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Polchinski's answer to Smolin

  1. May 21, 2007 #1

    It seems, that now the technical debate on Smolin's book comes up to speed. I can surely not judge on a technical level, what Polchinski has to say, but it seems, he has put his arguments well together. Will be interesting to see, what Smolin will answer (no question for me, that he will). Anybody here, who wants to take this on? Marcus maybe? :-)
  2. jcsd
  3. May 21, 2007 #2


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    Good, now I get a sense of engagement.
    thank you Micha.
    Polchinski has put the "dialog" or sequence of essays on his SantaBarbara ITP website
    http://www.kitp.ucsb.edu/~joep/A dialog.html

    This comes at an opportune moment.
    The paperback Orange edition is scheduled to go on sale 4 September, little more than 3 months away.
    the Blue (hardcover) version of Smolin's book will have gone through 12 printings by the time the Orange (paperback)
    edition appears, which will be the 13th edition.

    It will increase the impact of TWP if the technical/academic dialog can be cranked up (as by Polchinski at present) to a substantially higher level over the summer.

    Judging from past experience people will be ordering in advance, as indeed the signs are they already have been doing in the UK

    I get the same "up to speed" feel you talked about. When Polchinski replied to Smolin's reply was as if somebody let the clutch out. Smokin' :biggrin:
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  4. May 21, 2007 #3
    Hi Marcus,
    For what it is worth, I suspect:

    Polchinski may have valid ideas:
    a - nested bubbles
    This is observed in the Cosmos as Galaxies within a Universe, Solar Systems within Galaxies, Planetary Systems within Solar Systems, ... Atoms within Molecules, Quarks within Atoms, ..., particularly when the visible celestial bodies are considered with their often present invisible, but detectable magnetospheres.

    b - lowest energy concept may have to be modified to an equilibrium energy concept

    Smolin may valid ideas:
    a - loop quantum gravity may be valid for only the axial perspective
    Sagittal and coronal perspectives do not seem to be present

    Planetary loop gravity may be a similar concept when the Sun is considered stationary, but since the Sun does move a sagittal perspective will appear sinusoidal while a coronal perspective will demonstrate a slight curve as the Sun revolves about the galactic nucleus

    b - spinfoams likely will need to be modified to twistfoams [Penrose terminology] with Calabi-Yau Manifolds likely ideal twistfoams because of the 1890s work of CP Steinmetz [IEEE] demonstrating the intimate relation of the imaginary unit “i“ with electromagnetism.

    In other words, Polchinski and Smolin mat yet find common ground.
  5. May 25, 2007 #4
    My view is that the key point of the exchange is Smolin's conclusion :

    "What I did hope to do was to kill the complacent “only game in town”, groupthink attitude towards string theory-which I argue in the book was held for reasons that are both factually false and inimical to the progress of science. By doing so I hoped to bring about a lively, open minded debate within the field in which we all asked ourselves how it could happen that our best and brightest would seize on an apparently unique theory that turned out decades later to have still no complete and coherent formulation and to come in an apparent infinite number of versions and so make no falsifiable predictions. What I hoped for was a detailed debate on the scientific and sociological issues, which took the current situation, not as a public relations crisis for one research program, but as a genuine intellectual puzzle and challenge to all of us who hope to contribute to the progress of physics. "
  6. May 26, 2007 #5


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    Are the physics really as hard as Smolin portrays? I think not. I sense more frustration than accomplishment. In other words, his politics are difficult to swallow.
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