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Anthropery voted down in Toronto (Dennis Overbye NYT)

  1. Aug 2, 2005 #1

    marcus

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    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/02/science/02stri.html?pagewanted=2

    this link is to the second page of Dennis Overbye's article, which has most of the goodies. It is a report from last month's Strings 05 conference

    One of the featured attractions of the conf was a panel discussion (with audience participation) about the present state and future of string theory, which the organizers billed attractively as "The Next String Theory Revolution".

    Lee Smolin was in the audience, and was quoted by Overbye. Amanda Peet, a string theorist at the University of Toronto, was on hand and had an interesting suggestion for how to fund string research.
     
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  3. Aug 5, 2005 #2

    Chronos

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    Good article, marcus. The voting part was interesting, as you alluded -

    "... At the end Dr. Shenker invoked his executive privileges. He asked the audience members for a vote on whether, by the year 3000, say, the value of the cosmological constant would be explained by the anthropic principle or by fundamental physics.

    The panel split 4 to 4, with abstentions, but the audience voted overwhelmingly for the latter possibility..."

    It's not surprising the panel was pretty much split. I assume Dr. Shenker wished for equal representation of landscape and non-landscape points of view. Obviously, however, the voting public is reluctant to embrace the landscape interpretation. And I would say this is mostly a reflex action [as it is with me] simply because it is so un-Copernican.
     
  4. Aug 5, 2005 #3

    marcus

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    for more on the Toronto conference of string theorists, and the NYT article, see
    http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=230

    there are some comments there from someone who was in the audience
    and some links to other blog comment on the panel discussion of the future of string theory

    there is also a curious poem by RR ("Railroad"?) Tucci
    I tried to find out more about the poet and came up with stuff on quantum computing
    http://www.ar-tiste.com/index.html
    http://www.ar-tiste.com/related_links.html
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2005
  5. Aug 5, 2005 #4

    marcus

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    I was amused by the remark Amanda Peet made that the NYT picked up. She is a prominent string theorist at Toronto. I will quote the whole context because it gives a sense of the mood

    ...We haven't done as well in the last 20 years," Dr. Shenker said.

    Leonard Susskind, a Stanford theorist and one of the founders of string theory, replied, "There's nothing to do but just hope the Bush administration will keep paying us."

    Amanda Peet of the University of Toronto suggested making string theory "a faith-based initiative," to much nervous laughter.

    Repeating his call to optimism, Dr. Strominger said the work would go on. Not everybody needs to be a string theorist or even to agree with it.

    "We have a need to understand the truth about the mathematical structure of string theory and of our universe," he said. "Those who want to join us can, those who don't don't have to."

    "I don't see any need for pessimism or cause to sell ourselves," he concluded to applause.

    At the end Dr. Shenker invoked his executive privileges. He asked the audience members for a vote on whether, by the year 3000, say, the value of the cosmological constant would be explained by the anthropic principle or by fundamental physics.

    The panel split 4 to 4, with abstentions, but the audience voted overwhelmingly for the latter possibility.

    "Wow," exhaled one of the panel members amid other exclamations too colorful to print here.

    "The anthropic principle is out of office," somebody else said.

    Dr. Shenker concluded, "We have made some progress in sharing our feelings."


    check out the complete NYT article at
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/02/science/02stri.html?pagewanted=2
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2005
  6. Aug 6, 2005 #5
    Two conclusions from Toronto.

    1)
    In general this year there is a broadly extended deception on future of string theory, with many people claiming for a new direction in theoretical physics. There are increasing rumours that this year Witten plans to abandon string theory research and rescue more "traditional" (particle physics) research programs.

    2)
    Community is highly dividied with around half part (if panel was equitative) claiming for failure of string theory like a predictive theory (due to well-known landscape difficulties). Originally, it was claimed that string theory could explain everything with a simple parameter. The other half claiming that old aim of the TOE may be not abandoned in despite how much workj has been published this year, and stating that landscape phylosophies are some other things but physics (i.e. science).
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2005
  7. Aug 6, 2005 #6

    marcus

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    hi Juan, in Latin-based languages there is often a word which speakers translate as "deception" but which has the English meaning of disappointment.

    this can cause misunderstanding and even unnecessary angry reactions. A French speaker may be thinking: Je suis deçu. And he many mistakenly translate this "I am deceived." (the implication is more serious, since in English the word deception involves an accusation of dishonesty---intentional misrepresentation). But what "Je suis deçu" means if you look in the bilingual dictionary is actually "I am disappointed."

    I think you want, in this post, to be FACTUAL AND OBJECTIVE, and you do not want to be inflammatory (which will tend to bring an indignant reaction and is useless.) therefore I am proposing this little emendation in your post

    I think this is what you meant.

    I think your statement is basically accurate. The string research program is currently in decline (which could be only temporary) and there is this division of opinion which you mention, among theorists. Lubos Motl, for instance, echos the view of those leaders like David Gross, who say "do not give up hope" and hold to the old aim of a predictive theory. But there are other influential figures, like Susskind, who propose abandoning the goal of a predictive theory, accepting the Landscape, and appealing to the Anthropic Principle. There are signs of a mood of disappointment and expressions of discouragement among researchers.

    But this is not exactly news to us at PF. The landscape trouble came out in January 2003 with the KKLT paper and we at PF have WATCHED the split in the string program happening all through 2003 (remember the huge discussion at Usenet sci.physics.research?) and read about it all through 2004, for example in blogs of knowledgeable people containing direct quotations and discussion comments from both sides, or several sides.

    Therefore I would ask you to be careful NOT TO RUB IT IN. This is an important aspect of being TACTFUL. You probably learned this in grammar school. When someone is down on the ground, it is not tactful to "rub his nose in the dirt". Nobody likes this kind of "triumphal" or "rubbing in" behavior. And it will often provoke an indignant reaction, which just wastes time and energy.

    I must say that in a subtle sense, I find your post OFF TOPIC in this thread. Even though it is basically accurate in an objective sense, it does not tell us anything new. It reminds me of the English expression "beating the dead horse". I wonder if you have a parallel in Spanish.

    The new, surprising thing, I would say, is that the rank-and-file string researchers (Mr. and Mrs. Average String Theorist) WENT AGAINST THE LEADERSHIP in this vote.
    On one hand, a representative (you say "equitative") panel of the TOP people voted 4-4.
    But on the other hand, the audience consisted mostly of average middle-level string theorists representing the MASSES of comparatively obscure unknown common string theory researchers and they voted overwhelmingly against appealing to Anthropery. They prefer to continue in the hope of an eventual predictive theory.

    Much surprise was expressed about this, according to Overbye, with some unprintable exclamations by the panel.

    Our job I think (please tell me if you disagree) is to observe any NEW developments and try to understand them. There is no purpose in repeating what everyone who pays attention already knows: string program is in trouble, there is a decline of papers and citations, it could be time for a number of people to leave the field and find other research projects, the decline might only be temporary and new discoveries in the future might reanimate the field and give it a new direction---something that we cannot predict. These latter observations are not new and, in my opinion, it is not useful to argue about them.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2005
  8. Aug 6, 2005 #7

    marcus

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  9. Aug 7, 2005 #8

    Chronos

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    grrr... my regard for Lubos has taken a nosedive. I'm beginning to think he is stubborn. At what point do you admit there might be problems? Perhaps it's time to ask hard questions, instead of killing the messengers.
     
  10. Aug 7, 2005 #9

    arivero

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    Stubborn people is interesting one; the reality tends to bend.

    Or also, as people in my land says: "I tastes as soap, but it is cheese".
     
  11. Aug 7, 2005 #10

    marcus

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    with significant artifacts of culture like this, we should be given the original text as well as the translation
     
  12. Aug 7, 2005 #11

    marcus

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    there was a while at PF when someone was posting with a signature
    which read as follows:

    ------------------
    I am from Barcelona. I know nothing.
    ------------------

    IMHO nothing I have seen since then can beat this. although Chronos oftentimes has a funny douglas adams quote.
     
  13. Aug 8, 2005 #12
    Yes, Marcus you are completely right. I used "deception" due to incorrect translation from Spanish "decepción" which may be correctly translated as "disappointment".

    I'm sorry by the inconvenience.
     
  14. Aug 8, 2005 #13

    I do not think that the decline of string research program is just temporary one. In the past, there were difficulties but now people is seeing that each year original objectives of string theory are far, and far, and farther. String theory history looks like a divergent asymptotic series.

    In my opinion, the disappointment of last years has increased this 2005. In the past, Smolin waited for some unification between LQG and string theory. Now he suspects that string theory is a dead way. It may be because nobody has formulated a non-perturbative formulation of string theory yet.

    Now, as said in other post, I am working in a paper that if correct, would be the definitive knock for the aim of obtaining a realistic string theory. He is being pre-reviewed by some colleagues before submiting.

    Followers of Landscape, as Maldacena, still suggest that some kind of statistical analysis would provide some predictive power, but that only work well if the number of vacua is finite. Nobody is sure of this. In fact, it appears that is infinite.

    I said not that landscape trouble was new, please do not misread my posts. If you have any doubt on interpretation, you could ask to me and I will reply to you with pleasure.

    I did mean that disapointment has radically generalized this year even between previous “believers” on some magic solution.

    Susskind has recently said

    It is true that Landscape paranoia is very recent, but is only because string theorists ignored real difficulties in the past (waiting for a miracle or new revolution). I think that most early origin (at my best present knowledge) to current Landscape trouble and related issues can be traced to early paper by Dine and Seiberg of 1986 PRL 57, 2625. Then they showed that parameters of compactification were not fixed by string equations. I think that a year after was generally known (but no popularized) the problem of failure of prediction of everything from string theory. I think that this was the beginning of the failure of string theory like a predictive theory. Far from some specific technical points, the really interesting below Landscape anxiety is the failure of string theory to predict real world, that is to become a theory of physics and this may be remarked.

    I think that you would agree that many people (layman, young students, etc.) is being no informed about real problems of string theory. Often in PF, people write that string theory predicts this and that, when strictly speaking cannot predict anything.

    You would not find my post “OFF TOPIC in this thread”.

    The point 1) did indicate, in a close form, the status of string theory: disappointment. Seeing your reply you basically agree.

    Point 2) was needed for clarity. Original title of this thread was “Anthropery voted down in Toronto (Dennis Overbye NYT)”

    I believe that you would agree with me –from a writing point– that the chosen title by the author could offer wrong idea to some PF members that was unanimity in the poll. Therefore my point 2) was needed. Note I was talking of panel members.

    The problem of "masses", as you say, is that are very instable. One day they vote for a thing and other for the contrary. If all panel voted yes for Landscape probably masses’ vote would be different.

    This is not standard in PF, less still on a layman level.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2005
  15. Aug 8, 2005 #14

    marcus

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    Juan, thanks for your reply!
    especially since, as I find, it is calm, measured, and objectified by references.

    (for instance your citation of the 1986 paper of Michael Dine and Nathan Seiberg in Physical Review Letters, which unfortunately came before arxiv :cry: so we have no online copy)

    I also remember seeing that quote from Leonard Susskind, which you provide. Let us try to find an official source and date for it! If I remember correctly, Susskind was saying that he was finding his fellow string theorists to be depressed and desperate, unless they had embraced the Anthropic philosophy. Those who still hoped for a predictive theory, according to Susskind, were in a discouraged mood.

    This was about 6 months ago, long before the Toronto conference. So even though I have no great love for Susskind I must concede him a point---he should be given credit for being a "leading indicator" on this occasion. Although his words sounded to me at that time to be possibly exaggerated, and at least self-serving and subjective (so I could not give them much weight) in fact they proved to be a correct forecast.


    Yes. The Susskind quote appeared just 6 months ago!
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-02/su-ste021505.php
    The source was a February 2005 Stanford News Service press release from Dawn Levy. Dawn covers science and engineering for the Stanford News Sevice.
    http://www.stanford.edu/dept/news/html/staff/

    <<... The number of possible energy states-10^500 [ten raised to the power of five hundred]-inherent in string theory is ''totally unexpected,'' Susskind says. ''There was constantly a sense that there would only be one, or some very small number, of legitimate solutions of the theory. Ed Witten [a physicist famed for his mathematical prowess] worked very hard to show that there was only a very small number, and he failed-failed completely.''

    The dust isn't likely to settle soon. Says Susskind: ''More and more as time goes on, the opponents of the idea admit that they are simply in a state of depression and desperation. More and more people are starting to think about this possibility. But it's been a major sea change...''...>>

    BTW thank you for pointing out several faults in my post #6. I thought your criticisms were justified (and expressed in a friendly moderate way that did not antagonize me.)
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2005
  16. Aug 8, 2005 #15

    marcus

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    Juan, do you know the Spanish proverb that Alejandro mentions here?

    I would like to know the Spanish original, or Aragonese, if Aragon is what he (being in Zaragoza) means by "land".

    I think that what he means is that sometimes one can LEARN by listening to obnoxious people who insist on arguing. The taste of soap, for instance, is disagreeable. Also are people who are always preaching to us the bad news.
    But if one learns a valuable lesson, then the obnoxious soap is really cheese.

    Alejandro has not seen my request to him for the original folk-saying, or has not chosen to reply---so if you see this please say what it is.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2005
  17. Aug 8, 2005 #16

    arivero

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    I come now, Marcus!

    Well, I supposse in almost every land there is a town from where it is said their inhabitants are stubborns. In Spain the equivalent words are "tozudo", (from "tozal", I guess) and "cabezudo" (which could translate also as "headstrong", perhaps) and it is told of the inhabitants of Aragonese land.

    There are a lot of associated jokes, in one of these, two countrymen are discussing about if an object is a piece of soap or a piece of cheese. The one insisting that it is cheese cuts a slice and eats it. One can see bubbles coming from his mouth. Finally he swallows and claims "It tastes as soap, but it is cheese" ("Sabe a jabon, pero es queso").
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2005
  18. Aug 8, 2005 #17

    arivero

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    I am not sure if there are a moral on this family of jokes. We are overexposed to them, and sometimes even real anecdotes are seen through this prism, as one time that a friend told us, wrongly, that a sport company was of french ownership, and after three or six months a french investor bought the company. Everyone found it natural, as if it were some hidden knowledge in instinctive stubbornness.

    Another two popular expressions are "chufla chufla, como no te apartes tu", told by a countryman in his donkey to a train coming along the railway, and "A Zaragoza o al charco", told by this kind of countryman when an angel tries, under the menace of transforming him into a frog, to teach him to ask for God grace when travelling. This one is surprisingly rebellious for a popular tale:
    -Where are you going?
    -To Zaragoza.
    -You should say "To Zaragoza, if it is God's Wish"
    -I am going also if He doesn't wish.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2005
  19. Aug 8, 2005 #18

    marcus

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    I know this respect for unreasoning stubbornness

    I found a discussion of one of the proverbs here
    http://oldwww.upol.cz/res/ssup/ape/boletin2004/slavomira-jezkova.htm
    where the peasant says he is going either to Zaragoza or the watering hole (the charco, the pond where the frogs live)

    I will learn to say this, and keep it in mind: sabe a jabon, pero es queso.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2005
  20. Aug 8, 2005 #19

    marcus

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  21. Aug 8, 2005 #20
    This was tackled on the old forum, I believe Witten isolated himself from public view whilst working on the problem intensely.

    When he re-emerged, he produced a paper that re-formulated the Proton Decay rates. This as I stated then was the 'last-chance'..or 'moving the goalposts', a signal that something major was wrong within string theory, as it was known that the prediction for 'Proton-Decay' from the standard model, was in direct conflict with the Second..M.. and consequently, all other branches of 'W----N theories',..thus came the paper forth, and Witten..nearly got away with it ! :cry:

    It was obvious at the time Witten had recognised that the 'theories of everything stringy', was reliant upon the very precise Proton Decay Rate factor, so what did he do?..he tried bend the Proton decay rates into the theory by hand..out of this "pre-selection" alteration..out came the Vacuum Selection rates..which infinitly were increasing exponentially.

    String Theories started to 'snap' from this moment on, quite ironic, the saviour of our Universe Stability was re-aligned by a Mathe-Magician, who formerly introduced us to the 'M' word!
     
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