Smolin impact in April

Your forecast of the Smolin/string impact ratio on 1 May (closest wins)

  1. 2.5 (approximately what it was on 1 December)

    25.0%
  2. 2.0

    25.0%
  3. 1.5 (around 1 February level)

    25.0%
  4. 1.0 (parity with string topfive average)

    12.5%
  5. 0.5

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  6. 0.1 (dropped out of sight)

    12.5%
  1. marcus

    marcus 25,091
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    To my knowledge, The Trouble with Physics...and What Comes Next is the only book on the market which not only criticizes the virtual string monopoly in the US but also describes a range of other QG approaches pursued abroad and blocked here. What interests me about Smolin's book is that it makes positive policy recommendations. Since we don't know where the key advances in the fundamental physics of space, time, and matter will be made, the book argues that research bets should be spread among string and non-string approaches. As they are in Canada and Europe.

    In the belief that books can sometimes bring about change, several of us have been watching the impact of this book: The wider the audience it reaches, the greater its impact, and the more hope that the string research monopoly will be broken at several top US universities. If that happens, the balance will be more like it is in the outside world and US graduate students will be have the option of pursuing careers in non-string QG theory without having to move abroad.

    Here we will be tracking Smolin's Amazon sales rank as a ratio relative to a benchmark indicating the size of the problem: the salesranks of the five most popular stringy books on any given day. To have a regular time, the reading is taken at noon pacific.

    To illustrate with an example, here were the rankings at noon on 1 February, the moment of truth for the last forecast poll.

    Smolin salesrank 6922

    Greene elegant 2788
    Greene fabric 9104
    Kaku parallel 9609
    Greene elegant (hardbound) 10,146
    Randall warped 13,603

    average rank of the five stringy books most popular on that day 9050.0
    ratio 9050.0/6922 = 1.3

    Some salesrank ratios in the past:

    1 September 6.4
    1 October 6.5
    1 November 5.2
    1 December 2.4
    1 January 1.5
    1 February 1.3
    ...
    ...
    1 May ?


    =================
    here's something strange. I was assuming that the book had seen it's moment of glory and would subside down around parity or less. I was predicting a ratio of 1.0, in fact.

    But I just checked as of noon 3 February and something had sent the ratio back up to 2.1!
    The smolin was selling TWICE as well, judging by salesranks, as the average of the string topfive.
    Some fluke? An interview on TV? Orders from small retailers replenishing stock? Can't think of a reason.
    Maybe just a random hiccup.
    6329.4/2994 = 2.1
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. marcus

    marcus 25,091
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    Two predictions for the first of May already.
    Hurk says 2.0
    I am guessing 1.0
    The book came out in September 2006, so it has been on the market now for over a year and a half.

    1 September 6.4
    1 October 6.5
    1 November 5.2
    1 December 2.4
    1 January 1.5
    1 February 1.3
    ...
    4 February 1.6
    5 February 1.5
    6 February 1.6
    7 February 1.0
    ...
    1 May ?


    Some recent ratios:
    7928.8/5049 = 1.6
    7269.6/4763 = 1.5
    7099.4/4426 = 1.6
    7608.6/7400 = 1.0
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2008
  4. marcus

    marcus 25,091
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    1 September 6.4
    1 October 6.5
    1 November 5.2
    1 December 2.4
    1 January 1.5
    1 February 1.3
    ...
    4 February 1.6
    5 February 1.5
    6 February 1.6
    7 February 1.0
    8 February 1.0
    9 February 2.0
    ...
    1 May ?


    Some recent ratios:

    7099.4/4426 = 1.6
    7608.6/7400 = 1.0
    6710.6/6409 = 1.0
    6691.2/3408 = 2.0

    To illustrate, on Saturday 9 Feb, at noon, the Smolin book's salesrank was #3408 among all books Amazon sells. The corresponding ranks of the stringy books that were most popular that day were

    Greene elegant 2419
    Kaku parallel 3731
    Greene fabric 6427
    Kaku hyperspace 8303
    Randall warped 12,576
    topfive average = 6691.2

    In other words judging by salesranks, "Trouble with Physics" was selling about twice as well as the stringy topfive average. Amazon does not publish regular figures on the numbers of books sold. Salesranks are all that is available, so we make do with those.
     
  5. marcus

    marcus 25,091
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    1 September 6.4
    1 October 6.5
    1 November 5.2
    1 December 2.4
    1 January 1.5
    1 February 1.3
    ...
    7 February 1.0
    8 February 1.0
    9 February 2.0
    ...
    11 February 2.6
    ...
    ...
    1 May ?


    Some recent ratios:


    7608.6/7400 = 1.0
    6710.6/6409 = 1.0
    6691.2/3408 = 2.0
    8351.6/3219 = 2.6

    At noon on 11 Feb, the Smolin book's salesrank and the corresponding ranks of the stringy books that were most popular that day were
    Smolin TWP 3219

    Greene elegant 3309
    Kaku parallel 4303
    Greene fabric 9370
    Kaku hyperspace 9950
    Randall warped 14,826

    String topfive average = 8351.6

    In terms of salesranks, "Trouble with Physics" was doing a bit over twice as well as the stringy topfive average. Could be a fluke. On the other hand, could be that Hurk4 has a chance of being right about where the index is going over the next couple of months.
     
  6. Hi again,

    After the previous outcome I feel a little more empowered to forcast a 1.5 ratio, and have so voted in the poll. I have a strange feeling that Smolin has a longer-term hit on his hands than anyone previously suspected. I have been reading the book myself since December, and I have to say I find myself agreeing with him on many, many things he suggests. Could it be that a book like this, intended for consumption by the general public, could end up changing the future of physics more so than many works in academia ever have? I will be watching intently...
     
  7. marcus

    marcus 25,091
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    Hi Mormonator,
    I tend to agree and hope you are right about the future. As a librarian you may have some additional awareness of who is reading what, gleaned from following the reviews, or just talking to people about books.

    Right now there's spike driven by Lisa Randall's appearance Tuesday on the Colbert Report. We the people are suckers for smart comedy and female beauty and the day after Lisa appeared, her book went from being nearly out of sight right up to the top of the physics bestseller list. This is fine, as far as I can see, but it totally changed the salesranks picture. Lisa and Colbert made lively witty conversation with her tossing her long blond locks and being about as quick on the quip as Colbert himself. I recorded a couple of days salesrank ratios, meanwhile:

    1 September 6.4
    1 October 6.5
    1 November 5.2
    1 December 2.4
    1 January 1.5
    1 February 1.3
    ...
    7 February 1.0
    8 February 1.0
    9 February 2.0
    ...
    11 February 2.6
    ...
    15 February 0.5
    16 February 0.4
    ...
    1 May ?


    I think this time of Lisa-frenzy will pass and that you and I both have a chance of being right, come Mayday.

    HEY, WE NOW HAVE four PREDICTIONS!
    Thanks to all who contributed their forecast to the poll. It makes it much more interesting to have a spread.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2008
  8. marcus

    marcus 25,091
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    Ernie,
    welcome to the forums, and thanks for registering your forecast about Smolin's book! I see from your profile that you are a retired theoretical physicist interested in keeping up with current developments, and that you live in the UK. I'm curious to know, in which part? This year the main Quantum Gravity conference will actually be in the UK---at Nottingham, first week of July. You could be enviably situated in several respects.

    You are a lot closer to the LHC action than many of the rest of us. And my impression is that more is happening in the UK and on the continent generally right now. I also am retired and do not travel much or far, so I appreciate a good location.

    In case you are interested, here is the homepage of the Nottingham QG conference:
    http://www.maths.nottingham.ac.uk/conferences/qgsquared-2008/

    While I'm at it, I'll update the salesrank record:
    1 September 6.4
    1 October 6.5
    1 November 5.2
    1 December 2.4
    1 January 1.5
    1 February 1.3
    ...
    20 February 0.9
    21 February 0.5
    ...
    1 May ?


    Lisa Randall's book still tops the stringy favorites
    As of 20 Feb, TWP salesrank was 3659
    and the string top five were
    warped 1661
    elegant 2146
    parallel 3522
    fabric 4655
    endless 4832
    for an average of 3363.2 and ratio 3363.2/3659 = 0.9
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2008
  9. Chronos

    Chronos 10,224
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  10. marcus

    marcus 25,091
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    Chronos, thanks for recalling those links.
    Here's an update on the salesranks we are watching:
    1 September 6.4
    1 October 6.5
    1 November 5.2
    1 December 2.4
    1 January 1.5
    1 February 1.3
    ...
    20 February 0.9
    21 February 0.5
    ...
    24 February 1.1
    25 February 1.0
    ...
    1 May ?



    As of 24 Feb, TWP salesrank was 3540
    and the string top five were
    warped 1425
    elegant 3488
    fabric 4192
    parallel 4380
    endless 6009
    for an average of 3898.8 and ratio 3898.8/3540 = 1.1
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2008
  11. marcus

    marcus 25,091
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    1 September 6.4
    1 October 6.5
    1 November 5.2
    1 December 2.4
    1 January 1.5
    1 February 1.3
    ...
    24 February 1.1
    25 February 1.0
    26 February 1.3
    ...
    1 May ?



    At noon pacific 26 Feb, TWP salesrank was 4456
    and the string top five were

    elegant 2670
    parallel 2769
    warped 4416
    fabric 6494
    endless 11,774
    for an average of 5624.6 and ratio 5624.6/4456 = 1.3
     
  12. marcus

    marcus 25,091
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    1 September 6.4
    1 October 6.5
    1 November 5.2
    1 December 2.4
    1 January 1.5
    1 February 1.3
    1 March 0.4
    2 March 0.8
    ...
    ...
    1 May ?



    At noon pacific 2 March, TWP salesrank was 6468
    as compared with
    parallel 1763
    elegant 2864
    warped 3098
    fabric 6710
    eternal 10,280
    for an average of 4943.0 and ratio 4943.0/6468 = 0.8
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2008
  13. marcus

    marcus 25,091
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    1 September 6.4
    1 October 6.5
    1 November 5.2
    1 December 2.4
    1 January 1.5
    1 February 1.3
    1 March 0.4
    2 March 0.8
    ...
    7 March 1.6
    8 March 1.4
    ...
    1 May ?



    At noon pacific 7 March, TWP salesrank was 4465
    as compared with
    elegant 3784
    parallel 4827
    hyperspace 6549
    fabric 8755
    warped 10,834

    for an average of 6949.8 making the ratio 6949.8/4465 = 1.6

    If today were the target date of 1 May, the winner would be Mormonator, who also won the last poll: on 1 February.
    In that case there were 9 people who registered predictions and Mormonator's was the best guess out of 9
    https://www.physicsforums.com/poll.php?do=showresults&pollid=1242
    If he wins this one too, we will all be asking him to predict the stock market.
    https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?p=1593083#post1593083
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2008
  14. marcus

    marcus 25,091
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    1 September 6.4
    1 October 6.5
    1 November 5.2
    1 December 2.4
    1 January 1.5
    1 February 1.3
    1 March 0.4
    2 March 0.8
    ...
    7 March 1.6
    8 March 1.4
    9 March 2.0
    ...
    11 March 1.1
    ...
    1 May ?
     
  15. marcus

    marcus 25,091
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    1 September 6.4
    1 October 6.5
    1 November 5.2
    1 December 2.4
    1 January 1.5
    1 February 1.3
    1 March 0.4
    ...
    ...
    24 March 0.6
    25 March 0.5
    ...
    1 May ?

    Recently the Smolin book's standing has slipped relative to the topfive stringy average. There has been a remarkable run on Kaku books probably triggered by the appearance of a new one [nonstring this time but appealing to the same readers]. Today 24 March the TWP salesrank was 7446 and those of the five currently most popular stringy books were
    parallel 1621
    fabric 4113
    hyperspace 4623
    endless 5384
    elegant 6079
    for a stringy average of 4364.0 and a ratio of 4364.0/7446 = 0.6

    Will Trouble make a comeback in the physics bestseller ranks during April? We'll see.

    WHOAH!!! the masked hossi has returned and left her well-considered forecast in the poll. We have FIVE predictions on record so far!
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2008
  16. marcus

    marcus 25,091
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    1 September 6.4
    1 October 6.5
    1 November 5.2
    1 December 2.4
    1 January 1.5
    1 February 1.3
    1 March 0.4
    ...
    ...
    29 March 1.0
    ...
    1 May ?

    At noon pacific 29 March the TWP salesrank was 3945 and those of the five currently most popular stringy books were
    parallel 1174
    elegant 1657
    hyperspace 2682
    warped 6993
    fabric 6847

    for a stringy average of 3870.6 and a ratio of 3870.6/3945 = 1.0

    We are coming up on April and our target day moment-of-truth, 1 May.
     
  17. marcus

    marcus 25,091
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    1 September 6.4
    1 October 6.5
    1 November 5.2
    1 December 2.4
    1 January 1.5
    1 February 1.3
    1 March 0.4
    1 April 0.6
    ...
    ...
    ...
    1 May ?

    At the moment I believe MY prediction is closest. I guessed 1.0 and nobody predicted the ratio would be 0.5.
    But our target date is 1 May, so we have several more weeks to go.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2008
  18. Well Marcus, the resurgence from March to April tells me that I still have a shot at getting it right. It wasn't a big difference, but if the time from February to May can be modeled like a parabolic curve (this is totally unjustified, but I am beaming with unjustified enthusiasm...) then May's ratio should, in theory (however unjustified it may be), be slightly higher than February's, which could put it right near the 1.5 ratio I voted for. hahaha!
     
  19. marcus

    marcus 25,091
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    Yes, amazingly enough! I hadn't checked for some time and just happened to today and the ratio was 1.4.

    This surprised me because I sort of thought the book was dropping out of sight. Sabine Hossenfelder who is a very savvy person, physicist at Perimeter and keeper of the famous scienceblog called Backreaction----she was predicting the ratio would have dropped down to 0.1 by the end of this month.

    And here it is middle of month and it is an order of magnitude higher than what Bee (or "Hossi") predicted! Bee could still be right, but if today were the target date then you Mormonator would be the closest.

    So in fact you still do have a shot.
     
  20. marcus

    marcus 25,091
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    Here's the amazon physics bestseller list in case anyone wants to check it out
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/14545
    For consistency I take readings at noon pacific time.

    1 September 6.4
    1 October 6.5
    1 November 5.2
    1 December 2.4
    1 January 1.5
    1 February 1.3
    1 March 0.4
    1 April 0.6
    ...
    13 April 1.4
    ...
    1 May ?


    on 13 April the salesranks of the five currently most popular stringy books were
    elegant 1015
    parallel 1198
    hyperspace 1998
    warped 5084
    fabric 6389
    for an average of 3136.8
    and "Trouble with Physics" rank was 2202
    making the ratio 3136.8/2202 = 1.4

    Smolin's book has been out for almost 2 years now. Amazon began shipping copies in August 2006 (though officially it didn't appear until September) so one might expect it to drop out of sight as have several books by prominent physicists that came out even more recently (Steinhardt's and Susskind's to name a couple.) So, perhaps unexpectedly, Trouble with Physics" has legs. :smile:
     
  21. marcus

    marcus 25,091
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    Here's the amazon physics bestseller list in case anyone wants to check it out
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/14545
    For consistency I take readings at noon pacific time. On 16 April the ratio was 1.6

    1 September 6.4
    1 October 6.5
    1 November 5.2
    1 December 2.4
    1 January 1.5
    1 February 1.3
    1 March 0.4
    1 April 0.6
    ...
    13 April 1.4
    ...
    16 April 1.6
    ...
    1 May ?


    on 16 April the noon salesranks of the five currently most popular stringy books were

    parallel 1172
    elegant 2179
    hyperspace 4798
    fabric 4997
    warped 8300

    for an average of 4289.2
    and "Trouble with Physics" rank was 2691
    making the ratio 4289.2/2691 = 1.6
     
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