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Ss crack up

  1. Nov 11, 2003 #1

    wolram

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    http://www.lns.cornell.edu/spr/2003-10/msg0055587.html

    I think its a stroke of good luck that the SSC was cancelled since
    otherwise it might have produced data that contradicted all the
    physics beyond the Standard Model that physicists now take for
    granted, and we would have to throw out all the beautiful theories
    that took so much effort to create. In physics you try to think up
    explanations that explain what you observe. The greater the
    consistency between theory and experiment, the greater the success of
    physics. If you have new experimental data that contradicts the
    theoretical predictions, the extent of consistency decreases, and so
    the extent of success of physics decreases. Jeffery Winkler.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------
    i dont know what to make of this, anyone have any thoughts?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 11, 2003 #2

    marcus

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    sarcasm
    irony laid on thick
     
  4. Nov 11, 2003 #3

    wolram

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    sarcasm
    irony laid on thick
    -------------------------------------------------------------------
    i cant make head or tail of this, is it just posturing?
    is it profesional jealousy? im afraid i dont have your
    insight in these matters, if these comments are of the cuff
    then one can ignore them, but if they hit a weak spot what
    then?
    this is the time one needs a tutor to clarify as to why
    these big hitters are not of one mind.
     
  5. Nov 12, 2003 #4
    There are a LARGE number of young/old string-theoryists who have been campaign-ing to reduce the number of 'data' that could collapse the whole of the STRING-REVOLUTION, and with the obvious consequence that some jobs will go!

    Weinburg for instance stated some years ago that 'string theory cannot be proven or dis-proved'..for every chink that appears in the objections to stringtheory, a mathematician can produce another complex variable which covers and deflects the objections into another complex abstract realm, some think this is the nightmare scenario where true mathematics are exchanged with MAGIC-MATHS.

    There are an infinite number of complex variables, any one of which will produce a Mathematical stalemate, as long as these theorists keep shrouding the data with coverings of MULTIPLE-MEANINGS, then their jobs are safe, and stringtheory survives and drains the available scientific-financial-pot.

    The Rovelli paper that was quite amazing in detailing this dialog here:http://uk.arxiv.org/PS_cache/hep-th/pdf/0310/0310077.pdf

    Really does ask some deep ethical qiestions on what do you do in order to precede in the pursuit of truth?
     
  6. Nov 13, 2003 #5

    wolram

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    i have read this ten times and now im not sure of
    anything, with so many big names involved it cant
    be trivial.
    they seem to be saying that SF is a never ending
    story .
     
  7. Nov 13, 2003 #6

    selfAdjoint

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    The physics flame war

    There's a nasty three-way spat going on among some of the professional physicists who post on the moderated board sci.physics.research. The three sides are the anti string theory people, led by Peter Woit, the string defenders, led by Lubos Motl, and the LQG people, who have been keeping their heads down recently, but who helped to ignite the controversy with Carlo Rovelli's mock Galilean dialogue about LQG vs. Strings, which some thought to be a diss of string theory. So you have threads on that board called "The string theory crackup" and "The string theory dominance", and just like flame wars over here, nothing is ever settled.

    On the other hand, interesting physical questions are raised, like Motl's assertion that general relativity has importantly (not just in the tangent space) a lorentzian symmetry. Trivially the Poincare group is a subgroup of the diffeomorphism group so Lorenz boosts are some of the coordinate changes you can make in GR, but the argument is over, does this have any special physical significance? Motl: Yes. Several others: No.
     
  8. Nov 13, 2003 #7

    marcus

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    Hello selfAdjoint,
    to be fair the discussion of differences within Stringdom
    has been more than just a "nasty spat". It has been informative
    for a lot of us.

    On another thread you recommended Howard Schnitzer "String Theory: a theory in search of an experiment" http://arxiv.org/physics/0311047
    which (although in mild and hopeful language) raises the same issue as wolram:
    namely the airy castle neverending story aspect---different from past "top-down" theoretical developments where experimental confirmation has come close on the heels of speculation for example Einstein 1915 followed by Eddington's observation 1919 (Schnitzer gives several examples and cautiously broaches the subject of how much unverified theoryspinning has, in the past, been considered acceptable)

    So when wolram says it looks as if the "story goes on forever" it is not just an illusion produced by spat, heated discussion, flaming or whatever. It is something that cool heads can and are concerned about, involving some basic questions about how science is traditionally conducted.

    Several points:
    1. The general audience gets the impression that strings and extra dimensions exist---as if this is tested, settled and known. In the long run neither the public or science are well-served by unchallenged hype in favor of one or another untested theory.

    2. Reading some SPR threads can be a helpful antidote to the rosy picture and special pleading in the media.

    3. It's possible that string research is overfunded as well as overpromoted, and a cutback or a redistribution to other lines of theoretical physics would improve the field's overall health. Public relations interferes by creating a glamorous image. Decisions on allocating funds and research positions are probably best left to the back rooms of the National Science Foundation. Anyway its more traditional to do it that way than by TV miniseries, hype, ratings, outreach to highschool-teachers---by mass political means in other words.

    For reasons like these, I think of the discussion on SPR as performing a useful service---not as just a flame war or nasty spat. Watching it has been educational for me and I think it encourages self-criticism among the string folk, which by my sense of proportion has so far been deficient:
    Given the thousands of technical papers that have been written, I see remarkably little internal criticism. What there is, like that of Tom Banks and Howard Schnitzer, seems muffled. Or inadvertent, like that of Leonard Susskind. This leaves it up to neighbors like Peter Woit and Stephen Weinberg to provide the criticism that should be a part of the field's own self-discipline.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2003
  9. Nov 13, 2003 #8

    wolram

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    it seems all my ideas about what science is, has been
    wrong, i thought the idea was to put forward a theory
    and let others disprove it.
    how can a theory be disproved, if when a null or
    negative result is quashed by an addition to the
    theory
    i hope a possitive answer can clear up what seems
    to be profesional people doing there dirty washing
    in public.
     
  10. Nov 13, 2003 #9

    marcus

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    Hey wolram you might like Bekenstein
    "Black Holes and Information Theory"
    new today, I havnt read it yet just printed it out
    http://www.arxiv.org/quant-ph/0311049


    usually the small club of some specialty are
    ruthlessly and rigorously selfcritical
    on their own members
    but string seems to have been kind of lazy and
    indulgent so got out of hand and neighbors in
    nearby fields like Peter Woit and Charles Francis
    have the unpleasant job of disciplining it

    this doesnt really concern loop quantum gravity per se
    it should really be an internal self-discipline thing
    but it does represent a case of traditional institutions
    not functioning quite right
    science as a social system doesnt have to function
    perfectly all the time--its a human endeavor sustained
    by imperfect institutions like everything else

    it should be open too,
    transparent not secretive
    the dirty laundry in public is the price it sometimes
    has to pay for openness but I am thankful for the openness

    be well and keep thinking for yourself!
     
  11. Nov 13, 2003 #10

    wolram

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    left blank in respect
     
  12. Nov 13, 2003 #11

    selfAdjoint

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    Marcus, you are a lot harder on Stringy physicists than I would be. People don't spend their lives working on a far frontier without a lot of self confidence, and I would rather have string physics than no physics at all, which in my darker moments I fear may be in our future.

    There is a lot of more or less unfocussed anti-science feeling among the public. In Europe it's fueled by the tremendous fear and loathing of geneticlly modified foods. In the US there's the public fight over evolution with the right wing fundamentalists and with the left wing PC-marxoid people. Everywhere the Greens are sowing distrust of technology. Governments are finding excuses to cut the budgets of science agencies. I greatly fear that in the years to come we won't have the opportunity to dispute which untested theory is better.
     
  13. Nov 13, 2003 #12

    marcus

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    some truth in this but some fine spectral discriminations can be made

    As public image, Einstein (the fatherly face of pure theoretical science) is not in the same bucket as Monsanto (the people who manipulate patent and own genes). For the general public IMO Science-and-Technology is not a single monolithic entity.

    So Feynmann, Carl Sagan, Brian Greene, Steven Hawking, are beloved bestselling celebrities (I even share the popular reverence for a couple of them, guess which). But Carl Sagan's popularity does not help SSC, or Clinch River Breeder Reactor, or Fetal Stem Cell, or Monsanto.

    In the long run the personal integrity of a Feynmann, which translated into comic outspoken honesty, builds trust. Any kind of hype (even for a "good cause") undermines it. So I'm glad for whatever openness the theoretical research establishment can manage, more or less across the board.

    Also I suspect that deep down almost everybody, even including Greens Marxists Mormons Moslems Methodists you name it, loves the Hubble Space Telescope photographs and all those new instruments giving a deeper look out into space. People dont have to be told to be thrilled and fascinated with those things. Cosmology has a lot of appeal regardless of a person's biases. So Science-and-Technology is not just one monolith---in public perception its a mix of good images and bad.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2003
  14. Nov 14, 2003 #13

    selfAdjoint

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    It's OK for you to make these distinctions because you, and pretty much everyone who posts here, are way up the trunk of the tree of understanding of science. The public are way down at the bottom and the beautiful images flick by them without their really understanding where they come from.

    Here's an editorial from the New York Times that has been making the rounds on the net. It raises some of the concerns I have in the context of science journalism.
     
  15. Nov 14, 2003 #14

    marcus

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    An opinion piece by a former NYT science editor, Cornelia Dean:
    ------------------------

    "... unable or reluctant to tell the story in words a lay audience can understand.

    As a result, Ms. Baron told the Pew fellows, journalists regard scientists as elitist, unable to talk except in jargon, obsessed with trivial details, isolated in ivory towers and unwilling to take a stand on matters of public importance.

    This last point is by far the most important because it is where science reporting ... starts helping readers or listeners or viewers come to their own conclusions about ... issues ... that hinge on science.

    It is where the question of "balance" is most important and where journalists most need scientists to stop hiding in thickets of irrelevant detail and identify the bottom line.

    In other words, journalists need scientists who are citizens as well as researchers.

    ...

    "Science has reached greater heights of sophistication and productivity," Mr. Yankelovich wrote in his summer paper, but scientists' influence in public debates is actually shrinking. As a result, he said, "the gap between science and public life has grown ever larger and more dangerous, to an extent that now poses a serious threat to our future."

    Journalists can help narrow that gap. But only if scientists raise their voices in the nation's public debates."
    ---------------------------------

    Gist:
    scientists should take public stands on issues like global warming,
    reproduction rights, nuclear weapons (her examples)

    In fact it is dangerous for them not to. A threat not to the future of science but to the future of the planet and humanity--as I interpret her message.
     
  16. Nov 14, 2003 #15

    marcus

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    I agree with the op/ed piece by Cornelia Dean

    particularly as to the duty of scientists to speak out on issues that do not merely concern the welfare of the research establishment but are of urgent biosphere importance: she singled out the issues of weapons, birth control, global warming, and (by contextual reference) overfishing the oceans.

    selfAdjoint, you called attention to this article. I hope you agree with Ms Dean and did not reference the article because it represents something you disagree with! That does not seem likely.

    I think an underlying implicit concern in this article, not mentioned, is the distortion of science by corporate control.
    Corporations are not life-forms and are not human, yet they have interests and power to work on behalf of them. So scientists like anyone else may be leery of opposing corporate aims whether about logging, overfishing, carbon emission. It is too easy to get embroiled in vituperation with one of the class of puppet scientists who provide propaganda to suit corporate requirements. Cornelia Dean was particularly close to that bunch of Fishery scientists who were keeping their mouths shut. Understandably. The oceans are being fished out but what can you do about it? And yet if any human voice could be effective you'd think it would be that of a marine biologist/oceanographer/fisheries guy---the ones she says are keeping mum.

    Well the public loves a contest: whether its a fist-fight, a football game, or a debate. Best not to pretend there's unanimity and that "Science" speaks with a single voice. Those guys Ms Dean was talking about had better speak up EVEN THOUGH they meet with contradiction from other professionals. Sometimes I think the British are better at public discussion than we are, and their scientists too probably.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2003
  17. Nov 15, 2003 #16

    wolram

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    just one TV channel devoted to science would help the
    general public enormouosly, have you attempted to
    engage anyone a factory worker, shop assistant in
    conversation about science? nine times out of ten
    you will be rewarded with a blank stare.
    all we get is scare news items that are at best one
    sided and at worst total c**p.
    i think a panel of scientists should be given the task
    of producing upto date science news on a dedicated TV
    program shown at laest twice a week.
    so the public will start talking science and understand
    that your not all in your labs concocting deadly
    viruses, mutated food stuff weapons of mass destruction
    etc etc
    you arnt are you?
     
  18. Nov 15, 2003 #17

    marcus

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    this is potentially a very interesting discussion, partly
    because we have different perspectives---you are in the UK
    where they have the BBC, others of us are in USA where
    there is the "Discovery Channel" which is a
    market-driven commercial way of satisfying a directive for
    "educational" programming, still others of us are in Canada,
    France, Germany, India, Israel etc.

    but since you and I are the only ones here at the moment let
    us think about the problem of science journalism and science media
    just in the UK and USA.

    For me the main issue is that science-communication should not "dumb down" or "hype up" but rather it should translate.
    And I think of great explainers like in Victorian England there were these public lectures by greats like J. Priestley and M. Faraday and they would discuss everyday stuff like how magnets and candle flames work, but in a solid respectable scientific way---just in language that the general audience could understand.

    And I think of Carl Sagan and Richard Feynmann and remember Feynmann saying "you dont understand something until you can explain it to [someone you meet at a party or at the bus-stop or your mother or whatever] general audience." A lot of great people have said this. A math teacher named John Kelly said it too, but not many know of him.

    In the US if you turn on Discovery Channel you MAY get semi mystical stuff about the Great Pyramids and the Ancient Mayans.
    The people in control may think that to get RATINGS (to capture large numbers of viewers) they must dumb down and open the floodgates to speculation that verges on pseudoscience and appeals to deeply rooted mystical tendencies which they believe are in the audience.
    Or they hype it up with a lot of Gee Whiz We are Probing the Secrets of the Universe talk. Sci-Pornography. And you also MAY get respectable science journalism!!! I dont know because I rarely sample educational TV and I have always gotten stuff that was too dumbed down to stomach. Meritorious stuff may well exist and I just missed it.

    I think the key to good science journalism is the idea that you are not relaying Authority in a dumbed down version but instead you are TRANSLATING the book of natural philosophy from some obscure language (Greek, Hebrew, Hieroglyphics) into plain English.
    You can assume that your reader does not want an Authoritative Pronouncement telling what he or she should think. You can assume that your reader is just as intelligent as the average scientist but simply doesnt understand their language. If they can read it in plain English they dont need Authority because they can form their own opinions.

    In the long run their is no way to cheat. The scientific enterprise must speak openly and honestly to the public---and reveal mainstream differences of opinion too. (I dont favor giving "equal time" to the fringe, but controversy within the mainstream should not be concealed---in fact it is part of what makes the whole enterprise interesting.)

    Wolram from what you say I guess there isnt a UK science channel or even a biweekly program! This is incredible. I literally cant believe this. Maybe you can clarify, be more detailed. Surely there must be something on BBC about science!

    BTW do you know PhysicsWeb's IOP (institute of physics) magazine called "Physics World"?

    The November 2003 issue is on Quantum Gravity and it has 3 invited articles one by Susskind (superstring) one by Rovelli (loop) and one by Amelino-Camilia (phenomenology, experimental/observational testing).
    Susskind's article, or some version of it, is online at the Physics World site. I havent seen Rovelli's article. It seems like a bright idea on the part of the Physics World editors, whether the articles turned out good or not.
     
  19. Nov 15, 2003 #18
    marcus: Surely there must be something on BBC about science!

    Just one example -
    BBC has a long-running science series called "Horizon". It is similar to the NOVA series.

    BBC Horizon science documentary series --->
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/about.shtml

    a sample of their presentations:

    The Time Lords
    2nd December 1996
    http://www.physics.wustl.edu/~visser/bbc.html

    Supermassive Black Holes
    BBC2 9.00pm Thursday 30th November 2000 --->
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2000/massivebholes.shtml

    Parallel Universes
    BBC Two 9.00pm Thursday 14 February 2002 --->
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2001/paralleluni.shtml
     
  20. Nov 15, 2003 #19

    wolram

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    oh for those xmas lectures, in the uk we have beyond 2000
    that tells us what happend two years ago, i would give my
    eye teeth for a program that is upto date and is educational
    and informative, all people over here talk about is soaps
    they are living in an artificial tv world, to say people
    are ignorant of the real world would be an understatment.
    the only reason i purchased a pc was to get away from
    the goggle box and find out what is going on out there.
    the only problem i can see is presentation ,if science
    could be entertaining as well as truthful up to date and
    on going, then im sure john boy, madge or whoever would
    become the realms of the dreamers, for pity sake please.
    how about PF getting involved with tv? woudnt that be
    fantastic. cue GB.
     
  21. Nov 15, 2003 #20

    wolram

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    QUART, the programs you posted "horizon", are for the
    less well informed or the "gaspers", as to there validity
    as news well thats not true, im sure you would agree that
    99.9% of tv is garbage.
     
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