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Smolin's Response to review by Joe Polchinski

  1. Apr 29, 2007 #1
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 29, 2007 #2

    turbo

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    Thanks for the link, Christine. It's important the people realize that Smolin is not trying to spike string theory, but is promoting the idea that there are viable alternative paths to approach quantum gravitation. LQG may not be the answer, either, but it is nice to know that path is being explored.

    I think Smolin addresses the prime danger of group-think (consensus science) well in this reply:
     
  4. Apr 29, 2007 #3
    Which people? People that matter? I don`t think so.
     
  5. Apr 29, 2007 #4

    turbo

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    Smolin invested a lot of years in string. Now that it appears that there may be an infinite number of "viable" variations of string, (reducing the predictive value of the approach) perhaps it is time to come at the problem from a different angle. That's all.
     
  6. Apr 29, 2007 #5

    Chronos

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    Perhaps some feel Smolin is playing both sides against the middle. He is unabashedly disloyal to both camps. I find it refreshing.
     
  7. Apr 30, 2007 #6
    Even it this we're true, the facts don't depend on how much time smolin spent working on string theory.

    A different angle? What angle might that be? This is the question other physicists put to smolin to remind him that it's easy to say but hard to do no matter one's attitude might be. Of course, smolin already knows this so that his position is viewed quite accurately as being disingenuous at best.

    You along with most people around here need to understand why physicists have so much confidence in string theory despite the challenges it currently poses and so little in alternative approaches.

    What sides are those? You may care what smolin is doing, but what string theorists feel is much more annoyance then genuine concern, and for good reason: Science will advance no matter what smolin does or what you think.

    Loyalty? It may have a place in politics, but not in science.
     
  8. Apr 30, 2007 #7

    George Jones

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    Is this really true? The anecdotal evidence that I have accumulated seems to indicate that there is a fairly strong dichotomy in the physics community with respect to string theory.

    Almost (but maybe not quite) unanimously, astrophysicists, condensed matter physicists, atomic physicists, etc. have made disparaging comments (to me) about string theory. The positive comments that I have heard about string theory have come from people in the high energy crowd (not necessarily string theorists).
     
  9. Apr 30, 2007 #8
    But what is the origin of this division? (I assume that by "dichotomy" you meant "division".) Is it based on a detailed and accurate understanding of string theory or something else? Keep in mind that string theory is by many orders of magnitude more difficult than any other field in physics and requires much more training in both physics and mathematics before it and it's prospects can be accurately assessed.

    It really sounds like you're basing your opinions on everything but an understanding of string theory, an understanding which is required if you want to be able to distinguish between baloney and the facts. If you want to ground your opinion in the latter, you need to learn about string theory.

    So the question now is from whom would you rather learn string theory? Maybe you would prefer learning about string theory from experts on laser optics rather than string theorists, or maybe from condensed matter physicists rather than string theorists, or maybe from members of this forum rather than string theorists, or maybe from polemicists like woit/smolin who rail against string theory largely for personal reasons rather than string theorists, or maybe from anyone who has an opinion rather than string theorists.

    It's very hard to deal with patients with brain tumors when for no good reason they insist that their neurosurgeon defend their choice of treatment against the opinions of the physicians of all the other specialties. Neurosurgery is a very complicated field requiring very specialized knowledge to understand and practice.
     
  10. Apr 30, 2007 #9

    marcus

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    that's a colorful expression but could give a misleading impression. the Loop community shows little "camp" mentality.

    evidence: Loops '05 conference had TWO of the 20 or so invited plenary speakers be people who normally do string.
    Robbert Dijkgraaf and Stefan Theisen
    http://loops05.aei.mpg.de/index_files/abstract_dijkgraaf.html
    http://loops05.aei.mpg.de/index_files/abstract_theisen.html
    and there were several other string participants, such as Dorothea Bahns who
    gave a talk in the parallel sessions

    Jan Ambjorn who has co-authored most of Loll's major papers does quite a bit of string/M and sometimes grad students and postdocs in Loll's group go over and co-author string research with him. Obviously Ambjorn is "ambidextrous". There is no code of loyalty that he is breaking.

    Loops '07 has TWO of its 20-some invited plenary speakers be Moshe Rozali and Jan Ambjorn. Others of the invited speakers have notably collaborated with string theorists.

    Smolin's longstanding practice of doing both string and non-string research does not seem to have caused outrage among his non-string QG associates and I think it is simply because the community is more open and less "camp"-like.

    So, Chronos, your image of Smolin as disloyal to both "camps", while it might be a funny way to express the fact that he has done a dozen or more string papers (including one in 2005 and 2006 IIRC), could actually mislead people into thinking there is a "camp" mentality with standards of loyalty, so that you can be condemned and villified by fellow non-string QG if you see some string research you think worth doing and go and do it.
     
  11. Apr 30, 2007 #10

    f-h

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    "Keep in mind that string theory is by many orders of magnitude more difficult than any other field in physics and requires much more training in both physics and mathematics before it and it's prospects can be accurately assessed."

    God exists! I can show you the prove, if only you believed in him first!

    Also neurosurgery works. String Theory doesn't.

    Also it's really nice how you dismiss everyone who disagrees with your assessment as "not a physicist". And if people are not physicists they are not experts and don't have a valid opinion (because physicists *know* that String Theory is so extremely much more promising). So you are right by definition. That's cool, really facilitates open discussion.
    Load of Bull. It is the most promising candidate, it's got cool stuff going for it, but get real. It's not physics yet, neither is any other approach.

    Yes it's difficult to make things work and String theory has gotten more to work then any other approach, but the fact that the other stuff is even more difficult doesn't mean it's wrong. Just means it's easier to do stuff with Stringtheory and all the pretty complications it throws up (it also defers many of the really interesting (from the relativist point of view) physical questions).
    And these days it's not clear that there's nice stuff to do besides the internal work within the complications of compactifications. Who knows!
     
  12. Apr 30, 2007 #11

    marcus

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    Yes! I have noticed the same thing!

    And also you can occasionally hear experimental particle physicists disparaging string.
    I have never gotten the impression that there was anything like a solid majority support----more the opposite.
    Again this is just more or less random anecdotal evidence of a dichotomy (in the sense of "split").
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2007
  13. Apr 30, 2007 #12

    George Jones

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    This wasn't the point of my post.

    From Merriam-Webster

    "1 : a division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entities <the dichotomy between theory and practice>; also : the process or practice of making such a division <dichotomy of the population into two opposed classes>"

    This was not th point of my post. The point of my post was your statement

    I didn't express my opinion about string theory, I stated the opinions that other physicists have expressed to me.

    Again, this is irrelevant to the point of my post. My point had to to with the truth value of your statement

    So, you didn't mean all physicists when you wrote

    Why didn't you say so in the first place?
     
  14. Apr 30, 2007 #13
    Respectfully George,

    Your preceding post is just a massive copout, and indicates that there's probably no way I would ever be able to convince you that you need to reconsider the basis of your opinion. Again, no disrespect intended.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 30, 2007
  15. Apr 30, 2007 #14
    And this is related to physics how? I indicate why members may want to consider more carefully the basis of their opinions. Near as I can tell, they rarely do, or at least when it comes to string theory.

    In any event, I do not "dismiss" people. (Though I think we all sometimes need to do better at responding to the post and not the person, and quite frankly, based on past experience, this does indeed include you f-h. But again, this has nothing to do with physics).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 30, 2007
  16. Apr 30, 2007 #15

    marcus

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    Let's return to discussing Smolin's response to Polchinski's review of TWP.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2007
  17. Apr 30, 2007 #16

    f-h

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    I was commenting about your style of arguing,so this was intentionally directed at you.

    To argue that this is because they are not experts is circular logic (hence the God comment).

    Maybe you didn't mean the "physicists believe in it" comment as strongly as it came across to me, in this case I apologizer. I, and many other physicists (especially thoser comming from the relativity Point of View) do not share this opinion.

    It is because String Theory has no answers to the kind of physical questions people coming from GR would ask. (Similarily LQG has no answers to the kind of questions HEP theorists ask). Neither of these theories is physics yet. Not only in the sense that we can't compare them with experiment, but in the sense that the deep physical questions can not be asked within the theories, even in principle (yet), and therefore the scepticism of the non expert physics community against them is thoroughly justified IMO.

    And again, by arguing for a string hegemony based soley on the opinion of people inside ST you are validating Smolins point. Which I can find nothing disingenious with.
     
  18. Apr 30, 2007 #17
    Let's return to discussing Smolin's response to Polchinski's review of TWP.

    Yes. Please.

    :grumpy: :mad: :devil:
     
  19. Apr 30, 2007 #18

    Kea

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    No, please, I'm quite enjoying this.

    :approve: :biggrin: :biggrin: :biggrin:
     
  20. Apr 30, 2007 #19
    Okay, so, in his response to Polchinski, smolin says that he finds it “disappointing that Polchinski has chosen to not engage with the broader arguments of the book”. But I don't find smolin's message about the dangers of "group think" particularly alarming or interesting, and in any event, it’s clear that smolin continues to hold string theory to a different standard than he does other ideas, especially his own.

    However, most of smolin’s response concentrates on disagreements with Polchinski about how he characterized string theory in his book. The issues discussed include positive cosmological constants in string theory, Ads/CFT, background independence in string theory, the role of mathematics in string theory, heavy ion physics, and cosmological applications of string theory. If anyone would like to discuss these on the same technical level that Polchinski and smolin do, I'm game if any of you are. I should say though that I really don’t think any of this matters.
     
  21. Apr 30, 2007 #20

    turbo

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    Dear josh1, I find it enlightening that in your last post, Smolin's name is never capitalized and Polchinski's always is. Please stop with the not-so-subtle insults and games and deal with the particulars in Smolin's response. It would be a million times more entertaining than this junior-high crap.

    Edit: The OP had an an open, informative, entertaining and thought-provoking blog a while back, until people with agendas and attitudes swamped it with crap and she found it too unpleasant to maintain. I miss that blog, but I respect her decision to discontinue it after being hammered by so many insensitive people that cannot tolerate a dialog that might not conform to their views. We have only one life - we're all in this together - play nice, PLEASE. Science is not WWWF.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2007
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