It seems that last year’s philosopher-physicist fight over nothingness (if you missed this, you can read about it starting here) is flaring up again. Recall that it all started with a David Albert New York Times review of Lawrence Krauss’s latest book as “pale, small, silly, nerdy”, moved on from there to Krauss characterizing Albert as “moronic”, after which many others joined in. The New York Times today is reporting that Albert has been disinvited from participating in a debate over nothingness at the American Museum of Natural History here in New York, possibly because of Krauss’s attitude that “If it were up to me, I wouldn’t choose to spend time on stage with him”.
The event in question is this year’s Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate, on the topic of The Existence of Nothing. Tickets to the main theater and simulcasts in other rooms are sold out, but you can watch the debate online live here. It will feature Krauss, J. Richard Gott, Eva Silverstein and Charles Seife, with Jim Holt replacing David Albert.
Earlier this week the Simons Center at Stony Brook hosted another big public event promoting the latest deep-thinking from theoretical physicists. On Monday Andrei Linde gave a talk on “Universe or Multiverse?”. Besides the usual pseudo-science, there were some things I hadn’t seen before. Linde argues that one should replace the “pessimist’s”:
If each part of the multiverse is so large, we will never see its other parts, so it is impossible to prove that we live in the multiverse.
with the “optimist’s”:
If each part of the multiverse is so large, we will never see its other parts, so it is impossible to disprove that we live in the multiverse.
and goes on to argue that multiverse theory is more basic than universe theory because it is more general. At a more technical talk the next day he showed an implementation of this new way to do science, arguing for a new class of supergravity inflation models where “we can have any desirable values of ns and r”. Somehow also, the ability to get any r you want is great since “A discovery or non-discovery of tensor modes would be a crucial test for string theory and SUSY phenomenology”. I’m not sure how you reconcile measuring r as a “crucial test”, and having a theory that gives any value of r you want, but maybe I’m missing something.
Linde ends with another innovation. You see, the multiverse doesn’t just explain why physics is the way it is, it also explains why mathematics is the way it is:
Physicists can live only in those parts of the multiverse where mathematics is efficient and the universe is comprehensible.
I guess I should just be thankful that I don’t live in one of those parts of the universe where mathematics is inefficient.
Update: More about the Albert disinvite story here.
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