New Word Enters English Language

A new preprint by Tom Banks is out, about his idea of “Cosmological Supersymmetry Breaking”. One notable aspect of the paper is a new terminology to describe Weinberg’s “prediction” about the cosmological constant. Since the term “anthropic principle” normally applied to this has acquired a bad odor as it becomes clear it is not science, Banks decides to come up with a different name for the argument. He refers to it as the “galactothropic principle of Weinberg”. Let’s see if this catches on…

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14 Responses to New Word Enters English Language

  1. D R Lunsford says:

    I hated Dr. Faustus. If you want to read a good book about a composer’s life, try “Jean Christophe” by Romain Rolland. And it’s French! Impress your Republican friends!

    (This public service message brought to you by Citizens Against Post-Romantic Fulmination.)


    Let me tell you that pretty much all I know abut this novel is its title:

    ‘Doktor Faustus. Das Leben des deutschen Tonsetzers Adrian Leverkühn, erzählt von einem Freunde’

    (where this friend is of course your namesake).

    ‘Tonsetzer’ is an old-fashioned (and maybe never really popular) word for composer.

    Is anyone feeling this is getting off-topic?

    Ok, let’s see how we get from literature back to physics: A couple of weeks ago I read Leon de Winter’s ‘God’s Gym’. Among other things a tragic car accident gives rise to some general philosophy – and to a discussion of – string theory.

    Oops, again off-topic… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. serenus zeitblom says:

    Ok, now you are free to correct the numerous shortcomings in my English texts… ๐Ÿ™‚ (And in fact I’d appreciate it.)

    Sorry, English isn’t my native language either!
    I have struggled to understand that wonderful book in both German and English and I am afraid that I have not succeeded in either case…..for
    example, Urs, WHAT DOES LEVERKUHN DO FOR A LIVING, that’s what I would like to know!

  4. Steve says:

    This universe (or the region we occupy in the parameter space or “landscape”)is not exactly conducive to intelligent life or even life itself at a simple level. Statistical mechanics can allow complex structures to briefly arise here and there before entropy washes them out, some of which (like us) can briefly be aware of their existance and the universe they find themselves in. But the frigid interstellar spaces are not exactly awash with radio signals from other intelligent civilisations, and all the other worlds we have discovered and explored in this solar system and elsewhere are just balls of molten/frozen rock or poison gas. It is a very very harsh and forboding place.

    There are so very many vagaries and frozen accidents that have led to our existance as an intelligent species. For example, some 6 million years ago severe drought turned the dense forests in Africa into savannah so the apes were forced to come down out of the rapidly vanishing trees.
    If we run the whole history of the earth again there is no gaurantee that any intelligent life (or even the simplest life)would arise on this planet at all, and it will be the same elsewhere. There would be many universes in the parameter space/landscape that still allow complex structure to form and some of this structure could end up “self-aware” but it does not at all follow that we would recognise it as life or it would recognise us. The Hoyl and Weinberg arguments therefore just state that bound structures like carbon nuclei, and stars and galaxies can form and the parameters we have allow layers of complex structure to briefly evolve.

    In a universe where electrons/fermions feel nuclear forces for example, there would just be nuclear physics and gravity and no complex structures like molecules, cystals, planets, life. I am not even quite sure what I am arguing about now:) However, I am not convinced such other universes or a “landscape” exists though and we need to explain why this one is the way it is with these parameters without anthropic arguments.

  5. I would like to comment about the scientific status of the anthropic argument. All the known constants of physics (including some integers like the number of dimensions, the signature of the Lorentz metric, etc…) live in a rather huge parameter space P. All I have seen so far are hand-waving arguments claiming to show that only a small neighbourhood of the known point in P we occupy gives rise to a universe with enough carbon production to host (intelligent) life. First I would like to know if someone claims to have investigated all of the parameter space, because as I remember, only a few constants are varied at the same time (sometimes only one at a time !). Also, I think this kind of argument overestimates our ability to draw complex conclusions from first principles. Would one be really able to calculate how a universe would be like with only the standard model, GR, (even less likely : string theory ?) and a point somewhere in the parameter space ? One thing that history should have taught us is that Nature has always more imagination than we do. I do not think we can seriously claim to know every possible way for a universe to host intelligent life. Is carbon really necessary ? It makes me think of these old sf movies where alien creatures are obviously humans in disguise : our imagination never goes very far from where we stand.

  6. ksh95 says:

    “….I always wondered whether some of the old technical terms in math and/or physics, had a German origin. Terms like: ansatz, eigenvalue, eigenfunction, zitterbewegung, bremsstrahlung, etc

    It seems like the usage of German words in math and/or physics, became less and less common after World War 2….”

    Hmmm…Seeing how Germany was the science mecca post WWII with the US assuming that role in the post war era, I’d say that makes perfect sense.

  7. JC says:


    I always wondered whether some of the old technical terms in math and/or physics, had a German origin. Terms like: ansatz, eigenvalue, eigenfunction, zitterbewegung, bremsstrahlung, etc …

    It seems like the usage of German words in math and/or physics, became less and less common after World War 2.

  8. raj says:

    >Milky way translates to Michstrasse not Milchweg – the ‘milky street’!

    Milchstrasse, not Michstrasse. “Mich” is the accusative of “Ich” (“I”). “Milch” is “milk”

  9. Chris Oakley says:

    Re: Humor – actually the Schlaf-mit-Ihren-Frauen-Prinzip did make me chuckle … BTW Danny – why don’t you have a web site? There are physics web sites out there that make mine look tame, but I still read them … you really ought give us a comprehensive “DRL’s view of the Universe” rather than the snippets we get here.

  10. D R Lunsford says:

    Humor Urs. Humor.

  11. Milky way translates to Michstrasse not Milchweg – the ‘milky street’!

    And unless the milkman serves a homosexual household it will be the Schlaf-mit-Seiner-Frau-Prinzip, or, if he is good, the Schlaf-mit-Ihren-Frauen-Prinzip.

    Finally we learn that ‘Serenus Zeitblom’ has read Thomas Mann but is not a native German speaker. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Ok, now you are free to correct the numerous shortcomings in my English texts… ๐Ÿ™‚ (And in fact I’d appreciate it.)

    I don’t know what a good German translation of ‘galactothropic principle’ would be.

    First of all ‘anthropic principle’ is just anthropisches Prinzip in German.

    Next ‘galactothropic’ seems to be ill-motivated all by itself, after all the ‘-thropic’ comes from the second half of Greek ‘anthros’ or something like that, doesn’t it? Better would be the ‘galactic principle’ or the ‘galactocentric principle’, I’d say.

    But in my opinion it would be even better to realize that all these principles are really known as ‘deduction from observation’. Something is observed (the existence of human beings, of life, of galaxies) and conclusions about future observations are made from that. There is nothing more common in science:

    I observe that the photographic plate has been darkened and deduce that some radiation must have hit it. Should I call this the ‘photographicplatethropic principle’? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. serenus zeitblom says:

    That is not the correct translation of galacto-anthropic. It should be “Milchmannprinzip”. Also known as the Schlafmitihrerfrauprinzip.

  13. JC says:

    Heh. Sounds like a semi-Orwellian attempt at whitewashing the anthropic principle.

    What would be amusing is if there ends up being a “thought police” which attempts to stop and/or discourage all uses of the word “anthropic” in string theory, while the underlying research work is exactly that of the anthropic principle.

  14. D R Lunsford says:

    These things sound better in German!

    Menschenmilchwegzentrumsprinzip! Jawohl, ich glaube streng daran!

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