Assorted Links

Alain Connes is now a blogger, contributing to the new Noncommutative Geometry blog. There will be a conference in his honor next month in Paris.

Today and tomorrow there’s a HEPAP meeting going on in Washington, with some of the presentations available here. Excluding the SLAC linac, which is getting moved around in the budget, the DOE HEP FY208 budget request is for $782 million, a very healthy more than 16% increase over FY2006. There’s also an HEP demography study being discussed, which somehow involves “tagging” and “tracking” HEP physicists, and they seem to be having trouble with the tagging. Not clear what sort of analysis will be performed on the data once all HEP physicist tracks have been reconstructed.

Next month on the 28th there will be a debate on the topic of

Does string theory merge general relativity and quantum mechanics to explain the origin of time, space, and the universe? Or is it extraordinarily complex mathematics that has nothing to do with physics, and so explains nothing?

between Lawrence Krauss and Brian Greene at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington. I recall attending a similar debate at the Museum of Natural History almost exactly six years ago here in New York, also featuring Krauss and Greene. Some things seem destined to never change…

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12 Responses to Assorted Links

  1. Jimbo says:

    Hopefully, the Krauss/Greene debate will be a more or less balanced affair. In the aftermath of David Gross’s colloquium here at the U. of Oregon, it is clear that the stringers are on the defensive, big-time, & are sending out their heaviest artillery to ramrod their case to the general community of physicists & grad students.
    Gross’ lecture was notable only for its ineloquence, non-technicality, and being conducted very much from a bully pulpit here, cutting off a faculty member in mid-sentence who asked a reasonable question. All else listened, intimidated into silence for the entire 90 mins.
    The chair (a former Princeton colleague) allowed him to run ~30 mins over the normal hour, effectively crushing opportunities for questions, and virtually all bolted after the obligatory applause for a nobelist. It was a sales pitch thruout, and not even colloquial.

  2. woit says:


    My first substantive post on this blog 3 years ago was about what sounds like pretty much the same talk from Gross. Things definitely haven’t changed at all. That talk, here at CUNY, also went on for 90 minutes, but there was time for questions. I don’t think that going over time is something Gross does to thwart questions about string theory. same with cutting someone off; my impression is that’s the sort of thing he has always done, mainly because he’s quite quick, not very patient, and at least thinks he knows what a questioner is talking about before they’ve finished stating their question.

  3. Thomas Love says:

    Since Lawrence Krauss and Brian Greene are repeating a debate they had 6 years ago, I have to conclude that there in good money in it for them.

    I heard David Gross speak at the March 13, 2005 conference on The Legacy of Einstein’s Science. Totally unimpressive.

  4. Peter Woit says:


    I doubt that either Krauss or Greene are doing this for the money. What’s striking to me is how incredibly static this field has become, with string theorists like Gross just digging in their heels, refusing to admit that there’s any problem that needs to be addressed. The attitude these days seems to be to just give up, sit on one’s hands and talk about how the LHC will solve all problems by giving us wondrous insights into the nature of space and time, etc… I see very little hope of positive change over the next couple years, and predict that in 2009 the same debates will be going on and Gross will be giving the same talk. After that, maybe the LHC results will start changing things. All depends on what they are…

  5. Thomas Love says:

    The debate on the question:

    “Does string theory merge general relativity and quantum mechanics to explain the origin of time, space, and the universe? ”

    should be interesting since it is impossible to “merge general relativity and quantum mechanics”. The two theories are mutually incompatible. A new theory which includes some aspects of each is necessary.

  6. Things will change, Peter. Just give it time… As much as I wish them a long life, the two debaters will die one day. And old ideas die with those who support them…


  7. Zathras says:

    So what was the Krauss/Greene debate 6 years ago like?

  8. woit says:


    Unfortunately what I find scariest these days are the ideas supported by people who are likely to outlive me… The fact that in a few short years we may no longer have to listen to as much propaganda about “new dimensions of space and time are right around the corner” is definitely something to look forward to.


    It also included Glashow and Jim Gates on opposite sides, with Lisa Randall there to espouse an in-between point of view. The discussion was polite, but very much the same as what one hears these days, minus the Landscape, which hadn’t yet come on the scene. Krauss even quoted at one point from the writings of an unknown guy who had just posted a polemical article about string theory on the arXiv. As I said, not much has changed.

  9. Greg Biffle says:

    I see a lot of troubling passisivity which is in part to blame for the “trouble of physics.”

    Many people are of the mind–oh–it will come to pass.

    Oh–it makes good entertainment, year in and year out.

    Oh–they are fine fellows, and nice, and provide good PR for NSF.

    Oh–let them be. Of course it makes no sense, but join the group and get a postdoc and trips to Aspen.

    I have been a bit shocked to see all too many SCIENTISTS sit idly by as science is redefined to suit the political aspirations of entertainers and showmen.

    Our major crisis is not that new ideas aren’t being accepted (even though they aren’t), but that false ideas are being institutionalized.

    I thought that Not Even Wrong and The Trouble With Physics would have had a greater impact, but now Greene is celebrating with Discover Magazine’s contest to see who can come up with the best two minute summary of ST.

    I wonder how many entries trumpeting the wisdom and truth in NEW and TTWP will be considered.

  10. mclaren says:

    A conjecture: “In the limit as new experimental results approach zero, the state of HEP approaches Dianetics.”

  11. D R Lunsford says:

    Biffle said

    Our major crisis is not that new ideas aren’t being accepted (even though they aren’t), but that false ideas are being institutionalized.

    Yes, that is the exact point.


  12. Johan Richter says:

    Terence Tao has a sort of blog as well. Check out “whats new” under his hoempage.

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