% of string theorists

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What percentage of current new research in theoretical physics is focused on string theory/M-theory/supersymmetry? Are most PhD students or tenure track researchers still working in that space or are other ideas becoming more fashionable?

I assume it must be less than 10 or 20 years ago, but it's hard to find good data on this. If you have any anecdotal evidence, feel free to share also!
 

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  • #2
George Jones
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What percentage of current new research in theoretical physics is focused on string theory/M-theory/supersymmetry? Are most PhD students or tenure track researchers still working in that space
This was never the case.
 
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This was never the case.
Specifically talking about high energy physics beyond the SM.
 
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Demystifier
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Specifically talking about high energy physics beyond the SM.
I'm always dismayed by how many people say "theoretical physics" when they mean "BSM high energy theoretical physics".

For the latter I would say roughly 50% is string related, but it depends on how one defines "related". For instance, is all SUSY string related?
 
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I'm always dismayed by how many people say "theoretical physics" when they mean "BSM high energy theoretical physics".

For the latter I would say roughly 50% is string related, but it depends on how one defines "related". For instance, is all SUSY string related?

Thanks! And do you have any idea as to the evolution throughout the years? How much more/less today than fifteen years ago?
 
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My impression is that it has from its inception been a fringe area, made conspicuous by the prominence of its primary exponents, its departures from the standard model, and in that category, especially its 'arcaneness', which makes it a darling of the pop-sci press.
 
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Vanadium 50
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You're asking for a fraction with unclear denominator, and arguably an unclear numerator.
 
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You're asking for a fraction with unclear denominator, and arguably an unclear numerator.
You must be a mathematician :)

I'm not looking for hard data, just a qualitative assessment of where HEP physics has been moving over the past two decades. Are up-and-coming researchers more or less drawn to string theory than they used to be, for example with respect to PhDs? Have the number of graduate programs / tenure track hirings with a specific focus on string theory changed at all?
 
  • #9
Haelfix
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Perhaps a simple measure might be to browse hep/th and hep/ph, derive a criteria for inclusion or exclusion (keywords perhaps) and then do a paper count?
 
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I'm not looking for hard data, just a qualitative assessment of where HEP physics has been moving over the past two decades.
Context is king, @Maximise24. Can you share the purpose of your inquiry?

It is not a direct answer, but as a proxy of interest, here's the Google Trends for searches 'string theory' from 2004.

1642157693166.png


Reviewing Academia.edu as another proxy:

- the M Theory topic has 19 Followers
- the Multiverse Theory topic has 4,044 Followers
- the Supersymmetry topic has 8,524 Followers
- the Dark Energy topic has 9,592 Followers
- the String Theory topic has 25,848 Followers
- the Particle Physics topic has 80,845 Followers
- The Quantum Physics topic has 186,314 Followers

Looking at string theory papers in Academia over time shows a distinct decline this decade:

1642159526514.png


Compare that to quantum gravity papers:

1642159584816.png


And GR sits somewhere in the middle, even after all this time:

1642159752072.png
 

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  • #11
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Context is king, @Maximise24. Can you share the purpose of your inquiry?

It is not a direct answer, but as a proxy of interest, here's the Google Trends for searches 'string theory' from 2004.

View attachment 295448

Reviewing Academia.edu as another proxy:

- the M Theory topic has 19 Followers
- the Multiverse Theory topic has 4,044 Followers
- the Supersymmetry topic has 8,524 Followers
- the Dark Energy topic has 9,592 Followers
- the String Theory topic has 25,848 Followers
- the Particle Physics topic has 80,845 Followers
- The Quantum Physics topic has 186,314 Followers

Looking at string theory papers in Academia over time shows a distinct decline this decade:

View attachment 295450

Compare that to quantum gravity papers:

View attachment 295451

And GR sits somewhere in the middle, even after all this time:

View attachment 295452
No specific purpose, Melbourne Guy, just trying to gauge the impact of disappointing results from particle accelerators (amongst other things) on the research activities of this community.

Anyway, your graphs have been very helpful! Thanks!
 
  • #12
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No specific purpose, Melbourne Guy, just trying to gauge the impact of disappointing results from particle accelerators (amongst other things) on the research activities of this community.
Ah, that seems a different and definitely anecdotally-based question, @Maximise24. I can't talk to the frustration on the ground, but as a keenly interested observer, that we're missing some things critical in our understanding of the universe (dark matter, dark energy, mathematical singularities in black holes, what quantum means, and the other things) and cannot seem to crack them theoretically or experimentally, well, that's frustrating, to me at least.

I worry that this is us 😥

1642200723875.png
 

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