String Theory Article Slanted

Ken Lane has written a letter to the editor of the Boston University student newspaper to complain about its article about string theory and the BU physics department discussed in a previous posting. Lane is annoyed about not having been given a chance to respond to Vafa’s ad hominen attacks characterizing him and the BU physics department as “foolish” and “childish”. He also complains that the author didn’t seek other opinions about Vafa’s claim that string theory is what the “youngest, most brilliant physicists” are all doing.

I don’t remember whether they had shop classes at Harvard, but if they do now, maybe they should be talking to Vafa. According to the blurb for a recent talk by Jim Gates at Brookhaven, string/M-theory is “a 21st century lathe – a machine capable of remarkable precision and versatility, but requiring a skilled and experienced operator for its success.” Funny, back in the last millennium I remember when string theorists were claiming that string theory was a 21st century “supercomputer” or “spaceship” that had fallen into the 20th century.

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13 Responses to String Theory Article Slanted

  1. sobul ltom says:

    It’s amazing the sort of nonsense that Lubos Motl is able to transmute into a “story”. Ed Witten posted a paper on the internet. Wow. That’s impressive, especially if tens of billions of things are posted on the internet every day.

  2. Lubos Motl says:

    It’s amazing what sort of nonsense Peter Woit is able to transmute into a “story”. Kenneth Lane wrote a mail to a Boston University student newspapers. Wow. That’s impressive, especially if tens of billion e-mails are sent every day.

    The student newspaper probably decided that Cumrun Vafa’s opinion is more important than Kenneth Lane’s opinion – and Vafa is the person who should have the final word, at least in some questions. I am not surprised. If Kenneth Lane – with all of my respect to his countless contributions to particle physics – finds it insulting, it’s his personal problem.


  3. “Boring” is my spontaneous reaction while reading the formulations of string models containing the bare essentials. Not a single basic principle is identified, just action and functional integral measure are identified, and Feynman rules derived. Principles are replaced with poorly defined ad hoc notions like spontaneous compactification and branes fabulated in hope of bringing in the real physics.

    Real progress starts from a real problem. State function preparation and state function reduction are very poorly defined concepts. Even better, there is also a paradox. The non-determinism of quantum jump is not consistent with the determinism of Schroedinger equation if the standard identification of geometric time with experienced time is accepted. It is hard to imagine a better gift for an ambitious theoretician. To solve these problems physicist must become part of physics, ceasing to be an outsider inducing state function reductions. One must not only define physically the notion of self, but also consider seriously the physical correlates of cognition, intentionality, sensory qualia, emotions. String theorists have not noticed that everything includes also consciousness.

    Matti Pitkanen

  4. D R Lunsford says:

    What is the REAL question in quantum gravity?

    “What is the meaning of ‘wave function of a cosmology’?”

    To have a wave function you need an experimental setup. To have an experimental setup you must prepare a system for observation. How is one going to prepare the entire Universe for observation? How is one going to prepare the Solar System for observation? How is one going to prepare a child’s top for observation? How is one going to prepare a buckyball for observation? It’s a ludicrous idea.

    I don’t care how grandiose, or subtle, or both, the math issues are in LQG vs. ST. There is no physics question that needs to be answered, or will be answered, by either program. That is why they are both mired in minutiae and why the world has split into ridiculous “camps”.


  5. O says:

    I don’t think “mathematical physics”, and all of mathematics that’s inspired by physics, particularly strings, is boring at all at this moment.

    Of course, if you insist on restricting your attention to one and only one subject, then, yes, things can be quite slow.

    In this sense, phenomenological high energy physics has been very boring for decades.

  6. D R Lunsford says:

    This strings vs. loops debate is monumentally boring.

    Amazing. Indy’s gone, Daytona’s gone, movies suck, no one can write worth a damn, music is nothing but electronic log-beating, and physics is *boring*. What happened? Did we pass through the tail of Comet Ennui?


  7. Not a native speaker says:

    Why does Jim G say “lathe”? Why not just “tool”?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Let us note that Lane’s letter shows that the state of journalism appears to be as bad as the state of High Energy Physics.

  9. Levi says:

    Typical LM comment line:

    anonymous said…

    This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

    Lumo said…

    (insert insult here)

    anonymous said…

    This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

    Etcetera. It’s very edifying.

  10. Not a Nobel Laureate says:

    After reading Motl’s blog and making a few comments there . . . and being mistaken for a Nobel Laureate for my meager efforts . . . I’ve concluded that Motl is to String Theory as a Political Commissar was to Marxist-Leninist Thought in Czechoslovakia after the Prague Spring.

    The sociology of HEP theory these days is far more interesting and entertaining than any current metaphysics being promoted by the waring sects of Stringys and Loopys.

  11. Anonymous says:

    God Save Peter Voit

  12. Anonymous says:

    If LM is the “youngest, most brilliant physicist”, we are in very bad shape….. God save Nature! 🙂

  13. Anonymous says:

    Since everyone knows that Lubos Motl is the “youngest, most brilliant physicist”, and he is working on string theory, I don’t see how Lane can argue with Vafa’s statement.

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