This and That

This week’s Nature has a nice cover story on Lyn Evans, who has been leading the construction of the LHC. The story mentions one of the problems of his high-profile job:

Evans has found himself the subject of more than one ad hominem attack in physics chat rooms and blogs; he knows because he Googles to find out.

While beam commissioning won’t start up again at the LHC until at least next July, at the Tevatron things have been going extremely well. Last week they set a new luminosity record, accumulating 74 pb-1. For more about this, there’s a posting at Symmetry Breaking.

The Boston Globe has an interview with Lisa Randall, who is writing the libretto for an opera to be entitled “Hypermusic Prologue: A projective opera in seven planes”.

Lieven le Bruyn has a posting about David Mumford and the so-called “Red Book”, the notes for his course on algebraic geometry. This includes a reproduction of Mumford’s picture of Spec Z[x], together with explanations of what all the squiggles mean. From this posting I also learned about a wonderful book on the topic of “Five Centuries of French Mathematics”, available here.

Taking a look at the Theoretical Particle Physics Jobs Rumor Mill, things are looking quite bad for tenure-track jobs in string theory or, more generally, any formal work on quantum field theory. It seems that what US physics departments most want now are cosmologists and “astro-particle physicists”. One place that plans to do a lot of hiring in this area is Arizona State, which is advertising for 8-10 new faculty appointments in these areas, and a similar number of postdocs, to be hired over the next 5 years. All of a sudden the field of “string cosmology” starts to make a lot more sense.

One organization that may need a lot of string theory instructors is the Maharishi Central University which will offer “Unified Field Based Education”:

The groundbreaking curriculum of Maharishi Central University is based upon the most advanced scientific knowledge of our age: the discovery of the Unified Field. During the past quarter century, modern physics has explored progressively more fundamental levels of nature’s functioning at the atomic, nuclear and sub-nuclear scales, culminating in the recent discovery of the Unified Field—a single, universal field of nature’s intelligence at the foundation of the universe.

This Unified Field, or “E8xE8 superstring field,” is the crowning achievement of fifty years of advanced research in quantum gravity theory, and is expressed most concisely in the following, compact Lagrangian, or “super-formula,” presented, for simplicity, in the super-conformal gauge…

The summary of the curriculum goes on to explain how the superstring field “provides the long-sought, mathematically rigorous, interdisciplinary foundation for all the sciences, and for the whole field of academic study,” and that “Without such knowledge, the entire field of education is essentially baseless.”

The plan seems to be to build 50 universities, one in each state, with a construction cost of $16 million each. They’re looking for investors, who are told that each university will enroll 200 students who will pay $45,000/year, generating an income of $9 million per year, so “This will render financing completely risk free.” This money-raising effort is related to the one discussed here.

The first such university is being built at the “exact geographic center” of the US, a point about 12 miles northeast of Smith Center, Kansas. The news from Raja Robert Wynne, Mayor of Maharishi Vedic City and Raja of Invincible New Zealand, Armenia, Kenya, Pakistan, Iraq, Vanuatu, Liberia, and Burundi for the Global Country of World Peace, is that there are 10 buildings now under construction. From an AP article about this, according to founding president John Hagelin

“The ultimate vision is 40,000 students. We’re probably not interested in something smaller than 10,000 students”… He said it would take more than $100 million to start up the university – which he had wanted to have open two years after construction began – and that kind of money isn’t easy to find amid a national banking crisis. Because of that, he said, a more reasonable estimate would be that the university will open in five to 10 years.

The locals seem to not be very happy about all this, worried by the presence of a Mexican construction company with Mexican workers at the site. One such Kansan is the Rev. Dennis Lambert, whose church is nearby, who says “We consider them to be a cult”. The AP article explains that

Lambert was among a small group of people who in 2006 dug up what they believe to be a Hindu idol on a rural property that meditators had once owned about 10 years ago. The figure, a hollow metal animal, contained fake jewels symbolic of the nine planetary gods, he said.

“The fake jewels were crushed and the metal deal was destroyed with heat,” Lambert said. “It was believed to have demonic influence and that’s the way we dealt with it.”

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27 Responses to This and That

  1. csrster says:

    Rev. Lambert scares me more than Dr. Hagelin.

  2. Ralph says:

    “Invincible New Zealand”?

    Us NZers are about as capable of defending ourselves against a serious invasion as we are of stopping the decay of a meta-stable vacuum, in either case we just hope we’re far enough away from northern hemisphere stuff like overpopulation and the LHC that it doesn’t effect us 🙂

  3. Sultan says:

    The fake jewels were crushed and the metal deal was destroyed with heat,” Lambert said. “It was believed to have demonic influence and that’s the way we dealt with it.”

    So, heat destroys demonic influences? I should think that they would be used to it.

  4. MathPhys says:

    “Because of the extraordinary significance to mankind of Dr. Nader Raam’s scientific breakthrough that consciousness is the basis of human physiology, he was awarded his weight in gold and crowned in October 2000 as “Maharaja Adhiraj Rajaraam, First Ruler of the Global Country of World Peace.” Shortly thereafter, Maharaja Adhiraj Rajaraam’s Global Administration honored Dr. Hagelin as Minister of Science and Technology (2001). ”

    Are these guys for real?

  5. Arun says:

    It would be amazing if the ancient Hindus knew of the nine planets – but they didn’t. They knew the five visible to the naked eye. The other four are the sun, moon, Rahu and Ketu.

    “”Nav” or “Nava” means “nine”. Graha is sometimes translated as “planet”, but the Sun, Moon, and Rahu and Ketu are not “planets” according to modern astronomy. “Graha” is sometimes translated as “celestial body”, but Rahu and Ketu are not celestial bodies either. A third translation is celestial god or demi-god, but again, Rahu and Ketu are Asuras not Devas. Rahu and Ketu are further believed to be only positions in the planetary paths. A fact common to all navagrahas is that they have relative movement with respect to the backgound of fixed stars in the zodiac belt.”

    More precisely, two of the “planets”, Rahu and Ketu, are the lunar nodes (the two points where the moon’s orbit intersects the ecliptic). They “cause” solar and lunar eclipses.

    The graha do not fit into the category of “demonic” or “godly” either, as noted above.

    It is a conceptualization of the world outside the domain, beyond the grasp of Rev. Lambert.

  6. themanwithaplan says:

    This is something right out of Monty Python’s holy grail quest.

    Peter, a question: do you know who funds these guys? Their hilariously-inept (and comical) invitations for multi-million dollar fundings surely don’t net anything, howcome they’ve been running for so long? Who’s giving them all this money, cause I also have some magical beans to sell…

  7. Peter Woit says:


    I’m also quite curious about the finances of this organization. As far as I can tell though, their grandiose plans to raise lots more money aren’t working out.

  8. Sumar Ongi says:

    That Hagelin entertains those projects is nothing unusual, it seems he’s been doing so for at least a decade now. His sources of funding are admittedly a more interesting research topic.

    But Randall? An opera ??!!! That’s … well…, surprising, to say the least.

  9. Markk says:

    The Tevatron info was interesting. The fact that they have bumped luminosity by a factor of six in the last few years by what seems to be process improvements means, to me, that we are still on the upslope of the learning curve in knowing how to mess with high power particle beams. Long term that is good news for LHC hopes as they will climb that curve too.

    I think it is a reason to keep the Tevatron going. People always want the next thing, the Higgs or whatever, but this is new high energy physics data and a bunch of it. We aren’t getting stuff like this anywhere else and won’t for a while. It will be a good set of data to use as a check and to find little things that we don’t know to look for now. Maybe Fermilab could try to start pioneering an open standard format for this information and create an open archive, like CERN was looking at a while ago.

  10. Chris W. says:

    That Hagelin entertains those projects is nothing unusual, it seems he’s been doing so for at least a decade now. His sources of funding are admittedly a more interesting research topic.

    Hmmmm. Maybe something interesting will come out of the impending litigation over Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. 🙂

  11. DB says:

    “But Randall? An opera ??!!! That’s … well…, surprising, to say the least”

    She probably got the idea from John Adam’s Doctor Atomic (2005), about Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project.

  12. A. says:

    A summary of news on the Tevatron from Beate Heinemann at the UK Annual Theory Meeting:

    No deviation from the SM in diboson production, preliminary data for a CP violating phase measured in B_s -> J\psi\psi decay might not agree with the SM prediction, this will be watched, and there is still no concensus on whether the CDF results indicate new physics or a miscalculated background.

    Dave Charlton gave a status on the LHC which just confirms what Peter said in his post.

  13. woit says:

    Thanks A.,

    Many of the talks at that meeting look quite interesting, and slides are available there.

    I found the perspective of the talk on String Phenomenology and the LHC to be kind of amusing. It ends with

    “LHC can give us important information on the structure of the MSSM string landscape!”

    The philosophy seems to no longer be that experiment can test string theory. All experiment can ever do is tell us “where we are” in the landscape, with string theory and the string theory landscape now having the status of untestable axioms of physics.

  14. Chickenbreeder says:

    I noted that you no longer have the link to Arizona State job announcement. Are those 8-10 jobs not real after all? They just seem too good to be true since all I have heard is hiring freeze.

    I believe the scarcity of jobs in theoretical physics is correlated with the ill wind of economic downturn that’s blowing over elite universities. Even Harvard and Stanford announced major cutback and hire freeze due to endowment loss.

  15. Peter Woit says:

    Chicken Breeder,

    The ASU job announcement is still there. I have no idea if budget problems will cause them to cut back and hire fewer people.

    All of US academia is having budget problems, especially public universities since state and local budgets are having problems.

    Harvard has announced major budget cuts, supposedly because their endowment has gone down $8billion this year. Unclear to me why this is such a huge problem, since it went up $6billion last year…

  16. BlissCat says:

    I sincerely hope to see the opening of Maharishi Central Universities everywhere. The idea of an underlying interdisciplinary foundation in education is very appealing to me, but sorely lacking in academia today, so that we are often left with an unbalanced curriculum which cannot fully develop a student’s brain. In contrast, students who befit from the sort of complete education Dr Hagelin is talking about, develop their inner potential through the practice of Transcendental Meditation, increasing creativity, learning ability, the ability to relate to others, and cultivating the total potential of their brain. That to me is the basis of success in life. Click here for a description of scientific studies on the benefits of Transcendental Meditation in education:
    Transcendental Meditation & Brain Potential

  17. Henriette Hagelin-Chandra says:

    Well, BlissCat, since you seem to have the secret of success, I don’t doubt you’ll be donating a couple million of your dollars to our Maharishi C.U. We appreciate your financial support.

  18. Kay says:

    The National Institutes of Health have granted $24 million to study Transcendental Meditation for the prevention and treatment of heart disease, hypertension, and stroke – they wouldn’t do that for a money scam! The beneficial effects of TM have been studied by independent researchers at Harvard, Standford, Yale, UCLA Medical School, and literally hundreds of leading institutions, and published by the American Medical Association, the American Heart Association, the International Journal of Neuroscience, etc. So don’t let these fear-based claims get to you. See for yourself: Transcendental Meditation : Ask the Doctors. TM is safe, effective, and affordable with scholarships.

  19. Damru10 says:

    Where does the money come from? Good question. The money comes from wherever it is. You compose a proposal for your idea, locate funding sources, then make your pitch.

    Imagine the pitch the Visionary Physicists(VP) of CERN gave to the Banker(B) who represents the universities that funded LHC.
    VC: We want €500Billion.
    B: Why?
    VC: To discover the Higgs Boson.
    B: When you find it, can you show it to me?
    VC: No. It’s intangible to the five senses.
    B: Intangible? Well, what good is it, then?
    VC: It will prove my theory of the universe is correct.
    B: Let me get this straight. You want €500Billion for philosophical reasons. Right?

    That’s gotta be a tough sell. The LHC visionaries at CERN must have told a very convincing story to get that kind of money. Of course making a pitch like this is predicated upon the money people actually listening to you.

    The regular contributors to this blog are scientists. As scientists you have to be painfully aware of Galileo’s plight. He offered a heliocentric theory of how the universe functions to the ecclesiastical power elite who were deeply entrenched in a geocentric view. The Vatican was so threatened by Galileo’s ideas that they contained him under house arrest for the rest of his life. Scientists would not want to duplicate the mistakes of the past. Would they? They would listen with an open mind to new ideas and evaluate them based on the science. Right? No real scientist would dismiss a new idea based solely upon here-say.

    If anyone wants to hear what Dr. Hagelin is actually saying, here are his lectures on Unified Field Based Approach to various topics, including Health Care, Education, Defense, Poverty Removal, Global Financial Bailout Plan, Architecture, Agriculture and Administration:

    For a review of the science behind the technologies of consciousness that Dr. Hagelin is recommending, examine the more than 600 peer reviewed studies, performed by over 215 independent universities and research institutions, that have been published in more than 160 peer-reviewed scientific journals and edited books.:

    Remember Arthur Schopenhauer’s 3 stages of truth:
    “First, it is ridiculed.
    Second, it is violently opposed.
    Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

  20. Kay says:

    Wow, thanks, Damru10, for your thoughtful, intelligent reply. It brings this discussion to a whole new level.

  21. Shantanu says:

    Peter, there are 2 other string-related talks at PI
    Introduction to string theory
    (This one is about eternal inflation)

  22. archie says:

    Regarding Hagelin and Maharishi Central U.: Damru10’s Schopenhauer quote bears repeating:

    “All truth passes through three stages.
    First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed.
    Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

  23. me says:

    Bullshit that is (eventually) accepted by mainstream also passes by the exact same stages.

    How interesting.

  24. anon. says:

    Pseudoscience indeed passes through Schopenhauer’s 3 stages, but the order is reversed:

    “First, it is accepted as being self-evident.
    Second, it is violently opposed.
    Third, it is ridiculed.”

    Think about flat earth, epicycles and the sun orbiting the earth, witchcraft, Caloric fluid heat theory, etc. In a primitive society, even simple natural phenomena like fire, magnets, and gravitation can be held up by priests as “evidence” of their secret wisdom and supernatural craptrap powers. As more evidence accumulates that such things might not need religious belief in uncheckable theories, they can be successfully opposed and finally ridiculed.

  25. ishi says:

    i do have to give credit to the maharishi types; they published a 2 page ad in the wash post for their theory of everything (maybe the standard model lagrangian—i forget). you rarely see any math in the paper (though recently on a math ed article they did have something from complex variable theory). soetimes you take it from whatever source (dumpster diving theory of education).

    i actually imagine meditation in general is ok. somewhat like sleeping. they did try to stop crime in DC by meditating (you need the sqrt of the population to get it to stop. (presumably this follows from the LL#s). but we still got the bush administration.

  26. Kay says:

    Please, it’s not helpful to speculate that Transcendental Meditation might be like sleep. The brain wave patterns during TM are extraordinarily different from sleep. Here is what actually happens: The technique allows the mind to settle inward beyond thought to experience PURE AWARENESS, the source of thought, also known as transcendental consciousness. This is the most silent and peaceful level of consciousness — one’s innermost Self. In this restfully alert state, the brain functions with significantly greater coherence than in sleep or ordinary waking state.

    The superior person settles his mind
    as the universe settles the stars in the sky.
    By connecting his mind with its subtle origin,
    he calms it.
    Once calmed, it naturally expands,
    and ultimately his mind become as vast and immeasurable
    as the night sky.
    — Lao Tsu

    For decades, John Hagelin has been a proponent of a complete unified field theory of all the known matter and force fields of nature. But he has gone much, much farther, by proposing that this unified field at the basis of matter and energy is the SAME as the field of pure awareness described above – the source of thought, experienced while transcending. That silent, transcendental, holistic experience has been described by the great minds of all civilizations, from ancient Vedic seers to Taoist masters, from Greek philosophers to Christian saints, from Renaissance poets to modern artists. It is a universal experience which connects all beings. Hence it has a measurable ‘field effect’ capable of calming violence and radiating peace in the environment.

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