I haven’t been able to confirm Lubos Motl’s claims that the Perimeter Institute offered him a job, but yesterday they announced that Lenny Susskind has accepted an offer to join them as an associate member. According to the announcement, this means that “he will spend focused time at PI each year to conduct research activities.”
At the Frankfurt book fair, Backreaction’s Stefan Scherer took a picture of one of the displays, that featured a large poster advertising Susskind’s forthcoming book The Black Hole War, which carries the subtitle “My battle with Stephen Hawking to make the world safe for quantum mechanics”.
Update: Marcus at Physicsforums points to this interview with Susskind about his forthcoming book:
For two decades an intellectual war took place between Stephen Hawking, on the one side, and myself and Gerard ‘t Hooft on the other. The book is about the scientific revolution that the controversy spawned, but also about the colorful personalities and the passions that gave the story its drama. The story starts in Werner Ehrhardt’s Mansion in San Francisco, and eventually passes through all seven continents, including Antarctica.
“My battle with Steven Hawking to make the world safe for quantum mechanics”.
what a ham. Hawking as well.
That’s “Stephen,” with a “ph.”
I know, I was just copying how Peter had it.
Given that Susskind once posted something about “Sting Theory” on the arxiv, maybe a little misspelling is appropriate.
As noted in a previous comment of mine containing a misspelling, we must all sometimes “bow down before the great god Entropy.”
Wow, now theoretical physicists have feuds like rappers.
Yes Quixotik, and for the same reason: marketing.
thanks for mentioning my visit to the Frankfurt Book Fair – I was curious if anyone would notice that detail of the photo ;-).
The publisher is Little, Brown and Company in the Hachette Book Group USA. I cannot say anything more about the book – the stand was quite deserted on Sunday afternoon, with all books already packed away. On the Hachette Group website, the title is not announced yet. For comparison, the “Geography of Bliss” is scheduled for January 2008, so the “Black Hole War” will probably appear later in 2008.
It would be a brave physicist who declares “If my book doesn’t sell more copies than Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, I’ll stop writing papers as lead author and just make guest appearances as pencil-sharpener and LaTex checker for other physicists. So buy ten copies, vote with your wallet, my genius in on the line …”
The LS book could be one of a series. Peter: why not write sequel to N.E.W. with a title like:
The Whacko Control War: My battle with Leonard Susskind to make the world safe for particle physics theory
leonard susskind 2: the reckoning
Putting Hawking’s name on the cover sells books (I should have found a way to work him into the subtitle…). I don’t think Susskind’s name would have a similar effect.
How did Hawking get so famous anyway? Was it his book, or was he famous before?
People who read this blog could get the wrong impression. We actually do physics because it is tremendously interesting and intrinsically worthwhile.
Publishing highly speculative work, and then using Hawking’s celebrity to OVERSELL it to a scientifically unsophisticated general public, is not a reputation most of us would want. There’s nothing wrong with creative and speculative ideas of course, only they must be presented in a balanced and objective manner.
The strange thing about the “black hole war” is that nobody but Susskind seems to have noticed it. I mean, of course there has been extensive discussion about whether black hole evaporation violates unitarity, but that has centered on Maldacena’s work; most people never heard of “black hole complementarity” until Bousso recently started mentioning it to motivate “observer complementarity”. The whole “war” must have been fought in the dark places of the world, far below the world of ordinary physicists……
I mean, of course there has been extensive discussion about whether black hole evaporation violates unitarity, but that has centered on Maldacena’s work;
Do I really have to say that unitarity in black hole evaporation is a subject that long predate’s Maldacena’s work? Recent discussion has centered on Maldacena’s work because it finally provides a concrete way to address the question.
most people never heard of “black hole complementarity” until Bousso recently started mentioning it to motivate “observer complementarity”.
Speak for yourself.
well he said most people so he isn’t necessarily saying that you’re one of them or himself for that matter.
Of course there were papers before Maldacena came along. They were however [a] nearly all by Susskind himself and [b] largely ignored. Hardly what one would call a war, dividing families, devastating innocent civilians, etc etc etc.
Among physicists he was famous for calculating how much entropy a black hole has, and before that, for showing (along with Penrose) that black holes are inevitable under certain conditions — the singularity theorems.
Some of this fame percolated down to the general public, and his disabilities helped make him a fascinating character.
But I guess his book was the first thing he wrote that ordinary people could pretend to understand… so it became a best-seller, and he’s been a lot more famous ever since.
Somehow this gives me a strange pro-wrestling association…
The battle of
Re: Book Cover “marketing”
I’m sure the publisher pressed for the “Hawking” reference, the need a “god-like” figure. “You are who you associate with”, as the saying goes. Just like L. Lederman’s book “The God Particle”, need to tantalize the gullibe (god-fearing) public. Just like G. Smoot/COBE
Just like Morris Kline (interestingly a NYC native like L. Susskind):
The above is a really bad case of “sensationalism”, & how scientists have to be really wary of dealing with the media.
I like the way M. Franklin/Harvard puts it:
“Why the NY Times doesn’t get the right spin on on our data”
The “almighty dollar” rules (Law of Business..getting market share):
“People don’t buy Good Products, they buy GOOD MARKETING”
— Steven Gould/Harvard
Someone on this blog objected to “pandering to the masses” with high-end Science. I agree. Diluting Science for the purpose of public outreach CAN be dangerous. Timothy Ferris (science writer) is notorious for this, his recent PBS program was a JOKE. Roald Hoffman/Cornell (Nobel Laureate in Chemistry) had a negative comment about Pop Culture & the Masses (PBS TV program).
Here is the link for the Science Channel program “Hawking Paradox”. Werner Erhardt, et al. I saw the program last year, & it’s been repeating regularly.
I met & talked with L. Susskind at last year’s SUSY ’06. Very approachable, polite, & willing to talk. Very professional appearance & good speaker. I got the same impression during the TV program. His presentation/exposition is very polished, gives a good public impression of a scientist. Classy. Here’s a good article about him, which makes me like him even more.
I called L. Motl prior to the conference, for background prep (I’m an outsider, my degrees are in Elec Eng). He was very generous with his time (J. Preskill/Caltech & only a few others have been this extending), & was impressed. Other people have commented on his dedication to students/teaching & charm. Just by accident, I mentioned Lubos (who asked me to say hi to his Rutgers PhD advistor) to Lenny & I got a very interesting response. (reminds me of the fights I had during my PhD days, when my arch-rival called me a “monkey”) I didn’t realize they had a “history”!
Oh, so now its a “scientific revolution” and not just a mere war. What will LS call it when somebody finally manages to settle the question of unitarity violation for evaporating black holes that look *even vaguely* realistic? The war to end all wars? The mother of all revolutions?
By the way, the notion that Maldacena’s work was somehow “spawned” by LS’s early-90s lucubrations is, shall we say, stretching a point just a tad.
“Among physicists he was famous for calculating how much entropy a black hole has, and before that, for showing (along with Penrose) that black holes are inevitable under certain conditions — the singularity theorems.” – John Baez
Not exactly an experimentally confirmed calculation. All theorems based on GR are based to some extent on faulty (classical) approximation, what you need to do is find quantum gravity, and then calculate black hole properties using that.
The business of calculating details of black holes that aren’t checked yet reminds me of Sir James Jeans’ calculation “proving” that the solar system formed from giant tidal waves on the sun, with popular hype of Jeans (who also wrote popular best-sellers back in the 30s, like Hawking today), and you got popular notions that “the solar system exists, so Jeans must be right!” Wrong, there were subtle errors.
It’s disappointing for black hole calculations that have yet to be experimentally confirmed in detail, to be hyped and celebrated; kinda misleads people about what is fact and what is speculation.
One of the sures signs for intelligence is the ability to learn from and avoid mistakes. How come then that a significant fraction of the homo sapiens sapiens on this planet today lives in a society that runs in a downward spiral of deception, lies, and ignorance of facts. How come that intelligent people can point out weaknesses and potential dangers of dramatic failures of the current system, and other allegedly intelligent people don’t even care to listen, because they are too busy worrying about their own career – and how ironic is that if exactly this was the point of criticism.
The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime
Stephen Hawking and George Ellis, Cambridge University Press (1973)
not exactly a good book (i.e. as you find on wikipedia it’s indeed “highly technical and quite unreadable”), but it’s one of these books one kind of needs to have. later then (75) the black hole evaporation stuff.
Peter, did you go for
this workshop. If so any report?
See my comment about this on the other thread. Evidently Bee was there, see her report at Backreaction, where she promises to write more…
I was rereading parts of Lenny’s book the other night. Near the end he recalls a dinner talk he gave at Strings 1995 about what theoritical physics would be like now based only on the experimental data available up to 12/31/1899. He paints a fairly rosy picture about the abilities of pure thought. Granted both SR and GR probably would have proceeded unabated. But would they have been accepted? Lenny’s commit spurred me to start looking at the history of QM in particular QED. A correct theory may…may have been found but so would a lot of equally viable ideas that would be wrong. The correct theories were accepted based on experimental data not the beauty, nicity, the theoorist or other subjective qualities. I think Lenny was wrong then and may be wrong now.
Any comment from anyone on the history of QM and QED?
From PI’s home page:
Leonard Susskind Joins PI
WATERLOO, ON, October 15, 2007 – Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI) is pleased to announce that renowned scientist Leonard Susskind has joined its Faculty as an Associate Member. Professor Susskind is widely recognized as one of the most highly creative researchers in the field of particle physics. He earned his BSc at City College of New York and his PhD in 1965 at Cornell University. He held a number of positions at the postdoctoral and faculty level afterwards before becoming a Professor in the Department of Physics at Stanford University in 1978, where he continues to work as a Professor of Physics.
Leonard Susskind has received a range of honours and prizes, including having been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the American Physical Society’s prestigious Sakurai Award, as well as the American Institute of Physics’ Science Writing Award.
Rob Myers, Interim Scientific Director at PI, remarks, “Professor Susskind has been one of the most creative and influential theoretical physicists in the last four decades. He has contributed important ideas to topics ranging from the theory of quark confinement to black holes in string theory.” As an Associate Member, Professor Susskind will spend focused time at PI each year to conduct research activities.
In addition to an outstanding record as a distinguished theoretical physicist, Professor Susskind has a demonstrated interest in communicating science to members of the general public and improving society’s awareness of physics, astronomy, and allied science fields. He will share this talent by participating in a special PI Public Lecture panel discussion on December 5, 2007, dealing with the topic of ‘Information and Reality’.
About Perimeter Institute
Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics is an independent, non-profit, scientific research and educational outreach organization where international scientists cluster to push the limits of our understanding of physical laws and calculate new ideas about the very essence of space, time, matter and information. The award-winning research centre provides a multi-disciplinary environment to foster research in areas of Cosmology, Particle Physics, Quantum Foundations, Quantum Gravity, Quantum Information and Superstring Theory. The Institute, located in Waterloo, Ontario, also provides a wide array of educational outreach activities for students, teachers and members of the general public across the country and beyond in order to share the joy of scientific research, discovery and innovation. Additional information can be found online at http://www.perimeterinstitute.ca.
Cecil, this sounds like it might be from some other book by Susskind than the one we were talking about. Could it be from “The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design” ?
I’ve been following this blog for awhile.
What exactly has Lenny Susskind done in the realm of physics?
I know it says, “Leonard Susskind has received a range of honours and prizes, including having been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the American Physical Society’s prestigious Sakurai Award, as well as the American Institute of Physics’ Science Writing Award.”
But what has he done? The Cosmic Landscape seemed highly speculative. Was there physics in it that I perhaps missed?
No, The Cosmic Landscape is pretty pure pseudo-science, but until recent years Susskind was doing very serious science. He does have a legitimate claim to have been one of the first to realize that the Veneziano amplitude could come from quantizing a string. The later work of his I’m most familiar with is the way of handling fermions in lattice gauge theory that goes under the name “Kogut-Susskind” fermions.
Unfortunately, he’s not the only seemingly smart, reputable physicist who seems to have taken leave of his senses the last few years…
SPIRES is your friend.
I am glad you brought up your question…I too read Susskind’s book when it came out found that chapter interesting.
In particular, Susskind says in The Cosmic Landscape, page 269, the following:
Could theorists have guessed the full structure of the Standard Model? Protons and neutrons, perhaps, but quarks, neutrinos, muons, and all the rest. I don’t see any way that these things could have been guessed
Susskind is correct, since as the history of HEP shows, experiment was essential. Unfortunately, Susskind does not emphasize the point, when in fact it is probably one of the more important statements in the book. If theoreticians could not have guessed the Standard Model without experiment, then a similar statement regarding the final form of a string theory TOE is not unreasonable, and we need only remember string theory has no experimental tests, and is likely never to have any.
It is one thing to make the largest extrapolation in history, but when doing so, at least have the honesty to explain to the laymen that while an interpolation of data tends to be safe, extrapolation of data is, from a scientific point of view, very dangerous, and often wrong.
LDM has it correct. The book I was referring to was “The Cosmic Landscape”. I was still left with the impression that Lenny fells that the correct model for QM and QED could have been guessed given no new data in the 1900’s. Given the fact that not every physicist took the idea of a quantized EM particle as postulated by EA seriously until the Compton effect was discovered, it is hard to believe that QM and QED could have been developed to the point that they were even up to say 1948-49.
Maybe someone who better understands the historical development of QM and QED can respond.
Without any experimental data, most likely QED would have been thrown into the trash as soon as the first calculations were done which (naively) produced infinite quantities. There would have been very little to no motivation for renormalization, if there was no Lamb shift experimental data.