Erik Hardeman recently did an article about Renate Loll in the Utrecht U. newspaper. Timbuqtu (a Dutch student at Utrecht) kindly translatated some short passages in the "Quantum Graffiti" thread. I have tried systrans at Babelfish on the whole article, which is long. I will see if there are some more exerpts that might be worth keeping---and editing to make the English sound more sensible. what follows is partly by Timbuqtu and partly by Babelfish and me. #######scratchpad########### Renate Loll (43) has been working in Utrecht for four years now. She has become an eminent scientist and an enthousiastic advocate for more women in science. She received three million euro from Brussels for a Europian network and also a vici-prize of 1.25 million euro last year. Enough money to keep searching for the holy grail in physics. A vacuum which is nevertheless not empty; a space time consisting of bits of foam; and our three-dimensional universe that is actually four-dimensional. The reality that Renate Loll studies is full of paradoxes and contradictions. In her work-room at the Minnaertgebouw, the German woman cleared up her interviewer's misconceptions. "It is not easy explain what implies my research. To put it briefly, I search for the structure of spacetime, but to be able to understand what I mean by that, you must first of all depart from the common sense idea that we live in a space of three dimensions, in which a clock tells the same time for everyone. For our daily life is that a very useful assumption, but just one hundred years ago, with his relativiteitstheorie, Einstein made clear that fundamentally no sharp distinction exists between space and time. What one person sees as a bit of time, could for another be a bit of space. In fact according to Einstein we live in a four-dimensional reality: spacetime. [paragraph header quote: 'You must depart from the common sense idea that we live in a space of three dimensions, in which a clock tells the same time for everyone.'] Now we couple that with an imaginary microscope which examines space time. You would expect that on a very small scale in the space time, below that of our well-known particles, there is no more matter present. Between those elementary particles then therefore absolute vacuum would dominate. But the quantumtheorie, which was developed in the 1920s, says that at this very small scale what happens is a completely different story. According to that theory the vacuum is in reality an extended sea, where particles constantly arise and vanish. Those quantumfluctuations take place on scales which are still millions of times smaller than the scale of quarks (10 to the minus 19 meters), the smallest well-known elementary particles. We still have no precise idea how this happens, but it seems that, on the Planck scale of 10 to the minus 35 meters, spacetime itself starts to deform. It not simple will be there experimental come. Our particle accelerators will never be able to show us what takes place at this very small scale and the relativiteitstheorie does not make predictions concerning events at that scale. In fact it's a major unresolved paradox in modern physics that we have two different theories, both describing a part of physical reality in an extremely elegant manner. But they have been based on such different premises that they are total incompatible. For many years already, theorists have searched for the Holy Grail of physics, the theory of quantum gravity (also: quantumgravitatie), which will resolve this paradox by bringing the behavior of the largescale structure of the cosmos (explained by the relativiteitstheorie) and that of the smallest particles (explained by the quantumtheorie) together in one equation. Among physicists there is widespread agreement that the key to such a theory lies in an adequate description of the structure of the space time, but the solution is sought in several directions. Many colleagues of Renate Loll think that superstring theory holds the most promise for reconciling the relativiteitstheorie with the quantumtheorie, but she herself sees more merit in an approach which does not require assuming extra dimensions. "I try a model essay that at the quantum scale as well as at a larger scale provides a realistic description of the structure of the space time. Now at the smallest scale, such high energy fluctuations are involved that spacetime there is probably bent to a great extent. But that is only conceivable if we assume that it is extremely deformed or else broken up into uncountably many flecks of quantum foam. The large problem is however that there is no theory that can explain how the sum of all those microscopic small scrap pieces of quantum foam produce a beautiful continuous four-dimensional reality in the macro world. All attempts to construct such a theory have so are gotten stranded. Sometimes that sum produced a two-dimensional world, then a world came with infinitely many dimensions." [paragraph header quote: 'I can remind myself still well how it felt then we that outcome saw appearing. That was a magical moment'] There were yeas of struggle until I first got the idea that what many theorists had lost sight of was the need to include causality---cause and effect---in the picture at very small scale. So I put that in as an absolute requirement in my calculations. then I worked for several years with a Danish and a Polish colleague to work out the consequences of that idea. And it succeeded, because in an article last year we showed that a realistic four-dimensional universe does indeed arise, under the condition of causality, from miniscule bits of four-dimensional quantum-foam. I can still remember vividly how it felt when we saw that that outcome appearing. It was a magical moment." The article by Loll and her colleagues was received worldwide as a breakthrough on the way towards a better grasp of the structure of spacetime. It is still a question in many people's minds whether it offers insight into the long-awaited theory of quantum gravity. It is clear however, that the leadership at the Spinoza Institute made a good bargain, with this appointment. Why did a German scientist swap an appointment at one of the renowned Max Planck Institutes in her native country for a position as senior lecturer in Utrecht? Loll: "Initially I came to Utrecht because I could get a permanent appointment and possibly later become a professor. But I certainly also chose Utrecht because of the reputation of this institute and because of Gerard 't Hooft. Not that I closely cooperate with him, for Gerard doesn't work together with anyone. His remarkable power is his totally individual stand alone way of thinking. He's very critical and we of course don't always agree on the problem of quantum gravity, but what I find very special about him is that he does not only attend colloquia and seminars, but he also visits talks by master students and he participates in their discussions. You name me another Nobel laureate who does such things. Gerard is really a part of the spirit of the place, which makes it extra encouraging to work here." [paragraph header quote: 'This is not the only place in the world where it is assumed girls won't do well in exact sciences. What's worse, I think, is that people don't even acknowledge there's a problem.'] Renate Loll turned out to be in the four years since its appointment in Utrecht itself not only as an eminent scientist, but also as an enthusiastic lawsuit deliveryman for more women in science. The position of women lies me after to the heart. In the bètahoek I find the situation in the Netherlands without more shocking. In Germany is free the matter already touched, but here is it still more terrible. The idea is not only here almost absent that little girls could be sometimes well in exact sciences. Still more terrible I find that even the notion is lacking that there is talk of a problem. My male colleagues are me very dear, and it is also not this way that they are against women, but they have no idea how male the system in which they, is function and hoezeer that disadvantages many women. If coordinator of the Enrage (European Network or Random Geometries) - network of the European Union Renate Loll have meanwhile found a way to give steuntje in the back to female scientists, she tells. It concerns a network of scientists who in several areas the same type uses geometrical techniques such as I do in my study into quantumgravitatie. One of the objectives of that network is the participation of women in exact science promote. You can think differing concerning Europe, but the European Union have a very lighted idea concerning women in science. One is in Brussels more progressive than in which of the Member States also. In all European programmes attention applies to the position of women expressly as a criterion. But did you think that one what there attracted itself? Generally it means that in a research proposal of sixty pages somewhere in the back of state: by the way, we have who also someone pays attention to the women in our network. Total ridiculous. In my network have I that more tries incorporate. Of the thirteen groups in Enrage is there three, in which excellent women play a prominent role. All three I extra for a promovendus have given. Also itself Renate Loll have had overcome the necessary obstakels. I was the kind of little girl that is already taking apart radios to see how they worked, but I have long sit reflect what I would will do on the university. Then I thought: why do not start you with physics, which is possible never angry. My parents found it very well, but further I have got little support of my surroundings, not only during my study, but also afterwards. I as a woman really have had fight to save it in science. That I didn't get a steady job until I was 39, speaks volumes. Superstring theory According to superstring theory, the most elementary particles in the universe are not points, but a kind of trembling elastiekjes, of which the ultrasounds occur to our as particles, such as electrons and photons. Although the theory seemed initially a promising candidate the antagonism between relativiteitstheorie and quantumtheorie, becomes always more clear bridge that she ensures for its part new problems. The most serious complication is that according to this theory our world --- without we see something of it in daily life --- belongs to a universe of ten or more dimensions. Perhaps our three-dimensional universe floats in higher dimension surroundings - in the same way that a flying moquette of two dimensions floats in three-dimensional space ---- separated from a shadow world, which might be only a few tenths of a millimeter distant from ours, as Spinozawinnaar Robert Dijkgraaf vividly described it not long ago. The solution for this problem will probably come from a totally unexpected direction. Although Renate Loll is carefull to put it circumspectly, so as not to offend any of her colleagues, it is clear that she does not see much bread in research in this direction. "At the beginning, superstring theory looked simple, and as a result, very attractive, but gradually complications have more and more appeared, as a result of which I now find it a rather far-fetched theory. Moreover is very unclear if the string approach will lead somewhere. For this reason I prefer my own treatment." Those have, moreover, already produced concrete results. Just like Renate Loll also Nobel Prize winner Gerard t Hooft has not been persuaded of the correctness of string theory. But whether the approach of his Utrecht colleague is correct, remains for him an open question. "Renate clearly made progress last year, but she is still not there by a long ways. It is even the question if she is on the right track, as concerns quantum gravity. Although I myself am exploring a different solution in the direction of quantum gravity, I find that superstring theory at this moment still holds the best cards in hand. We have meanwhile encountered a number of annoying obstacles, but nevertheless that treatment [stringtheory] is still concrete and more structured than other attempts to reconcile the relativiteitstheorie and the quantumtheorie with each other. This does not means that Renate cannot it at the straight end. My philosophy is: let everyone muddle on. She must especially continue with where she is busy, because the solution for this problem probably comes along from a completely unexpected direction.. Erik Hardeman Appeared on 13-10-2005 in Ublad 7 (37). ############### My comment. Note the favorable words about string theory from Gerard 't Hooft near the end. he seems to be saying to try every approach that has a reasonable chance.