This Week’s Hype

A couple people have pointed me to an article at New Scientist that requires another edition of This Week’s Hype. According to Nuclear clock could steal atomic clock’s crown:

Such clocks could shed light on string theory. The frequency of the jumps in a nuclear clock will depend on the strong nuclear force, while the jumps by electrons in atomic clocks depend on a different fundamental force. So together they could reveal if the relative strength of the forces changes, as string theory has it.

The amusing thing about the string theory “prediction” that relative strengths of forces change over time is that many string theorists promote as a “prediction” exactly the opposite: according to this argument, change in these strengths would imply large changes in the vacuum energy, which we don’t see, so a prediction of the landscape is constancy. See for example here.

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4 Responses to This Week’s Hype

  1. Carl says:

    “It’s not that this experiment contradicts string theory, it’s just that you’re looking at the wrong universe.” — All string theory defenders, ever.

  2. Bernhard says:


    Not sure I follow. Why would the landscape imply that? Perhaps a bit mathematically formulated would be easier to understand.

  3. Peter Woit says:


    You’d have to ask Michael Douglas for the details of the argument, it’s his. But I gather the idea is just based on the fact that your changing couplings and your vacuum energy are both determined by the details of the potential function for moduli fields. If your universe moves in the moduli parameters, the energy will also change, on a scale that ruins your extremely low, anthropically tuned CC.

  4. SpearMarktheSecond says:

    Hmmm… doing the highest possible precision test of the time-stability of the strong interaction strength relative to electromagnetic strength is simply a good idea!

    Don’t need a string theorist or string theory to know which way the wind blows in this case. Sadly, though, experimental groups feel compelled (maybe even justifiably) to tie what are excellent ideas to the latest fashion.

    I guess Columbus had to argue that he’d improve trade to Japan in 1490 or so too.

    It is rather remarkable to have a low-lying nuclear level that is accessible with UV or optical photons. Never knew that before.

    Now out there somewhere in the literature are studies, I’m sure, of the time stability of the mass of nuclei/atoms measured with electromagnetic mass spectrometers. Another test of the time-constancy of strong/em. Mass spectrometry is darned sensitive, but in the end optical methods probably win in sensitivity.

    Good for these guys!

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