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Angry physicist rants blog

  1. May 12, 2007 #1


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    this new blog (that Peter Woit flagged) is potentially very interesting and
    has an uninhibited style


    Rantings of an Angry Physicist

    An angry Physicist ranting about Quantum Gravity, foundational Quantum Mechanics, the gross incompotency of Economists, and other fun issues!

    I’m a undergrad at UC Davis, I have been studying physics for two or three years. I started studying from the library at CalTech with a retired rocket scientist and have been fascinated by theoretical physics since. I have a few more years to go until they kick me out with a degree or two; next year I am going to be taking 13 to 15 math courses, so I don’t know how much I can keep up with this blog then. But for now, I read everything I get my hands on and try to read up on every technical paper I can (truth be told: Dr. Carlip is very intimidating with his demigod-like powers to mystically cite sources like one would recite one’s phone number! So that is something to aspire to!) and as a bad habit from my earlier years I tend to think critically (I’m a baaaad man!).

    Consequently I reject String theory as it stands now (yes, I am a heathen heretic whatever). Hmmm…I think that if we had strings that are one planck length long, all we could really know about these strings are their relative position perhaps desribable by a graph? The various graph-states would be superpositioned and we easily recover quantum mechanics via a sum over histories method, etc. But that’s not what bothers me about string theory the most. What bothers me the most is that they propose the existence of the graviton, which I see as cartoonish. I’m certain that String theorists will have a host of insults to hurl at me about this, but it doesn’t change the fact that it makes no sense to have a graviton. Saying “Well quantum field theory demands the existence of a mediating boson” is no better than saying “Well, the bible demands that evolution be false”; it’s a simple appeal to authority.

    Anyways, I thought about being an economist a while back (since fifth grade!). I must confess that I have a soft spot in my heart for economics…well, criticisms of Neoclassical and marginalist economics now. I’m an “old school” Neo-Ricardian type of fellow. I might actually post some stuff criticizing Neoclassical economics later on, keep your eyes peeled for it!

    Back to my history, uh well, that’s it I guess for now.
    Last edited: May 12, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. May 12, 2007 #2
    This is great indeed!

    He is really an undergraduate student?
  4. May 12, 2007 #3
    Yep, I am a first year freshman at UC Davis; I am taking physics 250 (special topics taught by Steve Carlip - as you imagine by my blog and who the professor is, it is on quantum gravity), physics 9D ("modern physics" - basic quantum theory and relativity), Linear Algebra, and English.
  5. May 12, 2007 #4


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    High A.P,

    Davis could be becoming a strong place, or even more of one.
    Did you see Derek Wise's paper?
    He should be part of Carlip's (and your) group soon:

    MacDowell-Mansouri Gravity and Cartan Geometry.
    Last edited: May 12, 2007
  6. May 12, 2007 #5
    Perhaps...Dr. Carlip's being at Davis was the reason I chose to go to UCD.

    If I am not mistaken, he is a rather pleasant chap with a British accent.

    If that's him, I haven't spoken to him very much. I was not aware of his paper before, it looks interesting. Thanks for the link :)

    A number of physics grad students here (except for a handful that I've met) don't believe in a lot of the stuff they write though. Very disappointing to say the least; perhaps, hopefully, he'll be one of the handful exceptions.
  7. May 12, 2007 #6
    So if you reject string theory, are you a LQG fanboy then? Or a fan of some other approach like CDT, noncommuntive geometry, twistor theory, supergravity, induced gravity etc.

    Personally I'll suspend judgment on string theory until LHC goes live and hopefully finds Higgs bosons and SUSY-partners and possibly evidence of higher dimensions as a result of microblack hole production.

    If LHC does not find Susy-partners, and no other evidence for strings, such as cosmic strings, is forthcoming, then I will be intensely skeptical of string theory, and in-the-closet LQG'er :)

    BTW which approach to QG does Steve Carlip favor? I recall he, John Baez, and Lubos Motl debating it out over at Sci.physics.research
    Last edited: May 12, 2007
  8. May 12, 2007 #7


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    Carlip is known more as a GR guru. He wrote the book on 2+1 gravity, has done some LQG work and done some work on BHs. Hes open to new ideas, and tackled various problems of QG that are sort of pushed to the wayside in traditional mainstream research but important nonetheless.
  9. May 12, 2007 #8
    Interesting. It appears to me that String theorists feel that since their closed lowest vibration mode of a string is a graviton, and they believe it is renormalizable, that therefore, string theory is the only consistent and only candidate theory of quantum gravity.
  10. May 12, 2007 #9


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    I have no idea---can't help guess. Derek will officially be in the math department at davis. Might not be around there regularly yet: his postdoc contract begins in the Fall. Here's a picture of John Baez students taken summer 2004
    http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/students.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  11. May 12, 2007 #10


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    You know, string theory isn't so bad once you get rid of the graviton and other silly things.
  12. May 12, 2007 #11
    If, as angry physicst rant says, you disbelieve in the graviton, then there's no basis for calling string theory a theory of quantum gravity.
  13. May 12, 2007 #12
    I don't really favor any of the current approaches right now, to be honest. I was impressed with Loop Quantum Gravity until we got to the math behind it in Carlip's class, and then I got rather disappointed with some of the choices made (e.g. the SU(2) gauge group being used, etc.).

    I'm intrigued by noncommutative geometry, but despite having read Connes book several times I must confess I still don't fully understand the math.

    Supergravity I don't understand one bit.

    Twistor theory actually has been appealing to me on occasions, but I do not know whether to look into it any further than I all ready have.

    I've actually been entertaining the idea of general relativity and quantum theory both being approximations to some underlying theory, but I would have no clue how to approach that.

    So all in all I don't really subscribe to any school of thought; as Goethe once said:
    Somebody says: "Of no school I am part,
    Never to living master lost my heart,
    Nor any more can I be said
    To have learned anything from the dead."
    That statement - subject to appeal -
    Means "I'm a self-made imbecile."

    After looking at the picture, I can say that I haven't noticed him too much. He looks like a rather cool fellow though.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  14. May 12, 2007 #13


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    Who did? :smile:
  15. May 12, 2007 #14
    well there's Lubos Motl :0
  16. May 13, 2007 #15


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    At least as perturbation theory gravitons should make sense.

    That is: pick a semiclassical state and study thepropagation of gravitationaldisturbations with respect to it. (e.g. Rovellis work)

    Angry Physicist, feel free todo it with a non compact gauge group, you are assured to become quite famous in the QG community if you succeed. In the mean time we'll have to make do with the maths we can handle, not the maths we wish we could handle, and try to do physics within this constraint. Otherwise we're not doing physics but just annoyingly whinning about.
  17. May 13, 2007 #16
    Either you are an extreme child prodigy, or you are quite old for a first year undergraduate :!!)
  18. May 13, 2007 #17


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    if it were me I think I'd choose both, that is: to be a former brainy kid who went into economics first (self-educated) and made a bunch of money or anyway somehow had fun being a finance whiz, and then decided on a second career. I would be about 35 years old and have already gone thru around 5 years of sporadic physics self-education reading at the CalTech library

    but it is really not worth speculating.
    the main thing is it looks like a package of unusual past experience and decisions that led to a good preparation for addressing the problems in QG

    they are interesting problems and call for interesting people (like yourself Thomas) to address them

    which random combination of accidents prepares you does not matter as long as you can do original research that bears on the problem---ultimately what counts.
    Last edited: May 13, 2007
  19. May 13, 2007 #18
    It appears that he doesn't have a UC Davis email address either.
  20. May 13, 2007 #19
    My ucdavis email is the same as my gmail address, just change the "@gmail.com" to "@ucdavis.edu", I'm just overly paranoid about spam getting into my ucdavis email account as there is an extremely poor spam detector.

    Go ahead and email me at my uc davis email account, I'd be delighted to talk with you.

    [edit]: out of my sheer love for you, I have changed my email account here to be my ucdavis email account.

    I'm told I look old...but not old enough to not get carded :biggrin:
    Last edited: May 13, 2007
  21. May 14, 2007 #20
    Hey Anger,
    Do you know that Josh1 is our angry pro-string theorists here? He aggressively promotes string theory. He's made remarks that offended Peter Woit

    Not that there's anything wrong, but when LHC comes online and fails to find SUSY or higher dimensions, and maybe only a single higgs, I think that will set the tone for future string theory research, and give non-string approaches breathing room.
  22. May 14, 2007 #21


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    I could not found what exactly he said about foundational QM?
  23. May 14, 2007 #22
    If I’m annoyed, it’s not because of other approaches. It’s because some PF members misrepresent the amount of interest in other approaches shown by researchers in general as a way of preventing other members who don’t know any better from learning why string theory is still the theory of choice for researchers and that this is not a result of stringy people having a "bad attitude".

    Actually, although there are strong arguments independent of string theory (in particular, the higgs naturalness argument) that if supersymmetry exists in nature, evidence for it is likely to be found at the electro-weak scale, this need not be the case for supersymmetry to exist. In fact, even string theory can be correct without supersymmetry existing. It’s just that we’ve stuck with supersymmetric solutions since the theory is more tractable mathematically there. So even if evidence for supersymmetry is not found, strings will continue to dominate until a better idea is found since all of the reasons we believe that the current alternatives are hopeless will still apply.

    On the other hand, if evidence for supersymmetry is found, all other research programs will be greatly effected because it would become much harder to believe that the correct theory doesn't treat gravity along with the other forces in a way that is much more unified than in all the other approaches.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 14, 2007
  24. May 14, 2007 #23
    I agree with you 100% if evidence of SUSY is found all other programs will dry up. In fact, I might even do graduate-level work in strings (though I'm more leaning to solid state physics) as I know the job prospects of string theorists are very good (though I might want to work for industry rather than academia).

    But if LHC does not find SUSY, one argument for SUSY, that it stabilizes the electro-weak scale against radiative corrections, is undermined. If LHC does not find evidence of higher dimensions, for example, in an unexpected rate of microblackhole production, and no other observational evidence, such as cosmic strings in astronomy, is forthcoming, it's not clear to me that continuing to pursue string theory is rational. ONe argument against string theory is that it is monopolizing theoretical physics and taking away the best and brightest young students away from developing other approaches, such as non-SUSY 4D LQG, toward working on string theory problems. A same situation exist in the software industry where the vast majority of programmers are working on microsoft windows rather than say linux or mac os x. All researchers have worked on string theory, much like computer programers, so it is much better developed than competing approaches like LQG, and this fact then draws in more researchers in a feedback loop completely independant of experimental evidence.

    I am well aware that SUSY could exist on any breaking scale, from energies accessible to LHC all the way to the planck breaking scale. But usually the way science works is that would like to see positive evidence for a theory, not reasons for non-observance.

    Tevatron hasn't found evidence of SUSY which puts tight bounds on it.
    I'll suspend judgment until LHC goes online but my intuition tells me the world is 4D and non-supersymmetric.
  25. May 14, 2007 #24
    Nothing...yet. I am a busy undergrad, mind you, I have stuff to do, people to see, women to try and date; all of these endeavors failures mind you!

    Still, one has to quixotically tilt the windmills now and again :wink:

    Besides, if I spent all my time writing about what I wanted to on my blog, and researching, and so forth, I would have no time for my studies, and end up not getting into a grad school. Then where would I be?
  26. May 14, 2007 #25
    Horrible comparison by the way. Microsoft hires a very limited amount of software developers. The rest of people go to work at other companies where they are hired. Apple also hires a good deal of people to work on Mac OS X, but few of the programmers work on the kernel; the majority work on applications that go along with the OS. Few people work on Linux because few companies hire anyone to work on Linux, and the companies that do have poor control over the code because they need to open source all of it due to Linux's license. There's just not much money in developing Linux for the individual programmers because Linux itself is free, so there are a few people who get paid to work on it, but the majority just do it in their free time.

    This is completely different than the state of theoretical physics where pretty much every solution is just like Linux. To get anywhere, you need to publish your work to the public domain, and you're not getting paid by the owners of the theory (whoever that would be), you're getting paid by interested parties. Since you're getting paid by interested parties, only people who work on things that people deem promising get paid. This is like the state of Linux where no one who works on "side projects" like Enlightenment gets anything at all, but a few people who are working on projects like KDE and Gnome are actually getting paid for it. Of course there are few people working on Linux who are getting paid at all, so that's not the only reason there are a lot more people working on projects like KDE and Gnome than Enlightenment. More people are currently using KDE and Gnome and view it as a stable solution even though Enlightenment may be extremely promising and "the solution" to get people to actually switch to Linux.

    Anyway... didn't actually mean to rant about that for a while, sorry.


    Josh: I just found it extremely interesting that you doubted the idea that he could be a first year undergrad simply because you didn't see his university email address. What benefit would someone actually have of presenting himself as a first year student if he were not? If someone were a grad student but presented himself as a first year, that would just completely destroy his credibility.
    You just seem to be doubting quite literally everything that you hear from anyone here. Doubting people so entirely like that can set you back as a theoretical physicist.
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