Various Hype

A recent new experimental result from Brookhaven has lead to some news stories like:

Theory of matter in for a “sensational” revision

which sounds pretty exciting. If you look into this more carefully, you’ll find that it’s based on a report from the E949 experiment at Brookhaven of the observation of a single event of a decay

K+ to pi+,nu, nubar

The preprint is at
hep-ex/0403036
From reading it, as far as I can tell the bottom line is that this is the third candidate event for such a decay ever observed, the two previous ones were from Brookhaven E747 in 1997 and 2002. The standard model prediction is for about 1.5 events for the combined data from both experiments, with expected background of about .5 events. So, all together, the expected number of events is two, they have seen three. Where does the “sensational” come from?

At Slashdot, there’s some more string-theory related hype:

Testing Relativity

about a proposed experiment for the International Space Station that would “test general relativity to a precision within the bounds of superstring (and other) theories to predict deviation.” This article links to a NASA webpage

Evicting Einstein

which goes on about string theory and extra dimensions in the usual way, then describes the proposed “Laser Astrometric Test of Relativity” (LATOR) experiment, which would precisely measure the effects of general relativity on solar system scales. If you read the NASA page closely you’ll see that its author was careful to just say

1. String theory, etc. predict deviations from GR

2. LATOR will test GR precisely

and not to mention that 2 has nothing to do with 1, since the deviations that LATOR could see aren’t the deviations you expect to see from string theory (although since string theory can be used to “predict” just about anything, perhaps you could claim that it “predicts” some unobserved nearly massless field whose effects LATOR would see).

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