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Causes of loss of interest in String program

by marcus
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PAllen
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Apr1-11, 12:23 AM
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Quote Quote by marcus View Post

I'm glad to get your suggestion of Eva Silverstein and will add her to the list up in post #51. So far I have been putting in whoever occurred to me, without looking first---no cherrypicking --and I've been suprised at the rather consistent pattern. It is helpful now to have Silverstein as an example to show that it is possible to have a flatter output of DKSM papers. Here are the Spires links again so anyone can do it. Just put in a different name instead of Silverstein, E and repeat the search.
I certainly didn't suggest Eva Silverstein by cherry picking (looking for someone with flat output). She is simply someone I've been aware of and follow a bit; in part because she sometimes picks quite funny titles for her papers (spring is coming - "dual purpose landscaping tools" anyone?)
marcus
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Apr1-11, 10:55 AM
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Quote Quote by PAllen View Post
I certainly didn't suggest Eva Silverstein by cherry picking (looking for someone with flat output). ... - "dual purpose landscaping tools" anyone?)
It actually never crossed my mind that you might have. We both realize, I think, that the value of informal spot checks like this is mainly of interest to the persons who make them and only of value if you have no idea how they'll turn out. Landscaping tools is funny. I've watched a video lecture by her before an expert audience and was impressed. Poised personable articulate and, one gathers, highly intelligent.

My favorite String speaker (when I watch the annual conference talks) is Andy Strominger. His frankness/integrity made a deep impression on me in 2005 when I watched the Strings 2005 panel discussion on "The Next String Theory Revolution". He was on the panel with Silverstein, Bousso, Kacchru, Maldacena as I recall (I'll check and correct, not sure of other names) and he was positive without gloss or wishful thinking. Inspired my trust.
He's someone I would never expect to go faddy or multiverse. (Just personal subjective reactions, don't expect anyone to share them.)

Among the older ones I always like David Gross. He occasionally shows some of the same clearsighted honesty that I admire in Strominger.
==============
I refreshed my memory: the Strings 2005 panelists were
Raphael Bousso (UC Berkeley)
Shamit Kachru (SLAC & Stanford)
Ashok Sen (Harish-Chandra Research Institute)
Juan Maldacena (IAS, Princeton)
Andrew Strominger (Harvard)
Joseph Polchinski (KITP & UC Santa Barbara)
Eva Silverstein (SLAC & Stanford)
Nathan Seiberg (IAS, Princeton)
http://www.fields.utoronto.ca/progra...005/panel.html
The moderator was Steve Shenker
who said "holy sh*t!" on mike when he was surprised by an overwhelming show-of-hands vote by the 400-some audience of string theorists. The rankandfile went against the multiverse anthropic landscape view, which was then prevalent among the leadership/conference organizers. A sweet moment.
marcus
#57
Apr2-11, 10:28 AM
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In the "REALLY disappointed with string" thread, Suprised earlier listed some wrong turns which potentially caused staleness/damage in the String program. These included thinking of extra dimensions as really there, too much emphasis given to perturbation on fixed geometric backgrounds,...and several other things I would classify as program direction errors---deficiencies of vision in program leadership. Such things can be presumably be remedied if you try.

So far we hear central people like David Gross crying out for a missing new idea that will allow the program to make real progress, but there are no suggestions as to what the new idea could be. Gross has mentioned that it might be a fundamentally new concept of space and time.

We always have the latest hopeful mathematical excitements (e.g. ABJW Aharony, Bergman, Jafferis, Witten 2008*) but that does not seem to satisfy the need.

Suprised is the only stringster in my vicinity who sometimes seems to be seriously searching, so I appreciate this kind of exchange:

Quote Quote by tom.stoer View Post
My question is this: dropping uniqueness as guiding principle, do you have a something new?
Quote Quote by suprised View Post
... So it may be that there is a bunch of "different" underlying theories that lead all lead to the same on-shell physics.

Essentially, this boils down to semantics and what one means by "unique" underlying theory. Eg., is lattice QCD a "different" theory as compared to the usual perturbative lagrangian formulation of QCD? No, because when performing the proper limits it lies in the same universality class. A similar phenomenon could happen eg for LQG and strings, etc.
What does this mean?
==quote==
... Eg., is lattice QCD a "different" theory as compared to the usual perturbative lagrangian formulation of QCD? No, because when performing the proper limits it lies in the same universality class. A similar phenomenon could happen eg for LQG and strings,...
==endquote==

It sounds like an analogy: there are two related quasi-equivalent theories, lattice QCD and perturbative Lagrangian QCD---he seems to be imagining that LQG could turn out to be analogous to the lattice version and some string construction analogous to the perturbative. So the two discover they are cousins.

*http://arxiv.org/abs/0806.1218

=================
The Strings 2005 panel that discussed what they saw as prospects for "The Next String Theory Revolution" was intentionally handpicked to represent "young stars", prominent figures in the rising generation. I picked another name, Nathan Seiberg, from that list, not knowing how the numbers would turn out, and added him to the table.


          1995-1998      1999-2002      2003-2006      2007-2010
Witten         38             29              9              5
Strominger     23             14             22              4
Maldacena      27             33             24              9 
Polchinski     21             17             11              4
Harvey,J       16             15              9              2
Duff,M         24             17              8              5
Gibbons,G      17             29             11              2
Dijkgraaf      18             11              9              7
Ooguri         31             18             13              8
Silverstein,E  16             15             16             10
Seiberg,N      19             16             22              1
=======================
If you would like to check Spires keyword string or membrane publication numbers for anyone, here are the links. Just put in another name for "Silverstein, E" in these links and please let us know what you get!

http://www-library.desy.de/cgi-bin/s...=WWW&SEQUENCE= (16)

http://www-library.desy.de/cgi-bin/s...=WWW&SEQUENCE= (15)

http://www-library.desy.de/cgi-bin/s...=WWW&SEQUENCE= (16)

http://www-library.desy.de/cgi-bin/s...=WWW&SEQUENCE= (10)
suprised
#58
Apr2-11, 11:00 AM
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Quote Quote by marcus View Post
In the "REALLY disappointed with string" thread, Suprised earlier listed some wrong turns which potentially caused staleness/damage in the String program. These included thinking of extra dimensions as really there, too much emphasis given to perturbation on fixed geometric backgrounds,...and several other things I would classify as program direction errors---deficiencies of vision in program leadership. Such things can be presumably be remedied if you try.
marcus, you again misquote me and give things a spin in your direction. These were not wrong turns per se, but partly too naive or too simple, perhaps sometimes misleading views, most of them have already been overcome over the years, and the insiders know these issues pretty damn well. It's you non-experts who continue to be confused and criticise non-issues, have an obsession against extra dimensions, etc.

And there is no such thing as a "deficiency in program leadership" ! This is simple a naturally evolving subject, period. I wouldn't even know where to pinpoint any "program leadership" in the first place. It seems you don't have any idea how things work.

Please stop picking out single phrases and presenting them in a new package that has a different spin than originally intended. If my words continue to be misrepresented in this manner, I won't write any more.
marcus
#59
Apr2-11, 11:08 AM
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Suprised, I'm glad to have any correction from you about the interpretation of your words. It can be very irritating to be misunderstood and misconstrued. This happens to me also, so I can sympathize! I do want to get what you are saying right.

I will go back and quote the post I was thinking of, and let you speak for yourself rather than paraphrase. This is the complete post #523. I don't want to take anything out of context. Please clarify and interpret as you think fitting:

Quote Quote by suprised View Post
Quote Quote by tom.stoer View Post
Last but not least my feeling is that at a rather early stage there was a wrong turn (I cannot tell exactly which one) which prevents us from asking the right questions ....
Perhaps there are string theorists here able to tell us what could have been this wrong turn in the very beginning.
I guess there were many potentially wrong turns - at least in the sense of bias towards certain ways of thinking about string theory. Here a partial list of traditional ideas/beliefs/claims that have their merits but that potentially did great damage by providing misleading intuition:

- That geometric compactification of a higher dimensional theory is a good way to think about the string parameter space
- That perturbative quantum and supergravity approximations are a good way to understand string theory
- That strings predict susy, or have an intrinsic relation to it (in space-time)
- That strings need to compactify first on a CY space and then susy is further broken. That's basically a toy model but tends to be confused with the real thing
- That there should be a selection principle somehow favoring "our" vacuum
- That a landscape of vacua would be a disaster
- That there exists a unique underlying theory
- That things like electron mass should be computable from first principles

Most of these had been challenged/revised in the recent years, and many people think quite differently about them than say 15-20 years ago.
Sorry about any inadvertent misquote or incorrect spin. Please clarify and give a more correct spin!
Quote Quote by suprised View Post
marcus, you again misquote me and give things a spin in your direction. These were not wrong turns per se, but partly too naive or too simple, perhaps sometimes misleading views, most of them have already been overcome over the years, and the insiders know these issues pretty damn well. It's you non-experts who continue to be confused and criticise non-issues, have an obsession against extra dimensions, etc.

And there is no such thing as a "deficiency in program leadership" ! This is simple a naturally evolving subject, period. I wouldn't even know where to pinpoint any "program leadership" in the first place. It seems you don't have any idea how things work.

Please stop picking out single phrases and presenting them in a new package that has a different spin than originally intended. If my words continue to be misrepresented in this manner, I won't write any more.
arivero
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Apr2-11, 12:55 PM
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Quote Quote by suprised View Post
I wouldn't even know where to pinpoint any "program leadership" in the first place. It seems you don't have any idea how things work. .
Hmm, about this, someone mentioned "lamp-post methodology" in the first thread, and I tend to agree that this is the way things work. Mainly because of responsability of the leadership: one must be involved in research that the pupils, the PhD students, will be able to produce and publish in a period of 4-6 years. Plus, the same thing for postdocts and profesorships. So it is natural to giave preference to productive areas.
marcus
#61
Apr2-11, 01:39 PM
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Right! The lamp-post is one mechanism providing guidance, or lack thereof. There is no "simple naturally evolving" theory. No theory evolves by itself in absence of humans. A theory is a human artifact that develops in conjunction with a community--"co-evolves." A scientific community is selfselecting and has a structure.
Leadership (and its vision or lack of vision) plays an enormous role.
Admissions committee, hiring committee, funding agencies, advisors, tenure committee, down to the organizers of the annual conference (which showcases the main directions achievements and hot areas.)

Research leadership can go with the lamp-post methodology, to borrow your phrase, or it can decide for some reason that it is best not to go the easy route and encourage some different research focus. I've seen very clear examples of this.
marcus
#62
Apr22-11, 02:05 PM
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We still have the problem of understanding the decline of interest in string research proper (having explicitly to do with strings and branes, and postulated real extra spatial dimensions).

It is my own personal perception that many string theorists may now have decided after 20-25 years of experience that there were some potentially misleading misconceptions in the string program, having to do with strings and branes. My own perception is that many of them may come to the following conclusions:

- That geometric compactification of a higher dimensional theory is NOT a good way to think about the string parameter space.

- That perturbative quantum and supergravity approximations are NOT a good way to understand string theory.

- That strings DO NOT predict susy.

- That there DOES NOT exist a unique underlying theory.

- That things like electron mass should NOT be computable from first principles.

I don't wish to seem to be attributing these statements to anyone else's authority: these are MY conclusions expressed as seems clearest and most transparent to me. I suspect a number of experienced people have quietly drawn these conclusions and that this can itself explain a good bit of the declining interest in string research proper.
marcus
#63
Apr22-11, 03:35 PM
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One of the consequences of this is a kind of renaming. Different things are called "string theory" now: ABJM, twistors, application of AdS/CFT to condensed matter, black holes, various SUSY types of Yang-Mills, supergravity...
There may at times be a rather tenuous connection---something may be 'string-inspired' although not involving extra spatial dimensions, strings, branes directly.

We can try to gauge this shift of interest out of string proper by using DESY keywords "string model" and "brane model" and checking the research output of a sampling of prominent people. It is important to make it clear that these people can be working in related areas that some would consider part of the String program broadly construed. They have just shifted out of string/brane research proper. This doesn't seem to have been made clear enough earlier.

          1995-1998      1999-2002      2003-2006      2007-2010
Witten         38             29              9              5
Strominger     23             14             22              4
Maldacena      27             33             24              9 
Polchinski     21             17             11              4
Harvey,J       16             15              9              2
Duff,M         24             17              8              5
Gibbons,G      17             29             11              2
Dijkgraaf      18             11              9              7
Ooguri         31             18             13              8
Silverstein,E  16             15             16             10
Seiberg,N      19             16             22              1
A sample search:
http://www-library.desy.de/cgi-bin/s...=WWW&SEQUENCE= (19)

http://www-library.desy.de/cgi-bin/s...=WWW&SEQUENCE= (16)

http://www-library.desy.de/cgi-bin/s...=WWW&SEQUENCE= (22)

http://www-library.desy.de/cgi-bin/s...=WWW&SEQUENCE= (1)
marcus
#64
Apr22-11, 04:06 PM
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I think to correct any misunderstanding on the part of readers it is important to note what was said earlier about possible explanations for the decline in citations of recent string papers (primarily by other string theorists):
Quote Quote by PAllen View Post
The question of the number of recent string papers among top cited papers for recent years (which really does seem to have gone down a lot) has many possible explanations to be sorted out, and I believe all of these are actually contributing:

1) The more mature a field is, the more of its breakthrough papers will be older. There is no shortage of string papers among the 2009 cites; just that many of them are not 'recent' (I get about 9 if I don't limit to recent).

2) There actually haven't been many breakthroughs recently, despite continued effort (nothing new of the order of ADS/CFT, dualities, black hole results).

3) Other areas have become 'hot', pushing aside recent string papers (e.g. gear up to LHC and astronomy / cosmology)

4) More active participants, less reliance on superstars, in a field of unchanged significance relative to physics as a whole, will lead to fewer top cited recent papers.

Of these, only (2) is a possible problem for a research program, and only if it continues 'too long', however that might be defined.
Spires top cited articles during odd years 2001-2009
(with number of recent string papers making the top fifty shown in parenthesis)

http://www.slac.stanford.edu/spires/...1/annual.shtml (twelve)
http://www.slac.stanford.edu/spires/...3/annual.shtml (six)
http://www.slac.stanford.edu/spires/...5/annual.shtml (two)
http://www.slac.stanford.edu/spires/...7/annual.shtml (one)
http://www.slac.stanford.edu/spires/...9/annual.shtml (one)

A paper is counted as recent here if it appeared in the past five years. Here I think there can be no mistake about which papers are in any sense String. One can look down the top fifty list and easily distinguish. I guess the conclusion is that less current String research papers is making it into the top fifty than used to be the case---for whatever reason.

This marked decline in citations was happening already in 2003-2005, and led any other measurable trend that I have noticed. I don't know if this is in any way meaningful or how to express a possible significance. Citations to string papers come almost entirely from within the String community and reflect the researchers' own evaluation of a paper's interest.

PAllen, your 4 possible explanations for this decline in cites are well thought out and seem quite reasonable, but don't seem to apply to the period 2003-2005. Maybe that does not matter, though. When I think of 2003 what comes to mind in this context is Susskind's paper on the Anthropic String Theory Landscape. It was the year that the Landscape was widely recognized, prompted by the January 2003 paper by KKLT (those Stanford people, Kachru Kallosh Linde Trivedi). I suppose this could be coincidental, or could in some way be related to the drop-off in cites.
Sardano
#65
Apr22-11, 08:37 PM
P: 31
I dont understand, Marcus. By reading your posts it is obvious that you hate String Theory, that you worked in LQG or you are very into it or whatever. That you manipulate or do everything that is at your disposal to put String Theory behind LQG. In addition, you try to monopolize this forum by posting a huge quantity of LQG related posts, and threads in which you are the only one posting because they are neither interesting nor relevant!. You are fighting your particular war against String Theory, I presume because you have nothing to add with physical content... It doesnt make any sense to talk with you about String Theory because you will always be manipulating and trying to find the way to demonstrate that String Theory is worse or has less papers or whatever.

I guess you should be very angry with the new Supersymmetry-evidences (http://motls.blogspot.com/2011/04/at...n-bump-at.html ) which are going to put LQG and other "obesessed-with-General Relativity-research-like-there-is-nothing-after-General-Relativity-because-it-is-perfect-and-we-cant-correct-it-and-Einstein-was-a-God" in a very marginal position. As it should be.
smoit
#66
Apr22-11, 09:21 PM
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Quote Quote by Sardano View Post
I dont understand, Marcus. By reading your posts it is obvious that you hate String Theory, that you worked in LQG or you are very into it or whatever. That you manipulate or do everything that is at your disposal to put String Theory behind LQG. In addition, you try to monopolize this forum by posting a huge quantity of LQG related posts, and threads in which you are the only one posting because they are neither interesting nor relevant!. You are fighting your particular war against String Theory, I presume because you have nothing to add with physical content... It doesnt make any sense to talk with you about String Theory because you will always be manipulating and trying to find the way to demonstrate that String Theory is worse or has less papers or whatever.
I completely agree with this assessment! This has been going on for years! I suspect that his main target audience would be undergrad/grad students interested in BSM physics, who lack the expertise and judgement to see through the fog he's been creating on this forum, and in this thread in particular. The very title of this thread is so provocative and misleading that one can see immediately that he's got a clear agenda, which the previous posted has so eloquently described. I can't see how one can even have a serious conversation with this marcus guy. All he'll do is copy a phrase from your response that fits his purpose and spins it his way.
cosmik debris
#67
Apr22-11, 09:44 PM
P: 299
Marcus is only promoting a theory which he believes is going to give the answers we are all seeking. Sardano you are quoting from Lubos and he is far from objective in his particular (pun alert) viewpoint. They are both just promoting their own pet theories as most people do. You are free to read or not read anything on the interweb and you are free to create your own posts.
marcus
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Apr22-11, 10:08 PM
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Thanks Cosmik.
@ Others, I normally don't respond to ad homs.
There are, believe it or not, some factual issues.
tom.stoer
#69
Apr23-11, 03:24 AM
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There's a vicious circle:

First many reseach program like string theory or LQG have serious physical problems (work-in-progress for decades, non-uniqueness, not testable at low energies, ...).

Second some physicists think that discussing these problems weakens the position of the research program; Lubosz is a famous example. That results in supressing discussions and therefore hinders, slows down or even stops progress of science.

Third (and this is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy) unfairly dismissing objective criticism strengthens the position of the critics. Woit and Smolins books are the best examples; they exist simply due to the fact that certain discussions have not taken place. They cause more harm than a prior open discussion would have done.

So in there very end research programs and communities with blind spots are not able to address these blind spots; they remain as a thorn in the flesh; they do not go away simply by ignoring them.

Please have a look at the early decades of quantum mechanics. Almost every position was wrong or inconsistent; nearly every two of positions were contradictory, nearly every correct result was pure luck. But these decades with their substantive discussions were necessary in order to construct the final theory. One reason why we do not make more progress today is that we always insist on the fact that we are right and the other party is wrong and that we do not listen. This is b...sh.. With some distance - as I am not directly involved in string theory nor LQG - I have to state that many discussions (some of them unfortunately here in this forum) are infantile.

Nature is the laughing third - and believe me, nature it is not made of strings or loops; both programs (as of today) are far from being able to provide the ultimate answer. But they have a certain value which could very well rest in their failure rather than in their success.
negru
#70
Apr23-11, 04:31 AM
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Right, however the problem is that Marcus always tries to portray an image of the string program which is completely disjoint from reality.
tom.stoer
#71
Apr23-11, 06:13 AM
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I am not so sure; I think he simply follows and continuously criticizes a way taken by a small minority of string theorists.
marcus
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Apr23-11, 11:34 AM
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Quote Quote by tom.stoer View Post
...Second some physicists think that discussing these problems weakens the position of the research program;... That results in supressing discussions and therefore hinders, slows down or even stops progress of science.

Third (and this is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy) unfairly dismissing objective criticism strengthens the position of the critics. ...
Thanks Tom, excellent points! Emotional ad hom defensiveness is just another symptom.

There is, I think, some factual and useful information in this thread (and related ones) of a sort that our string-friends would do well to heed.

All the defensive noise tends to drown out the information content, so I will try to recall and summarize a few essentials.


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