Various Weirdness

Must be something in the air, lots of weird things going on recently:

My book has been officially non-endorsed by the people at Axes & Alleys.

I finally realized why Lubos was carrying on about how if any errors in my book had been corrected it was because of him. Evidently one of the university presses I sent it to decided he was an appropriate reviewer for the book, and sent it to him to referee. I assume the review was as loony as the one he put on Amazon, but I never saw it, and have no idea whether it convinced the publisher to turn down my book. I do wonder which if any string theorist suggested Lubos to the publisher as an appropriate referee. The “free marketplace of ideas”, indeed…

Lubos has put up a paranoid rant about how someone just told him that I “made erase all reviews” of the book except for the 5-star ones. This is complete nonsense. When his review appeared there and I first saw it over a month ago, I did hit the “report as inappopriate” link at the bottom of the review, but that’s all I ever did about this, and I never saw any other negative reviews except his. Actually, I think his review was responsible for several people posting positive reviews in response to it (thanks folks!). I have no idea why Amazon UK recently deleted his review. Perhaps lots of people hit the “report as inappropriate” link, perhaps someone there just read it and recognized it for what it is. I wrote a comment on Lubos’s blog explaining this, but it was immediately deleted (and has now been added to the Censored Comments From the Reference Frame section of this blog). It’s pretty hilarious how exercised he is about censorship.

Over at the arXiv in hep-ph, a few days ago there was a paper from Tom Banks entitled Remodeling the Pentagon After the Events of 2/23/06. Somehow, Banks seems to be comparing the appearance of the paper of Intriligator, Seiberg and Shih about metastable SUSY breaking to the events of 9/11, and the following “neo-conservative revolution” in the US. Banks had a SUSY model containing a “Pentagon” (a “new strongly interacting SU(5) super-QCD with 5 flavors of pentaquark”), which he now enhances with metastable SUSY breaking to get what he describes as “a lean and mean, stripped down version of the Pentagon, suitable for rapid deployment to solve all of the problems of the supersymmetric standard model” (a footnote warns about the Pentagon’s propensity for hyperbole).

A commenter here pointed to another paper on hep-ph, from last night, entitled Neighboring Valley in the String Landscape. Pretty much pure science fiction, although it did make me realize that just about any Landscape paper could be improved by doing what this author did, including an impressive color graphic of the earth de-materializing.

Over at hep-th, there’s a new paper last night, entitled Generalized Flux Vacua. Using a new construction, the authors find an infinite number of solutions that are supposed to be consistent backgrounds for string theory. This pulls the plug on the arguments from a couple weeks ago by Acharya and Douglas that the Landscape should be finite (after imposing varous cutoffs). The authors also claim that this drains some of the swampland promoted recently by Ooguri and Vafa. They do note that, although string theory is a completely precise and rigorous framework, it’s impossible to tell whether the backgrounds they describe really are consistent vacua for string theory (because of, among other things, possible non-perturbative effects):

This somewhat surprising result seems to contradict recent predictions regarding properties of the string landscape, though as we will discuss there are some reasons why the solutions we find may not correspond to stable nonperturbative vacua in a complete string theory framework.

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29 Responses to Various Weirdness

  1. John A says:

    For Lubos to keep referring to you as “the lecturer in Discipline” rather than by your name, is just desperately sad.

    I cannot judge the finer points of your argument about string theory, but judging by the extraordinary behavior of Lubos, I’d have to say he’s completely lost it.

    String theory is a metaphysical theory. It has no laboratory.

  2. Peter Woit says:


    I don’t know, at least he’s getting my official title right. Seems like an improvement over the usual “crackpot”, “scientific microbe”, “one gigantic KGB”, “Goebbels”, “inquisition”, etc…

  3. Kea says:

    “Pentagon” (a “new strongly interacting SU(5) super-QCD with 5 flavors of pentaquark”)

    OK, I won’t say it…..

  4. Who says:

    Freidel’s paper is out
    there has been some discussion of the anticipated results already by Urs and by fh, at the Distler blog.
    Particles as Wilson lines of gravitational field
    L. Freidel, J. Kowalski–Glikman, A. Starodubtsev
    19 pages

    “Since the work of Mac-Dowell-Mansouri it is well known that gravity can be written as a gauge theory for the de Sitter group. In this paper we consider the coupling of this theory to the simplest gauge invariant observables that is, Wilson lines. The dynamics of these Wilson lines is shown to reproduce exactly the dynamics of relativistic particles coupled to gravity, the gauge charges carried by Wilson lines being the mass and spin of the particles. Insertion of Wilson lines breaks in a controlled manner the diffeomorphism symmetry of the theory and the gauge degree of freedom are transmuted to particles degree of freedom.”

  5. woit says:


    Somehow I don’t think you believe the Freidel et. al. paper fits under the current topic of “Various Weirdness”… You really need a blog devoted to LQG, maybe you can get Distler to host an “LQG Coffee Table”. Now, that would be weird…

  6. Who says:

    you are being conversational about my sin of offtopicness, instead of delivering cuffs of disapproval. you must be in an exceptionally good humor. I am glad

  7. Shantanu says:

    Peter , what exactly does “officially being non-endorsed mean”? also who or
    what is the “Axes & Alleys” ?

  8. woit says:


    Can’t say that I know the answers to your questions, your guess is a good as mine. As near as I can tell, the mysterious forces behind this publication and blog are string theory skeptics, and thus fans of Not Even Wrong. The official non-endorsement has something to do with my refusal to admit that I found their string-related graphic funny.

    Like string theorists, they seem to have a very original relation to the question of “reality”. Unlike string theorists, they seem to be aware of this…

  9. Chris W. says:


    Compare gr-qc/0607014 with hep-th/0403137. There seems to be a conceptual connection here.

    (Peter: I beg your indulgence; could you leave this comment in place for a day or two?)

  10. Mike says:

    Is the business in that paper about remodeling the Pentagon after the “events” of a certain date — admittedly not 9/11 — perhaps in bad taste, rather than a sign of cleverness? If I knew someone who had died there, I might find it so.

  11. woit says:

    OK, that will teach me to be a nice guy. Next off-topic LQG commenter will be shot.

  12. woit says:


    I’m not sure about poor taste, but it’s definitely weird. Promoting the latest advance in SUSY breaking as being like 9/11? A very, very, weird field, this one, if you ask me.

  13. D R Lunsford says:

    I don’t want to be shot, so I won’t explain my plan for rebuilding the World Trade Center as a hyperdiamond Feynman lattice. Wait, that’s on topic! Go ahead! Make my day!


  14. Jeremy says:

    D R:

    I fully-endorse your plan! Of coursed, at this point in time I would endorse I giant rubber duck there.

    While I understand the fully-human reaction Lubos shows to a complex questioning of an idea so closely identified with the core of his life, I still think the denigration involved is out of place. That aside, I have enjoyed reading him when he’s not cranky (so every four days or so).

    Dr. Woit, have you read or seen the new publication on the 10th Dimension? I find its explanation of the 5th, which is one essentially of choice, to be quite amusing.

  15. andy says:

    Peter: Get over Lubos. Ignore him. He craves recognition and notoriety. Sure, he probably legally libelled you in his post, but “whaddaya gonna do aboudid?”

    Lubos is a nutbar, and he’s the “best” proof that string theory is dead. Celebrate it!

  16. andy says:

    ps: and how many papers has LM written recently?

  17. Aaron Bergman says:

    Re: Banks

    Lighten up, dude. You could argue that the joke is in poor taste, but it’s certainly not “promoting the latest advance in SUSY breaking as being like 9/11”.

  18. woit says:


    Re: comparing 9/11 to 3/23

    Lighten up, I don’t especially think it’s in poor taste. I think it’s nutty. Watching gonzo surrealism take over the subject of particle theory is kind of fascinating to watch.

  19. Well being a surreal Gonso all my life, I might as well add something… rebuilding the World Trade Towers as a hyperdiamond Feynman lattice could allow it to be protected by the variable physicality of the conformal degrees of freedom but you would have to make sure it doesn’t drift off into a pure 8 dimensional non-supersymmetric universe. Woit, that’s on topic! Go ahead! Make my day!

  20. John A says:

    Security backup of comment:

    I’d like to know why the name of this blog morphed from “Lubos Motl’s Reference Frame” to “The Reference Frame”.

    Surely the first implied that this was your point of view on things, while the latter seems to imply that everyone should see view the world in exactly the same way as you do.

  21. Carl says:

    Now that you mention it, “The Reference Frame” seems to suggest an aether.


  22. Mike says:

    Let me make it clear: I think the 9/11 – 3/23 pairing is weird. That doesn’t mean it isn’t in poor taste as well. Especially to people — aka citizens and taxpayers — who know nothing about physics, but understand 9/11 very well.

    I remember the colleague whose reaction to 9/11 was that it was horrible, but it sure was great theater. That has always struck me as weird, and as in very poor taste, especially given the fact that he was a citizen of another country (albeit one which lost many in the WTC).

    It’s all probably a minor point. Maybe not even wrong, but I doubt it. On with physics!

  23. Aaron Bergman says:

    Banks has done this sort of thing for yaers.

  24. anonymous says:

    astro-ph/0412647 of 29/12 was inspired by the tsunami of 26/12, an event worse than 9/11.

  25. Personally I am too into 9-11 to stay depressingly serious about it 100% of the time but it is important for sensitivity and seriousness of issue reasons not to go overboard. One day and one day only during my four years at Carnegie Mellon we trashed our floor of the dorm (nothing permanent), the clean-up crew just seemed to smile knowingly.

  26. Peter Woit says:


    At least in the case you mention Banks’s analogy of the state of string theory with Dante’s Inferno makes good sense…

  27. Aaron Bergman says:

    I’m sure you don’t want the unsolicited advice, but you really need to look at things without the lens of your crusade against string theory occasionally and not take everything quite so seriously, Peter.

    Or, put another way, not everything needs to be interpreted as part of the growing malaise that will soon overwhelm string theory and exile us all to the the world of financial derivatives.

  28. Peter Woit says:


    Good advice, but I can assure you that at least in the case of this posting, this is all about not taking things seriously. There’s an extremely entertaining surrealism to so much going on in this business these days.

  29. Mike says:

    Not a string theorist myself, so I have no personal stake, but if string theory crashes, there are other possibilities besides financial derivatives (and anyway, that too will soon be saturated anyway). There are many interesting things going on in science, more likely to lead to something worthwhile than the (N + 1)th string theorist, to which physicists, theoretical physicists, can contribute. Things involving cooperative phenomena in a whole bunch of fields, inside and outside of physical science. I say at least have a look at other “options” if you are a young person thinking of bailing from the string world!

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