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Public interest in Smolin's book

  1. <1, Smolin book less popular

    20.0%
  2. 1 - 1.9, on par with five most popular string books

    20.0%
  3. 2 - 2.9, currently twice as much interest

    60.0%
  4. 3 - 3.9, three times more interest

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  5. 4+, way more

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Feb 24, 2007 #1

    marcus

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    Informed public interest in scientific research is part of what keeps the enterprise healthy, and merits our attention. As an index of public interest in Smolin's book "The Trouble with Physics...and What Comes Next" I have been tracking its Amazon sales rank, and, so as to have a reference point to compare with, also tracking the average sales rank of the five most popular string books (whichever they happen to be at noon on any given day.)

    A useful indicator is then the RATIO of the sales ranks averaged over some period of time.

    [tex]\Large \frac{\text{avg. rank of string books}}{\text{avg rank of TWP}}[/tex]

    If the ratio is 3.8, as it was during the period 11-20 January, that means that judging by sales rank the Smolin book was 3.8 times more popular than the average of the five most popular string books. On the other hand if the Smolin book were LESS popular than the average string book, that would show up in the ratio being less than one.

    For consistency, each day's observation is made at noon mountain time.

    WHAT DO YOU PREDICT THE Smolin book's sales rank WILL BE FOR THE MONTH OF MARCH compared with the most popular string books?

    In other words what is your forecast about the March average ratio?

    In case you would like to particpate and register a guess, I will provide what data I have so far, for January and February.
     
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  3. Feb 24, 2007 #2

    marcus

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    I'll give an example of how I calculate this ratio and give you what data i have so far.

    For today 24 Jan, at noon mountain, the Amazon sales ranks were
    TWP 1619
    Greene elegant 1657
    Randall warped 3273
    Greene fabric 5341
    Kaku parallel worlds 14,072
    Becker textbook 22,160

    Another day we might have seen a different top-five list of string books. Anyway today the string average rank was 9300.6 and the rank ratio for the day was
    9300.6/1619 = 5.7

    So as of noon 24 February, gauged by salesrank, the Smolin was selling between 5 and 6 times better than the average top-five string book.
    That is unusually high for some reason, but shows how the ratio is calculated.
    =======================

    For the period 11-20 January, the string salesrank average was 5069.9 and the TWP salesrank average was 1331.1, so the ratio for that ten-day period was 5069.9/1331.1 = 3.8.

    So in that period, TWP was doing around 4 times better than the average string top-fiver. That is all I have for January---I didn't take notes on the whole month. For February I recorded the noon salesranks for each day, so there's more to go on.

    BTW here's an earlier poll, not about this ratio, but related to book sales rankings in general. Chronos made the best guess on that one, out of the five people that responded.
    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=150191
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2007
  4. Feb 24, 2007 #3

    marcus

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    Here is for the first 24 days of February. The first number is the avg. sales rank of the five most popular string books. The TWP sales rank is in parens.

    01 feb noon 4036.6 (1946) ratio 2.1
    02 feb noon 5377.6 (2870) ratio 1.9
    03 feb noon 5656.4 (1520) ratio 3.7
    04 feb noon 5447.8 (1180) ratio 4.6
    05 feb noon 4699.4 (1925) ratio 2.4
    06 feb noon 5981.6 (1876) ratio 3.2
    07 feb noon 5534.2 (1070) ratio 5.2
    08 feb noon 6027.8 (1051) ratio 5.7
    09 feb noon 3225.6 (1102) ratio 2.9
    10 feb noon 4116.4 (1131) ratio 3.6
    11 feb noon 4079.0 (1139) ratio 3.6
    12 feb noon 4619.8 (2084) ratio 2.2
    13 feb noon 3957.8 (1682) ratio 2.4
    14 feb noon 3236.0 (2683) ratio 1.2
    15 feb noon 4050.8 (3378) ratio 1.2
    16 feb noon 4078.9 (1763) ratio 2.3
    17 feb noon 5427.6 (4048) ratio 1.3
    18 feb noon 5525.4 (1138) ratio 4.9
    19 feb noon 4114.2 (1228) ratio 3.4
    20 feb noon 5446.6 (1244) ratio 4.4
    21 feb noon 4183.2 (1258) ratio 3.3
    22 feb noon 6213.2 (1578) ratio 3.9
    23 feb noon 6448.8 (1083) ratio 6.0
    24 feb noon 9300.6 (1619) ratio 5.7

    We can add things up and see how they average out and what the ratio is for this month so far. (But that is not necessarily a good predictor for March.)
    The string salesrank sum is 120,785.3 and the average is 5032.7. I have to go, will do the TWP average later and compute ratio.
    ...Back now. The TWP sum for the first 24 days is 41,596. And the average is 1733.2

    So the interest ratio for that 24-day period is 5032.7/1733.2, which equals 2.9.

    [EDIT: the next day at the same time, noon mountain, I noted
    25 feb noon 5752.4 (1189) ratio 4.8
    but I won't recompute the averages until a few more days have passed.]

    To give a rough idea, one can say that judging by Amazon sales ranks the public is about THREE TIMES MORE INTERESTED in the Smolin book than it is in the top-five average string book. So now the question is what does one expect in the future?
    It could be that since the Smolin book came out in September 2006, already over 5 months ago, that we will see sales saturate and slope off. Then, if stringbook sales stay steady or improve, the ratio could GO DOWN from 2.9.

    Or it could happen the other way, with string sales declining more than TWP, so the ratio goes up from 2.9. Please register your guess in the poll, it is a way for us to find out who is good at anticipating the future.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2007
  5. Feb 27, 2007 #4

    marcus

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    Here are data for the remainder of February
    25 feb noon 5752.4 (1189) ratio 4.8
    26 feb noon 4370.2 (1974) ratio 2.2
    27 feb noon 5816.6 (2777) ratio 2.1
    28 feb noon 6104.6 (2938) ratio 2.1

    The string salesrank sum for February is 142,829.1 and string average for the month is 5101.0
    TWP salesrank sum is 50,474 and TWP average for February is 1802.6

    So the ratio for February is 5101.0/1802.6, that is 2.8.

    To give a rough idea, one can say that judging by Amazon sales ranks the public is currently somewhat more than TWICE AS INTERESTED in the Smolin book than it is in the top-five average string book and the question is what does one expect in the future?

    I think it could go either way, for reasons I already mentioned, and I'm interested to know what other people predict.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2007
  6. Mar 1, 2007 #5

    marcus

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    Starting 1 March, for convenience I will be checking the salesranks at 3 PM mountain time, instead of at noon mountain time (as I did formerly.)

    01 march @3mountain 6811.2 (1155) ratio 5.9

    for anyone new to what is being tracked here, the Amazon physics bestseller list indicates which are currently the five most popular string books, and gives the sales rank (among all books sold). Today the average sales rank of the five most popular string books was 6811.2, and the sales rank of the Smolin book "The Trouble...and What Comes Next" was 1155.

    Roughly speaking, the ratio 5.9 indicates how much more interesting the bookbuying public finds TWP than the average top-five string book, judging from salesranks.

    This ratio could easily fall below 1 if the public should happen to lose interest in the Smolin book, or if it should suddenly experience a wave of enthusiasm for some new string book (of which there are several on the market.)
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2007
  7. Mar 3, 2007 #6

    Chronos

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    It will be a hundred years before history will resolve those issues.
     
  8. Mar 3, 2007 #7

    Chronos

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    of course we might both be right. space will have a loop in it. and each loop will carry an infinite sum of possible universes. We can only see the ones that include causality.
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2007
  9. Mar 3, 2007 #8

    Chronos

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    The idea is not unlike two girls kissing underneath a waterfall.
     
  10. Mar 4, 2007 #9

    marcus

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    Get on board with your prediction for March!

    So far we have four guesses registered: from Tim-Lou, Chronos, Francesca and myself.

    We are predicting the ratio of the salesrank averages (string versus Smolin) for March.

    If Smolin book is LESS popular than the average topfive string book then the ratio will be LESS THAN ONE.

    If the Smolin book sales are on par with the average topfive string book's sales then the ratio will be around one.

    If Smolin's is TWICE AS POPULAR as the average popular string book then the ratio will be two or more. And so it goes.

    Here are the results for the first four days of the month

    Current observations, at or around 3 PM mountain time:
    01 march average topfive string rank 6811.2 (Smolin rank 1155)
    02 march 6143.0 (1880)
    03 march 4910.4 (1712)
    04 march 5145.4 (1679)

    the string ranks add up to 23010.0 and their average (for the first four days of March) is 5725.5
    the Smolin book's ranks add up to 6426 and their average, for the same four days, is 1606.5

    As I am sure everyone understands, a book with a low rank is selling well----#1 salesrank is the best. So the ratio 5725.5/1606.5
    indicates for us by how much the Smolin book is doing better than the five most popular string books (lumped together).
    This ratio, for the first four days of the month (which is a small unrepresentative sample) is 3.6.

    So the Smolin book was between three and four times more popular than the average string book making the top five,
    judged by salesrank. This could well be merely a temporary fluke.

    However, no one of us so far predicted 3.6, although the forecast that Francesca and I made is what comes closest.

    So if March only had 4 days and today was the end of the month, then Francesca and i would be the winning guessers.
    However that is just to show you how it works. We have a long way to go before the end of the month and there may be surprises. :smile:

    UPDATE: latest (at the usual 3PM mountain time)
    05 march 5544.6 (2145)

    new string average, for five days: 5710.9
    new TWP average, for five days: 1714.2
    ratio 3.3
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2007
  11. Mar 6, 2007 #10

    marcus

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    So far the salesrank action this month has been rather surprising
    01 march 6811.2 (1155) ratio 5.9
    02 march 6143.0 (1880) ratio 3.3
    03 march 4910.4 (1712) ratio 2.9
    04 march 5145.4 (1679) ratio 3.1
    05 march 5544.6 (2145) ratio 2.6
    06 march 11,285.0 (2463) ratio 4.6

    Observations are made at 3PM mountain time as soon as the hourly changes stabilize. The first number is the average salesrank of the five most popular string books (whichever they happen to be at the time.) The second, in parens, is the TWP salesrank.
    So far, for the first six days of the month,
    string
    sum 39,839.6
    average 6639.9
    TWP
    sum 11,034
    average 1839.0
    ratio 3.6

    ======================
    UPDATE replying to the next post.
    William, I thoroughly agree. To me it suggests that they are just practicing
    until I get there.
    In any case a beautiful image. Chronos deserves our congratulations and encouragment.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2007
  12. Mar 6, 2007 #11
    This post makes no sense whatsoever, but it sounds pretty hot.
     
  13. Mar 6, 2007 #12
    Neither this thread.
     
  14. Mar 8, 2007 #13

    marcus

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    So far the salesrank action this month continues to be what we did not expect.
    01 march 6811.2 (1155) ratio 5.9
    02 march 6143.0 (1880) ratio 3.3
    03 march 4910.4 (1712) ratio 2.9
    04 march 5145.4 (1679) ratio 3.1
    05 march 5544.6 (2145) ratio 2.6
    06 march 11,285.0 (2463) ratio 4.6

    07 march 7219.6 (2386) ratio 3.0
    08 march 6479.2 (1920) ratio 3.4

    Observations are made at 3PM mountain time as soon as the hourly changes stabilize. The first number is the average salesrank of the five most popular string books (whichever they happen to be at the time.) The second, in parens, is the TWP salesrank.
    So far, for the first eight days of the month,
    string
    sum 53538.4
    average 6692.3
    TWP
    sum 15340.0
    average 1917.5
    ratio 3.5

    Our four predictions (see poll) all fell in the range 0 to 2.9. But what we see happening is that, judging by salesrank, Smolin's book is outselling the average topfive string book by a factor of between 3 and 4. This may well change, of course: we have only seen the first eight days of the month.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2007
  15. Mar 8, 2007 #14

    marcus

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    Smolin was just interviewed on BBC, today.

    The host was Geoffrey Watts and the program is called Leading Edge.

    It is a weekly 30 minute science program. You can listen to the interview here


    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/science/leadingedge.shtml

    select "listen again" which plays today's program. You can skip the first 8 minutes which are about memory enhancement research, smell, and different parts of the brain. Just drag the pointer till it says 8:00 and then Smolin interview will start.

    he also has a bright physicist named Anjana Ahuja come on right after Smolin to comment on what was said, and the general situation in particle physics---that commentary and discussion is extremely good too. gets issues into sharp focus.
    Anjana (PhD London Imperial 1998, space physics) is now science columnist for the Times of London. Has branched out to become a high caliber generalist.
    ======update========
    The salesrank action this month continues to be what we did not expect.
    01 march 6811.2 (1155) ratio 5.9
    02 march 6143.0 (1880) ratio 3.3
    03 march 4910.4 (1712) ratio 2.9
    04 march 5145.4 (1679) ratio 3.1
    05 march 5544.6 (2145) ratio 2.6
    06 march 11,285.0 (2463) ratio 4.6
    07 march 7219.6 (2386) ratio 3.0
    08 march 6479.2 (1920) ratio 3.4
    09 march 5238.4 (1040) ratio 5.0

    Observations are made at 3PM mountain time as soon as the hourly changes stabilize. The first number is the average salesrank of the five most popular string books (whichever they happen to be at the time.) The second, in parens, is the TWP salesrank.
    So far, for the first nine days of the month,
    string
    sum 58776.8
    average 6530.8
    TWP
    sum 16380.0
    average 1820.0
    ratio 3.6
    ====================
    chronon reports that Smolin recently took part in a three-way debate at Oxford University over the issues raised in his book.
    See chronon's website for his review of the debate.
    http://www.chronon.org/articles/trouble_physics_debate.html
    I suppose the publicity of the BBC interview (with Geoff Watt and the London Times science journalist Anjana Ahuja) amd the Oxford debate will help to increase sales of the book.

    UK amazon is still backlogged. they now say orders filled within 11-13 days, which is an improvement over a while back when the estimated 1 to 3 weeks. They have not been able to keep the book in stock ever since it came out.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2007
  16. Mar 10, 2007 #15

    marcus

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    Part of the impact of Smolin's book can be attributed to Peter Woit's relatec book appearing about the same time. The two stirred up the market for each other and provided opportuntity to compare: more to talk about in the media. So understanding TWP sales involves keeping track of how things are going with Woit's book as well.

    It was initially published by Jonathan Cape in June 2006 in the UK.
    The UK paperback edition of Peter's book is scheduled to come out 7 June 2007.
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Not-Even-Wr...0099488647/ref=pd_sbs_b_2/026-3303388-4063638

    The publisher is Vintage. Evidently people are already advance ordering because the UK amazon sales rank (among all books) is currently #6,726.

    The US paperback edition is scheduled to come out in September:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Not-Even-Wr...dp/0465092764/ref=ed_oe_p/026-3303388-4063638

    Currently Smolin's book is #1 on the UK amazon physics bestseller list and Woit's book (hardcover) is #7
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/bestsellers/books/278409/ref=pd_ts_b_nav/026-8303087-5718006

    Both are doing rather well, I'd say, judging by their sales ranking among all books. For example Smolin's book is currently #49
    among all books that UK amazon sells, as can be seen here:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Trouble-Phy...pd_ts_b_1/026-3303388-4063638?ie=UTF8&s=books
    That is pretty astonishing for a physics book, because it is #49 in competition with popular genre---detective, cookbooks, selfhelp, humor, diet, fantasy, Harry Potter, and so forth.

    ======update========
    The salesrank action this month continues to be what we did not expect.
    01 march 6811.2 (1155) ratio 5.9
    02 march 6143.0 (1880) ratio 3.3
    03 march 4910.4 (1712) ratio 2.9
    04 march 5145.4 (1679) ratio 3.1
    05 march 5544.6 (2145) ratio 2.6
    06 march 11,285.0 (2463) ratio 4.6
    07 march 7219.6 (2386) ratio 3.0
    08 march 6479.2 (1920) ratio 3.4
    09 march 5238.4 (1040) ratio 5.0
    10 march 5063.8 (1072) ratio 4.7

    Observations are made at 3PM mountain time. The first number listed is the average salesrank of the five most popular string books (whichever they happen to be at the time.) The second, in parens, is the TWP salesrank.
    So far, salesrank averages for the first ten days of the month,
    string
    sum 63840.6
    01-10 March ten-day average 6384.1
    TWP
    sum 17452.0
    01-10 March ten-day average 1745.2
    ratio 3.7
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2007
  17. Mar 10, 2007 #16

    daniel_i_l

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    Are you using a program to generate all those stats? (either that or you have too much free time)
     
  18. Mar 10, 2007 #17

    marcus

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    Believe me, Daniel, I have way too little free time! :cry:

    I think the book has historical importance---it's one that can rejuvenate intelligent public interest in fundamental physics. I'd be delighted if someone would write a program to gauge and track the book's performance in the marketplace!
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2007
  19. Mar 11, 2007 #18
    :confused:

    Respectfully, you post many times every day and all day long. In fact, you post more than anyone else in PF. It just seems to me that PF is virtually your whole life, which is fine if true, but gimme a break!!! :grumpy:

    Also, what is the point of this thread? Keeping the public well-informed on certain types of research is important, but research in quantum gravity isn`t one of them. Now I think you`re quite aware that virtually all but a handful of physicists recognize smolin`s book for what it is, which is a polemic born of smolin`s frustration in not being able to convince his colleagues that lqg is just as promising as string theory. The reason for this failure isn`t that the rest of the physics community has a bad attitude, but rather that everyone has taken a serious look at lqg and recognized certain specific problems that quite probably cannot be solved.

    On the other hand, string theory has it`s problems, but they have been judged by virtually everyone for all kinds of reasons to stand a much better chance of being overcome.

    Clearly smolin`s book was written for public consumption since it`s manipulations and half-truths could only fool a laymen, very much like many of your posts.
     
  20. Mar 11, 2007 #19

    marcus

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    Just a reminder: keep an eye out here
    http://www.rsa.org.uk/events/search.asp

    for the transcript of the great 5 March three-way debate at the
    Royal Society for the Arts in London.
    Chris Isham chaired and the speakers were Lee Smolin, Michael Duff, and Nancy Cartwright.

    I expect many of us listened to it MP3, each of the speakers got 20 minutes and then there was some give-and-take and questions from audience.

    Outstanding event and it will be interesting to have the promised written transcript. Could be several days or a week before it is posted online.

    When it is available one should be able to find it easily by clicking where it says
    "click here to view a full list of texts," since they are listed latest first.
     
  21. Mar 11, 2007 #20

    Kea

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    It did not work well as a debate, although Duff should probably be commended for being a little confrontational. However, Duff did not really address the issues that Smolin tried to bring up. Smolin didn't really say anything that wasn't in the book. And Cartwright wanted to push some anti-unification agenda, which means she obviously doesn't know much about the current situation in physics.

    :smile:
     
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