This Week’s Hype

In recent years string theorists have been having trouble getting taken seriously by the media, a problem they’ve been trying to deal with by enlisting the PR departments of their universities to help. Following Princeton and Stanford, today’s the turn of the string theorists at Northeastern, who had their press office put out a press release announcing “Northeastern team uses string theory to explain the fundamental nature of the universe.”

As usual, this is just pure, unadulterated hype. It’s based on a PRL publication, also available as this preprint. I usually try to avoid this sort of editorializing, but I’m actually shocked to see that PRL is now publishing this sort of thing, which is infinitely far from having any connection to conventional science.

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9 Responses to This Week’s Hype

  1. Roger says:

    Off-topic.
    It looks like the Japanese have made some sort of decision regarding hosting the ILC. There will be some news tomorrow (7th March) followed by a press conference by ICFA (International Committee for Futrue Accelerators):
    https://www.interactions.org/press-release/icfa-briefs-future-prospect-international-linear-collider

  2. David Littleboy says:

    FWIW, and it’s not worth much, there was an item in the Asahi Shimbun (one of the major Japanese newspapers) a couple of weeks ago to the effect a particular group of scientists had announced that they were unenthused about building a new linear accelerator in Japan. It wasn’t immediately clear whether said group was a group with clout or not, so I didn’t track it down. Here, I do slightly more of my homework.

    Ah, here’s something: https://webronza.asahi.com/science/articles/2018112600016.html

    It seems the folks promoting the project were irritated (as of Nov. 26 last year) that the Science Council of Japan’s report on the project had “overly strong negative nuances”. And held a press conference to that effect.

    Here’s the PDF of the SCJ’s December 19, 2018 report: http://www.scj.go.jp/ja/info/kohyo/pdf/kohyo-24-k273.pdf

    It’s long. But it mutters about not thinking that the project has yet gotten to the stage of serious discussions about personnel allocations and funding.

    And there are definitely some other negative, or at least implicitly negative comments in there.

    Perhaps March 7 will be interesting.

  3. Peter Woit says:

    About the ILC.
    Let’s see what the news is tomorrow. From everything I’ve seen, it seems unlikely to be positive for a Japanese ILC project.

  4. Bernhard says:

    How does this PRL compare to the Bogdanov affair?

  5. Peter Woit says:

    Bernhard,
    It’s pretty different. The Bogdanov papers were highly unclear and did not really make sense. This paper is a different problem: it’s perfectly clear what calculation they are doing, there just is zero evidence it has any relevance to the real world. What’s surprising to me is that PRL’s standards have evolved to the point where they are willing to publish this kind of completely unsupported speculation.

  6. Peter Woit says:

    For a Physics World story about the Japanese ILC announcement, see here

    https://physicsworld.com/a/disappointment-as-japan-fails-to-commit-to-hosting-the-international-linear-collider/

    Perhaps the best summary is the quote from Brian Foster:

    “It is difficult to be convinced that the Japanese government is serious about this,” says Foster. “Delaying the decision in this way seems like a typical Japanese way of saying ‘no’”.

  7. Roger says:

    A large part of the original motivation for the ILC was to study in more detail the new phenomena that the LHC would see.

    I’m reminded of a comment Rolf Heuer made when he played a leading role in the ILC. He was asked in 2004 whether he thought the project would go ahead if the LHC found only the SM Higgs. His answer was no. He may well have been very prescient.

  8. Of absolutely no interest to you says:

    “which is infinitely far from having any connection to conventional science.”
    –>
    “which is infinitely far from having any connection to science.”
    FTFY

  9. Lucas says:

    It seems to me that PRL has a very low bar for ‘trendy’ interdisciplinary topics like neural networks, machine learning, etc when given some type of physics ‘spin.’

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