Register to reply

Sociology of Physics: comment and indices

by marcus
Tags: comment, indices, physics, sociology
Share this thread:
marcus
#19
Jul7-09, 04:37 PM
Astronomy
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
marcus's Avatar
P: 23,084
Quote Quote by Fra View Post
I like to think there is a common motivation for what you call criticism and fantasy.
That true! And it's a fairly deep insight. I think in the United States it has been difficult to do social criticism because of a widespread fatuous complacency---an unquestioned conviction that our society is so good it should be the model for democracy all over the world. Bush-heads and Palin-drones think this. Maybe now that belief is not so widespread but in the 40s and 50s there was a pious creed that America was special, a land of freedom and fairness etc etc etc., example to the world.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very patriotic and always read the Declaration of Independence out loud on the 4th of July. Or encourage the young people to do it. I'm proud of some things about my country. But there has been excessive self-satisfaction.

And so because of this deafness to explicit social crit, I think that some of the energy of social criticism was channeled into SCIENCE FICTION. Which often, in the 1950s anyway, would really be exploring alternate forms of social and political organization. The imaginative exploration of technology was actually masking what was really going on in the genre. It was not science fantasy, it was social fantasy.
The invention of social alternatives was so to say enabled by the technological alternatives.

But we are not talking about American Exceptionalism, we are talking about String Exceptionalism: "The Only Game In Town".
marcus
#20
Jul9-09, 02:17 PM
Astronomy
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
marcus's Avatar
P: 23,084
At this point I have to say the sudden July 2 rise in Smolin book's sales is looking less like a random unexplained blip and more like something significant. Could be a shift in the physicbook market reflecting a possible shift in public perception.
The spike in sales is too persistent to dismiss.

1 January 0.6 (2009)
1 February 0.7
1 March 0.5
1 April 0.6
1 May 0.6
1 June 0.7
1 July 1.9

2 July 3.78
3 July 5.88
4 July 5.11
5 July 16.10
6 July 15.81
7 July 7.09
8 July 5.98
9 July 5.58
10 July 3.87

At noon pacific on 9 July TwP ranked 1216 and the stringy top five (elegant, fabric, parallel, warped, hyperspace) ranked 2139, 3234. 5971, 9577, 12984 for an average of 6781 making the ratio 5.58.

At noon 10 July TwP was 1730 and string top five (hyperspace, fabric, elegant, parallel, idiot guide) were 3461, 3565, 3615, 11301, 11547 for average of 6697.8.



I wonder how much longer this will last.
John Creighto
#21
Jul9-09, 03:05 PM
P: 813
Quote Quote by marcus View Post
At this point I have to say the sudden July 2 rise in Smolin book's sales is looking less like a random unexplained blip and more like something significant. Could be a shift in the physicbook market reflecting a possible shift in public perception.
The spike in sales is too persistent to dismiss.

1 January 0.6 (2009)
1 February 0.7
1 March 0.5
1 April 0.6
1 May 0.6
1 June 0.7
1 July 1.9

2 July 3.78
3 July 5.88
4 July 5.11
5 July 16.10
6 July 15.81
7 July 7.09
8 July 5.98
9 July 5.58

At noon pacific on 9 July TwP ranked 1216 and the stringy top five (elegant, fabric, parallel, warped, hyperspace) ranked 2139, 3234. 5971, 9577, 12984 for an average of 6781 making the ratio 5.58.

I wonder how much longer this will last.
It will stop when enough of the market as read it. I thought about buying it before. The title sounded interesting. It is certainly a unique title. I don't see how if I bought the book it would say anything about my confidence in any particular paradigm in physics.
marcus
#22
Jul11-09, 08:15 PM
Astronomy
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
marcus's Avatar
P: 23,084
Quote Quote by John Creighto View Post
It will stop when enough of the market as read it.
Of course---I definitely agree! And one question is what is "enough" and when will that be, that "enough" is reached.

To give you perspective, the book came out in September 2006 and has had excellent sales for a good bit of that time, for the first 3-4 months but also including starting September 2007 when the paperback edition went on sale.

Most other stringrelated books that came out around or after September 2006 have disappeared, dropped out of sight. This one is still occasionally high up there. Why? What keeps fueling interest?

I thought about buying it before. The title sounded interesting. It is certainly a unique title. I don't see how if I bought the book it would say anything about my confidence in any particular paradigm in physics.
Like you, I don't see how it would relate to your confidence. If I were confident in some model then probably I would not be so interested in the quest for a quantum theory of geometry. I look at the leading approaches (dynamic triangulations, asymptotic safety, loop, spinfoam...) as steps along the way, gradual advances, work in progress.


1 January 0.6 (2009)
1 February 0.7
1 March 0.5
1 April 0.6
1 May 0.6
1 June 0.7
1 July 1.9

2 July 3.78
3 July 5.88
4 July 5.11
5 July 16.10
6 July 15.81
7 July 7.09
8 July 5.98
9 July 5.58
10 July 3.87
11 July 2.92
12 July 2.67 (11:31 AM, had to be out at noon)

At noon pacific on 9 July TwP ranked 1216 and the stringy top five (elegant, fabric, parallel, warped, hyperspace) ranked 2139, 3234. 5971, 9577, 12984 for an average of 6781 making the ratio 5.58.

At noon 10 July TwP was 1730 and string top five (hyperspace, fabric, elegant, parallel, idiot guide) were 3461, 3565, 3615, 11301, 11547 for average of 6697.8.

At noon 11 July TwP was 1831 and the current stringy top five (elegant, fabric, parallel, hyperspace, idiot guide) ranked 1970, 4497, 5879, 6399, 8016 for an average of 5352.2. In other words judging by salesrank the Smolin book was doing about 3 times better than the string topfive average that we use for benchmark.

Had to be out at noon on 12 July so took reading at 11:31 AM, Smolin 1973 and the benchmark (elegant, fabric, parallel, hyperspace, blackholewar) 2250, 3255, 3884, 7139, 9842 for average 5274.0 and ratio 2.67.

I still haven't learned of anything having been done to advertise or publicize the book, so the sudden spurt of sales, to levels like September-November 2007, is unexplained.
Anyone see anything or hear anything that could explain? The fact that the Strings 2009 conference in Rome was such a bust? Any straws in the wind?
Fra
#23
Jul12-09, 05:32 AM
Fra's Avatar
P: 2,799
Quote Quote by John Creighto View Post
I don't see how if I bought the book it would say anything about my confidence in any particular paradigm in physics.
I think different people may read the book for different reasons. I've read Smolins 3 books, trouble with physics, 3 roads to QG, and the life of the cosmos and my reason for reading it is that wanted to learn about smolins reasoning. In particular his quest for new logic and evolving law.

The critique against string theory was not my reason for reading it. I somehow share alot of his views, and did so before hearing the name Smolin.

Maybe to some people, his books could be an eye opener. If so, why not. In particular might this apply to people who make decisions about funding.

However having read all 3 of his books, there is a decent amount of redundandy and overlap between the three books, and I think 3 roards was possily the best one, but maybe it's because that's the one i read first.

I think the message is clear in smolins books. The primary goal is NOT to just bash string theory and be done with it, it is to try to open the readers eyes and widern their reasoning in the quest for a better understanding that will benefit all of us. The note on string theory, is just (as I read it at least) an illustration that the past strategy has been moderately successful, further increasing the motivation for truly new and creative ideas. Maybe part of the diffuculty of the problems, isn't just that the problem is hard, it may be partly thay we're stuck in an old mode of analysing the problem. The way we ask questions in order to defined the problem may be part of the problem.

/Fredrik
marcus
#24
Jul12-09, 01:23 PM
Astronomy
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
marcus's Avatar
P: 23,084
Quote Quote by Fra View Post
I think different people may read the book for different reasons. I've read Smolins 3 books, trouble with physics, 3 roads to QG, and the life of the cosmos and my reason for reading it is that wanted to learn about smolins reasoning. In particular his quest for new logic and evolving law...
/Fredrik
Fra, perceptive comment and interesting point of view on Smolin's books!
You might be interested in the FQXi Azores conference which just finished. They may be putting up some video and/or pdf on the talks.
home:
http://www.fqxi.org/conference/home
sample list of questions considered at the previous FQXi conference:
http://www.fqxi.org/conference/questions
Sabine's blog report on it:
http://backreaction.blogspot.com/200...on-azores.html
Lee Smolin was of course one of the participants (on scientific advisory board of FQXi, along with Frank Wilczek as I recall) and since the questions they home in on are often fairly deep ones it should be interesting to learn what he had to say, if they do post notes or video from the discussion.
Fra
#25
Jul13-09, 12:42 AM
Fra's Avatar
P: 2,799
Thanks for those links Marcus! I noticed the talks aren't up yet, but hopefully they will be.

/Fredrik
Fra
#26
Jul13-09, 04:20 AM
Fra's Avatar
P: 2,799
Quote Quote by marcus View Post
sample list of questions considered at the previous FQXi conference:
http://www.fqxi.org/conference/questions
Almost needless to say, they are listing excellent deep and highly motivated questions.

Just to quote a few from that list...

"
- Are there reasons to believe that standard QM is insufficient?
- Can we apply QM to the entire universe?
- How much information is really there in a quantum state?
- an one define probabilities in an eternally inflating spacetime?
- Is nature fundamentally analog or digital (continuous or discrete)?
- Is nature completely mathematical?
- What is dark energy?
"
Questions so good, that NOT insisting on asking them is to be considered as speculative in the sense of the ostrich putting his head in the sand. In that sense, "speculating" about these questions is rather LESS "speculative" in the sense or risk assessment. How far DARE we walk before we ask ourselves wether we got the direction right?

/Fredrik
marcus
#27
Jul13-09, 02:10 PM
Astronomy
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
marcus's Avatar
P: 23,084
Trouble with Physics salesrank compared with string benchmark:

1 January 0.6 (2009)
1 February 0.7
1 March 0.5
1 April 0.6
1 May 0.6
1 June 0.7
1 July 1.9

2 July 3.78
3 July 5.88
4 July 5.11
5 July 16.10
6 July 15.81
7 July 7.09
8 July 5.98
9 July 5.58
10 July 3.87
11 July 2.92
12 July 2.67
13 July 6.42

At noon pacific on 13 July TwP ranked 1036 and the stringy top five (elegant, parallel, fabric, idiotguide, hyperspace) ranked 2677, 3873, 7634, 9522, 9538 for an average of 6648.8 making the ratio 6.42.

So judging by salesranks, the Smolin book was doing about six times better than the five most popular string-oriented books.
================

Fra, your last post is incisive. How I read it is that sometimes in physics people can waste their time by lacking philosophical smarts and depth.
Sometimes you have to analyze your concepts and if you don't, and if you just "shut up and calculate" or "shut up and accelerate" more and more particles, you run into cul de sac sterile deadend and waste everybody's time. So the "speculative" shoe is on the other foot, I think you are saying. It is NOT thinking about the meaning of the concepts that then becomes the careless and wasteful gamble, the speculation.
And that is really what Smolin is all about. The ideas he comes up with can be wrong sometimes and he's not afraid of that, but right or wrong, he is not shallow. He doesn't simply follow whatever herd of cattle or flock of sheep. The TwP book is interesting partly because of that.
Quote Quote by Fra View Post
Almost needless to say, they are listing excellent deep and highly motivated questions.

Just to quote a few from that list...

"
- Are there reasons to believe that standard QM is insufficient?
- Can we apply QM to the entire universe?
- How much information is really there in a quantum state?
- an one define probabilities in an eternally inflating spacetime?
- Is nature fundamentally analog or digital (continuous or discrete)?
- Is nature completely mathematical?
- What is dark energy?
"
Questions so good, that NOT insisting on asking them is to be considered as speculative in the sense of the ostrich putting his head in the sand. In that sense, "speculating" about these questions is rather LESS "speculative" in the sense or risk assessment. How far DARE we walk before we ask ourselves wether we got the direction right?

/Fredrik
But Smolin's next book, that he is writing with Robert Unger about time and the evolution of the laws of physics should actually be more philosophically interesting. The FQXi question "Can we apply QM to the entire universe?" Could have been taken right out of the Smolin-Unger book. The answer is probably No, we cannot, because we are not an outside observer performing repeated universe experiments.
John Creighto
#28
Jul13-09, 07:32 PM
P: 813
Quote Quote by marcus View Post
So judging by salesranks, the Smolin book was doing about six times better than the five most popular string-oriented books.
================
I'm still thinking "So". If two books cover topic A and one book covers topic B then the fact that the book which covers topic B is more popular then the two books that cover topic A says nothing about weather topic B is more popular then topic A. Also if a lot has been written about one topic and little of merit has been written about the second topic then of course the first book written about the second topic is going to show a surge in popularity at first.

Shouldn't there be a much better measure of public opinion then book sales or tweets for that matter. It reminds me of people who try to gauge danger by how much they hear about something on the news when in fact the more you hear something on the news the less common an occurrence it is.
Fra
#29
Jul14-09, 07:17 AM
Fra's Avatar
P: 2,799
Quote Quote by marcus View Post
Fra, your last post is incisive. How I read it is that sometimes in physics people can waste their time by lacking philosophical smarts and depth.
Sometimes you have to analyze your concepts and if you don't, and if you just "shut up and calculate" or "shut up and accelerate" more and more particles, you run into cul de sac sterile deadend and waste everybody's time. So the "speculative" shoe is on the other foot, I think you are saying. It is NOT thinking about the meaning of the concepts that then becomes the careless and wasteful gamble, the speculation.
While it might not be right to claim that a specific someone body is wasting THEIR time from their point of view (it's somehow part of the evolutionary game, that each player has not other choice but to play THEIR game and gamble with their own existence and also has to rat their OWN risk, this I the inside-view perspective, it applies to the scientific process and (my personal conjecture) also to physical processes) - but what you rephrase is precisely what I'm saying!
Quote Quote by marcus View Post
But Smolin's next book, that he is writing with Robert Unger about time and the evolution of the laws of physics should actually be more philosophically interesting. The FQXi question "Can we apply QM to the entire universe?" Could have been taken right out of the Smolin-Unger book. The answer is probably No, we cannot, because we are not an outside observer performing repeated universe experiments.
Yes, I very much look forward to that book. Some of thoese ideas are already present, if perhaps less elaborated in smolins other books. At least I see it when I read his books.

So far the talk from perimeter on the reality of law, where he mentions his collaboration with unger, where he tries to make a philosophical argument against the notion of timeless law is probably a good indicator of what to expect from the book. I have listened to that talk several times because I had it with me on a trip last year on a mp3 player and it was the only thing I had to listen to. And I think at least to judge from that talk, there are still many open wires even for smolin. In particular on the objection of some that wether replacing timeless law, would again need a timeless metalaw or now. On this point his reasoning was not very clear. I hope that in the book he is more explicit and may come with ideas on howto formalise this, I think it can be done.

So I think his questioning of the notion of timless law, and replacing the ensemble or completely unphysical statistics of IMHO silly "multiverses" with instead the idea of ONE evolving universe is in the right direction. Also, this fairly deep suggestions has implications for the notion of the reality of physical law and our undertanding of science as a process. The scientific process almost becomes one with the physical processes. Just in my taste.

If I had to mention from the top of my head one person I'm aware of from media that insists on a change, smolins ideas are one of the top most interesting.

It's true that some of these ideas shake many of the foundations of science, especially the new notion of evolving law, but all circustances motivating questioning in this direction give me more confidence than weak argument that there is nothing wrong with the old logic judged on past success. there is also a good reason for this, which smolin explains when talking about how closed subsystems is a different story than an open environment. The logic that works for closed subsystems does not work for open environments.

/Fredrik
marcus
#30
Jul14-09, 02:36 PM
Astronomy
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
marcus's Avatar
P: 23,084
Trouble with Physics salesrank compared with string benchmark:

1 January 0.6 (2009)
1 February 0.7
1 March 0.5
1 April 0.6
1 May 0.6
1 June 0.7
1 July 1.9

2 July 3.78
3 July 5.88
4 July 5.11
5 July 16.10
6 July 15.81
7 July 7.09
8 July 5.98
9 July 5.58
10 July 3.87
11 July 2.92
12 July 2.67
13 July 6.42
14 July 4.88

At noon pacific on 13 July TwP ranked 1036 and the stringy top five (elegant, parallel, fabric, idiotguide, hyperspace) ranked 2677, 3873, 7634, 9522, 9538 for an average of 6648.8 making the ratio 6.42.

At noon 14 July TwP ranked 1854 and the stringy top five (elegant, fabric, parallel, hyperspace, warped) ranked 3547, 7032, 7049, 10628, 16962 for an average of 9043.6 and a ratio of 4.88

John and Fra, I appreciate both your comments but have to rush to make an appointment, will reply later this afternoon.
marcus
#31
Jul14-09, 08:24 PM
Astronomy
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
marcus's Avatar
P: 23,084
Quote Quote by John Creighto View Post
If two books cover topic A and one book covers topic B then the fact that the book which covers topic B is more popular then the two books that cover topic A says nothing about weather topic B is more popular then topic A...
Yes definitely. What interests me is how this index changes over time. I have kept track of it since September 2006. Doing a reading at or around the first of the month, always at noon pacific so as to avoid any accidental "cherrypicking"

For much of 2008 the index was down around 0.5 and 0.6. Also for much of 2009. And now it is up, often over 2 or 3.

This is a big change. Does it signal a longterm shift in the way the physics-fans in the general public are thinking? Or is it just a brief temporary spike? And if it is purely temporary, why did it happen now?

I think the public is capable of being fooled by science hype. Indeed it probably has been fooled quite a bit including by media specials (eg even with Hawking, Brian Greene,...) that you'd hope would be solid and not misleading. So you can't take booksales as an indicator of what is valid research or good science policy. It could even sometimes be a contrary indicator!

I don't need to keep track of wideaudience booksales to tell me what is valid science and what isn't. Neither do you. We have other ways---our critical faculties, citation counts, reading informed inside opinion.

What indices like this can tell us is about public perceptions and especially alert us to change---shifts in perception.

Smolin's book essentially advocates a more inclusive, broad front of attack on the quantum geometry/gravity problem. Not just string, but also spinfoam, causal sets, dynamic triangulations, loop quantum gravity...
And the book gives the reasons why you need to allow for string being a dead-end. A fundamental weakness in the string approach. No approach can you say from the outset that it is right. Every approach can turn out to be flawed some way, and it may turn out to be possible to work around the flaw or it may NOT. So the mature strategy is to develop along a variety of paths and support several research lines.

Well in 2006 there was a serious problem of overconcentration on string with an entrenched establishment protecting its own prestige, especially in the US.
Now that monopoly has broken somewhat in Europe, and the Europeans are being rewarded by exciting advances along the non-string lines. Most recently the socalled Asymptotic Safe approach that nobelist Steven Weinberg talked about at Cern (July 7) just this past week. But actually a lot of nonstring QG research action.
So the situation that Smolin assessed in the book has proven to be in some sense self-correcting. It is as if at least the European Scientific Establishment paid attention to what Smolin was saying. Or knew it already. So more funding HAS gone into the nonstring lines that Smolin was talking about, and also allied approaches that he didnt even mention.
Now it remains for the USA scientific establishment (DOE research, NSF, national science foundation,...) to get the message.
Smolin's book can be a helpful PART of this shift in perception and policy, but it can't do the job all by itself.

Still, I think it is an interesting index and I am waiting to see where it goes next.

BTW Smolin's next book (about Time and the Laws of Physics) is likely to be very controversial. In its day TwP was considered a dark horse and not likely to be as persistent and influential as it seems now to be. The new one could be like that too.
marcus
#32
Jul14-09, 08:34 PM
Astronomy
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
marcus's Avatar
P: 23,084
Fra, on reflection I have nothing to add to your post #29. I concur completely with what you say there. (including about the open wires ) details still to be filled in. missing connections that still have to be made.

Good idea to make an MP3 of a lecture that you can then take on a train trip.
In case anyone wants to copy your example I will post links to smolin perimeter lectures.
Here is one:
http://pirsa.org/08100049/

15 July 2.37
At noon, the regular time, Trouble ranked 2566 and the stringy benchmark was 6081.4 making the ratio 2.37.
marcus
#33
Jul16-09, 02:12 PM
Astronomy
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
marcus's Avatar
P: 23,084
Kaboom! The big sales spike is over and TwP is back in the normal range. The unexplained excursion lasted just over 2 weeks.

Trouble with Physics salesrank compared with string benchmark:

1 January 0.6 (2009)
1 February 0.7
1 March 0.5
1 April 0.6
1 May 0.6
1 June 0.7
1 July 1.9

2 July 3.78
3 July 5.88
4 July 5.11
5 July 16.10
6 July 15.81
7 July 7.09
8 July 5.98
9 July 5.58
10 July 3.87
11 July 2.92
12 July 2.67
13 July 6.42
14 July 4.88
15 July 2.37
16 July 0.81

At noon pacific on 16 July TwP ranked 5350 and the stringy top five (elegant, fabric, blackhole, parallel, hyperspace) ranked 2079, 3252, 4395, 4413, 7516 for an average of 4331.0 making the ratio 0.81.
John Creighto
#34
Jul16-09, 03:16 PM
P: 813
Quote Quote by marcus View Post
Well in 2006 there was a serious problem of overconcentration on string with an entrenched establishment protecting its own prestige, especially in the US.
Now that monopoly has broken somewhat in Europe, and the Europeans are being rewarded by exciting advances along the non-string lines. Most recently the socalled Asymptotic Safe approach that nobelist Steven Weinberg talked about at Cern (July 7) just this past week. But actually a lot of nonstring QG research action.

So the situation that Smolin assessed in the book has proven to be in some sense self-correcting. It is as if at least the European Scientific Establishment paid attention to what Smolin was saying. Or knew it already. So more funding HAS gone into the nonstring lines that Smolin was talking about, and also allied approaches that he didnt even mention.
Now it remains for the USA scientific establishment (DOE research, NSF, national science foundation,...) to get the message.
I think in any field of research governments should avoid picking winners as much as possible. I'm curious as to why there were would be a disproportionate amount of research in string theory because in my mind the only justification would be if there were key predictions to test that required a large amount of research dollars to test. Otherwise, I think they should let the academics decide on their own which fields of research are most relevant for them to pursue. Perhaps funding preference could be given to people who write papers which are highly referenced and read.
Fra
#35
Jul17-09, 12:06 AM
Fra's Avatar
P: 2,799
Quote Quote by marcus View Post
Kaboom! The big sales spike is over and TwP is back in the normal range. The unexplained excursion lasted just over 2 weeks.

Trouble with Physics salesrank compared with string benchmark:

1 January 0.6 (2009)
1 February 0.7
1 March 0.5
1 April 0.6
1 May 0.6
1 June 0.7
1 July 1.9

2 July 3.78
3 July 5.88
4 July 5.11
5 July 16.10
6 July 15.81
7 July 7.09
8 July 5.98
9 July 5.58
10 July 3.87
11 July 2.92
12 July 2.67
13 July 6.42
14 July 4.88
15 July 2.37
16 July 0.81

At noon pacific on 16 July TwP ranked 5350 and the stringy top five (elegant, fabric, blackhole, parallel, hyperspace) ranked 2079, 3252, 4395, 4413, 7516 for an average of 4331.0 making the ratio 0.81.
Fascinating.

Do you know how those sales ranks are actually calculated?
Take for example the number 15.81 from 6 July, how is it calculated?

How many individual books are these individual numbers based upon?

/Fredrik
marcus
#36
Jul17-09, 02:28 PM
Astronomy
Sci Advisor
PF Gold
marcus's Avatar
P: 23,084
Fra, Amazon does not provide figures on the numbers of copies sold. They only give a sales rank. The book that sells the most copies is #1, the next most copies sold gets rank #2.
Also publishers tend to be reticent about actual numbers sold. So all we have to go on are the ranks. I calculate the ratios myself because the rank of a physics book is hard to interpret, I like to know the rank compared with something.

So for example the ratio at noon today was 1.67. Trouble was doing a bit more than one and a half times better than the stringy benchmark I compare with. The way it works is this:
At noon TwP rank was 2907.
The five most popular stringy books today were elegant, fabric, parallel, idiot guide, hyperspace and their ranks were 2620, 2871, 4090, 5257, 9431.
This makes an average of 4853.8. One just adds up the five ranks and divides by 5.
So the average stringy rank, for books in the top five, was 4853.8.
Smolin's rank of 2907 was 1.67 times better than that. That is the ratio 4853.8/2907.

So I record this for today:
17 July 1.67


Another example was the ratio for 6 July, as described here:
Quote Quote by marcus View Post
...
To continue recording the noon readings for this interesting spike in sales of Smolin's book:
2 July 3.78
3 July 5.88
4 July 5.11
5 July 16.10
6 July 15.81

Trouble with Physics was number one on the Amazon list of physics books (ahead of Hawking, Greene, whoever). At noon on 6 July it ranked 395 and the string topfive average was 6286.2, making the ratio 15.81.
The five most popular string books that day (fabric, elegant, parallel, hyperspace, warped) ranked 1507, 1782, 5330, 7309, 15503.
On that day the most popular string books (and their ranks) were Brian Greene's Fabric (#1507) and Elegant (#1782), Michio Kaku's Parallel Worlds (#5330) and Hyperspace (#7309) and Lisa Randall's Warped Passages (#15503). Among the top five, the average salesrank was 6286.2. The Smolin book's salesrank was 15.81 times better than this stringy benchmark. Since that day it happened to be #395 among all books that Amazon sells.

The point of such an index is that it should be quick to calculate, and one should calculate it consistently always the same way. And one then watches it over time. Only the change over time, if there is any change, can mean something. By itself one cannot say what the number means.
The stringy benchmark to some extent measures the size of the problem (the over-hyping and over-selling of string to the public) and so the ratio has a connection with how well Smolin's initiative is doing relative to the size of the mountainous problem it addresses. But there is no rigorous meaning---one can learn what it means only by watching it over time and seeing what it correlates with. Like any other numerical indicator that one tracks.


Register to reply

Related Discussions
What theories have sociologists proposed? Social Sciences 4
The sociology of physics: Gravity's Shadow Science & Math Textbooks 2
Physics window experiment,please comment General Physics 5
Sociology Seminar Social Sciences 0