News From the Landscape and Elsewhere

At the big annual APS meeting, now going on in Jacksonville, of the 9 plenary talks, one is about particle theory. The talk is entitled “String Theory, Branes and if You Wish, the Anthropic Principle” and it was given by Shamit Kachru of the Stanford group. Here’s the abstract, which besides the usual claims that string theory is “our most promising framework for a unified theory of the fundamental interactions” and that “the underlying theory is unique”, also makes the claim to have “testable ideas about inflation and particle physics”. No clue what these ideas are, so I don’t know if they include the testable prediction the landscape makes about the proton lifetime. Also unclear why the Anthropic Principle is being demoted to “if You Wish”. Lots of experimental talks on particle physics at the conference, here’s a Fermilab press release on CDF and D0 results discussed at the meeting. Lawrence Krauss was speaking on “Selling Physics to Unwilling Buyers”, I wonder what that was about. More about the meeting at the Physics Meetings blog.

David Ben-Zvi has put up on his web-site his lecture notes from last week’s series of lectures in Oxford on geometric Langlands. As usual, a very readable survey of the subject, emphasizing links to representation theory.

For another source of material about representation theory and the (non-geometric) Langlands program, see the web-site hosted by the Clay Mathematics Institute devoted to the collected works of James Arthur.

There’s yet another round of discussion on bloggingheads.tv between science writers John Horgan and George Johnson. This week the LHC and the state of particle physics are some of the topics they consider.

From Fermilab, various new sources for discussion of the future of experimental particle physics include:

A web-site for the steering group tasked with developing a roadmap for future use of US accelerators. This week’s meeting includes a presentation on reconfiguring the Fermilab accelerator complex to produce larger numbers (factor of 3 more) protons, for use by neutrino experiments and others.

The Fermilab Physics Advisory Committee met on March 29-31, here are the presentations and report.

Last week there was a workshop devoted to considering what effect early data from the LHC would have on plans for the ILC (via Tommaso Dorigo).

Finally, Steven Miller, author of “String Kings”, has a new blog he is working on, devoted to essays on mathematical physics, theoretical biology and the history of science.

Update: Two more.

Seed magazine has a series of “cribsheets” about science. For physics, they cover nuclear power, the elements, and now string theory. The lack of predictivity of the theory is given a positive spin as being due to the “rich diversity” of string theory. At Cosmic Variance, Sean Carroll approvingly refers to this as “it only refers glancingly to the anthropic principle, which is a much more accurate view of the state of discussion about string theory than one would get by reading blogs.”

Nature has an article about the state of the LHC and the possibility that the Tevatron might be the first to see the Higgs. LHC project manager says that they were already running about 5 weeks behind schedule before the problem with the quadrupoles appeared, but says “In my view the magnet problem has been blown out of proportion… It is a very small part of a bigger picture.” If the schedule slips much more, there might not be time for an engineering run in 2007, and the first science run might be delayed until later in 2008.

Update: Thanks to commenter F. for pointing to the slides from Kachru’s talk. It’s a clear presentation of the moduli stabilization problem and the techniques that he and others used to solve it, while at the same time making the landscape problem much worse. The “testable” ideas mentioned in his abstract are the usual sort of thing behind claims like this: not actual tests of string theory, but effects in certain very specific models among the infinite variety of ones you can get out of string theory. Kachru doesn’t much address the issue of whether the landscape framework is testable science in the conventional sense, other than to describe people’s attempts to use eternal inflation to explain how the vacuum gets selected and try and get physics out of this as “notoriously confusing.” He also describes counting of vacua as favoring high-scale supersymmetry breaking, so maybe there is a prediction: no supersymmetry at the LHC.

Update: For the latest from FNAL on the LHC magnet problems, see here.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

147 Responses to News From the Landscape and Elsewhere

  1. N. Nakanishi says:

    I would like to make two comments.

    1. Even if LHC does not observe Higgs boson, it is still possible to save the standard model by slightly modifying it within the framework of the manifestly covariant quantum field theory. See hep-th/07042645.

    2. I believe that the Green-Schwarz anomaly cancellation condition is based on the claim of the existence of gravitational anomaly by Alvarez-Gaume and Witten. But they committed a fundamental mistake. They confused the T*-product quantities with the T-product quantities. Those are different for the matrix elements containing the energy-momentum tensor, because its expression contains time differentiation in contrast to the current in gauge theory. The argument based on the path integral is also misleading, because the path integral gives the T*-product quantities only. For detail, see Prog. Theor. Phys. 115 (2006), 1151 or hep-th/0503172 v2.

  2. E. says:

    M: I’m not sure how this would help the anthropists. If the Higgs mechanism is right, then you have the hierarchy problem. If the Higgs mechanism isn’t right, then we have no idea how to break the electroweak symmetry and generate mass for the quarks and leptons. I don’t think technicolor is a viable option.

    For those who don’t think LHC will see SUSY (or hope that it doesn’t), all I can say is we’ll see who’s right within two years or so.

  3. Cecil Kirkey says:

    Peter:

    Your last response gives me an opportunity to ask for further explanation on the funding for theoretical physics research. If I am a capable theoretical researcher all I need is pencil and paper and access to the internet. I could get a job teaching at a CC and work at night or even become a patent clerk. I heard that has worked in the past. Why does a post doc need outside funding?

    I guess this goes back to the whole issue that you and Lee and to some degree Bee have written about, i.e., giving capable people the opportunity to pursue their OWN research interests. How are they being prevented from that? The financial rewards should come AFTER a demonstration of capability; before that you only have potential.

    I know of no first job where one can pursue their own interests and get paid a good salary unless you are a professional athlete.

    To a layperson this seems like a major issue driving the anti-ST dialogue that is why I am asking about it. Thanks.

  4. Cecil Kirkey:

    I like your ideas.

    If I am a capable theoretical researcher all I need is pencil and paper and access to the internet.

    I would add to this list a good scientific library nearby.

    I could get a job teaching at a CC and work at night or even become a patent clerk.

    The great advantage of this arrangement is that you are free from various artificial pressures, such as the pressure to publish or the pressure to groupthink.

    Eugene.

  5. M says:

    E.: the weak scale might be unnaturally small because of anthropic selection, see hep-ph/9707380. See you within 3 years or so.

  6. JC says:

    *offtopic post*

    Cecil, Eugene

    Teaching at a CC is ok, though a full time assignment may be quite heavy. (ie. You may have to do all the grading too).

    What’s NOT ok these days, is teaching high school physics and/or math. It’s a complete nightmare these days. (Long story, which I won’t go into).

  7. anon. says:

    ‘If I am a capable theoretical researcher all I need is pencil and paper and access to the internet.’ – Cecil

    ‘I would add to this list a good scientific library nearby.’ – Eugene

    Maybe you also really need to interact with other people in the field, attend conferences, give talks, put papers with preliminary results on arxiv and submit papers to journals? Otherwise – although in isolation you will be safe from the perils of groupthink and consensus – with no critical discussion and feedback, there’s no motivation to tackle hard questions needed to make progress and generate interest? Patent clerks haven’t been doing much theoretical physics since Einstein resigned as one in 1909 to become a lecturer.

  8. E. says:

    M,
    Hmmm..I’m not sure how an unnaturally low weak scale keeps the Higgs from getting radiative corrections that give it a Planck scale mass…unless the Planck scale is small too. How do you explain this without large extra dimensions? Also, what about the logarithmic running of the coupling constants and their unification, with SUSY, at 10^{16} GeV? Coincidence and/or illusion?

  9. Peter Orland says:

    E. (and M.)

    The radiative corrections to the Higgs mass don’t have to be
    of order the Planck scale. This means that the bare Lagrangian
    has to be fine-tuned, but this is an esthetic problem, not
    a fundamental one (maybe this esthetic problem could be
    solved by condensation of top-prime pairs, should there be
    more generations).

    And as to the last two questions I think extra dimensions and unification of running couplings are not illusions but delusions.
    There is no field-theoretic or string-theoretic derivation of
    dimensional compactification to four dimensions. The existence
    of a unification scale is not so obvious as people seem to believe.

  10. ‘If I am a capable theoretical researcher all I need is pencil and paper and access to the internet.’ – Cecil

    ‘I would add to this list a good scientific library nearby.’ – Eugene

    ‘Maybe you also really need to interact with other people in the field, attend conferences, give talks, put papers with preliminary results on arxiv and submit papers to journals?’ - anon.

    Yes, these things should be certainly present. However, being a patent clerk does not reduce ones ability to do all these things. Maybe just a little bit.

  11. E. says:

    Eugene,
    I think the idea of some brilliant, young guy working out secrets of the universe in isolation is a nice, romantic idea. Sadly, it really isn’t practical anymore. The complexity and sophistication of modern theoretical physics is such that it’s almost impossible to work on it in one’s spare time and without working with others.

  12. E. says:

    Peter O,
    It’s always possible that we’re in for surprises. Perhaps it is only an aesthetic judgement, but I think that fine-tuning and the anthropic principle were made for each other. Personally, I believe that the simplest and most natural explanation is best. Clearly SUSY falls into this category.

  13. Peter Orland says:

    Ok, if you think the supersymmetric standard model is
    simple and natural. I think it’s an abomination!

  14. E. says:

    Personally, I think the MSSM is very beautiful.

  15. Cecil Kirkey says:

    E said:

    “The complexity and sophistication of modern theoretical physics is such that it’s almost impossible to work on it in one’s spare time and without working with others.”

    So why should anyone, before proving themselves, be paid a full time salary to set around and think about modern theoretical physics with or without the direct inputs of others?? Do the work first and then get compensated.

    It seems like as soon as some person gets recognized and rewarded with a tenured or life time position the output really falls. One example that readily comes to mind is Alan Guth. One shot in the dark, great position and then essentially no significant output. At least from what I can judge.

  16. E. says:

    Cecil,
    Students in theory are expected to start proving themselves in grad school. One usually needs a substantial publication record to just get a postdoc, which are highly competitive, but don’t pay especially well. It usually then takes several postdocs before one is able to get a full-time untenered faculty job. It is not an easy road.

  17. Peter Orland says:

    Cecil,

    Alan Guth did other important things besides inflation. I suggest
    Peter W.’s blog not be used as a forum to point out the shortcomings
    of individuals, whether real or apparent (which I would argue is
    the case, in this instance).

  18. urs says:

    This kind of technical discussion of LQG, while interesting, is completely off topic and not something I know know anything about.

    Sorry. I thought it would be okay to reply to Lee Smolin’s comment.

  19. Gina says:

    Dear Christine,

    You quoted Peter Woit who wrote: “people should be expecting to spend most of their time on ideas that will fail, or lead to very modest advances, and there’s nothing wrong with this.” and added among other things: “But yes, the system as structured today is not ready to identify such eventualities as part of the effort, nor is open to encourage new ideas.”

    You certainly raise interesting points, and I should think about them more. As a quick reaction let me say that the notion of success is a multi-scaled notion, so I think people are expected to be successful at least on some scale. Thinking only about the largest scale is not healthy. This is why I disagree with Peter’s quote above. As for changes in the current system it can be interesting to discuss alternatives. But I am not aware of any good suggestion.

  20. Christine says:

    I think people are expected to be successful at least on some scale.

    Dear Gina,

    Well, most people would like to succeed in life. The notion of success, however, is highly subjective and varies from people to people, from culture to culture. What do you mean when you say “people are expected to be successful” — expected by “whom”?

    I do agree with you (if I understood you correctly), that there are many “levels” of success. I think it is a healthy posture to acknowledge success as not an absolute thing. Also, it is not something to pursue “above everything”, but only up to the point where you are not damaging someone else in order to achieve it.

    In science the notion of success should be, in principle, formal, that is, related to the issues I have outlined previously. One should first be very precise about the terms “theory”, “hypothesis”, “idea”, etc, and the level of success on them measured against an objective standard. Mainly, the scientific method sets the machine running, and a sober community of scientist evaluates the progress from time to time — if they are in the position to do so.

    Under such a basis is where — at some level — the success of string theory is supposed to be evaluated. First, is it a theory? Second, having defined what it is, then in its present stage, what is the objective evaluation of it from the scientific community?

    One question that often comes is: are really only string theorists able to evaluate string theory? Is the rest of the community really excluded from such an evaluation, even at the more conceptual level? Even given a set of objective criteria that string theory (or whatever) should fulfill, if is is to be considered a theory (or whatever)?

    How deep are the intricated technical issues of string theory, how fundamental they really are in order to set the stage for its conceptual understanding, so that it fixes a clear frontier against debate to a larger community? What is exactly such a frontier?

    I do not have really many suggestions to offer, but hope to read reasonable ideas in due time.

    Christine

  21. Cecil Kirkey says:

    Peter Orland:

    I was not picking on Alan just using him as an example of someone who apparently has not published much original work after his inflation idea. I did check AXIV. I think it only goes back to 1992 though. My comment was meant to indicate that sometimes researchers are rewarded with a good position with maybe the expectation that they will continue to make break throughs and then end up contributing very little. Maybe the person ends up being a great teacher or not.

  22. Thomas Love says:

    E said:

    “I think the idea of some brilliant, young guy working out secrets of the universe in isolation is a nice, romantic idea. Sadly, it really isn’t practical anymore. The complexity and sophistication of modern theoretical physics is such that it’s almost impossible to work on it in one’s spare time and without working with others.”

    Young? What’s youth got to do with it? It is a myth that only the young can do innovative physics. Just learning the necessary mathematics can take many years.

    Why work with others? “Inspiration was never known to strike a committee.”

    Really good ideas are radical and more than likely will be shot down in a group setting by mediocre minds (to use Einstein’s phrase).

  23. anon. says:

    ‘As for changes in the current system it can be interesting to discuss alternatives. But I am not aware of any good suggestion.’ – Gina

    The change needed to the current theoretical high energy physics is to bring it into line with experimentally-substantiated scientific disciplines by discouraging the complacency which string theory has introduced over the past twenty years. It was fine for people to investigate strings in the 80s, but it’s now well and truly failed. M-theory is not the crowning glory of physics, a grand unified theory of everything, but is more like a dunce’s tin foil hat. It’s simply better to wear no hat than that of a charlatan or, at best, loser.

    High energy theoretical physics is the one science in existence which is currently crowned by a piece of ‘theory’ which isn’t a single theory but 10^500 theories, and which is neither based on experimental data, not falsifiable even in principle. Falsify one in the landscape of 10^500 string theories, and you get nowhere because there are always plenty more where that came from.

    M-theory is to physics what parapsychology is to psychology. It will certainly be a success in generating overwhelming media interest and drawing in excited gullible crowds at circus time (attracting the losers who read horoscopes and believe in other faith-based-phenomena), but it is damaging to scientific discipline, a travesty to the objectivity needed by genuine physicists, and frankly it’s no more than mathematical metaphysics.

  24. E. says:

    Just out of curiousity, suppose that we find one string theory vacuum that completely describes the world we live in and even predicts something that is later discovered. Would this constitute proof that string theory is on the right track?

  25. Peter Orland says:

    Cecil,

    That’s not the point – you shouldn’t use this blog as a forum for
    critically evaluating individuals. It just upsets people without
    contributing anything positive. It is not just that I don’t agree
    with your evaluation (use SPIRES, not arxiv).

  26. E. says:

    Cecil,
    What did Einstein do in the last thirty years of his career?

  27. anon. says:

    ‘Just out of curiousity, suppose that we find one string theory vacuum that completely describes the world we live in and even predicts something that is later discovered. Would this constitute proof that string theory is on the right track?’ – E.

    No it wouldn’t prove it, because it would likely be a coincidence, seeing that it is just one theory picked out of a landscape of 10^500. If one monkey at a typewriter types out a poem, it’s impressive evidence for monkey intelligence. Not so if the monkey is just one selected from 10^500 monkeys at typewriters, because there is then the large possibility that it is merely coincidence.

    The landscape of alternative’s to string theory is not that big. Even if everyone on earth has an alternative idea, that’s say 10^10 theories, which is trivial (one part in 10^490) compared to the oft-quoted string theory landscape population of 10^500 theories. It’s just a lunacy that people want to investigate the string theory landscape when it will be a failure whatever it produces, instead of trying new things, like modelling the facts of the particle physics using new techniques, to gain deeper insights into the masses and symmetry breaking problems before experimental results come in from the LHC.

  28. E. says:

    Anon,
    I disagree that it wouldn’t prove string theory. If there was one string theory vacuum that completely discribed our universe in every detail and was predictive, I would hardly think this is a coincidence. We simply then have the problem of understanding why this particular vacuum is selected. If we ever find such a vacuum, perhaps the answer to this question will present itself.

  29. anon. says:

    E., if you write down 10^500 different sets of predictions at random, one of them may turn out to be ‘right’, without actually being the correct theory, merely because of the coincidence that such a large number of possibilities holds.

    Vagueness, i.e., a big landscape, increases the probability of agreement to nature by pure coincidence. The larger the number of possibilities, the greater the chance of agreement by coincidence.

    As for ‘proof’, physics is about useful theories. String has popularly claimed to be useful since it is claimed to have been proved a renormalizable theory of quantum gravity and perturbatively finite, but it turned out that Mandelsham out proved it finite for certain types of infinite terms, and only three out of an infinite number of terms in the perturbative expansion are really known to be definitely finite. The Maldacena conjecture, hailed as a great result, again is unproved. So M-theory is not even proved to do what it claims with mathematical rigor.

    Whatever the best fit in the 10^500 theories of string is to the real universe, it will need to have its Calabi-Yau manifold fixed to prevent the moduli or parameters of the extra dimensions from drifting in nature due to instabilities in each particle containing the 6 rolled up extra dimensions. This requires moduli stabilization with a Rube-Goldberg type machine, involving fields to hold the extra dimensions in place. The whole thing is so artificial and convoluted, it’s just epicycles, caloric or phlogiston all over again, minus the (faked) ‘evidence’ of experimental agreement that epicycles, caloric and phlogiston had.

    What you hope for is that string theory will advance from being not even wrong to being wrong like epicycles, caloric and phlogiston. Dream on.

  30. JC says:

    What would be hilarious is if in the year 2100, some kid finds a “theory’ which replicates all the “exact” solutions to the S-matrix of the Standard Model, with only high school math (ie. basic algebra).

  31. E. says:

    Anon,
    You’re completely wrong. If string theory can provide a complete description of our world and can make predictions that turn out to be right, it is progress, even if we cannot understand why a particular vacuum is selected. As I’ve pointed out in my previous posts, string theory as we currently understand is a perturbative formulation. We do not have the ‘real’ theory, only approximations. If we could go beyond the perturbative description, it may be that the vacuum that corresponds to our universe is selected. However, in the absence of the nonperturbative description, we can only work backwards.

    Also, I should point out that much of what you say are inaccuracies quoted directly from Smolin’s book.

  32. anon. says:

    “You’re completely wrong.” – E.

    If I’m completely wrong, I take it you have just proved the Maldacena conjecture? And you’ve just found the long awaited proof that perturbative string theory is finite?

    “If string theory can provide a complete description of our world and can make predictions that turn out to be right, it is progress, even if we cannot understand why a particular vacuum is selected.” – E.

    That’s exactly Ptolemy’s argument in favour of the ‘progress’ of using epicycles to model the earth centred universe in 150 AD. Except, string theory doesn’t even model anything real and observable in a predictive way, unlike epicycles.

    “If we could go beyond the perturbative description, it may be that the vacuum that corresponds to our universe is selected. However, in the absence of the nonperturbative description, we can only work backwards.” – E.

    No, you can work forward from empirical facts and build theories on those, like Newton’s dictum, hypotheses non fingo. You can make checkable predictions from a theory which is built on a framework of solid facts. You can’t do that with a theory based on unobserved extra dimensions, branes, gravitons, supersymmetric partners, unification at 10^16 GeV, and other wishful thinking or abject, non-checkable speculative guesswork.

    “… much of what you say are inaccuracies quoted directly from Smolin’s book.” – E.

    Now you are being vague and inaccurate, much like string theory. Name one inaccuracy, instead of making up such vague, guesswork speculation.

  33. E. says:

    Anon,
    People like you really aren’t worth my time.

  34. E. says:

    Anon,
    Can you prove that perturbative string theory isn’t finite? And what does Ads/CFT have to do with my arguments? It’s clear to me that you really don’t know very much except whatever propaganda Woit and Smolin have told you, which you just repeat.

  35. Michael Bacon says:

    E wrote: “If string theory can provide a complete description of our world and can make predictions that turn out to be right, it is progress, even if we cannot understand why a particular vacuum is selected.”

    Well yes . . if it could do those things it would be progress, but it can’t, can it? I’d be curious who thinks it is even possible to provided a “complete” description of the world and make “predictions”, while not be able to undersand why a particular vacuum is selected?

  36. woit says:

    I’ve been under the weather with a migraine headache the last day or so, in retrospect probably should have deleted most of the comments in this thread. If people have something substantive to say, please do so, but I’ll delete any more repetitive and pointless bickering, whether it’s pro or anti-string theory. And Peter O. is right, this isn’t the right place for public expression of views denigrating particular people.

  37. Cecil Kirkey says:

    Peter:

    Sorry to offend. You and Lee and Bee to some degree have suggested that part of the problem in fundemental theoritical physics is the alck of a system that allows a young researcher to pursue their OWN interests. My point in the posts was to try to understand exactly how these people are being stopped from doing whatever research they choose.

    Tenured positions are rewarded on past accomplishments and maybe future expectations. But I think if an objective study was done in theortical physics that the output of tenured researchers is significantly less than that of non-tenured researchers.

    I see NO reason why any researcher cannot work on something other than string theory and prove themselves worthy and then earn a coveted tenured position based on accomplishments and not potential.

  38. Peter Orland says:

    Cecil,

    People can win tenure on either accomplishments or potential. Most
    Universities want people who can win grant money. Generally speaking, potential wins out over accomplishment in this regard.

    A small number of physicists have obtained tenured positions doing
    neither exclusively string theory, phenomenology nor numerical lattice work, but instead pursuing their own ideas over their entire careers. They are lonely, ignored and happy.

  39. Peter Woit says:

    Cecil,

    I don’t think you’re very aware of what the realities are for young theorists. It’s not just that they need to get tenure. Typically they are in postdoc positions with terms of maybe three years. Starting such a position, knowing that in two years you’ll have to apply for another postdoc (competition is stiff) or a tenure-track job (competition is extremely stiff), should you try and work on something outside the mainstream, assuming that in those two years you’ll have impressive enough results to convince hiring committees to hire you? It’s not an easy position to be in. I think anyone who knows how the system works, and looks at the pressures and incentives it puts on young people, has to acknowledge that this is a major reason why few young people work on very ambitious ideas.

    I think you’re also highly unrealistic about the possibilities for doing important work in this area in spare time after a full-time job. Few people have the energy for this, and contact with smart people (grad students, colleagues, visiting people from other institutions) with similar interests is invaluable and something you’ll not get.

  40. Peter,

    What you described is just a perfect recipe for groupthink.

    You correctly pointed out that current system forces young people to stick with mainstream ideas. Then you suggested that the benefit of remaining within this system is the opportunity to interact with other people (who presumably are sticking with the same mainstream as well and pulling you inside the same vicious circle).

    Can we assume that if these “smart people” have something interesting to say, they already published that in the arXiv? So that I can benefit from their ideas while keeping a safe distance from the deadly mainstream current?

  41. woit says:

    Eugene,

    Universities are not so homogeneous, they often contain people who have found a way not to work on mainstream ideas. Even people who work mainly on mainstream ideas often cannot avoid having acquired some wisdom on one topic or another. One can make progress just by oneself, but having smart people who know things you don’t know to talk to is often very helpful. And not everything they know is on the arxiv, or, especially for mathematicians, if it’s there it may be in a form that is much much harder to get at than by talking to someone who understands the field and can explain the basic ideas. Mathematics is still in some ways an oral tradition.

    The other great benefit of universities is getting the opportunity to teach, if you can do it at a quite advanced level. Teaching something to people is an invaluable way of learning it deeply oneself.

    My own experience has mostly now been in math departments, where I have learned a huge amount from colleagues, talks and from teaching. It’s true that this is an environment inherently pretty far removed from current mainstream particle theory and its concerns.

  42. anon. says:

    Peter, have you heard any whispers leaking from Brian Greene’s office at Columbia about the progress of deciding a winner for Discover magazine’s competition for a 2 minute explanation of string theory? The deadline was about 6 weeks ago. Must be a tough call to decide the best one. http://discovermagazine.com/

  43. Peter Woit says:

    anon.

    For some reason, neither Brian nor the people at Discover have decided to consult me about the choosing of the winner for that competition…

  44. Dan says:

    Personally I think you should have been consulted as a dissenting voice in the PBS Nova special Elegant Universe, along with computer graphics with the problems with string theory and supersymmetry.

  45. Coin says:

    Um, wasn’t that all the way back in 2003?

  46. island says:

    Coin and Dan together make a good point, though, I think. Peter and others have been saying the same thing for many years, but professional and popular recognition didn’t occur with any real impact until Peter and Lee started writing books about it, so at least now, future “specials”, (and his peers), will more seriously consider his, Lee’s, and others’ dissenting opinions are real concerns of physicists that should be considered with the rest, rather than to allow things to appear to be more than they really are strictly for the advancement of egos and popularity. That cannot be good for science.

  47. Shantanu says:

    Peter, sorry for the OT comment as this is FYI. I was looking at the webcast
    of the on-going
    black hole conference at STSCI. although all talks are superb, you will be interested in the talk by
    Horowitz which is on black holes in string theory (and in particular the discussion ) See the answers to Narayan and Livio’s questions.