Worth Reading

Lots of wonderful blog postings about math and physics out there worth reading, with a small sample including these:

  • Jester on SUSY and the Higgs.
  • Dmitry Podolsky has some very useful guests posts on various topics, including chirality on the lattice (here and here), and 3d-gravity.
  • Rigorous Trivialities has lots of nice expository postings about algebraic geometry, with the latest by Columbia’s own Matt DeLand on the K-theory of coherent sheaves.
  • From CERN, here’s a report from JoAnne Hewett about the summary session discussing the Chamonix workshop on the state of the LHC and plans for getting it up and running. The current schedule, which is tight, has collisions starting in November of this year, and running for nearly a year until late 2010. To accumulate an amount of data that would allow some significant new results (about 50pb-1) should take six months or so, until mid-2010. The hope is to get to 2-300 pb-1 later in 2010 before shutting down. This would not allow the LHC to do better than the Tevatron on the Higgs. For that, we’ll probably have to wait for data from the 2011 run. By the time this data is in, the Tevatron should have about 10fb-1 to analyze, and may already have seen evidence of the Higgs.

    Also at CERN, there has recently been a conference on the topic From the LHC to a future collider. Lots of interesting talks about future possiblities, including the ILC, CLIC, colliding LHC protons with electrons, as well as the possibility of a muon collider.

    More and more areas of mathematics have a blog, here’s one for motivic homotopy.

    Bert Schroer has updated two of his long articles that discuss both the sociology and conceptual framework of quantum string theory: String theory deconstructed, is dedicated to Philip Anderson and has a new section about history of the subject in Germany, and String theory and the crisis of particle physics, which is dedicated to Juergen Ehlers.

    I hadn’t realized that Physics World has a blog. Among the latest entries are two reports (here and here) about Lenny Susskind’s recent talk to 700 people in Bristol about Darwin and the Cosmic Landscape. Susskind is still at it selling string theory and the multiverse to the public, no matter how unconvinced his colleagues may be:

    Just as there is a vast landscape of biological designs, our best theories of physics imply an equally vast landscape of universe designs. String theory provides an analogue of DNA for the universe and modern cosmology makes use of a principle of mutation that creates a tremendously large multiverse.

    It seems that

    The central tenet of Susskind’s talk was that string theorists should look to Darwin because he “set the standard for what an explanation should be like”.

    Funny, I always thought it was physics itself which set such a standard for the biological sciences, but I guess the idea now is to give up on that and have them be the gold standard.

    While many theoretical physicists in their later years try and go for the Einstein look, according to one of the Physics World bloggers, Susskind is doing a good job of looking like Darwin.

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    6 Responses to Worth Reading

    1. anon. says:

      The argument Susskind makes for the large size of the multiverse being a benefit to physics is basically the very small positive value of the cosmological constant. You need a large multiverse to accommodate the possibility of such a small positive value arising by accident. String theory predicts 10^500 vacuum states, so it is (allegedly) inconceivable that it doesn’t contain states with suitably small positive cosmological constants. This is similar to evolution, where a vast number of DNA mutations occur, but we only get to see those which survive. The other universes in the multiverse were either unsuitable for the evolution of human observers, or else they are indeed populated by people in the same condition as ourselves, pondering on the string landscape!

      But the clever thing about evolution is that it makes falsifiable predictions. E.g. if conditions change, the individuals best able to adapt are those to survive and reproduce, so a new strain emerges which is adapted to the new conditions. If you use a new disinfectant inefficiently on bacteria, the survivors will be those which are more resistant, so you evolve a new hardy strain.

      Funny, I always thought it was physics itself which set such a standard for the biological sciences, but I guess the idea now is to give up on that and have them be the gold standard.

      It might not be the most quantitative science, but biology does make checkable predictions, and is built upon experiments and observations, not speculation. If string theory was really analogous to evolution theory, there wouldn’t be any problem.

    2. Shantanu says:

      Peter , did you find anything interesting in Maldacena’s talk at
      KITP in the string theory conference?

    3. Marion Delgado says:

      This brings to my mind the question of what you thought/think of Lee Smolin’s possibly evolving universes theory. For instance, selection of possible universes for having black holes?

    4. Peter Woit says:

      I haven’t followed closely the topic of Maldacena’s talk, CFT methods applied to LHC collider physics.

      I was never a big fan of Smolin’s CNS version of the multiverse, which involved some analog of “natural selection” and was supposed to be predictive, unlike the string theory landscape. From what I remember Susskind was a critic of CNS, I’m surprised to see him invoking Darwin and natural selection. As far as I know, the string theory multiverse has an anthropic selection aspect, but no notion of Darwinian evolution.

    5. Hartford Wheeler Dealer says:

      Having recently completed Not Even Wrong, beneath the heading “Worth Reading” is perhaps not an unfitting place to post? It is a fairly rare occurrence that the author of a book is so accessible to his or her audience. Please allow the following comments.

      A central contention is that string theory has an increasingly dubious place within the realm of science. I have deliberately chosen not be buy Lee Smolin’s Trouble With Physics despite knowing its reputation of more bibulously imparting similar content for the less knowledgeable learner. Only about 1/3 of the earlier book is absorbable to me though.

      Some things perhaps can be done better. Despite any impression that a scientist tends not highly prioritize floridity in their expression, your comparison (analogy/simile?) criticizing the ‘Beauty’ of string theory takes the form of a cliché at first. Also, an example involving postmodern humanities departments probably has multiple motivations behind it; though none of them are obvious? There may not have been ground to reference Lyotard?

      My hardcover copy, published by Basic Books, has a yellow spine and black cover. The image under the title is not explained? Maybe the small circular object represents some type of compactified multidimensional space?

      The overall lucubration is exciting. A response saying “I hope you are right” would not seem appropriate. Nevertheless, the implications have the potential to be incredibly important! Its impacts must be being felt.

    6. Robert says:

      Susskind doesn’t look like Darwin, but he and Alain Connes look alarmingly similar. Has anyone ever seen them in the same room?

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