Dine on the Landscape

Michael Dine from Santa Cruz was here at Columbia this afternoon to give a talk on “Branches of the Landscape”. His talk more or less corresponded to his recent paper with the same title. He’s following the philosophy pioneered by Michael Douglas of trying to look at the statistics of KKLT vacuum states, fixing the observed values of the cosmological constant and electro-weak breaking scales. The hope is that the distribution of supersymmetry breaking scales one gets would allow one to in some sense predict what this scale will be.

Dine finds three disconnected “branches” of the landscape, sets of vacua with different properties. The bottom line is that on two of them you have various problems getting something that looks like the real world, but you can do some kinds of counting. But on one of the branches you get lots of states with badly broken supersymmetry and the vast majority of states are in a region where there seems to be no hope to analyze what is going on. You can’t even say whether the number of these states is finite or infinite. So, he isn’t able to get the sort of prediction he and others were hoping for, but intends to keep working in this area nonetheless, with various ideas of what to try calculating. To me, he didn’t seem to have even a glimmer of a hope of ever getting even the vaguest sort of prediction out of any of this.

He did say that the landscape is now the only idea on the table for getting physics out of string theory. Brian Greene was in the audience and somewhat objected to this. Brian’s point of view appears to be the more traditional one that people should just try and cook up vacua with as many features as possible close to the Standard Model, and that once they’ve got such a thing it will have other implications for physics that can be checked. It seems to me that that kind of work has been going on for more than twenty years with no sign of success, but Brian still believes this will ultimately work out. Dine’s ideas for the future are converging somewhat with Brian’s older point of view. He seems to be giving up somewhat on the idea of counting all vacua in the Landscape, instead thinking about counting vacua satisfying some chosen conditions, e.g. being on one of his three branches. So he may be getting back to the older idea, looking at complicated constructions with some set of conditions imposed on them to make them look like the Standard Model, then hoping to extract something new, perhaps in terms of probability distributions rather than the more specific predictions people used to hope for.

Of course I find this whole thing pretty bizarre, since it’s horrifically ugly, and appears to me to have not the slightest hope of success. It’s discouraging that I don’t see any way of having a rational discussion with the people doing this. They are motivated by a hope that somehow, some way, they will find amidst this complicated mess the Standard Model, in some context that allows them to predict something else. As far as I can tell this is the purest of wishful thinking. They aren’t claiming to find anything encouraging, but they are pressing on, and convincing an increasing number of people to join them. One hopes that sooner or later they’ll get tired of this and move on to something more promising.

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47 Responses to Dine on the Landscape

  1. Eli Rabett says:

    The problem with Lubros Motl on climate is he knows neither the data nor the theory but tries to pull himself up by naive postulates based on a set of partial truths that he has been spoon fed by political allies. When he ventures out of his cozy blog to the real world he gets his ears pinned back and responds with vitriol.

    For a reasonable demonstration of his naivete take a look at http://tinyurl.com/77uqq.

    Since this is a high energy physics blog I won’t press the point but in general I advise against asking oceanographers about string theory and visa versa. In both cases, it is not what you don’t know that kills you, but what you think you know and is dead wrong.

  2. Peter Woit says:

    Hi JC,
    No, “overhead” (also known as ICR = Indirect Cost Recovery) is payments built into most grants for “Indirect Costs”. The idea is that while the grant is specifically paying for costs to the university directly associated with the grant, there are also other costs the university is paying that indirectly support the grant (i.e. the lights in the building, the library, etc.). So universities typically add a charge for ICR as some specific fraction of the grant amount. The fraction is generally quite large.

    So, if you go out and get a grant that is supposed to pay for $100,000 worth of stuff, you actually have to ask the granting agency for more, say $150,000, to pay $50,000 directly to the university for ICR. Universities love this: this is money they can do anything they want with, and coming in in sizable amounts.

  3. JC says:


    What’s the exact nature of these “overhead” payments? Are they like some form of matching funds?

  4. Peter says:

    Hi JC,

    Most theorists who are funded by grants are funded as part of a group. If the group were to lose funding, they’d typically lose funds to hire one or more post-docs, funds to support graduate students, a big chunk of personal cash (“summer salary”), and their university would lose large “overhead” payments.

    This is clearly extremely undesirable. If the NSF or DOE authorities funding work on the landscape ever realize that they are funding pseudo-science and shut off grants to people doing it, “landscape architecture” will quickly become a rather unpopular subject. This probably won’t happen though as long as string theory peer reviewers keep telling the NSF and DOE what geniuses these people are.

  5. JC says:


    What normally happens to tenured theory professors who end up losing most or all of their grant funding? The cases I’m familiar with were of tenured experimentalists who lost their grant funding, and subsequently had things happen like their lab space being eventually taken away. Some “deadwood” theorists I can recall, seemed to be mostly guys who just sat around all day drinking coffee or reading a newspaper. (I don’t know offhand if any of these “deadwood” theorists lost their grant funding).

    If a bunch of tenured folks working on the string landscape (and/or string folks in general) end up losing their funding, do you think they will lose much of their influence in the physics world? (ie. Will the reference letters written by these guys be worth more than the paper they’re written on?)

  6. Peter says:


    I’m curious how this will play out too. I would think a lot of physics departments would have trouble with this, but probably not those whose theory groups are dominated by string theorists. One thing I didn’t mention about Dine’s talk. He spent a lot of time going on about what a genius Michael Douglas is, along with some of his collaborators. People doing totally loony-tunes landscape stuff will probably end up having recommendation letters from people like Dine saying they are geniuses, and this may get them a job.


    One problem with your analogy of string theory to QFT or the measurement problem in QM is that those are both subjects for which there is a vast amount of experimental data. Figuring out exactly what is going on with rigorous QFT is hard, but you know you are doing physics since non-rigorous QFT describes the world so well. There’s not a smidgen of experimental evidence for string theory, so why should you believe that
    its problems can be solved, but for mysterious reasons this is incredibly difficult?

  7. Fred says:

    I don’t agree, many theorists are very much against the anthropic principle. In fact those who subscribe to it I would say are in the minority. Of course a few bigshots do believe in it, and they have decent reasons, but its not the last word on the subject.

    The Landscape is a generic feature of string theory, but it does not a priori exclude a selection mechanism. People are actively looking for such a thing, even though the problem is *hard*.

    But then again many problems in physics are hard and have resisted years of study. Like trying to make mathematical sense out of quantum field theory, or the measurement problem etc etc. It doesnt mean that there isn’t a good answer for all of them, its just we haven’t found it yet.

  8. Quantoken says:


    Well said! Good points made!

    I might also add that most people discussing about Lubos’s publicationsnever meant any personal attack at all. We LOVE lubos. He made this blog of Peter’s so much fun to read because of his participation. It would have been very boring and no fun at all if only one voice can be heard on Peter’s blog. Lubos had been outspoken on a lot of things and I like that, although I think that might hurt himself sometimes.

    Talk about the peer review process. You do not publish a paper for your personal archival purpose, do you? You publish something to make it available for others to discuss it, comment on it, and criticize it, and pick it apart. Sometimes this leads to evaluation of the person who write papers. It’s quite normal. And this peer review process can also be extended to the fact that one writes many papers, or one does not write at all for a while. What’s wrong with that?


  9. JC says:


    Do you think any untenured folks working on the string landscape stuff will get tenure in the near future (at a research university physics department, that is)?

    On the surface it would seem a bit odd for a physics department to be awarding tenure to somebody who’s working on an pseudo-scientific anthropic problem. Though awarding tenure for somebody working on anthropic stuff wouldn’t be too surprising in another department like philosophy or one that does postmodernism stuff.

  10. Peter Woit says:

    Hi Jean Paul,

    Sorry, but I’m not going to remove the comments, partly because I try to err on the side of letting people say what they want, partly because I think the discussion does have some relevance to the subject of Dine’s talk.

    As I’ve made clear, I think the whole landscape business is pseudo-science and the fact that it has become the latest fad in particle theory is a complete disgrace and disaster for the field. This disaster is happening because virtually no one in the field is willing to speak up against what is going on. Gross famously complained nearly two years ago at Strings 2003, invoking Churchill’s words from the Battle of Britain, but he has been publicly quiet about this recently. Lee Smolin has written a paper about why this is not science, but he’s a very polite sort. Lubos is the only string theorist I can think of who is forcefully making the case against this nonsense. I think it’s brave of him, although perhaps foolhardy since he doesn’t have a permanent job.

    The whole issue of what a young, untenured theorist should be working on now is a very important one. If the latest fad is complete pseudo-science, can one survive professionally by arguing strongly against it, especially if you yourself don’t have any really good ideas to work on?

    As for his career prospects, I wouldn’t worry too much. Historically, Harvard junior faculty generally don’t end up getting tenure there, but do end up getting a good permanent job elsewhere.

    One argument for removing the comments would be that some of them are inappropriate personal criticisms, which in many cases might be a good reason for removal. However, in this case since Lubos has never been shy about vociferously personally criticizing those who disagree with him (if they’re not string theorists….), I’m not going to worry too much about his feelings getting hurt by this.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Peter — please remove this whole chain of comments on Lubos’ academic qualifications from amateur/aspiring scientists like Barry, N et al. It is inappropriate and completely
    off-track from Dine’s talk. Poor Michael Dine — I wish his talk had stimulated more interesting comments, but it’s very hard to believe in a genuine change of mind of a physicist who used to be one of the outspoken believers in the traditional dogma
    of predictability. I am still one of them, and instead of the landscape, I work on more formal things these days and spend more time in the garden, thinking about the next step.

  12. Barry O'Genesis says:

    Well, “Michael” [what’s your real name by the way?] you have managed to completely misunderstand my point. Suggest you re-read the part beginning with “I fear that he may be a victim ….” I’m pro-Lubos, not anti. Just to spell it out, there are plenty of young string theorists out there putting out papers very regularly, and they are going to be the ones getting tenure. It’s true that young profs are sometimes cut some slack at first. But not in string theory. And certainly not at Harvard. I hope by the way that nobody thinks that this discussion is off-topic. On the contrary, the real way to judge the state of a subject is to see what its prominent practitioners are, or in this case aren’t, publishing. In that connection I think that all this stuff about the landscape gets more attention than it merits. Look at Vafa’s papers over the last year to get an idea of what other people are doing.

  13. Thomas Larsson says:

    From here: “My efforts to get a strings course at MIT for next fall seem to be failing. At Harvard, too, it seems that there will also not be a strings course next year. How can this be?”

  14. Anonymous says:

    N – your dislike for Lubos’ style does NOT justify your cheap shots. Just stay away from his blog. I guess that you are not an academic, and even if you are, judging from your manners, certainly somewhere in the boondocks.
    Whatever your profession is, you are just a little mean and frustrated person, to avoid some French expletives that you deserve.


  15. Anonymous says:

    Let me ask you something Mike, are you Lubos’ squire?
    You seem to know what Lubos’ reaction was, can you please tell us why did he decide to shut down anonymous coments?
    This is funny, I wasn’t pretending anything and Lubos’ paranoia, which you describe and seem to be aware of, is frightening.
    Maybe he is really busy insulting people, or perhaps he doesnt have anything in mind, the true of the matter is that you are as contemptuous as he is and that’s just sad. I dont even know who you are either ( Michael Jordan? Michael Schumacher? Michael Jackson? oh god please dont!), and dont really care to be honest. If Lubos were in peace with himself he wouldn’t have reacted as he did… ‘say no more’


    ps Sorry Peter, this stops here.

  16. M says:

    ‘I agree we should stop discussing about Lubos, but the landscape is so boring and hopeless …’

    This begs a question: Lubos doesn’t embrace the landscape idea, but much of the action seems to be taking place there. Is his recent publication rate a symptom of a more widespread lack of other ideas outside of exploration of the implications of a landscape?


  17. Chris Oakley says:

    I thought the tenure system is supposed to encourage academic freedom, but it seems to have exactly the opposite effect precisely because it is given too late and not easily.

    The tenure system is designed to protect useless, burned-out old men from being sidelined by those younger, brighter, and more dynamic than themselves.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps Lubos hasn’t published anything because he is too busy insulting on the internet?

  19. Anonymous says:

    I thought the tenure system is supposed to encourage academic freedom, but it seems to have exactly the opposite effect precisely because it is given too late and not easily.

  20. Michael says:

    Dear N,

    It is just too plausible that you are being dishonest. If you were so close to Lubos that you can casually ask him about his work, he’d probably know who you are even if you go by the name of “N”. By only pretending this, you cause Lubos the discomfort of wondering who in his immediate environment is so disloyal towards him — transparently the strategy of a foe.

    Also, if you had more experience with academia you’d know that your assessment of the situation is simply false. I have known many young professors and 95% of them did not publish in about a year after getting their first job. Tenure is going to be decided based on what is published eventually, even if it took more than a year.

    Finally, if you were not a foe of Lubos’, why would you drag this discussion into the public? There is absolutely no benefit in doing this, unless you hate the man — which you partially admit.

    I don’t know who you are, but I dislike your dishonest cowardly attitude. The same is true for that other “Barry” person who’s posting here.


  21. Anonymous says:

    ‘This discussion is pathetic.’

    Dear Mike,
    There was no discussion to begin with, I just pointed out what Lubos reaction was to a simple question : “What are you working in, I havent seen a paper of yours in a year, is this your miraculous year?”. The last part was a joke I hoped he would understand considering the amount of ‘jokes’ he produces per post.
    Nobody reacts like that (shuting down anonymous comments) unless something is going on, and as Quantoken pointed out, I wonder what that is. I dont really care if Lubos gets tenure (although it would be very sad for him if not, which is the most likely scenario btw) I dont like his attitude in general but he deserves my respect as anybody else.
    With respect to timing, the only time where a phyicisist stops production is 1) the year he/she graduates and gets his/her first postdoc, 2) The year of two applying for jobs and 3) the day he/she dies…and I am not sure about the later ๐Ÿ™‚

    I agree we should stop discussing about Lubos, but the landscape is so boring and hopeless that I cant find anything there to talk about ๐Ÿ˜‰

    best wishes,

  22. Michael says:

    Dear “Barry O’Genesis”,

    if I had jealousy dripping from my nose, I’d hide behind a silly nickname, too.

    Best wishes,

  23. Barry O'Genesis says:

    Don’t you worry, he’s going to do just fine.

    No, he isn’t, not at this rate.
    I fear that he may be a victim of the widespread superstition that one should only publish if one has done something really important. In reality one should let other people decide whether one’s ideas are any good.

  24. Michael says:

    This discussion is pathetic. It is evidence of the fact that few people here have any experience in academia. When someone gets their first faculty job, they tend to publish everything they got right before that, in order to get the job. Then, starting with no work in progress, there are plenty of new responsibilities: teaching, advising, faculty meetings etc. pp. This slows down any project one might take on. In fact, it seems most young professors need at least a year to “get back on track” with research.

    You guys are just jealous big weenies, admit it! Don’t you worry, he’s going to do just fine.


  25. dyspeptic says:

    Is this blog about theories that are not even wrong, or is it about Lubos Motl?

  26. Quantoken says:

    Some one said: “By the way, I asked Lubos why he didnt publish anything in a year and what kind of projects he had in mind. He always talks about others ideas, I gave him the chance to talk about his. After that, anonymous comments are no longer allowed in his blog.”

    I am also curious what happen to Lubos. It is nothing unusual that one has not published anything in one year. The guy who proved the Fermat big theorem did not publish in 9 years. And Peter doesn’t publish in years also. Frankly I think scientists should spend more time doing REAL researches, and spend less time publishing papers, if you can write just one paper that really means something useful, in your lifetime, that’s pretty good. 99.9% of publications on arxiv are rubbishes that only waste time of those people who read them.

    But it is odd for some one like Lubos, who needs count of published papers to help him get tenureship. And it’s especially odd that merely asking him about this would make him turn off anonymous comments on his blog, some thing he never did before. What’s going on?

    Maybe he really is NOT that much of a diehard string theorist as he wants us to believe. I feel his religious belief is probably shaking, evident from the fact that he became increasingly skeptical to point of views of other string theory people. I guess he is beginning to realize something is wrong.

    He is a smart guy and certainly has an independent mind, evident from the fact that he is able to question and challenge the global warming theory, an establishment crackpot theory that’s endorsed by 99% of experts in that field. If he can see something wrong in global warming, he surely is able to see something wrong with his own establishment camp.

    He reminds me of Anakin Skywalker, a young and fearless jedi who has fatal weaknesses, and who was turned towards the dark side but ultimately his sould is salvageable.


  27. Thomas Larsson says:

    As a much more appropriate analogy than Hamilton-Jacobi theory, let us compare string theory with aether theory. 110 years ago, aether theory had accomplished great things, such as the unification of electromagnetism with acustics and the confirmed prediction of electromagnetic waves. Moreover, all good mathematics, at least PDEs, is really aether mathematics. It is true that aether theory has problems to explain the Michelson-Morley experiment, but the vanishing aether wind is just one number. In view of the other great successes of aether theory, should we really worry about just this one number, when aether theory does so much else? Why not just leave this one number for future generations who will know more?

    One reason to worry about the vanishing aether wind is that it is incompatible with the basic postulates of aether theory: the logic goes
    no aether wind => no aether => no aether theory.
    The positive cosmological constant has a similar effect. We have all heard Lubos lecture about the S-matrix being the only observable in string theory. Well, if the cosmological constant is positive, the universe looks like de Sitter space, and there cannot be any S-matrix in de Sitter space. So here the logic goes
    positive CC => no S-matrix => no string theory.
    The same argument applies of course if you replace S-matrix by boundary CFT. No wonder that people do higher acrobatics to avoid this simple conclusion.

    To see the problems, look e.g. at Jacques Distler’s Supercritical post:

    Two types of backgrounds have been proposed:
    1. A flat background, with a linearly varying dilaton (varying along a timelike direction).
    2. An AdS background.

    To me, it sounds like he is really saying:

    Two types of values for the cosmological constant have been proposed:
    1. Zero.
    2. Negative.

    Anyone who has not been asleep for that past six years would realize that (2.13 +- 0.1) 10^-3 eV is neither zero nor negative by some 20 sigma.

    Or look at Lubos’ post Behind the horizon. The idea here is that because the cosmological constant is found to be positive in our universe, we posit by royal fiat that it is negative in an unobservable multiverse in which our universe is merely a bubble, and that everything worth knowning in fact lives on the boundary of this multiverse. Note that physics does not take place neither in our universe nor at the boundary of our universe, but rather at the boundary of the unobserved and unobservable multiverse. For some reason this appears to involve anthropic reasoning as well.

    This work is apparently due to Steve Shenker, whom I admire for FQS. However, nowadays it is F rather than S who is doing the right thing by declaring defeat.

  28. Anonymous says:

    ‘[Lubos] (has) made lots of really awesome blog posts. I’m sure the tenure committe will take that into consideration.’

    Good, we started with peer review in journals, then we moved to the arxiv and lots of garbage per day, now do we also need to think on appearing in Lubos’ blog the get tenure?
    I am not against blogs, I do read the posts, but come on where are we gonna end! in friendster with a link to Ed?

    By the way, I asked Lubos why he didnt publish anything in a year and what kind of projects he had in mind. He always talks about others ideas, I gave him the chance to talk about his. After that, anonymous comments are no longer allowed in his blog.

    Genius…they dont understand us right Lubos? ๐Ÿ™‚


  29. Quantoken says:

    I agree there is absolutely NOT an analogy between the Hamilton dynamics and string theory. The Hamiltonian description of dynamics and the Newtonian description are completely identical in physics and completely equivalent in mathematics. They describe the same physics, but merely use different mathematical language. Hamilton dynamics is certainly useful even if it predicts nothing more than what Newtonian dynamics already predict, because the particular mathematics form may help our understanding. It’s like “5-3=2” and “2+3=5”. It’s different ways of decribing the same thing, but to a kid he may find it easier to understand addition than subtraction.

    And it is ridiculous to suggest that without Hamilton form of dynamics, there would be no quantum mechanics. It’s a pure random happenedness of human evolution that we come across particular specific mathematical forms to describe nature. Mathematically there can be an infinite number of different but all equivalent ways of describe the same thing in nature. The Schrodinger Picture was invented because we have Hamiltonian dynamics. But we also have the Heisenberg Picture. And even we have not invented Schrodinger or Heisenberg picture, we would have invented some other pictures, use some other mathematics tools, to describe exactly the same thing in nature. As long as quantum effects are discovered experimentally, theory will be developed using whatever mathematics tool is available to describe them.

    But super string theory is totally different. It does NOT describe the same world that existing theories are describing. Our world is 3+1 dimention and SS describes a 10 dimentional world. Any competent mathematician will have no problem deriving Newtonian dynamics from Hamiltonian one, or vise versa, but SS theory so far fails to figure out a way to “compactify 6 extra-dimentions” and derive our 4-D world.

    There is also no experimental observation that leads to a postulation that leads to SS theory, the way equivalence principle leads to GR. Certainly there is also no theoretical calculation of SS that relates to anything to experimental observation.

    So, so far, SS has nothing to do with physics, but is merely a pretty good mind buggling mind exercise, that we see has the good potential of driving a few good mathematicians crazy or go nuts. Same thing as the 3-torus world exam problem Sean Carroll gave to his students. He gave me zero point because I pointed out to him that it’s merely good mind exercise but does not have anything to do with physics or GR, since 3-torus world does not describe our own universe.


  30. D R Lunsford says:

    String theory is being set up as a fundamental theory of nature, that matter “really is” made from umpteen-dimensional hair scrunchies. It should be obvious that there is no analogy. There *is* a direct analogy with Ptolemaic epicycles, or the elastic ether, or even say the Bohr-Sommerfeld atom (this gives too much credit to ST). It’s easy to make outlandish models and push them to infinity. It’s hard to have insights that lead to real physical progress.


  31. Fyodor says:

    Hamilton’s reformulation of dynamics was not set up as a fundamental theory of nature.

    Exactly — and yet it eventually led to great new discoveries. If the mentality at that time were similar to today’s, somebody would immediately have suggested, “hey, let’s complexify the Hamilton-Jacobi function and see where that goes!” And then I can easily imagine Maxwell coming up with the Schrodinger equation. And I can also imagine somebody in 1870 saying, “What a load of rubbish! You’d need an accelerator at least three feet long to check that!” But if they had pushed ahead, who knows, we might have had the Oprah show beamed into every home in 1914, and ghetto blasters in 1921. The possibilities are endless.

    And it fact it does have observational consequences – geometric optics would have been impossible to discover from F=ma.

    I hope you don’t mean to say that Hamilton’s work is only interesting from that point of view.

    Look, jokes aside, all I am saying is that it took close to a century to get from Hamilton to Schrodinger. I don’t see why string theory has to publish or perish so fast, particularly when there are no serious alternatives. If string theorists just come up with a new angle on general relativity from a quantum point of view, well, Hamilton did no more for Newton. And anyone who proposes to put a stop to string research had better have a damn good alternative on offer. Finally, the best way to prove that the landscape is crap is to work on it.

  32. D R Lunsford says:

    Well F, this is a non-point – sophistry. Hamilton’s reformulation of dynamics was not set up as a fundamental theory of nature. And it fact it does have observational consequences – geometric optics would have been impossible to discover from F=ma. So what you’ve inadvertently done is to illustrate how real physics works with both reality and mathematical models.


  33. Arun says:

    Fyodor neglects the fact that String Theory does not have in its predictions any of the physics that we already know.

  34. Fyodor says:

    THE SCENE: Dublin, 1834
    DRAMATIS PERSONAE : William Rowan Hamilton, natural philosopher, and Padraig Woight, a Peasant.

    SIR WILLIAM: Behold, I have created a new form of dynamics, whereby all the motions of the cosmos are subsumed into one single function, determined by the following extremely simple relations…..


    SIR WILLIAM: Have patience, my boy. Meanwhile, let me borrow yonder trowel so I can carve this onto ye bridge here……


    SIR WILLIAM: Tell that to Lagrange……

  35. Anonymous says:

    It’s too serious to be funny. But most of “scientific” publications nowdays are not much better than computer generated random gibberish. – Quantoken

    Take a look at http://www.mathematik.uni-muenchen.de/~bohmmech/BohmHome/sokalhoax.html


  36. Alejandro says:

    “Let’s see if I’ve got this right: they’re looking for SM properties amongst the vacua, like a three-leafed clover, and completely ignoring the wonderful work of Connes, Marcolli, Kreimer et al on the SM?”

    It is because this work does not allow enough lateral publications. Even the experts on the field take a long time between paper and paper, and most of them include a review of the previous work.

    I lived both the presentations of S T dualities by Witten (at Paris IAMP) and Renormalisation Trees by Connes (at Vietri), and the reception was clearly different. The excitation in Witten was not about the theoretical exposition, but about how many papers could be generated along his lines.

    By the way, the Connes-Marcolli-Kreimer (and Moscovici, and Brouder) line is about renormalization theory in a general way, not only standard model. The line about the standard model is the one starting from Connes-Lott (and Coquereaux et al.) and taking seriously Weyl fermions as carriers of geometrical meaning. Both lines could be married in a unforeseen future.

  37. Quantoken says:

    Who said: “Did you notice that Lubos has not published a paper in 1 year!”

    No paper? No problem! You can easily generate one paper with just a few mouse clicks, and it even gets accepted to a conference. No kidding:


    It’s too serious to be funny. But most of “scientific” publications nowdays are not much better than computer generated random gibberish.


  38. Quantum_Ranger says:

    When is a Vacuum a State?..according to Brian Greene:When it can be described by a Non-Vacuum ‘Dual’ Solution.

    What string theorists seem to be creating, is Two-Half holes out of one hole. You can Take a single brick from a completed or un-completed wall, thing is if one removes the brick prior to completion , you can classify the wall as being incomplete. Likewise if one removes the brick after completion one can never classify it as being complete!

    If one imagines that the FIRST-FOUNDATION brick replaces a Vacuum/hole, the very last brick laid must not be constructed out of material/vacuum identical to the very first brick, it must be comparable to the W-HOLE wall.

    So one arrives at:When is a brick a brick, and a hole a hole!

  39. Anonymous says:

    “Did you notice that Lubos has not published a paper in 1 year!”

    But he’s made lots of really awesome blog posts. I’m sure the tenure committe will take that into consideration.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Somewhere—I think in Disturbing the Universe—Freeman Dyson described Einstein as the savior of physics in the early years of the 20th century. Hyperbolic as this characterization may have been, I find myself thinking that we truly need another such person now—a synthetic intellect who can arrive at a radically simple, unifying perspective on all this, and has the technical chops and rhetorical gifts to make people pay attention and think hard about it. Sounds silly, I know.

    For the time being sheer technical chops has outrun genuine* insight. We have lots of interesting ideas that lend themselves to mathematical development, but don’t seem to get at the heart of the matter. Instead we hope that by exploring the mathematical landscape we’ll stumble on something that somehow just works.

    (* I mean something distinct from, albeit akin to, mathematical insight—something like a new and fruitful metaphysical vision. I don’t think physical insight, as most people now understand it, is up to the task.)

    [“…one should always know what the result of a calculation should look like before attempting it…”]

  41. Anonymous says:

    Hey Peter, I am sure you have probably realized by now but I’d like to point it out anyway. Did you notice that Lubos has not published a paper in 1 year! One day like today but of 2004….
    Either this is his miraculous year or really the string comunity does not have anything promesing to do ๐Ÿ™‚
    I know this is unrelated to the landscape, or perhaps not….
    Anyway, I like Ed’s attitude, he got his fields medal, let’s keep doing math ๐Ÿ™‚

    best regards,

  42. D R Lunsford says:

    JC – two words:

    “Best Buy”


  43. JC says:

    Any guesses as the what the anthropic string folks will be doing if the entire landscape thing ends up as a total failure, and they actually give up?

  44. Quantoken says:

    Peter said:

    “It’s discouraging that I don’t see any way of having a rational discussion with the people doing this. They are motivated by a hope that somehow, some way, they will find amidst this complicated mess the Standard Model, in some context that allows them to predict something else.”

    Why, peter? This is their jobs, remember? What can they do if they do not do research on super string theory? Where do they get funding if they work on SOMETHING ELSE?

    And don’t worry about they getting tired or bored of trying, as long as there continue to be funding for such research. You eat three meals a day and always seem to be eating the same food, do you ever get tired eating? No, you could never be tired of food. So scientists also will never be tired of trying certain ideas, as long as that particular idea continue to bring them funding and something to eat.


  45. Anonymous says:

    Let’s see if I’ve got this right: they’re looking for SM properties amongst the vacua, like a three-leafed clover, and completely ignoring the wonderful work of Connes, Marcolli, Kreimer et al on the SM?

  46. Anonymous says:

    Simple, the Intelligent Designer chose this particular vacuum, because he liked it.

  47. Anonymous says:

    But even if they do find a vacuum which gives rise to the Standard Model — and given the astronomical number of vacua, it may even be likely — don’t they still have to explain why that particular vacuum was chosen?

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