Short Items

  • String theory continues to make progress. Today the news is from Megan Fox:

    “Sometimes I just know things,” she explains. “I accidentally tap into stuff sometimes. I used to do it as a kid, and I do it as an adult. I crossed over and saw a future string.”

    String, as in string theory. Fox is into stuff like that. She’s also spiritual. On her Instagram profile, she describes herself thusly: “Child of the Cherokee Tribe … forest nymph … Lunar Leo mother goddess to 2 bohemian revolutionaries-my kamikaze free spirit & my peaceful warrior.”

    A few months ago it was Jaden Smith moving the subject forward:

    Jaden sees himself as a modern-day prophet and is working on a collection of essays,” a pal says in the new issue of Us Weekly. “They’re new takes on string theory and chaos theory, but more mystical.”

    After all, he’s getting an out-of-this-world assist with the tome. Explains the source, “Jaden thinks he has spiritual ties to people in other dimensions and galaxies, and they are helping him write.”

  • At some sort of other extreme, Sabine Hossenfelder has very sensible things to say about the string theory phenomenon here.
  • If you read Physical Review Letters or the Financial Times you might think that a “key to an unseen portion of the universe” had been found. Luckily for you, Natalie Wolchover is on the case, uncovering the story of why you might not want to take that new fifth force seriously quite yet.
  • If you’re interested at all in the story of the superluminal neutrinos, you might want to read Gianfranco D’Anna’s fictionalized account of the story, 60.7 Nanoseconds, which has just appeared in English

Update: This string theory story is so bizarre I don’t know what to make of it:

While working on String Theory, Kaku, discovered what he sees as evidence that the universe is created by an intelligence, rather than merely formed by random forces. He suggests he can explain it by what he calls, “primitive semi-radius tachyons.” We do not yet have a succinct explanation of this idea from Kaku, other than he’s referring to tachyons, which are theoretical particles that unbind particles from one another.

Without getting into physics itself, Kaku concludes that we live in a Matrix-style universe, created by an intelligence.

“I have concluded that we are in a world made by rules created by an intelligence”, he said. “Believe me, everything that we call chance today won’t make sense anymore. To me it is clear that we exists in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.”

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39 Responses to Short Items

  1. Bee says:

    The other day there was a poster hanging in our local supermarket, offering a weekend-seminar on M-theory based quantum healing. It was amazingly costly. Thanks for the link 🙂

  2. Another Anon says:

    So, the M stands for “massage”. Now we know.

  3. Veríssimo says:

    They should invite Megan Fox to host the next Milner prizes. Not only because of her looks. It also seems like that she, unlike Kevin Spacey, would be interested in mingling with the scientists.

  4. Harrison says:

    I listen to peoples’ apparent first-hand experiences with “other dimensions” and treat them like a Poe short story. Vivid, but at the end of the day it’s all jewelry. Comically aslant and thus ineffective.

  5. David Hansen says:

    That first item is effing amazing.

  6. student says:

    Dr. Hossenfelder’s following remarks are quite too the point:

    “So far, string theory has scored in two areas. First, it has proved interesting for mathematicians. … Second, string theory has shown to be useful to push ahead with the lesser understood aspects of quantum field theories. This seems a fruitful avenue and is certainly something to continue.”

    The part of the argument that is harder to follow is that other approaches to QG will have a more significant relevance to applications.

    “And since that theory underlies all modern technology, this is research which bears relevance for applications.”

    Just a casual glance at the arXiv today shows

    [arXiv:1606.01893] “Particle-Vortex Duality from 3d Bosonization”
    [arXiv:1606.01989] “A Duality Web in 2+1 Dimensions and Condensed Matter Physics”

    which is an example of how the rich interplay between ideas in the condensed matter theory, high energy theory, string theory, and even mathematics via mirror symmetry can be applied to problems in condensed matter. This hopefully is an example of the “fruitful avenue” Dr. Hossenfelder suggested and will have an impact on applications faster than “Not in ten years and not in 50 years, but maybe in 100 or 500 years.”

  7. Shantanu says:

    Peter, ongoing workshops on status of supersymmetry and LHC searches at KITP

  8. Peter Woit says:

    The problem is that the papers you quote are interesting work on QFT, but don’t really have any significant connection to string theory, and certainly not to the main topic Sabine was writing about, string theory as a theory of quantum gravity.

  9. Bernhard says:

    Whatever Kaku has been smoking must be really strong stuff. How someone get away with saying these absurdities and still be taken seriously by anyone (assuming that’s the case) is a beyond me.

  10. Dom says:

    Can I offer the suggestion that Michio Kaku has a calendar fault as this was clealy intended to be an April Fool article.

  11. Peter Woit says:

    I’m pretty mystified by the Kaku piece. Quite possibly some of the odd stuff is due to the writer not Kaku (“primitive semi-radius tachyons”???). It’s also true that lots of prominent theorists now sit around publicly debating whether we’re a simulation, which may be what Kaku is talking about, see for instance

  12. Northern Jock says:

    Just an opinion but I think what you do is important on this blog and that you have good judgement generally speaking, but that it’s a bad idea to go down the road of mocking. It’s important stick with the problems associated with String Theory, it’s theorists, and advocacy with some connection to the community or where there some direct responsibility on the part of the community.
    Otherwise…well I mean you could go onto YouTube and find stupendous interpretations and claims about anything you like. And I think that’s an argument that could be thrown back at you, that would have some influences with some people, for a limited interval of time.

  13. David Levitt says:

    I teach an upper level course on medical devices and I show Michio Kaku’s Daily Show interview (pushing his book “The Future of the Mind”) as a classic example of the nonsense that is in this field. Almost every statement of Kaku’s is factually wrong. I suppose I am old fashioned, but I worry about everything I say in lecture, and I am a chagrined if something is not quite right. And here, Kaku can go out before millions of viewers and just spew gobbledygook???

  14. Bernhard says:


    I honestly don’t understand the purpose of these debates and to me they are a symptom of how sick our field became. We have plenty of interesting, difficult, down to earth problems to solve and work with.

  15. Peter Woit says:

    Northern Jock,
    I understand your point, but the string theory hype machine is still active and I think pointing to the nonsense that it leads to is justifiable. Mostly I do just point without mocking, sometimes I can’t resist temptation.

  16. Northern Jock says:

    Peter Woit – That’s entirely understandable and you are very entertaining as well as informative.

  17. Bernhard says:

    Northern Jock,
    I wold also add to what Peter is said is that Kaku is not your typical random crank that you would find on youtube. I remember when I was in undergraduate school some people were studying QFT with his book. Not to mention he has a prestigious position as a professor of theoretical physics, so his voice is taken much more seriously by the media and, even worse, by young unwary minds.

  18. Henry L. says:

    Kaku also appears in a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge commercial, so he is cashing in on some of his notoriety.

  19. zzz says:

    Kaku appears on the morning news shows for anything sciencey.
    He doesn’t study hurricanes or tornados, but i have heard him speak about them

  20. Northern Jock says:

    Bernard – I wasn’t talking about Kaku, who is fair game if he wants to carry on as he does. I was talking about the minor celebrity and the teenage son of a celebrity. I think advocacy of that kind tends to happen randomly wrt the merits of the subject.

  21. Neil says:

    Uh, oh. If Kaku is right, our programmers have been caught out, and we are all in for a reboot.

  22. Rabbit says:

    …”even worse, by young unwary minds.” There’s no helping unwary minds, young or old.

  23. A says:


    There are countless crackpots out there who have their own take on relativity, but that does not mean that relativity is wrong. So I don’t regard the musings of such people to be any kind of negative statement on strings. Do you?

    Regarding Kaku, I couldn’t get the video to play. Does he really say that stuff? The organization that published this page doesn’ automatically have credibility of course.

  24. Dr. Michelson Moreley says:


    There are countless crackpots out there who have their own take on unicorns, but that does not mean that unicorns exist. So I don’t regard the musings of such people to be any kind of positive statement on strings. Do you?

  25. Peter Woit says:

    Of course the views of crackpots about a theory have nothing to do with its value. The tradition though is that celebrity crackpots latch on to successful physics theories that everyone has heard about (e.g. relativity and quantum theory), but the innovation is that now they’re latching on to an unsuccessful theory that everyone has heard about, not knowing the difference.

  26. A says:

    I don’t fully understand your post but I’m going to go with “No”.


  27. Narad says:

    Today the news is from Megan Fox

    Oh, dear:

    “She and costar Shia LaBeouf [of Walgreens fame] were given a tour of of the Great Pyramid of Giza by the Ministry of Antiquities and someone ‘high-ranking in that field — I will not say who’ told the actors that the pyramid was never actually a tomb.

    “‘They presume they may have been some type of energy plant at some point,’ says Fox.”

    Even Phil Lesh was more sophisticated, and I’ll bet the shows (which weren’t very good aside from Hamza, IMO) at least produced more inquiry into the nature of the observer and the observed, as well as a fair amount of energy.

  28. Richard J. Gaylord says:

    ““I have concluded that we are in a world made by rules created by an intelligence”, he said. “Believe me, everything that we call chance today won’t make sense anymore. To me it is clear that we exists in a plan which is governed by rules that were created, shaped by a universal intelligence and not by chance.”. while i admire Kaku’s hair much more than i do his books, i think we need to be careful here because this is a quote attributed to Kaku, and many academicians i know have been either misquoted or had their ideas distorted by others with their own agenda. For example, Einstein has often been said to believe in God but for Einstein, God was simply shorthand for nature (or nature’s laws). i expect that Kaku realizes that invoking a “universal intelligence” is not a useful scientific explanation of any phenomenon.

  29. Shantanu says:

    Peter: sorry for the OT comment. But looking forward to your report on talks at the LHC conference at KITP, esp. the supersymmetry ones.

  30. Jim Given says:

    Kaku actually says, “a Matrix-style universe”?? Is this a reference to some sort of matrix-valued field theory? Is it a reference to M theory? A reference to the movie, “The Matrix”?

  31. Yatima says:

    When Meedja say “Matrix-style” what they mean is “Matrix-style, like in that Warner Brothers movie from before the War on Stuff with raining green glyphs and Neo and stuff”. Using “Matrix” in a technical sense is prohibited as per editor rules (this is an empirical observation though).

    Moreover, “M-theory” is not a shorthand for “Matrix theory”. My hunch is that the “M” is a quantifier symbol derived from the mirrored “W” as in “Witten”.

  32. Pingback: String theory: Welcome to the future of science | Uncommon Descent

  33. Parth says:

    Funny string articles..I also think Kaku is referring to living in a simulation by an intelligent being as the ‘Matrix-style universe’ seems to refer to the common phrase ‘living in a Matrix’ i.e. living in a simulation like in the movie The Matrix.

  34. Peter Woit says:


    Sorry, but, just skimming some of the talks, I don’t see any real news there. The overwhelming issue right now is the possible 750 GeV state. Total luminosity for this year’s run is now at about the level of last year’s run (above 3 inverse fb) so soon ATLAS and CMS should have the analysis done to see if a bump is still there in the diphotons. If it is, that’s going to completely dominate the subject for the forseeable future (and I’ll predict a high-profile event at CERN).

    If the bump is gone, then maybe no event at CERN, but talks at ICHEP in Chicago. If there’s any remaining ambiguity, it should soon be removed by the data coming in over the next few months.

    If no bump, then things should return to the situation things have been in for a long time: overwhelming evidence against heavily oversold SUSY scenarios, with a sector of the physics community refusing to move on and acknowledge what has happened. One conference to wait for might be the one in late September labeled “Is SUSY alive and well?”, check out their website with a graphic indicating that SUSY is not only dead, but is haunting the living…

  35. Tim says:

    Would it be unwise to read the complete lack of leaked rumors this close before ICHEP as a sign that the bump is most likely dead? Either physicists have gotten several orders of magnitude better at keeping their mouths shut, or this year’s run hasn’t produced anything interesting …

  36. Peter Woit says:

    I think it’s just too early. It’s only very recently that the experiments have accumulated an amount of data comparable to last year’s, and analysis of that data takes a while. I don’t know if these are blinded analyses. If they are, it will be a while before they are unblinded.

  37. anon says:

    Regarding result announcements: LIGO collaboration will have a press conference in a couple of hours at the 228th AAS meeting and it looks like they’re going to announce new detections of gravitational waves.

  38. Provider of Truth and Factcheck says:

    The story is probably a hoax, at least according to this guy:

    Kaku never claimed any of these things about “primitive semi radius tachyons”.

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