A point for Brian Greene

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marcus
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Today's NY times reported the string theory 20th birthday celebration at Aspen. the last paragraph was about the closing words of the conference: summation by Stephen Shenker, with comment from the audience by Brian Greene.

---quote----

...Dr. Shenker said it would be great to find out that string theory was right.

From the audience Dr. Greene piped up, "Wouldn't it be great either way?"

"Are you kidding me, Brian?" Dr. Shenker responded. "How many years have you sweated on this?"

But if string theory is wrong, Dr. Greene argued, wouldn't it be good to know so physics could move on? "Don't you want to know?" he asked.

Dr. Shenker amended his remarks. "It would be great to have an answer," he said, adding, "It would be even better if it's the right one."
----endquote---

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/07/science/07stri.html?pagewanted=5&oref=regi

good for Brian
 

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I talked with Brian at a Northeastern Strings and things conference when he was a postdoc at Harvard back in the 1980s. He had just derived a 2-d duality in which points outside a circle of Planck-scale radius mapped to points inside the circle. He was a mild mannered fellow at that time, but has seemed to take on a more aggressive persona since then, based on seeing him in TV interviews, and now reading your remarks.
 
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marcus
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yanniru said:
... but has seemed to take on a more aggressive persona since then, based on seeing him in TV interviews, and now reading your remarks.
hi Richard,

I have to leave it to others more familiar with Brian's style to respond to what you say about "aggressive persona". I wanted to award him a measure of respect for showing moral courage.


Maybe what you call "my remarks" weren't sufficiently clear. I simply quoted the article and said "a point for Brian Greene" meaning to tip my hat to him for squarely facing the possibility that string could flop.
Physically speaking the string enterprise may be a fiasco
and, in a conference session where the emphasis may have tended towards happy-talk and self-congratulation, it seems to me that it shows some strength of character to acknowledge this.

the way it sounded to me, it was not aggressiveness----my experience with aggressive string theorists is more the type that try to bully others into conformity with the party line, and sneer at any rival theories----what I hear in Brian's exchange with Shenker is what I would call a sense of responsibility to the tradition of empirical science, or to the longterm health of physics. I liked him for it.

but clearly you have more familiarity with the guy, so maybe i should
try to see it more along the lines you suggest. my take on it was not based on any acquaintance with him
 
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By 'aggressive' I meant something along the line of the moral courage you speak of. Not at all a 'bullying' persona. And I only met him once when he seemed more modest.
 
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marcus
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yanniru said:
By 'aggressive' I meant something along the line of the moral courage you speak of. Not at all a 'bullying' persona. And I only met him once when he seemed more modest.
likeable guy either way, a memorable encounter I gather
 
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marcus said:
likeable guy either way, a memorable encounter I gather
OH BOY! Is that Brian Greene a nice guy. Never saw better. Always welcoming even the very most unworthy. Alway kind!
Always extending himself to help out the underdog. The undereducated. The simple folk. Never thinks of himself as better than anyone even as exalted as he is.
Nice Brian!
 
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Shoshana said:
OH BOY! Is that Brian Greene a nice guy. Never saw better. Always welcoming even the very most unworthy. Alway kind!
Always extending himself to help out the underdog. The undereducated. The simple folk. Never thinks of himself as better than anyone even as exalted as he is.
Nice Brian!
========
sorry folks I am in total confusion about BG. I have no direct data and I am getting different messages from yanniru and shoshana. I may have to bail out. very embarrassed

[rest of message deleted: I didnt know how to take Sho's redface "angry" symbol and thought the post might have been ironical]
 
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  • #8
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Brian is one of the most likeable guys in particle physics, he doesn't have much of an ego and is easy to talk with. Not to mention always open to new things.

I've never seen him as arrogant, hardheaded etc etc That goes for his postdocs and grad students as well.

He is definitely the best orator in the field, as he has a very clear and concise way of presenting things. He is to lectures what Witten is to paper writing.
 
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marcus said:
I looked at your profile yesterday

It is nice to look on the Public Profile offered to others on this forum and see a little about who one is reading.

A little red icon is the only thing that led you to think I meant anything but what was written in my post?

I was taught in the tradition to question everything.

I encourage anyone to do that and continue without fail.

Does this in anyway disagree with your understanding?
 
  • #10
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I wonder if Brian has a different approach to dealing with the public and dealing with fellow researchers. To the public he seems so self-assured that I would say that he may come across as a smartass, to use another's terminology, but definitely not a jerk. From the comments of others above, it would appear that he is still just as humble as he was when I spoke with him in the late 80s when interacting with physicists. His public image seems Feymannesque. Could it be contrived?
 
  • #11
marcus
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the NYT article is payfor, I think,
although when it was first out I was able to read it on line for free.

but in case any one wants to take a second look, this blog has an extensive quote from it, including the exchange between Greene and Shenker
(also actually far more interesting quotes from Lawrence Krauss)

http://pmbryant.typepad.com/b_and_b/2004/12/string_theory_d.html
 
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