural to ask whether quantum gravitational phenomena in 3 + 1 spacetime dimensions can be studied in a self-contained manner in a “smaller” framework. A useful example of such a phenomenon is given by Yang-Mills gauge theories in 3 + 1 dimensions. While string theory is clearly a powerful technique for studying properties of Yang-Mills theories, their embedding into string theory is not required for their completeness: In 3 + 1 dimensions, they are UV complete in the framework of quantum field theory.
In analogy with Yang-Mills, we are motivated to look for a “small” theory of quantum gravity in 3+1 dimensions, decoupled from strings.
So, the idea seems to be that now string theory is a “logical completion” of qft, although not needed to describe any of the forces we know about.
For two new survey talks at UCSB by Edward Frenkel about geometric Langlands, see here. He also gave an interesting talk there as part of the KITP string theory program, on recent work (summarized here) that has relations to both geometric Langlands and to the pure spinor formalism.
Update: One more. The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article on SCOAP3, the plan to make the entire high physics literature open access by coming up with $14 million/year to pay off the publishers. I don’t really see this. The idea seems to be that the money is needed to get peer review, and the size of the literature is about 10,000 papers/year. So, cutting out the publishers, referees could be paid $1,400/paper to do peer review. This might dramatically increase the quality of refereeing, or at least the take-home pay of many physicists. Some quotes:
But Mr. Mele says journals still play a crucial role in the professional life of scientists, even though readership has declined. “We do not buy journals to read them, we buy journals to support them,” he said. “They do something crucial, which is peer review.”
Without journals, he asks, how would colleges evaluate the work of scientists to know whom to hire or whom to promote? And how would other scientists know which of the thousands of preprints contain the most important findings?
“What we are really paying for here is for a service of peer review,” he said.
but here’s the problem, at least in the U.S….
The librarians praised the goals of the project, but some asked whether it was sustainable. After all, if the journals make their contents free online, why should college libraries use their shrinking resources to pay for them?
Some librarians at public institutions say they cannot participate even if they want to. “Most states require that public funds allocated for purchasing have to be used to actually purchase something,” said Dennis Dillon, associate director for research services at the University of Texas at Austin. That is certainly the case in Texas, he said. “They can’t be used to pay for something that everyone already has for free.”
Update: For more LHC-related hysteria generated by publicity-hungry academics, see this. It originates with a group at the Institute for the Future of Humanity, last seen promoting the idea that we live in a simulation.