I haven’t been posting here for a while, partly due to a lot of traveling, partly due to some personal time-consuming commitments, and largely due to a lack of much in the way of news that seemed worth much attention. For some examples of such news that might be of interest:
- Due to discovery of a buckled RF finger, the LHC start-up (at 6.8 TeV/beam) has been delayed from end of next February to end of March or beginning of April. For details, see here.
- As usual in the US for many years, no one knows what the Federal HEP physics budget for the current fiscal year is, although we’re a couple months into it. The formal US budgeting process involves a long process including an executive branch budget proposal and congressional committee hearings and debate. This however does not lead to actual budget numbers, which only emerge at the last minute, made in some way understandable to no one I’ve ever asked about this. From the latest news, the US might have a budget any day now, and then a bit later we’ll find out what the HEP budget will be.
This year the process has involved a highly peculiar situation with the budget for US LHC contributions (prospects for large cuts, assumed to get fixed mysteriously in the last minute process). For the details of what is going on, there’s a news story here, and discussion at an HEPAP meeting here. For the first time I’m aware of, the HEPAP meeting videos are on Youtube (see links here), so one can follow the actual discussion between physicists and government officials there.
- In non-news about the abc conjecture, the Japanese media appears to be reporting uncritically about IUT-based claims of proofs that are not accepted by the vast majority of experts in the subject. There have been a couple of workshops devoted to IUT (see here and here) recently, with those speaking about IUT almost all based at RIMS. Recently Mochizuki has posted a strange Invitation to view IUT workshop videos. To view the videos you have to apply, and promise not to use them for “non-mathematical purposes”. My guess is that one of the “non-mathematical purposes” at issue would be bloggers pointing out that nowhere in the talks does anyone discuss the fact that convincing arguments have been given by Peter Scholze and Jacob Stix that the IUT-based proof of abc is flawed and cannot possibly work. This problem is addressed with:
Unfortunately, it has come to my attention that certain misunderstandings concerning IUT continue to persist in certain parts of the world. Perhaps the most famous misunderstanding concerns an asserted identification of “redundant copies”. This misunderstanding involves well-known, essentially elementary mathematics at the beginning graduate level concerning the general nonsense surrounding “gluings”. For instance, if one “applies” this misunderstanding to the well-known gluing construction of the projective line, then one concludes that the two copies of the affine line that appear in this gluing are “redundant’’, hence may be identified. This identification leads immediately to a contradiction, i.e., to a “proof” that the projective line cannot exist! More details may be found in the Introduction to [EssLgc] and the references given there.
In case anyone thinks it’s plausible that Peter Scholze is making errors in elementary mathematics at the beginning graduate level, David Roberts has an explanation of what’s going on here.
On the string theory front, it’s become impossible to figure out how to have any sort of scientific debate about most of the public defenses of “string theory”. For two recent examples:
- In an article about What We Will Never Know, David Gross rather explicitly acknowledges that prospects for testing ideas about string theory are now an issue of “faith”, with no hope of turning into science any time soon:
There’s faith that one way or another we should be able to test these ideas… It might be very indirect—but that’s not something that’s a pressing issue.
- For Nabil Iqbal, string theory is now to be understood at the pre-scientific level of parable. In his parable, human beings trying to understand the equations of string theory are like fish trying to understand the equations governing the behavior of water. I’m trying to think of a sensible comment about this, but I’ve got nothing.