This Week’s Hype

This week’s media hype promoting a new observational test of extra dimensions is based on the recent arXiv preprint Transient Pulses from Exploding Primordial Black Holes as a Signature of an Extra Dimension. Stories about it have appeared already in Nature and in New Scientist.

Some of the authors are part of a group at Virginia Tech that is working with a radio-telescope array they call the Eight-meter-wavelength Transient Array (ETA). The possible astrophysical sources they are looking for include primordial black holes. The press articles however, aren’t about this, but about the new preprint, which makes claims not about conventional primordial black holes, but about ones involving extra dimensions:

For a toroidally compactified extra dimension, transient radio-pulse searches probe the electroweak energy scale (∼0.1 TeV), enabling comparison with the Large Hadron Collider. The enormous challenges of detecting quantum gravitational effects, and exploring electroweak-scale physics, make this a particularly attractive possibility.

In the New Scientist piece, astrophysicist Avi Loeb makes the comment:

There are a lot of layers here of nonstandard assumptions… If nothing could be observed in this context, then it would not surprise me.

According to the ETA web-site and the New Scientist article, as far as the extra-dimensional business is concerned, the project is led not by the faculty members involved, but by first author Mike Kavic, a graduate student in the department. Unlike most recent examples of such hype, which appeared in conjunction with the acceptance or publication of a paper in PRL, this one is based solely upon the submission of a paper to PRL.

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6 Responses to This Week’s Hype

  1. Coin says:

    I guess at least this one is a step up, relatively speaking, in that it could be realistically experimentally tested in the near term?

  2. broken pot says:

    ‘Unlike most recent examples of such hype, which appeared in conjunction with the acceptance or publication of a paper in PRL, this one is based solely upon the submission of a paper to PRL.’

    Ah. Next time I submit to Physical Review Letters, I’ll send a press release off immediately.

  3. Peter Woit says:


    There really isn’t any sort of usual testable prediction here. To even consider the issue of whether there’s evidence of extra dimensions, first one has to find a signal from a nearby exploding primordial black hole, and that seems to not be likely to happen anytime soon (although of course it is worth trying).

  4. Thomas Larsson says:

    Not related to any of the topics in this posting, but still sort of on-topic, the following comment was censored from cosmic variance:

    More about aether compactification can be found here

  5. woit says:


    While I disagree with Lubos about a lot of things, his two postings about Sean Carroll’s promotion of Boltzmann brain research and now highly unmotivated extra dimensional research seem to me to be pretty much on target. It’s too bad Sean is not allowing links to them.

    I would like to think that blogs have an important role to play in dealing with the problem of overhyped speculative theoretical physics research. Unfortunately the otherwise mostly sensible Cosmic Variance blog has recently been actively spreading this kind of thing, whereas the otherwise mostly not sensible Reference Frame has been actively fighting it.

  6. Professor R says:

    For once, I thought the NS article on this subject was reasonably balanced.

    I liked the inclusion of Loeb’s comment above, but I also have sympathy with Kavic’s statement …”while definitely a gamble, the payoffs from such a search would be enormous…the successful detection of the kind of black hole explosion would confirm not only the existence of extra dimensions, but also of primordial black holes”

    Some very good experiments have sometimes resulted from such speculative ideas….it seems to me that the real problem is that NS (and other publications) give such articles the same weighting as conventional science – where they should really be put in a section marked ‘speculative papers’……..Cormac

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