A few things that may be of interest:
- The Perimeter Institute has a new director, Rob Myers, succeeding Neil Turok. Myers is very much a mainstream theorist, and Perimeter over the years has been converging with the mainstream, from a very non-mainstream initial state. While Turok has taken the view in recent years that theoretical physics is in “a deep crisis”, Physics World has:
Myers says there are many opportunities in theoretical physics, mostly thanks to the vast amounts of data that are being collected by various experiments such as CHIME, EHT and the LIGO gravitational-wave detectors in the US. Yet Myers doesn’t believe that theoretical physics is in “a deep crisis” as Turok once admitted. “Particle physics is somewhat at a crossroads,” he says. “Describing it as a crisis is slightly dramatic, but I would agree that people have been relying on the status quo for too long and relaying on certain models from decades ago.”
Indeed, Myers now challenges researchers to think in new ways. “Young people are the future and we want to instill in them to question the status quo,” he adds. “After all, it is the people here that make the PI such a special place.”
- Speaking of challenges to the status quo, it seems that Sabine Hossenfelder now has a contract for her second book, topic not yet revealed.
- For the latest news from the Swampland, see this twitter thread from Will Kinney. He explains how the “Swampland conjecture” was meant to kill off the string theory multiverse, but this conjecture got in trouble:
So by getting rid of the multiverse, we have also gotten rid of known physics like the Higgs boson. Merde!
It was replaced by a fix, the “refined Swampland conjecture”, but Kinney has a new paper in PRL (arXiv link here) showing this fix doesn’t solve the multiverse problem for string theory:
This means that, as soon as we fix up the Swampland Conjecture so it doesn’t trivially rule out known physics like the Higgs, we inevitably get an unwelcome passenger: the string multiverse!
This is important because it looked like the Swampland Conjecture was likely to free us from the multiverse and associated awful stuff like the Anthropic Principle. Not so, we’re still stuck with it. Sorry.
- John Baez has a popular article at Nautilus about his new-found love for algebraic geometry, as an explanation of the relation of classical and quantum. The more technical version is a series of posts here.
Update: Arnold Neumaier has posted at the arXiv a series of three papers discussing his “thermal interpretation” of quantum mechanics (see here, here and here). While I find many of the points he seems to be making compelling, I haven’t had time to think seriously about what the problems of his approach might be (and there’s a long history of online discussions between him and others which would be a good place to start). Neumaier in the papers explicitly asks for discussion of them at physicsoverflow.org, and there are now posts there for this purpose (here, here and here). I look forward to following any discussion with him over there. He also has a website devoted to this topic here, which has some links to earlier discussions.
Update: There’s a new issue of Inference out. As usual, some interesting pieces from people not usually heard from in a non-technical venue. No sign of the pro-intelligent design/climate denialism agenda that they’ve been accused of having (see here). Pieces specifically relevant to some of the obsessions of this blog are a review by Glashow of Lost in Math, and a piece by David Roberts on the Mochizuki/Scholze/Stix story.
If the dS swampland conjecture is correct, I cannot see what we exactly mean with a multiverse here. At least not a multiverse of dS vacua…
I read “Inevitability and Eternity,” an essay from the new issue of Inference you linked to, and, as a citizen, I sincerely find it commendable. Thank you Peter.
Inference offered me the chance to write a response to Glashow’s review of Becker’s book (the review that Becker stops just short of claiming was some sort of reprisal for his investigating their finances). This happened in the usual manner: The invitation first went to one colleague, then was handed off to another, before eventually falling to me. Somewhere along the way, the e-mail boilerplate about paying contributors got lost, so I didn’t know money would be involved, and for an academic gig I didn’t think it would be. I drafted a brief essay that was critical both of Becker’s book and, to a lesser extent, of Glashow’s review.
After Becker’s piece in Undark came out, I was convinced that my criticisms would be portrayed as some kind of payback, so I withdrew the short draft I had composed. David Berlinski wrote to me (this was the 1st of February) to ask me to change my mind. After years of following the evolution-denial movement, and after attempting to read his “popular explanations” of mathematics, I have nothing but negative associations with Berlinski. I had been dubious all along about his name being on the masthead, but I’m also sadly accustomed to seeing Big Egos affiliated with “interdisciplinary” projects. Learning that he took any active editorial role — instead of being some kind of nominal holdover from an earlier management — convinced me that I had made the right choice.
I withdrew before I had learned that they paid for articles, so I’ll never know how much money I passed up.
I was not particularly concerned that the original source of their funding was somehow still setting their editorial agenda. Years ago, I quit a paying gig at ScienceBlogs.com because the management there abandoned the firewall between funding and editorial by giving Pepsi the chance to write a blog about “nutrition science”. So, I can be prickly about such things, but I honestly couldn’t see much of an agenda in what Inference published, except perhaps a general type of intellectual self-importance that transcends partisanship. Again, that is familiar enough, and not necessarily a deal-breaker in my book.
After forsaking whatever fee I might have earned, I expanded my essay with various observations that hadn’t made the cut for a short note, in the hope that I could make a comprehensive commentary and put Becker’s book behind me forever. I doubt the result is publishable in any venue having pretensions of solemnity, but it ultimately felt good to catalog the ways in which Becker reproduces the typical laziness of bad quantum-physics writing while inventing some new problems of his own.
I have Issues with the response to Glashow’s review that they did publish (by a linguist and philosopher), but this comment has already gone on plenty long, I fear to little benefit.