This Evening’s Finds in Theoretical Physics

It’s late tonight and I have to prepare a class for tomorrow, so I don’t have time now to figure out what is going on here. But if you want to see something really strange, take a look at Susskind’s latest, together with the revised version of an earlier paper.

Another new paper this evening is Witten’s latest. This looks quite interesting, but definitely will take some serious effort to understand.

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13 Responses to This Evening’s Finds in Theoretical Physics

  1. Kyle says:

    DR Lunsford,

    At first I thought your link was too over the top to be funny. By the time I reached the meat of the page I found it quite amusing (quotes like “The details of the calculations have been (/are being/will be) presented elsewhere; here we give cartoons.” I thought were rather ingenious).

    However, after thinking about it, I’ve decided it is much too serious to be funny.

    Just somenobodies opinion,


  2. Fyodor says:

    I’d just like to clarify that there is nothing wrong with making a mistake, and I too thought the way Susskind retracted was rather funny. But this attitude, that you can do research without reading the literature, that it’s ok to write really stupid papers as long as you are prepared to retract the following week, gets my goat. Susskind should remember that despite all his recent vagaries he is still a very influential figure in this field. Subjects like wormholes [in which I’ve never published, by the way, and I have no intention of doing so] have a somewhat dubious status, and Susskind is propagating the notion that this field is not quite respectable: either you respect his “deep physical intuition” and assume that in some way he will turn out to be right, or you think he is an idiot and that only idiots work on wormholes. Either way, the subject loses. People should never underestimate the importance of these vague feelings about which things are respectable and which aren’t.

    Finally, I note that everyone seems to think that Susskind’s misadventures are funny, and that nobody should think the less of him because he has written a stupid paper. But nobody laughed when Chapline went off the rails. What’s sauce for the goose ought to be sauce for the turkey.

  3. D R Lunsford says:

    I have a great sense of humor – this wasn’t funny, rather, disgusting.

    THIS is funny:


  4. Aaron says:

    Grow a sense of humor. It’ll help you out a lot in life.

  5. D R Lunsford says:

    I suppose it was beyond his Holiness to simply admit “I made a bad mistake”

    Abstract: In an earlier paper, the author made an elementary blunder, rectified here.

    0 Overview

    The paper is question is wrong. Ignore it.

    1 References


  6. Anonymous says:

    It must have been humiliating for Susskind. Is that why he refered to himself as “the author of that paper”?

  7. Chris Oakley says:

    we can hope that the faint possibility that they are about to make utter fools of themselves will make them hesitate.

    The worrying thing is that they don’t seem to make fools of themselves when they publish. Except, of course, to the majority of the followers of this web log.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Good one Fyodor!

    Susskind has obviously crossed into a higher plane of existence in which quaint academic formalities such as citations are obsolete. The obvious next step is for him to stop publishing altogether and transmit his thoughts directly via an EEG connected to a blog.

  9. Fyodor Uckoff says:

    First Chapline, then Susskind….
    Surely, *surely* these gentlemen know that there are huge literatures on the subjects into which they have stumbled. And yet, in their vast ignorance and pride, they think that they can dispense with a little background reading, and revolutionize these fields with the help of a little freshman physics.

    I would like to suggest a cure. The arxiv should automatically reject any submission with fewer than 20 references, not counting popular books or articles in the National Inquirer. True, this would not force the likes of Chapline and Susskind to undertake the onerous task of finding out what mere mortals have said, but at least it would acquaint them with the sheer volume of previous work. And then we can hope that the faint possibility that they are about to make utter fools of themselves will make them hesitate.

  10. Aaron says:

    Lenny knew about the flux through the cycle, although he didn’t use those words to describe it in the original paper. As he says in the followup paper, the result depends on what initial state you prepare the flux through the wormhole in.

  11. Robert says:

    Everybody I talked to reagarding Susskind’s paper (V1) agreed that obviously he missed the flux through the non-trivial cycle. So, why bother. This ‘discovery’ didn’t make it into the popular press (“Stanford scientist disproved wormholes”) so there was no need to send letters to the editior (as I did for newspapers reporting on Chapline’s discoveries).

  12. Aaron says:

    Check out Kapustin’s paper in conjunction with Witten’s, I think.

  13. garrett says:

    Heh, nothing like an April fools joke on himself to boost his credibility. Bet he’s sorry he left the topic of the anthropic principle to try and tackle something interesting.

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