Really Quick Links

The Fermilab Steering Group is about to come out with its report. Their roadmap for Fermilab proposes that if the ILC project is delayed “Fermilab should pursue additional neutrino and flavor physics opportunities”, in particular with “Project X”, a high-intensity proton linac. One of their remaining tasks is to pick a name for Project X.

In the category of magazine articles that I hear have just come out, but I don’t have a copy of, and aren’t available on-line, there’s

  • a cover story about the state of particle physics and string theory by yours truly in the latest Cosmos magazine
  • an article about Lisa Randall in Vogue.
  • The talks at the recent Imperial College event in honor of Abdus Salam are now on-line. This is the event Steven Weinberg boycotted, but Gerard ‘t Hooft was there to talk about Salam and the state of theoretical physics. His talk was entitled “The Grand View of Physics”, and is available here.

    Among the recent large “’07″ conferences with talks available on-line are:

  • Loops ’07, mainly on LQG.
  • SUSY ’07, mainly on supersymmetry.
  • Lattice ’07, mainly on lattice gauge theory. Blogging from Georg von Hippel, including a description of today’s Creutz-Kronfeld celebrity deathmatch over rooted fermions.
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    23 Responses to Really Quick Links

    1. Thomas Larsson says:

      Randall (from Backreaction).

    2. Yatima says:

      As you can see, Lisa has been reading NewScientist.

    3. Coin says:

      And for some reason my chief response is: goodness, there are people who still use blackboards?

    4. Coin:

      “… goodness, there are people who still use blackboards?”

      I assumed that she was using a whiteboard, but that a symmetry-breaking field from an adjacent brane had acted upon the color-space somewhere between Lisa and the wall.

    5. Sebastian Thaler says:

      Peter-

      Congrats on the COSMOS article–I believe that magazine is sold at my local Barnes & Noble and I’ll look for this issue. By the way, I notice that Lee Smolin’s book is now out in softcover. Are there plans for a softcover edition of your book?

    6. Peter Woit says:

      Sebastian,

      Cosmos is a well-known Australian popular science magazine, I’d be surprised if it’s available in the US, but maybe it is. My book is also supposed to be coming out in softcover. I haven’t seen any copies of that edition yet, but it should be out sometime in the next few weeks.

    7. Intellectually Curious says:

      Coin,

      I for one think that students actually do learn better from having to take notes at the same time the professor is writing on the blackboard. It builds discipline and helps them think (or at least remember the material). Young people nowadays who rely too much on technology also rely it to think for them. They don’t know how to think anymore. It’s sad.

    8. ObsessiveMathsFreak says:

      And for some reason my chief response is: goodness, there are people who still use blackboards?

      I cast thee out!!

    9. Gphillip says:

      Interesting article on the state of string theory. I agree with the “It’s a bust” side. People should remember that physics is just a model of reality. It is not and never will be reality itself. Reading “The Computational Universe” it’s clear that to have a completely accurate model of the universe would require something with the size and energy of the Universe itself to run the model.

      So on the end, a model is only as good as it’s predictive ability, and simpler is better. String theory is neither simple nor does it produce a useful and new fundamental predictive ability. Even worse, string theory leads us to a conclusion that the universe is this way because this is the way God made it. That’s great if one is seeking a physical proof of a divine being, but it’s a complete dead end for modern physics.

      So what’s next? Or at least, what are the characteristics of what’s next? Well, it should be simple in concept. String theory started out simple in concept, that everything was just vibrating strings of energy, but it’s formulation led us to a point where even thousands of the brightest physicists and mathematicians can’t completely understand it. Next, the theory must be modular or expandable. That is, as new concepts are understood, the theory must be capable of incorporating those new concepts without having to be completely reworked. Here I make the reasonable assumption that no theory will ever be a completely accurate model of the universe. If that’s so, then new concepts will be formulated and proven as long as curious physicists draw breath.

      Finally, no matter how simple or complex, restricted or free ranging, the model must provide new fundamental predictions that can be experimentally verified. In my own humble opinion, and in that of many in the field, this is (was?) the death of string theory. It turned out not to be a theory of everything, but a theory of anything. In order to give the theory the necessary degrees of freedom to back-predict things already known, it forward predicts things that are inconsistent with our known universe, and an almost infinite amount of them at that.

      I don’t know what the next theory will be, but looking through the literature I see several possible good candidates. My personal favorite is a quantum gravity theory that the universe is made up only of a continiuous fluid, perhaps a space-time fluid with no particle size. In that theory the particles we measure are only qualities of that area of the fluid. Those qualities can be represented by a field similar to a tensor field that that can be represented by a suitable sized matrix of terms which act on the fluid. From what I’ve read, it will still take extra dimensions of either time and/or space (an extra curled up dimension of time simplifies things greatly). But it should come as no surprise at this point that additional dimensions will be required to represent the degrees of freedom needed to model our universe. This is my current favorite because as additional concepts are proven they can just simply be added to the existing matrix creating an ever more accurate model.

      In any case, string theory is dead. Long live the next greatest thing.

    10. dan says:

      Peter,
      for those in the US without access to the Cosmo article, is there anyway we can read your article?

    11. locrian says:

      Heh, did no one notice? From the Cosmos webpage:

      “Includes perspectives from leading experts, such as Michio Kaku, co-founder of string theory. . .”

      Hahaha. The charlatans win again.

    12. Peter Woit says:

      dan,

      Sorry, but I myself don’t even have a copy yet of the magazine, in paper or electronic form, so I don’t know what the edited version looks like, or what other people have to say. But as for my piece, what I sent them wouldn’t be anything new to anyone who regularly reads this blog…

    13. Chan Tun says:

      as Michio Kaku, co-founder of string theory. . .”

      Hahaha. The charlatans win again.

      I’d almost agree with this, except I wouldn’t call charlatan someone with more citations than I. At 2000+ citations, it’s going to be some time before I have the arrogance of calling Kaku a charlatan. But I wouldn’t bother to disagree if someone with the proper credentials called him so. The question, Locrian, is what you have to show in your record that outdoes Kaku’s.

    14. Peter Woit says:

      Kaku wrote some of the early papers on string field theory, and thus has some claim to be a co-founder of string field theory. Unfortunately the “field” sometimes gets dropped by the press..

      And please, stop the attacks on people as “charlatans” or whatever, it’s obnoxious and just lead to pointless hostility, something this subject doesn’t need more of.

    15. locrian says:

      Chan Tun,

      That question of my record versus Kaku’s is actually something that has been mentioned here before. It’s something I’m quite comfortable with, for reasons that might not be obvious. However, it’s also a terrifically inappropriate subject for Peter’s Blog.

      Kaku’s designation as the “co-founder of string theory”, on the other hand, seems an entirely appropriate subject. It speaks volumes about the way the media interacts with the scientific community and the public.

    16. ttn says:

      I had no idea Robert Stadler was working at Fermilab…

    17. Coin says:

      I for one think that students actually do learn better from having to take notes at the same time the professor is writing on the blackboard.

      My comment was meant to be taken in the sense of “…as opposed to whiteboards”.

      Kaku wrote some of the early papers on string field theory, and thus has some claim to be a co-founder of string field theory.

      Is string field theory in some way related to Ads/Cft, or otherwise something which might have ongoing uses as a mathematical construct even in the absence of string theory proper?

    18. Peter Woit says:

      String field theory has nothing to do with AdS/CFT. It’s a field theory, where the fields are defined not on space-time, but on the infinite-dimensional space of open or closed strings in a space-time.

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    20. ad says:

      Why did Steven Weinberg “boycott” the event held at the Imperial college in honor of Abdus Salam?

    21. woit says:

      ad,

      His letter explaining this is available here:

      http://www.engageonline.org.uk/blog/article.php?id=1036

    22. “Coin,

      I for one think that students actually do learn better from having to take notes at the same time the professor is writing on the blackboard. It builds discipline and helps them think (or at least remember the material). Young people nowadays who rely too much on technology also rely it to think for them. They don’t know how to think anymore. It’s sad.

      Gee, if only there were a way to establish the truth or falsity of such beliefs? Some sort of objective method for probing whether assertions about the world are true or not. We could call it, I don’t know, the scientific method, or experimentation, or something.

      Isn’t the whole problem with education that it is based on “I for one think that students actually do learn better…” rather than anyone (apart from Carl Wieman http://name99.org/blog99/?p=33 ) actually testing these hypothese?

    23. Arun says:

      Maynard Handley: I think we have to distinguish between what works on the whole versus what works for the best students, which is a priori not the same.