Fundamental Physics Prize

String theory may not be doing so well in the popular press or among physicists, but at least a fabulously wealthy Russian investor is a fan. Yuri Milner recently deposited $3 million each in the bank accounts of 5 string theorists (basically the theorists at the IAS and Ashoke Sen) and four others, choosing them himself as recipients of the “Fundamental Physics Prize”. It seems he intends to keep doing this in the future, making “Fundamental Physics” a very lucrative business to be in.

Update: Now that I’m awake, I noticed what is odd about this prize, after realizing that the winners are kind of a list of the most prominent people in the field who haven’t won a Nobel Prize. What this does is turn the Nobel Prize on its head; you get it for doing work that is untestable or wrong, but that has a high profile:

Unlike the Nobel in physics, the Fundamental Physics Prize can be awarded to scientists whose ideas have not yet been verified by experiments, which often occurs decades later. Sometimes a radical new idea “really deserves recognition right away because it expands our understanding of at least what is possible,” Mr. Milner said.

Peter Higgs’s ideas from 50 years ago have finally been verified by experiment, and as a result, if he can hang in there, he may share (probably 1/3) a Nobel Prize of nearly $1.5 million $1.2 million (reduced recently from $1.5 million). The Fundamental Physics Prize winners get about six 7.5 times more for ideas that have gotten a lot of hype, but no experimental test (or at least not enough to satisfy the Nobel Committee of physicists). Even better, you get the prize for your over-hyped ideas even if experiment does show them to be wrong:

Dr. Arkani-Hamed, for example, has worked on theories about the origin of the Higgs boson, the particle recently discovered at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, and about how that collider could discover new dimensions. None of his theories have been proven yet. He said several were “under strain” because of the new data.

One wonders about the implications of this for the future of theoretical physics: why should young theorists work on unpopular ideas and/or try hard to find testable ones? That will get you only $500K $400K, and there’s $3 million to be had if you work instead on a speculative and untestable idea that you see on TV.

Update: The Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation has a website here. The board consists of Yuri Milner and Steven Weinberg (although it is specified that only Milner chose the prize recipients). The goal of the prize is to “bring long overdue recognition” to its recipients and “more freedom and opportunity to pursue even greater future accomplishments”. It’s not quite clear why the particle physics professors at the Institute for Advanced Study (all of whom got a prize) have been suffering from a lack of freedom and opportunity to purse their research.

Update: For a profile of Yuri Milner by Michael Wolff at Wired, see here.

Update: Geoff Brumfiel at Nature has a story about this here. Ian Sample covers the story for the Guardian here.

Update: Adrian Cho at Science reports this story as Russian Gazillionaire Lobs Money at Theoretical Physicists:

David Lee Roth, the sometimes singer for the legendary rock band Van Halen, supposedly once remarked: “Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a yacht big enough to pull up right alongside it.” If so, then nine theoretical physicists can now afford to join the next-to-happiness flotilla, thanks to the generosity of Russian billionaire Yuri Milner.

Update: Another article about Yuri Milner is here. It seems that he has had a dramatic effect on the venture capital business in Silicon Valley, with his tactics there somewhat analogous to his tactics in setting up this prize. Where Jim Simons has put a lot of effort into making carefully targeted investments of different sizes in math/physics research, Milner has just dumped large sums of Russian money indiscriminately on the main figures in the “hot” area of the subject with no-strings-attached, which is somewhat the same as his investment philosophy in Silicon Valley. He had a lot of success there with investments in things like Facebook, but it’s still to be seen whether this was a bubble that will burst. One big difference with physics though is that in the business world you’re ultimately judged on whether you make money or not. In physics you’re supposed to be judged on whether your experimental predictions turn out, but his investments in physics are structured to evade exposure to that problem.

Update: There’s an article about Sen getting the prize here. Note the headline: this is now referred to as “Physics highest honour”.

Update: Another article about this, from Luca Mazzucato, Fundamental Physics Prize: A Russian money shot for string theory which explains:

Every physics student’s wet dream when they join grad school is to ascend one day to the Olympus of Nobel Laureates, up there in the clouds with Einstein, Feynman and the like. And, of course, Barack Obama and the Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. But most grad students who score the highest points, like the proverbial fly to honey, get inevitably attracted to string theory – that is, the ones who ditch Goldman Sachs job interview. And their Nobel Prize aspirations will never have a chance of materializing – just like that dream house in the Hamptons. That’s because string theory, a.k.a. The Theory of Everything, despite its appalling beauty and tremendous fascination, is not going to come close to the real world any time soon. And since the Nobel Prize may only be awarded to those scientific predictions that pass the merciless test of experiment, that brightest students’ wet dream – alas, among many others – stands no chance of being fulfilled.

This was the status of string theory up until a week ago, when Yuri Milner – Russian tycoon, Facebook shareholder, and former theoretical physicist himself – dropped the bomb: nine overnight wire transfers to as many physicists’ bank accounts, that instantly turned the reclusive scientists into millionaires.

Update: There’s an interview at the Times of India with Sen about the prize, which includes the question and answer

How does the discovery of the Higgs boson impact your research?

It’s one of the great discoveries of our time. Its discovery has been eagerly awaited since the time Peter Higgs, the British theoretical physicist, proposed the Higgs boson 50 years ago. It tells us that standard model and string theory are correct and that I and every other theoretical physicist who has been working under the assumption that it exists are not on the wrong path after all.

This echoes David Gross and Juan Maldacena’s similar claims at Strings 2012 that evidence for the SM is evidence for string theory.

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149 Responses to Fundamental Physics Prize

  1. Raisonator says:

    I can’t help myself, but there seems to be a certain bias towards people from English- or Russian speaking countries – or at least they work in such countries.
    Yet I do fully appreciate the work of these 9 people and think that they have well deserved the prize.

  2. ex says:

    ..On the other hand, the sort of formal string theory that people at the IAS are doing is not speculative at all because it’s not the sort of thing that requires testing. ..

    I would prefer to see more well motivated mathematical work, rather than millions of badly motivated predictions of LHC physics.

    Ok, this is the point – very well, but I believe that may be mathematics or mathematical physics, but it is not physics, and it is not fundamental physics.

    Thus, it should not be sold as such, let aside the purported “final theories”, “elegant universes” or whatever. All these things already said, of course.

  3. piscator says:

    To those who think this is good news:

    The issue is not that the awardees are not worthy of recognition. They are all good people who have done good work. Some I think are truly outstanding who have contributed continually across many areas, some I think were in the right place at the right time, some have extraordinary personal charisma and salesmanship. But they are all good people.

    The big issue I have is when visualising the following type of scenario. Laureate X is on a committee handing out postdoctoral fellowships with Y who is not a laureate but could credibly be one. One of the fellowship candidates A is a student of X. Does the existence of this award make it more or less likely that Y will speak honestly about A?

    Furthermore, it is clear from the history of science that brilliant people can also have ideas that are cranky or just plain wrong. The scientific ideal – again, hard to realise because scientists are people too – is that no matter who they are, other people can tell them that they are talking bollox. The existence of such a prize with this recurring structure only serves to act against and not for this.

    It is of course worth reiterating that 3M is a lot of money for academics, even those with tenure at the IAS. The IAS is private, but if anyone doubts this you can look up online salaries of comparable people at public institutions, eg David Gross in the UC system.

  4. Pingback: String theorists get $3 million each from wealthy Russian | Uncommon Descent

  5. Rene Benthien says:

    This harkens back the days in the renaissance when the wealthy elite of the Italian city states, the Medici and the Sforzas, were commissioning the great works of Bernini and Michelangelo. To the time when the Dutch Royals and the merchants of Amsterdam patronised the works of Rembrandt or Van Dyke. An era where the Kings, nobles and bishops felt it necessary to fund the work of Copernicus, Brahe and other great philosophers.

    There was a time when the reputation of a man, his pedigree and refinement, was based on his appreciation for and the encouragement of the arts and the philosophies.

    In today’s world where it seems the only thing that matters is the balance in someone’s bank account, I think it is great that someone feels that the value of scientists and the work that they do be held at a greater esteem in society than it is currently.

  6. Clayton Pickering says:

    Low Math, Meekly Interacting said:

    “Interesting thing about the Nobel: Almost no one talks about the money. As for the Milner Prize, money is all anyone is talking about.”

    Apropos, Low Math. Perhaps, as a suggestion, those who have won the three million dollar prize should do what Milner has done. Take 100, 000 dollars and find a big idea by some unknown. Now that’s a 9 to 1 ratio whereby you folks empower yourselves.

  7. Peter Woit says:

    Clayton,

    The four winners from the IAS already completely control about 20 research positions at the IAS, which typically pay more than 100K over the time the person is there. To the extent that there are “unknowns” with a “big idea” that meet their approval, they’ve always had plenty of jobs to hand out to them (although I guess one big advantage of a 100k check versus the job is that you wouldn’t have to live in Princeton…)

  8. Peter Woit says:

    Rene,

    I’m missing how depositing $3 million checks in the bank accounts of successful academics fights the attitude that the only thing that matters is the size of one’s bank account. Seems to me it reinforces that attitude.

    And the idea of reverting to the world of the Medicis, with hedge funds and Russian oligarchs playing their role, also is not obviously progress.

  9. @Joydip Ghosh: Kitaev’s 1997 paper discussed too related ideas — using surface codes (systems supporting abelian anyons) for robust quantum memory, and using systems supporting nonabelian anyons for both robust quantum memory and fault-tolerant quantum computing. Both are great ideas and have had a huge impact on quantum computation research.

    I think the nonabelian version was the deeper and more original idea, but surface codes might wind up being more useful for future quantum technologies. My reading of the prize citation is that the proposal to exploit nonabelian anyons is being recognized, but I agree it is not completely clear.

    Actually, both ideas are quite timely, in view of the evidence for Majorana fermions in quantum wires reported this year by the Delft group, and the recent excitement about realizing surface codes using superconducting circuits (e.g. work by the UCSB and IBM groups).

  10. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:

    But is it “the value of science”, or the vainglorious act of a prestige-hungry Russian oligarch who likes to swing his fiduciary dick around. I myself don’t know the answer to that question, but I think the answer matters.

  11. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:

    I should say I hold the ricipients blameless for Milner’s failings, real or perceived. And I don’t think they should have refused the cash. There’s controversy to this day about the value of the Nobel, despite its venerable status. No reason to use kid gloves on the Milner Prize, such as it is.

  12. Clayton Pickering says:

    “The four winners from the IAS already completely control about 20 research positions at the IAS, which typically pay more than 100K over the time the person is there. To the extent that there are “unknowns” with a “big idea” that meet their approval, they’ve always had plenty of jobs to hand out to them (although I guess one big advantage of a 100k check versus the job is that you wouldn’t have to live in Princeton…)”

    Understood, Peter. However, are these monies approved and overseen by the university? The largesse given by Milner is private. Correct? Does Milner have oversight with the monies allocated? The whole point of the three million dollar gift is for those recipients to have a degree of autonomy to explore new concepts by fostering independent research through THEIR own allocation. As you are aware many of funds and grants for R & D are drying up. My point is that physicists can pick up the ball and run with projects outside the purview of universities. Is this done?

  13. Trulo says:

    It’s going to be interesting to see who’s going to get the prize in the next ten years or so. If six or seven prizes, say, are awarded every year, the number of candidates with achievements even remotely comparable to Witten’s is going to decrease exponentially. Will they have repeat laureates then?

    It could be also interesting to see how many of the laureates in the next ten years (perhaps a bunch of between 50 and 100 people) will take the opportunity to quit working. Once a laureate has pocketed the money, there’s no reason why he/she could not decide to retire and live as a rentier.

    Finally, I assume there’s a small crowd of people who may now feel the temptation to max out all of their credit cards, knowing that next year they will be rich. Seen who’s in the committee, it’s not hard to imagine that D-branes, certain types of extra-dimensional models, F-theory, and the like, are going to get a lot of monetary appreciation in the next few years.

  14. Trulo says:

    Sorry about the typo. It should be “Seeing who is…” not “Seen who is…”

  15. Peter Woit says:

    Clayton,

    The IAS is not a university, it’s a private research institution. The four IAS particle theory professors determine who the institution hires, and they can hire anyone they want. They have a lot of positions, and each year they spend a lot of time sitting down and deciding who to choose. I don’t see any reason at all why they should choose different people to give Milner money to versus the IAS money they are responsible for distributing. The only difference is that the IAS money comes with a requirement that you actually spend your time in Princeton.

  16. Peter Woit says:

    Trulo,

    It seems the plan is to award typically only one $3 million prize each year, the nine awards at once was just to get the thing started.

  17. Trulo says:

    It seems the plan is to award typically only one $3 million prize each year,

    Yes, I think you’re right. The rules don’t say so explicitly, as far as I can tell, but the statement “can be shared by any number of people” suggests that’s how it’s going to work in the future.

  18. Clayton Pickering says:

    Yes, Peter. I am well aware that IAS is not a university. However, your point is that IAS money requires that a person spends it time at Princeton. The university is still the anchor. Private money frees the professors from this obligation. Milner’s prize does the same thing as far as I am aware.

  19. Michel Audiard says:

    120 commentaires !
    Quand on parle pognon, à partir d’un certain chiffre, tout le monde écoute.

  20. Peter Woit says:

    Michel,

    Yes, if Milner had set up an award with a medal and $10,000, no one would have paid any attention at all.

    I just added a link to the original posting to a news story which refers to the prize as the “Physics highest honour”, which I guess is how the Milner Prize will often be described and thought of.

  21. R says:

    I work on an experiment which is currently being built to try and answer some (testable) questions in “fundamental” particle physics. (Though our research once got called “uninteresting” by one of the Serious Men on this list.) We’re facing a budget shortfall somewhere in the range of $3 million dollars. I guess the only solution is to make friends with some more grad school dropout Russian oligarchs…

  22. Bernhard says:

    Peter,

    I don´t believe (or perhaps don´t want to) people (at least not physicists) will compare the honor of getting a Nobel prize to this “tons of cash prize chosen by some rich guy”. I think the Indian newspaper was simply pushing it in a nationalistic gesture.

    I think the Milner prize will become a string theorist prize (time will tell), with very rare exceptions, which is maybe a good idea since string theory, being separated from science, indeed deserves its own separate prize.

  23. Peter Woit says:

    Bernhard,

    Well, in future years, the Milner prize will have the imprimatur of a group of very prestigious physicists, and I’m sure they will choose other very prominent people, not always string theorists. It won’t have the history and name recognition of the Nobel, but will be something more like the Shaw prize, except x 3. I think Milner knew exactly what he was doing when he set the prize level above any other prize, significantly so. That will make sure his prize gets reported and paid attention to, with “highest prize/honor in science” often the way it is reported.

    The only thing that will change this will be when some other financier or oligarch institutes a $5 million prize….

  24. Z says:

    I can see this prize being a positive for other theory areas. Now funding agencies have another excuse to shift fundamental science grant money away from string theory.

  25. Jiav says:

    Congrats to the winners and many thanks to Yuri Milner for making famous several outstanding scientists.

  26. srp says:

    Maybe the committee of Milner winners can branch out a little and ask their colleagues in other physics fields if there are any worthy recipients. Given the relative lack of publicity for condensed-matter and nuclear physicists, for all I know there could be more-obscure deserving folks whom their peers see as water-walkers.

  27. perelmanfan says:

    Time for a Perelman prize awarded to scientists who refuse prizes above let’s say 100K.

  28. David Rod says:

    There is an interesting article in Canada’s The Globe and Mail (Friday, August 2), Report on Business Section, Page B2, by Chrystia Freeland (editor, Thomson Reuters Digital) about Yuri Milner’s bequests. It is titled “Beyond the Big Bang: A Russian billionaire’s investment”. This article probably appears in other newspapers. Worth reading.

  29. MathPhys says:

    There was a time when we were all in awe of the Clay Inst prizes. Now that’s small money. Don’t think about the millennium problems, young man. Go for the real thing.

  30. Bob Levine says:

    I may be missing something, but I don’t really see the logic of this excerpt from Mazzucato’s piece. It’s *still* the status of of string theory that, Milner or no Milner, it is not a Nobel-able field of research, for exactly the reasons he’s stated, and, 3M or no 3M, the Nobel is still, and almost certainly evermore shall be, the highest aspiration of theoretical physicists—we’re not going to talk about ‘Milner Laureates’, I suspect, no matter how many zillions he winds up giving away. Winning a Milner will never let you claim that you walk in the ultra-exalted company that LM himself alludes to: Planck, Einstein, Born, Feynman and the other immortals, and the ‘wet dream’ of all those grad students, in LM’s ugly phrase, is exactly that walk, not the bucks that go with that prize, or with anything else (here’s a thought experiment: imagine asking 100 physics grad students whether they’d rather (i) win a Nobel prize, or (ii) get a university position that, surreally, paid them five times annually what the Nobel pays—which set of responses would you want to bet on as the majority vote here?) Three million dollars makes you a multimillionaire; it *doesn’t* make you a titan in the history of physics, which is I strongly suspect is what any healthily ambitious young physicist really wants.

    Of *course* there’s plenty to complain about so far as the Nobel is concerned: the names Jocelyn Bell and Rosalind Franklin are a good place to start, and let’s not even get into the issue of the Peace prize. But the arguments take place precisely because of the cachet that the Nobel, unique among science prizes, has earned (a large chunk of which comes from the admittedly imperfect way in which Nobel laureates are themselves selected)—ultimately, from the epochal stature in the various Nobel disciplines that, by consensus, is conferred by each award. I can’t see the Milner cash dump ever earning anything like that halo.

  31. Mitchell Porter says:

    perelmanfan: “Time for a Perelman prize awarded to scientists who refuse prizes above let’s say 100K.”

    This is a cute idea… A Perelman prize can be a stipend of 60 euros a month (see lun’s comment at the start of the thread). Milner’s $3 million per year would then translate to over 3000 Perelman prizes. Milner could support everyone who posts to vixra and still have plenty left over.

  32. Lufgang says:

    I happen to know Yuri Milner well and wanted to make a few comments.

    1. He did work for Khodorkovsky in the 90s for a couple of years, but only as one of the managers and never made significant money at that time.

    2. Yuri first significant capital came from Mail.ru, the largest Russian Internet portal that he founded in 2000, but not before he took it public in London in 2010.

    3. In addition to that, he made a few early bets on companies like Facebook, Groupon and Zynga as an investor in 2009-2010. All these companies also went public in 2011-2012.

    Peter, thank you for keeping the conversation fair.

  33. Tmark48 says:

    What happens when one of the speculative ideas that has been awarded is falsified through experiment in 10, 20 or 30 years* ? Will they give the prize back ? This is why I think it makes no sense to award speculative ideas in physics. This problem doesn’t exist with the Nobel Prize because the Nobel committee makes damn sure that the prize goes to a real physical discovery.
    Lets be honest and call the Milner Prize a mathematics prize, in this sense wether or not physics turns out to be correct, the mathematics still stands on its own.
    I don’t know, I have the impression its all a big joke.

    * or maybe it becomes dogma so no one shall ever question its experimental valdity.

  34. Clayton Pickering says:

    “R” wrote:

    “I work on an experiment which is currently being built to try and answer some (testable) questions in “fundamental” particle physics. (Though our research once got called “uninteresting” by one of the Serious Men on this list.) We’re facing a budget shortfall somewhere in the range of $3 million dollars. I guess the only solution is to make friends with some more grad school dropout Russian oligarchs…”

    Who would ever have thought years after the Cold War that a Russian oligarch would be awarding monies to some Americans and the institutions they are associated with. I wonder if Michio Kaku would call this Type I economic largess?

  35. loopy says:

    re: Fundamental Physics Prize

    Since several string theorists have received the prize, do you think Loop quantum gravity theorists (Abay Ashketar), noncommutive geometry (Alain Connes) should also receive a prize, in future years?

  36. Peter Woit says:

    loopy,

    I think by publishing “The Trouble with Physics” Lee Smolin ensured that the field of LQG research won’t be in line for any prizes where decisions about awards are made by leading string theorists.

    It will be interesting to see which direction the prize committee goes in the future. Since the prize is new, and its description is fairly broad, including mathematics as well as physics, they have a large number of plausible candidates to consider, with Connes one possibility.

  37. Bob Jones says:

    I’m sure that Alain Connes will get this prize eventually. I was actually surprised that he was not one of this year’s recipients…

  38. Bernhard says:

    “It tells us that standard model and string theory are correct”

    OMFG, these guys have really absolutely no respect for anybody else´s intelligence? Are they serious?

    My only consolation to these absolutely ridiculous claims is that this is being recorded for history and that future physicists will know how much full of crap these guys are. Sorry to spit my guts here, but the audacity of these guys never end and I just can´t understand why is not all community laughing about this.

    Kane is not alone, after all.

  39. M says:

    “It tells us that standard model and string theory are correct”.

    Ironic science needs a good sense of humor.

  40. Tmark48 says:

    “It tells us that standard model and string theory are correct”.

    Ok, maybe we should award these guys some prize. What about the Ig Nobel ?
    Maybe not, even the Ig Nobel requires a scientific achievement, as trivial as it is. ^_^

  41. john smith says:

    I think that giving a three- million-dollar prize for string theory research undervalues what science is all about. It would have been much better if this money had been spent in raising the quality of education in our elementary schools and high schools where our real “fresh minds” are, and are in need of such money.
    Giving such a prize to IAS professors (or any other group of well-established scholars) will not foster more fundamental research; rather it will distract them to think how they should spend such a large sum of cash.
    There was a reason why Perelman didn’t accept the Fields medal or the Clay millennium prize. Think about it.

  42. john smith says:

    I just read this in the nature article. So I guess I’m right.

    Andrei Linde, a cosmologist at Stanford University in California, found out about his good fortune only late last week. How will he spend his money? “This is a problem that is much more complicated than the physics problems I’m trying to solve,” he says.

  43. Bugsy says:

    Though the money could arguably have been better spent, ala Simons, I’m not too worried. My guess (and hope) is the winners will use the main part of the money where it can really do some good scientifically (as in, supporting promising young researchers in whatever part of physics or math, not necessarily just in their specialty). However funding more post-docs really won’t help; what is needed are permanent positions, and also grants which give a few years of teaching relief for folks (young or not so) doing good work and already with positions somewhere but overloaded with obligations. Also research grants could ease financial burdens on those struggling on that account. I think the winners will feel embarrassed if they use it only to buy a big house or a yacht with a submarine for themselves, as everyone will be watching what they do. In that sense it’s not really free money; since it is a very public prize, unlike with lesser grants, there will be peer pressure to do the right thing. Besides, these folks already have all they need in terms of working conditions; if they use the money for extraneous things it will only divert their time and energy from what they care about most, which is their work.

  44. @Tmark48:

    “Lets be honest and call the Milner Prize a mathematics prize…”

    the problem is, most people on that list are not doing mathematics. When Witten got the Fields medal it was a small scandal as he was doing mathematical physics – I’m reading his relevant late-80′s paper on Chern-Simons theory and knots, and it is definitely not a mathematics paper, it’s all theoretical physics intuition with bits and pieces taken from mathematics (and, I freely admit, a great achievement).

  45. Peter Woit says:

    David,

    I agree. Kontsevich writes math papers, and Witten is sui generis, but the other seven haven’t done much of anything that mathematicians would recognize as significant mathematical advances. In the case of Witten’s Chern-Simons paper, it may not have looked like a math paper, but unexpected and amazing relationships between quite different areas of mathematics (knot invariants, gauge theory, representations of affine Lie algebras, algebraic geometry of moduli spaces) could readily be extracted from what he was saying. Not everyone was convinced at the time that this deserved a Fields medal, but a few years later, when he wrote down the Seiberg-Witten equations, revolutionizing the subject of 4-manifold topology, the doubters were quieted.

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  47. Tmark48 says:

    @ David Roberts : I think it’s safe to say that mathematical physics tends more towards the mathematical side than the physics side. Physics can guide you, but in the end if you’re to make clear and mathematically unambigous and rigorous the operations (tools, equations etc..) in question you’re going to have to resort to what mathematicians do.
    Theoretical physicists don’t really concern themselves with such trivialities. Can you imagine physicists going into metaphysical mode about wether or not the Dirac function is a well definied concept ? Or the Feynman path integral ? It works, it gives us the means to formulate predictions that can be verified. It passes the test. Who cares wether you can really do infinite dimensional integrals in infinite dimensional spaces ? Mathematical physicists care, mathematicians may care, theoretical physicists by and large don’t.
    The scandal that you’re mentioning has more to do with a certain “narrow mindedness” of the mathematical community. Mathematical physics is like a fish out of its element. Not totally in the mathematical camp, not totally in the physics camp.

  48. Bernhard says:

    This interview was a bit interesting:

    http://ibnlive.in.com/news/science-neatly-strung-together/283719-60-121.html

    Among other things, Ashoke Sen says:

    “To this I should add that while string theory naturally combines gravity with quantum mechanics, one of its goals is to also explain the theory of other forces and other matter. For this one needs to establish that for the kind of energies which the present accelerators can produce, string theory can be approximated by the standard model of particle physics. There are strong indications that this might be possible, but this has not been proven. This is at present one of the most active areas of research in string theory (and is commonly described as string phenomenology). If successful, this program will automatically explain the origin of the Higgs boson in string theory.”

  49. Peter Woit says:

    Bernhard,

    Well that’s better than the previous claim that the Higgs discovery “tells us that standard model and string theory are correct”. He’s right that “if successful”, string theory unification would explain everything, although he’s neglecting to mention that it has so far been a dismal failure…

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