Yet More Links

Frank Wilczek, besides his other accomplishments, is also the star of an opera, entitled Atom and Eve. More commentary on this from Betsy Devine, and Jennifer Ouellette, as well as a report here, and a review here.

Paul Cook has a report on the Templeton-sponsored panel discussion at Cambridge on The Nature of Space and Time.

In October 2004 the French magazine Ciel et Espace published an article about the Bogdanovs entitled The Bogdanov Mystification (English version here). They sued the magzine in December 2004 for defamation. Evidently a French court has now decided the case against the Bogdanovs, fining them 2500 Euros for frivolous litigation and requiring them to pay the magazine’s costs.

[Note: Igor Bogdanoff claims that the case was dropped about one year ago, that according to the judgement there was no trial, and the 2500 euro fine was a simple consequence of their not showing up for the last meeting with the judge.]

The Institute for Advanced Study has been famous in recent years for the emphasis of its theoretical group on string theory. They seem to be moving a bit more towards phenomenology these days, and there will be a workshop on axions there next month.

The Tevatron is performing well, recently achieving new record luminosities. You can keep track of their progress here.

LBL will soon be hosting a conference to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Particle Data Group.

Chad Orzel has a perceptive review of Not Even Wrong at his blog, Uncertain Principles.

Update: There’s a tradition among bloggers of “carnivals”, collections of the more interesting recent blog postings in a certain area. The physical sciences now have one of their own, the first edition is now available, and it’s called Philosophia Naturalis.

Update: Note added about the Bogdanov court case, giving claims about this by Igor Bogdanoff.

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22 Responses to Yet More Links

  1. hack says:

    That’s too bad about the Bogdanov brothers. Did Lubos testify on their behalf?

  2. Apropos says:

    BTW I have not seen Lubos posts lately, given the turmoil with ST is that a signal that they are abandoning their trenches and running for cover?.

  3. Geon says:

    Dr.Woit,
    I respect your view on current status of hep-th but do you not think maintaining this blog(and repetitive nature of articles) and publishing books for ‘general public’ is just ‘not good enough’? If you despise string theory, are you working on any alternate theory? As long as you spend your day ‘putting links on webpages’ I don’t think your opinion will be given much credit.

  4. TheGraduate says:

    Geon,

    I can’t speak for anybody else but I find these links excellent. I am always hearing about things I wouldn’t know about otherwise.

  5. Thomas Larsson says:

    The Tevatron is performing well, recently achieving new record luminosities. You can keep track of their progress here.

    I am under the impression that 2 fb^-1 is an important limit for the Tevatron – is this not the point where a light Higgs, and thus indirectly susy, could be ruled out at 95% CL (a 5-sigma discovery would take much more, though)? With 1.9 fb^-1 and counting, Tevatron data are starting to be really interesting.

  6. Geon says:

    Sure, I have nothing against useful links. But I guess my point to Dr.Woit was that convincing 100 lamers(via non technical argument with no single equation, referring to ‘personal’ matter, criticising string theory and yet he himself can only ‘speculate’ on alternatives) is not only easy but is pointless. In that regard I strongly think doing “something” even though it may not be ‘real’ physics is more productive.

  7. Alejandro Rivero says:

    Geon, it is a regret than the english language does not have two different pronouns for “you” in plural and singular situation, because if it had you cound have considered if it is meaningful to ask a particular person about a global issue. And I would say yes, collectivelly we are working towards other approaches and yes, Woit (and Smolin) sort of political trenches are part of the fight.

  8. Heineken says:

    i really have nothing constructive to say, but thought i’d take a moment to talk about the misappropriation of terms from philosophy and the arts. Lubos has called Smolin’s viewpoint “postmodern”. now i have not read Smolin’s latest, but i am familiar with some of his nontechnical works including 3 Roads to Quantum Gravity. getting to the zero dimensional point, it is string theory which strikes me as postmodern, not any other alternative approach to quantum gravity. one main idea in postmodernism is a rejection or questioning of the rational approach e.g. the scientific method (post Enlightenment hegemony).

    string theory, at least to a layman like myself, has become disconnected from experiment. this hardly strikes me as rational, Enlightened, or even scientific. Lubos (the master of puppets) states that Smolin’s ideas are postmodern, yet a theory that misses the mark by 55 orders of magnitude is not?

    “Radical as the fundamentals of quantum mechanics were, it’s easy to overreach when applying them in nonscientific contexts. I find the most bothersome example to be the frequently abused uncertainty principle, which is often misappropriated to speciously justify inaccuracy.” (Warped Passages, L. Randall)

    philosophers and layman get blasted when they misuse terms from science, yet when it’s the other way around …

    i think i’ll order a copy of Alan Sokal’s new book “Fashionable Nonsense (Pulling Your Strings Since 1984)”. i enjoyed Dawkin’s review of it, entitled “Lubos Disrobed … And It Ain’t a Pretty Sight”.

    Lumo, the matrix theory has you.

  9. Geon says:

    What has coming up with an alternative theory got to do with political fight?? I thought we are doing physics here?

  10. TheGraduate says:

    Geon,

    Not every argument requires an equation to be valid.

  11. Santo D'Agostino says:

    Geon,

    Criticizing a proposed theory is an essential part of the scientific enterprise.

    Heineken,

    Very nice point about postmodernism, and your last line was amusing.

    All the best,
    Santo

  12. Geon says:

    Santo D’Agostino and to others(Is Dr.Woit ignoring my comments?),
    I have nothing against criticism on string theory. I myself don’t yet believe in string theory too. But! I would rather be ‘deeply unsatisfied string theorist’ rather than ‘complaining non-string theorist’ for the reasons I have described above. Heineken said “a theory that misses the mark by 55 orders of magnitude ” do you really think string theorist are all happy about this? I think what drives them despite these nonsensical results are 1. There are ‘indications’ which gives them a strong feeling that ‘something’ is going on with string theory(yes it might be just some miraculous coincidences or maybe not!), 2. Simply this is the most developed work in progress we have at the moment as far as quantum gravity is concerned. I don’t know how could someone be as ‘confident’ as Dr.Motl but still it ‘does’ produce some signs which especially at this time of the century when there is hardly any experimental lead, is all we can rely on. Getting to point, string theory ‘definitely’ has worthy to be studied+alternative ‘could’ be addressed but you can still do this with your mouth shut+publicly advertising such situation to ‘general public’ is not ‘physicists’ job but that of reporters.

  13. Peter Woit says:

    Geon,

    I’m not ignoring your comments, I was waking up, having a long breakfast, during which I was starting to read a new book that just arrived (“Dirac Operators and Representation Theory”), which looks like it should be quite helpful in relation to ideas about BRST that I’ve been working on.

    Sure, I’d rather be spending time making positive progress on alternatives to string theory than criticizing string theory. But for twenty years physicists who were well aware of the problems with string theory kept their mouths shut while particle theory was taken over by people endlessly repeating the same overhyped claims for string theory, including the ones that you are echoing. I think this has done a huge amount of damage to the field, and someone needs to point this out and give an accurate picture of what is going on here. This is not something that a reporter can do, it requires someone who knows the subject. I’d much rather it be someone else, and I hope to spend more of my time working on positive alternatives, but I’m not about to shut up, no matter how much string theorists would like that to happen.

  14. Geon says:

    I apologise for using ths strong language there I didn’t imply that to you if you know what I mean. I certainly admire your view and I think it’s as equally valid as any other string theorists view of this nature at this stage. In some sense I think you are more ‘concerned’(in a positive way) and true ‘physicist’ in the sense that your moral is to put mother nature first. Your book did have some positive effect on me personally and gave me an opportunity to think about what made me up until recently to be brainwashed about string theory. In that process I did realise that it wasn’t really due to my deep understanding of these subjects but rather due to flash campaign presented by Dr.Greene. Now, I think I am in the state of neutral, but certainly I’m not a critic like you simply because I don’t have much knowledge yet. But certain things that I pointed out above is really addressing different ‘attitude’ taken by you and by string theorists, and I think the latter are in a way ‘trying’ whereas I get impression that you focus bit too much on publicising this situation.

  15. comentator says:

    It should be mentioned also the brain drain; Taking enthusiastic graduates to study ST and shutting off other areas of study for alternatives . this point has been mentioned before and is really troublesome not to mention the publications wall.

  16. King Ray says:

    Einstein once said in his later years words to the effect that the feeling of conviction you have that a theory is correct has absolutely no correlation with whether it is actually true or not. I think the string theorists need to understand Einstein’s comment, which came from his being totally convinced he was on the right track a number of times in his search for a unified field theory, only to realize that he was going in the wrong direction. Now we know he didn’t have enough information. The string theorists refuse to accept that they are on the wrong track.

  17. Loopy says:

    I can’t wait to see tomorrow’s post about Gregg Easterbrook’s article on Slate.

  18. SFB says:

    Geon et. al.,
    string theory takes an enormous amount of money away from other approaches. This happens via suported graduated students, faculty positions, grants, etc. Many of the people in charge of such money are not experts in string theory, other approaches, nor the philosophy of science. They have to make decisions based, in part, on things like the zeitgeist. Therefore, it is only fair to popularly express the many doubts about string theory, as string theorists have popularly expressed the many hopes for it.

    The brian drain is secondary in my view: these people would perform calculations within *whatever* approach was most popular at the time in their careers they have to show something.

    None of the string theorists have been able to approach the real problem: the foundations of quantum mechanics. They should be exploring the mathematical concequences of quant-ph/0506228. The fact that they are working on string theory is a commentary on how superficial their thinking is: string theory relies on mathematical coincidences instead of principles that must be true. Of course, workers in other approaches are guilty of this too.

    I realize that it *looks* like unification is essential to string theory. But I don’t see why this might not be an artifact of counting the number of parameters of the theory in a conceptually anthropomorphic way. Is the number of dimensions of the theory a free parameter? Is the number of kinds of dimensions (compact, etc.) a free parameter? Is **each** dimension to be counted as a parameter??? Until there is a theory (in the philosophy of science) that removes anthropomorphic biases and is universally applicable that gives the number of parameters (free and bound) of a physical theory I believe no argument can be made that the dimensions are not each parameters–meaning that string theory might assume just as much as the assumption of the trivial union of GR and QFT in the first place. (I could do any of this myself, given the salary of any one person paid to work on string theory.) I have not even mentioned the “landscape”.

    I would like to see a return to common sense (as understood within physcis). See the paper mentioned above.

  19. Chris W. says:

    I just skimmed Easterbrook’s piece. With friends like him, you don’t need enemies. I would suggest ignoring him.

  20. Whoman says:

    Peter,
    Talking about Tempelton… I thought you would be interested to know that fqxi.org has announced grant winners. The two top winners are Louis Crane (A New Approach To Quantum Gravity, With Possible Applications) and Steven Giddings (Observation And Non-Locality In Quantum Gravitational Physics).

  21. Shantanu says:

    Peter, sorry to change topics, but I am wondering if you looked at the videos
    of talks at the string phenomenology workshop at Santa Barbara ?
    any particular talks look interesting or such?

  22. woit says:

    Whoman,

    I did see that announcement, wrote a bit about it here when it came out at the end of July.

    Shantanu,

    I have a pretty low opinion of the whole concept of “string phenomenology”, but did look at some of the talks on the KITP website. Nothing I saw there changed my mind. That field continues to produce a lot of hype and nothing close to a real prediction.

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