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Paperback edn. Smolin and other numbers to watch

  1. Jul 31, 2007 #1

    marcus

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    The hardcover first edition of "Trouble with Physics" came out September 2006 and sold pretty well spending substantial time at the top of the physics best sellers. The paperback edition was scheduled to go on sale 4 September 2007.

    But the publisher seems to have pushed the printing schedule ahead by more than two months and brought out paperback version early.
    The orange edition is in stock at Amazon and listed available on a next day basis.

    http://www.amazon.com/Trouble-Physics-String-Theory-Science/dp/061891868X

    as of 31 July the paperback's salesrank is 14,154, so we'll see how it does
    ==============================

    Other numbers to take stock of:

    ==quote Woit==
    The HEPAP University Grants Program Subpanel has just issued a report, concerning the “University Grants Program” in US HEP, that part of the DOE and NSF high energy physics budget which supports research based mainly at universities (as opposed to government laboratories such as Fermilab). Obviously this is the part of the HEP budget that is of most direct concern to university researchers, especially theorists, who receive most of their government funding this way (a small number of theorists are supported by national labs, not universities).
    ...
    The recommendations for theoretical particle physics mostly concern funding for graduate students, calling for increasing the number of graduate students in particle theory, especially students working on calculations directly relevant to LHC experiments:

    One of the most interesting things in the report is the set of numbers from survey responses about how many grant-supported theory researcher are working in which areas, and what hiring plans by area are for the next 5 years. Figure 3 on page 43 divides theory researchers into six categories, and gives counts for how many are working in each category now, how many expected in 2012. The number of string theorists is supposed to drop from 103 to 84, “field theorists” from 91 to 77, “model builders” from 88 to 70, and “QCD/Lattice QCD” from 50 to 41. “Particle phenomenologists” are supposed to increase from 188 to 194, and “astrophysicists and cosmologists” from 136 to 176. Obviously boundaries of these fields are unclear, especially since string theory in recent years has to some extent moved away from formal theory, with more people describing themselves as “string cosmologists”, “string phenomenologists”, “string-inspired model-builders”, and much of the attention of the field devoted to trying to do QCD calculations with string theory.

    If you take these numbers seriously, a grad student would be nuts to work on anything except cosmology or phenomenology, since all other subfields show about as many people leaving them as would be accounted for by retirements, so essentially no new hiring. My suspicion though is that these numbers reflect what departments say they would like to do, not what they will do. Most departments now say they want to hire in the areas of cosmology and phenomenology. But faced with the fact that competition for the best people in those areas is tough, and finding it much easier to get good people in other subfields, I suspect there will continue to be quite a lot of hiring in these other subfields, in string theory especially, which seems to be what looking at the latest data from the Rumor Mill shows.
    ===endquote===

    what this says to me is that even though the university physics departments expressed their INTENTION to, for instance, hire fewer stringists and more cosmologists, there aren't enough real cosmologists to go around so the departments may find they must resort to hiring stringists who call themselves (string) cosmologists. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
    ===========

    Another number to watch is the Harvard search tool reading on peer-review PUBLICATION of articles with five basic keywords (superstring, brane, M-theory, heterotic, AdS/CFT)
    We only have stable data for the first six months of the year. So comparing the first six months of each year we get
    2002: 651
    2006: 571
    2007: 451
    That is, a sharper decline in the past twelve months than the average decline over the previous four years.

    For further links, see https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?p=1373573#post1373573
    ===========

    Other numbers to watch relate to citations. In years prior to 2002 there were usually 12-20 recent ( within past five years) string papers which garnered 100+ citations in that year. This number is down to 2 or 3. A measure of how string researchers themselves rate the importance of recent (past five) research in their own field. Decline in number of papers considered significant by workers in the field.
    ===========

    Probably a key number to watch would be some indicator, if we could find a good one, of the extent to which real cosmologists are becoming interested in (non-string) quantum cosmology
    One indication is that the GRG11 conference invited TWO non-string quantum gravitists to give plenary talks, and zero stringists IIRC. Moreover the GRG organizers invited Bojowald to conduct a QC workshop. The GRG (gen rel and grav) is a big international conference held every 3 years. What's happened is that non-string QC has become more visible to this larger community, which includes conventional cosmologists.

    this is of strategic importance because--if you are a theorist--cosmology is where the jobs and money seem to be. cosmology has to go in the direction of quantum cosmology because QC removes singularities. the question is how fast can people like Bojowald and Ashtekar produce new PhDs in QC to meet the demand resulting from this new visibility---the growing recognition of QC by the broader community.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2007
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  3. Aug 5, 2007 #2

    marcus

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    as of today (5 August, 8 AM pacific) paperback was #51 on physics list and #9643 storewide, a slight improvement from what it was 5 days ago.

    to update another of the numbers, we now have Harvard abstracts data for the first 7 months of the year (peer-review publication, keywords superstring brane AdS/CFT heterotic M-theory)

    2002: 733
    2006: 621
    2007: 492

    Based on past experience, stragglers can be expected to bring the number for 2007 up some without changing the qualitative picture.

    The most remarkable indicator, I thought, in the previous post was the result of polling US physics departments about their hiring plans----if one counts only those faculty positions supported by federal grant (NSF/DOE) they plan for the total number of such string faculty to decline from 103 to 84 by the year 2012

    by contrast the number of federal grant supported faculty in astrophysics and cosmology is slated to increase from 136 to 176 in the same time frame. These numbers are obtained by lumping together the separate plans of all the university departments polled. We should remember that it's uncertain the departments will be able to implement their announced plans, given the scarcity of real astrophysicists and cosmologists.

    Given the small but increasing role of non-string quantum cosmology in cosmology as a whole, I guess some sensible advice to a beginning PhD student might be to sample papers and talks by "the two Martins"---Martin Reuter and Martin Bojowald---particularly their online talks at the Loops 07 site. If you don't at least glance at the papers you don't know what you are missing :smile:
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2007
  4. Aug 12, 2007 #3

    marcus

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    As of today a week later (12 August, 10AM pacific) the orange edition was #32 on the physics list and #4907 storewide
    =====
    updated figures for peer-review string publication output for the first 7 months of three sample years

    2002: 733
    2006: 621
    2007: 511

    (Harvard database, same keywords as before. as expected, stragglers brought the 2007 figure up some)
    =====

    non-string QG, percieved as the main string rival, has taken a growth spurt and matured as a research field since 2005. Before 2005 it did not hold annual conferences ( which function as field definers). Now it seems to be having a major international conference on a regular basis (every one or two years).

    =====

    In the past an important string premise has been the unrenormalizability of gravity. This premise now appears to have been taken out by Reuter.
    In the past it was widely believed that gravity could only be quantized in a unified treatment with other forces---that the classical theory was merely an effective theory valid at low energies, to be replaced by radically new (stringy) physics at small scale and high energies. This notion was nourished by the fact that a straightforward quantization of the GR metric seemed to lead to incurable divergences. So now the picture has changed. I think in a very fundamental way as regards motivations and expectations of different lines of research.

    ======

    Funding has increased significantly to non-string QG research partly due to the formation of two Europe-wide networks---the Random Geometry network administered by Loll at Utrecht and the Quantum Geometry/Quantum Gravity network directed by Barrett at Nottingham.

    ======

    rough numerical parity in the numbers of invited speakers at major conferences. For example at the Spring APA meeting in Florida. At the July GRG conference non-string QG invited speakers actually outnumbered string. this is a new development: one of several little things which could be straws in the wind.

    ======

    and as mentioned earlier there is that predicted drop from 103 to 84 in the number of US DOE/NSF grant-supported string researchers based on a survey of academic departments by the "University Grants Program Subpanel" of HEPAP.
    "...survey responses about how many grant-supported theory researcher are working in which areas, and what hiring plans by area are for the next 5 years. Figure 3 on page 43 ...gives counts for how many are working in each category now, how many expected in 2012. The number of string theorists is supposed to drop from 103 to 84,...“

    ======
    we've noted the drop in citation counts. before 2002, every year there tended to be 12 - 20 recent string papers (published in the previous five years) which garnered 100+ cites in that year. Lately, the number of highly cited recent papers has dropped from a dozen or more, down to around 3. Citation counts are a rough index of the string community's own assessment of the interest of its current research.

    the significance of any one of these minor numerical indicators could be questioned, but it is interesting to assemble a bunch of them as they seem to show a kind of consistent pattern
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2007
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