Smolin impact ratio in July

  • Thread starter marcus
  • Start date

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

  • 2.5 (like it was on 1 December of last year)

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • 2.0

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • 0.1 (dropping out of sight)

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    4
  • #1
marcus
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Main Question or Discussion Point

The Smolin impact ratio is a useful gauge of people's openness to alternative ways that fundamental physics could advance. It is not supposed to worry or anger anybody. Above all it is not a "Lee Smolin Fan Club" thing :smile:

Smolin's own research is not typical of non-string QG. We watch and discuss a lot of approaches, some he is associated with and some he isn't. The point here is to keep track of how the BOOK is doing.

It is the only general audience book that makes the case for physics departments giving grad students a choice of new fundamental physics paths, and fostering research groups in nonstring QG like those at Penn State, Perimeter, Marseille, Lyon, Nottingham, Utrecht, London, Tokyo, Beijing, Copenhagen, Reykjavik, Morelia, and more.

There is a rapidly growing world movement in nonstring QG and the United States has only one active group. For some reason, Smolin's is the only book that delivers that remarkable bit of information to the public.

So it is interesting to keep track of the book's Amazon salesrank standing. And to PREDICT what it will be in the future, as a test of how well one understands the present.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
marcus
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Last time round, we had 8 people in the poll. We were predicting how the book would be doing as of 1 May.
https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=212743

Special credit to those who registered their forecast early on. More of an accomplishment to guess right well in advance. But there is still quite a bit of uncertainty up until near the end.

Here's what we have recorded so far:

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 1.0
...
15 May 1.6
16 May 1.7
...
...
1 July ?


As an example of how the ratio is calculated, at pacific noon on 16 May the sales ranks of the five currently most popular stringy books were
elegant 2721
parallel 3017
hyperspace 6011
fabric 6609
elegant (hardbound) 8940
so that the average was 5459.6
and the Smolin book's salesrank was 3157

so the ratio was 5459.6/3157 = 1.7

meaning that in terms of salesranks the Smolin book was doing some 1.7 times better
than the benchmark--the topfive stringy average.

the number doesnt mean much in absolute terms, but it is something to watch change over time and the surprising thing to me is that even though the book has been out on the market for almost two years (Amazon was shipping already in August 2006) the ratio is still around one.
You might expect it to have sloped off, as has happened with books by Lisa Randall, Leonard Susskind, Paul Steinhardt, that have come out in the same time period.

Sabine Hossenfelder, one of the smartest people who occasionally comes around PF (in my opinion) guessed last time that the 1 May ratio would be down to 0.1. That seemed to me to be a very reasonable guess at the time given the limited lifetime general audience books tend to have in the market. But it was off by an order of magnitude! the actual figure turned out to be around 1.0.

Anyway, you are invited to register your prediction on the poll, as I will myself in a day or two, and may the best guess win! :biggrin:
 
  • #3
marcus
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I guessed low because I think what we are seeing now----ratios like 1.6 and 1.7----is related to graduation and the school term. Parents buying presents or college students buying summer vacation books. So I think it is just a temporary high and will ease off soon. I think it will be back up in September though, maybe to the levels we are seeing now. the book has an amazing record of endurance. Books by some famous string people like Randall, Susskind, Steinhardt have come and gone during the past two years and it is still bringing in the readers.

If you want to see a bit of earlier discussion regarding the previous poll (predicting results for May 1) it's here
https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=212743
 
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  • #4
Hi Marcus,

I like this tradition! So, I am guessing 1.0 because I am an optimist. Yes, the sales rank is boosted right now because of the graduation season and such, and I was hoping that boost would have come a couple weeks earlier... <:cool:... but oh well... I'm just not that lucky.

I do think that Smolin will stay on par with the other stringy books, at least through mid-summer. I think it will start to trail off towards September, although there will indeed likely be a boost again from the beginning of another semester, but then it ought to trail off from there. If any other authors come out with a similar line of thought in a new book, then Smolin will obviously trail off even faster.
 
  • #5
marcus
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Mormonator,
the durability of this book never ceases to amaze me! I just checked at noon today and the ratio was 1.5.
Even discounting a surge in sales for vacation reading, it's remarkable.

I hear what you say about
If any other authors come out with a similar line of thought in a new book, then Smolin will obviously trail off even faster.

As we both I think realize internationally there is a snowballing movement of nonstring QG approaches involving new was of representing space timea and matter. Criticizing an older approach like string/M theory is increasingly irrelevant. What I see Smolin's book making the case for is US PHYSICS DEPARTMENTS SHOULD GET A PIECE OF THE ACTION.
And the book is already almost two years old.
Nonstring approaches have advanced a lot since the book came out! Especially Renate Loll CDT and Alain Connes NCG

You see that in this year's Oporto Meeting on Geometry Topology and Physics.
http://faraday.fc.up.pt/omgtp2008/
they have four speakers:
one string, one LQG, one NCG and one CDT

Since Smolin wrote the book, Noncommutative Geometry has succeeded in reproducing the particle menu of Standard Model and made some mass predictions for the LHC.

Also since he wrote the book the Triangulations (CDT) people have come out with several provoking papers in one of which they do the Feynmann path integral of geometries and get deSitter space out. they get a spacetime with positive cosmological constant without putting it in ahead of time. it just kind of congeals out of a lot of quantum fluctuations of geometry which cancel out (and which they can quantify).

Somebody (like Smolin or else he personally) could write an even more exciting book now than was possible two years back.

have to share with you this photograph of the Oporto harbor, that they put on the conference poster
http://www.math.ist.utl.pt/~jmourao/om/index.html
more shots
http://faraday.fc.up.pt/omgtp2008/

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 1.0
...
15 May 1.6
16 May 1.7
...
19 May 1.5
...
...
1 July ?


In case anyone's interested, the sales ranks of the five currently most popular stringy books were
elegant 1727
parallel 2479
fabric 4183
hyperspace 6479
endless 6520
so that the average was 4277.6
and the Smolin book's salesrank was 2866
making the ratio 4277.6/2866 = 1.5
 
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  • #6
marcus
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This year is a kind of coming of age, or recognition year, for (not just a piece like LQG but) the whole fast-growing field of quantum gravity. The Oporto Meeting marks this change. You can see EQUAL WEIGHT given to Triangulations (CDT) and Spectral Geometry (NCG) along with String and of course LQG.

Despite the disproportion in the number of researchers, they are, at least for the moment, like the four points of the compass.

...in this year's Oporto Meeting on Geometry Topology and Physics.
http://faraday.fc.up.pt/omgtp2008/
they have four speakers:
one string, one LQG, one NCG and one CDT

...

have to share with you this photograph of the Oporto harbor, that they put on the conference poster
http://www.math.ist.utl.pt/~jmourao/om/index.html
more shots
http://faraday.fc.up.pt/omgtp2008/
...
At noon today the ratio we're watching was 2.3

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 1.0
...
15 May 1.6
16 May 1.7
...
19 May 1.5
20 May 2.3
...
...
1 July ?



The sales ranks of the five currently most popular stringy books were
elegant 3863
fabric 4183
parallel 6867
hyperspace 7486
endless 7891
for an average of 6005.4
while Trouble with Physic's salesrank was 2569
making the ratio 6005.4/2569 = 2.3
 
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  • #7
marcus
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At noon again today the ratio we're watching was 2.3. That is, judging by salesranks, the Smolin book was doing about twice as well as the stringy topfive average.

To me it seems curious. I don't know of any sales campaign or interview on TV or miniseries that might be affecting things. The book has been out on the market for nearly two years. We are a little over a month away from the target date when I am predicting a ratio of 0.5. So right now I seem off by a factor of four, which is pretty wacky.

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 1.0
...
15 May 1.6
16 May 1.7
...
19 May 1.5
20 May 2.3
...
24 May 2.3
...
1 July ?



As of 24 May, sales ranks of the five currently most popular stringy books were


parallel 3235
fabric 4189
elegant 4920
hyperspace 6187
warped 6872
for an average of 5080.6
while Trouble with Physic's salesrank was 2168
making the ratio 5080.6/2168 = 2.3
 
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  • #8
marcus
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At noon today the ratio we're watching was 1.0. Trouble with Physics was roughly on par, judging by salesranks, with the average stringy topfiver.
That was mormonator's prediction! (He has a record of being frequently right on the mark.) But there is still a month to go. I am predicting the ratio will have declined to 0.5 by then.


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 1.0
...
15 May 1.6
16 May 1.7
...
19 May 1.5
20 May 2.3
...
24 May 2.3
...
29 May 1.0
...
1 July ?
 
  • #9
marcus
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Well the surge of sales at graduation time settled down and now for three days Trouble with Physics has been right on par wtih the benchmark.
It seems now that mormonator's guess was a no-brainer. The 1 June ratio is probably going to be around 1.0, the same as May. And the 1 July ratio is probably going to be also around 1.0. The same as May and June. Why did I ever think it would be different?

that is how prediction goes. You make what seems like a reasonable guess, and a month later it seems obvious that a different guess would have been better.

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 1.0
...
15 May 1.6
16 May 1.7
...
19 May 1.5
20 May 2.3
...
24 May 2.3
...
29 May 1.0
30 May 1.0
31 May 1.1
1 June ?
...
1 July ?
 
  • #10
marcus
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In case I forget to check right at noon, it was 1.0 at ten oclock this morning. Must remember to check because it is the first of the month and for compactness only those are saved.
 
  • #11
marcus
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I remembered to check at noon :smile:


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 1.0
1 June 1.0
...
...
1 July ?


A surprising thing was that the ratio held up even though Brian Greene was making a charismatic splash at the WORLD SCIENCE FESTIVAL right this very week!
http://www.worldsciencefestival.com/
The Festival was Wednesday 28 May-Sunday 1 June (today is the last day) in New York.
The NYC Mayor was there. Rockstar personalities Alan Alda, Brian Greene, Neil deGrasse Tyson the Planetarium guy
the Templeton and Simons foundations, hedge fund money, footing the bill
a stage performance "Dear Albert" with Alan Alda reading letters by and to Einstein

It boosted sales of Fabric especially it went from usual 2000-3000 range to 941, which I hadnt seen for months if not years.

But despite the wave, Trouble was still selling on par with the stringy topfive benchmark. So it may still have some legs.
 
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  • #12
marcus
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The World Science Festival, which Brian Greene organized, Wallstreetbase private foundations funded, was a great success. Very attractive science personalities. including AfricanAmerican stellar science role models (like string theorist Jim Gates and astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson). A total New York weeklong media smash hit.

Brian Greene books achieved salesranks I'd never seen before at the same time. Today at noon elegant was 502 and elegant was 306. When a science author is on television a lot there tends to be a surge of booksales, but this was extreme.

the subtext tends to be "how can we get our children interested in science?" and various personalities come foreward with various kinds of answers. Jim Gates is selling a set of DVDs. Alan Alda is being dear old Alan Alda.

Now you wouldn't think this would help sales of Trouble with Physics. I would have expected it to basically drop out of sight during this publicity wave. But it didn't.

At least not yet. At noon today the ratio was still 1.0.
Trouble was still selling on par with the five most popular stringy books average.
Its salesrank as it happened was 2118. And the benchmark average was about the same.
What's been happening? Has Lee Smolin been crashing the party and sneaking into interviews? I didn't see his name on the schedule.

I wonder what the real answer is----to keeping the traditions of empirical science alive in our culture. More calculus based general physics at a younger age? More hard science earlier. Chemistry problems mixed into the 9th grade algebra textbook?

I don't think the answer is to hype teenagers with a verbal-analogy discussion of the most unproven speculations. It just gee-whizzes them, makes them think non-mathematically and expect answers, erodes quantitative evidence-type thinking, and eventually can lead to disillusion or feeling they'll never understand.
Pop-sci books dont necessarily get people interested in science. Like soft drinks they may just get you interested in more of the same. You become a consumer of pop-sci, not really interested in hard science (which is what the parents and educators probably want.)

Anyway it is complicated. I don't actually know the current media well enough to be discussing it. There may be great stuff out there I just don't know about. what I see on the Amazon physics bestsell booklist doesn't look too promising.
 
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  • #13
marcus
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Starting out the month amazingly steady


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 1.0
1 June 1.0
2 June 1.0
3 June 1.0
...
...
1 July ?


I had to miss 3 June noon, but I averaged readings for 11 AM and 1 PM, should be OK since has not been moving around much.

Still big surge of Brian Greene sales, in wake of the World Science Festival in NYC that he organized. But Trouble still doing OK. Without the festival, might have shot up.
 
  • #14
marcus
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We now have three forecasts recorded for 1 July. Welcome to new member Lanka!


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 1.0
1 June 1.0
2 June 1.0
3 June 1.0
...
16 June 1.9
...
1 July ?



This is going completely as I did not expect, at least for the moment. I thought sales of the Smolin book would taper off, relative to the benchmark average. Instead the book is doing better than it did back in February! May be just a brief excursion.

At noon pacific time 16 June the "Trouble with Physics...and What Comes Next" salesrank was 2770

The five most popular stringy books at the moment had salesranks as follows:
elegant 3130
hyperspace 3755
parallel 5169
fabric 5653
elegant (hardbound) 8641

So the average was 5269.6 and the ratio was 5269.6/2770 = 1.9

Here is the link to the physics bestseller list, in case anyone would like to browse:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/14545
 
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  • #15

1 May 1.0
1 June 1.0
2 June 1.0
3 June 1.0
...
16 June 1.9
...
1 July ?



This is going completely as I did not expect, at least for the moment. I thought sales of the Smolin book would taper off, relative to the benchmark average. Instead the book is doing better than it did back in February! May be just a brief excursion.
Hi Marcus,

I have been talking to some other librarians about this, and asking if they're hearing anything in regards to this book. The responses, although sparse and short, still lead me to think that some of this behavior is a result of the possibility that different demographic groups are discovering this book at different stages. In other words, I am sure that physicists looked for it first, then a few months later perhaps other scientific professionals began taking interest. A few months after that, students began taking notice, then educators, and so on... not necessarily in that order. I just gave that as an example. But from what I'm hearing, we are now entering a stage where alot more typical citizens and local libraries are taking notice as of the last few months. Perhaps every surge we've seen was just another societal trickle-down effect taking place.

I haven't really gotten alot of evidence to support this, it's just a thought that came up based on my recent conversations with some fellow librarians. Just the same, what do you think?

Regards,
Patrick
 
  • #16
marcus
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...different demographic groups are discovering this book at different stages...
Patrick,
that's a convincing explanation. The book does have something to say to several different groups---physicists themselves, science-support professionals, students looking at careers, fans of leading-edge theory research, general lay audience etc.

To try guessing at a few, and echoing your list. I think you are most probably right. It should have occurred to me immediately.

It is actually sort of a mongrel book. For scientists and non-scientists. Presumably it could be done better if there was more focus. Albeit valuable, it is already getting out of date!
Have you seen the article in July 2008 Scientific American (pages 42-49) by Loll and friends?

==============

Oh, today at noon the ratio 1.3------I'm still checking occasionally :biggrin: data is data and you never know what it might tell you.

Trouble salesrank was 4181 and the stringy topfive average was 5373.6 (featuring the same old usual topfive titles).
 
  • #17
marcus
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Friday at noon the ratio was 1.2
Saturday I had to be out at noon, but I checked around 12:50 when I got back, and it was 1.4.

We are getting close to the target date of 1 July, so it certainly isn't behaving as I predicted a couple of months back. More like what Mormonator said. He's been right several times already, I forget how many.

But it is also possible that Lanka and Ed Aboud could be right. We'll see in a little over one week from now.
 
  • #18
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Four predictions on record. Welcome Ed Aboud! The target date is a week away.
For whatever reason in the past couple of days the index experienced an abrupt drop, down to 0.5!
By coincidence that is where I guessed it would be, a couple of months back---expecting sales to taper off. I had pretty much given up hope of being right this 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
1 May 1.0
1 June 1.0
2 June 1.0
3 June 1.0
...
19 June 1.3
20 June 1.2
...
22 June 0.8
23 June 0.5
...
1 July ?
 
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  • #19
Four predictions on record. Welcome Ed Aboud! The target date is a week away.
For whatever reason in the past couple of days the index experienced an abrupt drop, down to 0.5!
By coincidence that is where I guessed it would be, a couple of months back---expecting sales to taper off. I had pretty much given up hope of being right this 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
1 May 1.0
1 June 1.0
2 June 1.0
3 June 1.0
...
19 June 1.3
20 June 1.2
...
22 June 0.8
23 June 0.5
...
1 July ?
Dahhh... It will bounce back to 1.0 just in time. This is just a correction, i.e. regression to the mean, for the last week of 1.0-plus activity... (crosses fingers)
 
  • #20
marcus
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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 1.0
1 June 1.0
2 June 1.0
3 June 1.0
...
19 June 1.3
20 June 1.2
...
22 June 0.8
23 June 0.5
...
26 June 0.5
27 June 0.7
...
1 July ?


Just a bit slow on the bounce-back. I could still be right this time. :biggrin:
 
  • #21
marcus
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Incredible. :biggrin:

Mormonator you predicted a bounce-back and crossed your fingers.
And at noon today 28 June the ratio is 1.5.

Smolin's Trouble with Physics salesrank was 4273

The stringy books that were most popular today were
elegant 3785
parallel 4808
fabric 5270
hyperspace 6962
elegant hardbound 10,544

for an average of 6273.8 and a ratio of 6273.8/4273 = 1.5
 
  • #22
marcus
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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 1.0
1 June 1.0
...
...
26 June 0.5
27 June 0.7
28 June 1.5
29 June (at 1 PM) 1.0
30 June 1.0
...
1 July ?


looks like homing in on 1.0
(with some random over and undershoot)
certainly did not expect this!

unofficial figure for 29 June because had to be out and could not check at noon.
 
  • #23
marcus
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my guess was right this 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
1 May 1.0
1 June 1.0
1 July 0.5
...
...
1 September ??


right on the button, correct to the nearest two decimal places---the ratio at noon was 0.504
the situation has been temporarily stirred up by the arrival on the market of two new stringy books, something that happens now and then.
 
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  • #24



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 1.0
1 June 1.0
1 July 0.5
...
...
1 September ??


right on the button, correct to the nearest two decimal places---the ratio at noon was 0.504
the situation has been temporarily stirred up by the arrival on the market of two new stringy books, something that happens now and then.
you are so incredibly lucky, marcus... the law of large numbers was, i think, supposed to be on my side here! it was a quantum fluctuation in book buying habits - lol

well, i'll have to take another stab at it...

i might as well announce it here rather than anywhere else as i'm not otherwise incredibly active here... i am no longer the librarian at columbia public library as of july 15, and i am leaving the outreach program to govern itself now that it is well underway. i will be likely moving to mechanicsburg, where i will be much closer to messiah college and mariachi-cps headquarters. i will be working for t-mobile for a while, at least until I am finished my bachelors' degree. hoping to continue in my physics education with the help of my collaborators at messiah college.

i may end up spending large amounts of time away from here, but i'll be checking in from time to time for sure.
 
  • #25
marcus
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I've enjoyed your company, mormonator, and though sorry to hear you will be around here less, I'm glad you will be checking in from time to time!

It really wasn't fair that I won this last one. It was clearly converging on 1.0 as you predicted. As I said, two new stringy books just entered the market. I think small book-dealers may actually buy from Amazon instead of the publisher (given that Amazon's price is often discounted) and I think a wave of orders may have come in from people wanting to stock the shelves with the new titles. New titles often do cause some temporary turmoil.

All the best in completing your degree and continuing your pursuit of physics!
(Science outreach librarianship strikes me as an exceptionally contructive contribution to society and I hope that among all the other things you do in future you will occasionally find time to do some more of that, as per the Columbia job.)
 
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