Self-congratulatory Meta-post

When I first started this weblog I thought very few people would be interested in reading it. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised both by the general high quality of the comments people contribute and by the ever increasing number of people reading “Not Even Wrong”. For the last few months I’ve been running a program that gathers statistics from the web server logs. Here are the monthly numbers for accesses to the main weblog page:

May: 4532
June: 7194
July: 8697
August: 10427

These numbers don’t include a lot of the traffic, which consists of people coming directly to one of the postings, via a Google search or a link from somewhere else.

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22 Responses to Self-congratulatory Meta-post

  1. sol says:

    AriveroLast year I proposed a parallel example: alchemical transmutation in grounds of the general theoretical principle of preservation of energy is viable (Mercury, Hg 201, transmuting to gold, Au 197, plus He and electron debris), but no mechanism is known to achieve a decent rate.

    It is funny that you would speak on alchemical associations, and make it sound like cold fusion transformations? 🙂

    Blackholes reproduced for inspection?

    One has to wonder then, which method will help us find this free energy source? Maybe it calls for a philosophers stone(a new quantum theoretical position)?

    http://physicsweb.org/objects/news/6/2/3/020203.gif

  2. It doesn’t fit here. The CF dispute was about experimental procedures, not about theoretical or mathematical issues. Of course theories were proposed, but it was not the relevant point.

    The theory part of experimental procedures is touchy thing; you are expected to have a valid or credible mechanism and also to verify experimentally its collateral consequences.

    Last year I proposed a parallel example: alchemical transmutation in grounds of the general theoretical principle of preservation of energy is viable (Mercury, Hg 201, transmuting to gold, Au 197, plus He and electron debris), but no mechanism is known to achieve a decent rate.

  3. RT says:

    Re cold fusion

    Julian Schwinger invested a significant effort in an attempt to understand cold fusion. (This episode is described, with a palpable twinge of embarrassment, in Milton and Mehta’s Climbing the Mountain)

    As Schwinger:

    1) remained true to quantum field theory, defying the dictates of fashion

    2) evinced considerable scepticism about theories that invoked things that could not be observed and/or vaulted over many orders of magnitude in energy or whatever without a thought

    perhaps cold fusion has found its spiritual home on this site. Let’s see what happens.

  4. Chris W. says:

    More on this story from the Boston Globe, focusing on Peter Hagelstein of MIT:

    Heating up a cold theory (July 27)

  5. Arun says:

    The return of cold fusion:
    http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/WEBONLY/resource/sep04/0904nfus.html

    seems appropriate for Not Even Wrong.

  6. Rafael says:

    I found your site vis--vis a search on mathematics blogs. Well I like physics too so I started reading it. Still haven’t found any math blogs unfortunately.

  7. sol says:

    Most would know me as a hobbist, and outside of academia. I like exploring the world you gentlemen venture into.

    Like someone else said, keeping current with the information is nice.

    This trend with the educators showing there ideas is a nice way to see what the thinking is from those different perspectives.

    I can’t speak with any authority, although the models of discovery on the issues of quantum gravity, and depending on which model you choose, I think the desire and interests are the same all around, to trying to find a way to describe the nature of the geometry at planck length.

    Am I wrong about this?

    Those statistics of site visits is a testament to the way the internet can work espcially if your posts are linked from other sites. This drives the hits, and the hits the information you are supplying.

    Even knowing your bias Peter and some of the others that post here, no one can be faulted for looking for a method. Even Lubos. What personality issues might rub others, should not deter one from the value of information that is put across.

    I like the blog set up as well, even though I have used other site characteristics for demonstrations to learn. Good on you, Sean and others.

  8. Thomas, I was not using charge eigenvectors. For the fermions I was counting mass eigenvectors, or subspaces if you want to account for degeneracy due to charges (but note mass and charge does not commute). Well, that is 12 fermions. For the bosons I was counting the number of generators in U(1)xSU(2)xSU(3), that is 12 again. Sorry the different criteria, but in both cases I was avoiding the use of charge eigenstates.

    Now, how should strings organise this experimental input? I would welcome something between F-theory and heterotic strings. I’d assume, from the evidence both in NCG and deconstruction, that Higgses are similar to spatial coordinates, each complex higgs doublet providing four of these. Then 4 space time plus two Higgs doublets make 12 “coordinates”. Thus the question is how to arrange these 12 “coordinates”, 12 fermions and 12 bosons. I’d put the SM bosons instead of the bosonised fermions of heterotic strings, and I’d join the 12 coordinates with the 12 SM fermions to make superfields.

    This is, I am inclined to believe, from experimental and mathematical input, that the maths of string/M/F theory are not completely wrong, but that the physical interpretation is completely, completely different of the ones they are trying.

  9. Arun says:

    Seems obvious to me that that string theory should be explored, and who better to explore it than those who believe in it? A theory of everything with no experimental signature is discouraging to be sure. But are there any objective arguments that that some other set of problems will be more fruitful to attack?

    But he who believes in a speculative theory should not disparage other people’s exploration of other approaches, e.g., as in “if it is not string theory, it cannot be a description of gravity”. Pointing out the shortcomings of other approaches, specifically, LQG, is, of course, a good thing to do. But then, one should do it for the theory one believes in as well. Sound scientific skepticism is a virtue.

    -Arun

  10. Thomas Larsson says:

    Alejandro,

    Sorry, but I don’t understand what you are saying. Should the coordinates in the superspace of the heterotic string be identified with physical particles? Surely at least four bosonic coordinates should be identified with the spacetime that we know, love and inhibit.

    Besides, how do you count? Each quark has 3 color * 2 spin degrees of freedom, and the electron has two spins. So with that counting, you have 15 fermionic dofs per generation, not counting anti-particles? Moreover, you probably should count the graviton and Higgs particle as well. They have of course not been seen experimentally, but something like that must surely be there.

  11. Well, as I have just stated, the experimental input is that there are 24 different kinds of particles, and the bosonic string has 24 transversal directions.

    Say this, I agree that string theory researchers have a very strong tendency to neglect experimental input. They just got fortunate that the theory itself have some appreciation for it.

  12. Thomas Larsson says:

    I suspect that this blog has a large audience of believers in string theory [like me]

    Serenius, while I don’t doubt your sincerity, I seriously don’t understand how you (and others) can believe in string theory.

    We all know that string theory makes no hard predictions (hence the name of this forum), but it makes quite a few soft predictions, e.g. supersymmetry, extra-dimensions, new gauge bosons, a negative cosmological constant, new long-range forces (massless scalar particles associated with moduli), etc. The most striking thing with these soft-predictions is that none of them has been confirmed by observation, and some (the negative cosmological constant and perhaps also supersymmetry) may even be in direct conflict with experiments.

    Does this not count? Maybe I’m no longer a physicist, but whatever physicist is still left in me reacts strongly when people simply ignore experimental information. There is no doubt that string theory is in apparent disagreement with experiment, and by far the simplest explanation for apparent disagreement is that it is due to real disagreement.

    String/M theory may be the language in which God wrote the word, but experiment is the language with which He communicates with mortals. And He seems to say very clearly that general relativity and the standard model are very special.

  13. On the positive side, LM insistence has carried me, and I suppose more people, to read the GSW (volume 1, only…), a task I had been escaping from for years.

    BTW, Comparing the heterotic string with the real experimental input of the standard model (12 fermions and 12 bosons) one suspects that the M stands for “Missing”. They must be looking for a missed theory with 12 fermionic degrees instead 10. Or they should.

  14. Chris Oakley says:

    “LQG is not string theory, and therefore it can’t describe gravity”—you know who

    Motl is sort of like the bouncer to the superstring night club – guaranteed to be loyal, provided you keep paying him, and always ready to keep out or evict those who refuse to abide by the rules of “the management”.

    Once again, though, I pose the question, what has this got to do with science?

  15. Arun says:

    Hehe, I suggested “used car salesman” not as a path to career success, but as a good fit with a known set of obnoxious characters.

  16. JC says:

    Main thing I like about this blog is how some folks are willing to “call a spade a spade” (even when it’s “unpopular” to do so in some circles), and pointing out when the “emperor has no clothes on”. Sort of like a physics version of Bill Mahr’s “politically incorrect” show.

    Speaking of Lubos Motl, if I never heard of the guy originally, I would have thought he was a “cartoon” character of some sort. Sort of like a cross between Wile E. Coyote and Charles Manson, except fanatical about string physics instead of violence.

  17. serenus zeitblom says:

    “If he ever considers a career outside of physics, I suggest used car salesman”
    Sorry, you are wrong. No offence to Peter, but I think that the popularity of this blog owes much to the sheer *incompetence* of string theorists as salesmen. As someone said to me, “I don’t think that string theory is wrong. But when I read sci.physics.strings, I wish it were!” [That was in the days when postings at sps averaged more than one or two a day, as at present.]Another good reason to read this blog, even if [as is my case] one does not agree with much of what is said here: where else can you get the latest news? How else would we learn about the adventures of El Susskind? If LM had any sense, *he* would be broadcasting all this stuff over at sps instead of [ab]using it as a place to humiliate people whose papers offend him. I suspect that this blog has a large audience of believers in string theory [like me] who use it as a news service, because no believer is commenting on the latest developments!

    “LQG is not string theory, and therefore it can’t describe gravity”—you know who

  18. Arun says:

    I too give up on Lubos Motl.

    If he ever considers a career outside of physics, I suggest used car salesman.

  19. D R Lunsford says:

    Chris –

    Even in a pefect world this site would be fun. It’s like having a beer with physics buddys. If only Peter would install a pool table!

    -drl

  20. Chris Oakley says:

    Peter,

    I too have nothing but praise for this weblog, but it does beg the question – Why should it be necessary? Why should a large number of otherwise extremely smart people be so soft-headed that they are unable to tell the difference between science and mathematical speculation, fact and fiction? If the research establishment is sending a large number of its best minds off on a wild goose chase then is it these young people’s fault for not rebelling, or is it the academic system’s fault for not teaching or encouraging criticism of itself?

    Could it be that the academic system considers that there are things that are more important than advancing physics?

  21. BB says:

    Hi Peter,

    I must congratulate you on the quality of the website. I am an ex-particle physicist and find myself in agreement in much of what you say, most of the time. My philosophy wrt string theory is the same as with other fields—I just enjoy learning about new non-trivial ideas, be it condensed matter, or string theory or algebraic geometry (some day I hope to understand it!). But the zealotry is unbearable.

    I am no longer in academia, but am very keenly interested in what real progress is being made—the hype from the real thing. Of course, I look at arxiv, but my time is limited, sadly. So I really appreciate the varied variety of posts (as opposed to a String Theoy blog)—the recent DPF post is an excellent example.

    I happened to find your website by chance via Google (perhaps a Motl related search? :)). You have no idea how much I appreciate reading your posts and the follow-up comments; you often make my day!

    Please keep up the great work!

    BB

  22. D R Lunsford says:

    This is my favorite physics site, because it’s sincere and specific. Well done sir!

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