String Theory: peace in our time?

  1. These days the forum and blog spheres are full of harsh criticisms directed at String theory. Indeed, I have been guilty of this behaviour myself. Many of these outbursts have been delivered by people that know absolutely nothing about current thinking in String theory, but are perhaps miffed by the prevailing String attitude that no one else knows anything.
    I have thought about this issue, tried to see things from the String theory point of view, and have come to an interesting (at least IMHO) decision. It is now clear to me that from a String perspective everything in the Third Road, or in any viable model, should be engulfed by the big String blanket. When String theorists tell me that I'm actually doing String theory, they really mean it. And their reasons for thinking this aren't unreasonable, because the terrifying devil in the details is glaring at us all with blazing eyes, talking gerbes one minute and spin foam models the next. Just look at what John Baez and Urs Schreiber are doing.
    So the decision is this: from this day forward I shall endeavour to consider myself a String theorist. I'm quite serious. Fear not that the revolution is being abandonned. I am simply joining those who feel that it is time to move it inside the city walls.
    The cynical reader might conclude that I am simply considering my future job prospects! To you, I point out that (a) keas don't play those sort of sports, (b) I live in a String free part of the world anyway and (c) anyone who knows me knows that my creativity in the pastime of destruction of job prospects is Olympian.
    This decision hereby gives me the right to think anyone else is an idiot.
    Kea :devil:
  2. jcsd
  3. marcus

    marcus 24,229
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    there is something wrong with the adjective.

    ingenious destruction of one's job prospects should properly be called Promethean, not Olympian.

    Boundless, legendary, Titanic (as the Titans were unruly rebels who defied the gods of Olympus) can't quite think of it. Demonic?
  4. Yes, Marcus! You are exactly right. Fortunately I don't believe in eternal Hades so the liver eating is restricted to a lifespan and the circling vultures are as harmless as those in the Zoroastrian sky.

  5. Chronos

    Chronos 10,349
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    If string theory is the catch all, irrefutable theory of everything, you are correct. On the other hand, if category theory is an irrefutable theory of something actually testable... it might be a better idea to ride that horse.
  6. I propose that we each unilaterally declare a truce. We are interested, all of us, I believe, in seeing what can be known of fundamental truths. Our name definitions are hardly crisp. Call it string or loop or foam or cats or whatever works for you, I will try to understand your meaning. I am even willing to consider that evolution is an illusion. Lets just concentrate on presenting our evidence.

    We are clearly engaged in an ongoing process of some kind, and each has something to contribute. If there is to be a new order, it is hardly likely to be any more tightly defined and controlled than was the old order. In fact, chaos theory leads me to the conclusion that the more tightly defined and controlled a system is, the more likely it is to achieve catastrophic system-wide failure. Strength, and the ability to survive this not-too-friendly universe, comes from diversity, not monoculture. We can join together and cooperate without surrendering Identity.

    Let us be well, and help each other if we can.


  7. marcus

    marcus 24,229
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    as a small-time observer of the QG scene I value the chance to report and comment.

    If I ever see category theory gobble up string (as some have imagined it might, whatever that means) I will be eager to report that. Or conversely if string appears to gobble up category theory as Kea pictures happening.

    It is not clear to me what that might mean either way, but if I recognize it happening i will try to accurately report.

    In the meanwhile I try to follow a newspaperreporter-cum-librarian ethic
    (would be pretentious to imagine oneself in a diplomat role, we small players don't negotiate)

    Right now I see an amazing case of COOPERATION, between two major young figures: Nima (string harvard) and Laurent Freidel (foam perimeter waterloo). It is about 3D and doubly special rel.

    Laurent would be an enormous catch if they could get him to come to harvard even for a visiting prof. for a year. he is one of the absolute top in non-string QG.

    To be accurate I must report both cases of sharp conflict and cases of cooperation. To not report is to fail the enterprise in the only thing that I can do.

    Also we have a refugee problem as growing numbers find they are not needed in string and cannot make research progress, these people may want to know the map to find their way into other fields. this is not conflict but it is also something to report.
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2005
  8. marcus

    marcus 24,229
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    Hi Kea, please give an example of "harsh". what I hear around here is what I would call pretty mild if not bland. what we do is simply ignore string-biz for the most part and try to do an adequate job following Loll-triangulations (CDT) and Reuter-assymptotically-safe-QEG and the Freidel Rovelli spin foam developments. God knows that is hard enough.

    I gave a link to the July Toronto conference video and took considerable care to emphasize what I thought were admirable statements by Andy Strominger. Anyone who thought it would help to be "harsh" could have talked about a bunch other things. I do not think your "harsh" characterization applies very accurately to PF, at least this forum.
  9. optimist

    Hi there,

    peace? I don't think there is war. The question is, what does string theory aim at. You ask me, string theory is an absolutely beautiful theory which extends the point-particle-view in a necessary way. That does not mean, that string theory is able to be the TOE (I dont think it is). But I do think, that whatever the TOE is, it will need to have a big bunch of similairities with ST.

    Seeing it that way, ST is a language to describe some part of nature, probably not the only way, and maybe no more fundamentally predictable than the knowledge that the Standard Model is a Yang Mills theory predicts the gauge groups.

    I just cant understand why there should be a black-or-white view and sometimes the arrogance of string theorist's as well as that of proclaimed non-string-theorist's seems to me the biggest problem which avoids any progress.

    Sorry, can not resist the temptation

    Let no one build walls to divide us
    Walls of hatred nor walls of stone
    Come greet the dawn and stand beside us
    We'll live together or we'll die alone

    (The Internationale)

    PS: It took some unpleasant surprises before I found out that in the US 'international' does mean, well, inside the US. In contrast to this, 'international' in the above should mean worldwide.
  10. Oh, Chronos! Please don't misunderstand me: I'm on the Category Theory horse all the way!

  11. What about some of the things Peter Woit (not to mention Juan R) says?! I know he's not around here much, but he is a fairly prominent blogger.
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2005
  12. marcus

    marcus 24,229
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    hossi thank you for those words from the"International" I will get the French and German words

    Kea I am delighted to be reassured that you are on the Category Horse all the way. clarity above all. and forthrightness. in the long run I feel sure, as you do, that you are riding a winner.

    I just want to see a quantum law of gravity that WORKS before it is abstracted into something more beautiful

    About "harsh" in fact I find that extreme statements on any side of the argument are SELF-DISCREDITING and that it is educational for everybody to hear what KIND of people come in here and deliver various pronouncements.

    You mention JuanR. Notice that he does not ever promote LQG or spinfoam or CDT (QG approaches which interest me). At least I never heard him do that. He defies everybody in sight with grand impartiality. You cannot make a truce with such a critic. He is on no one's "side". You are certainly right that some of Juan's statements are harsh, they are also sometimes self-defeating because they are too extreme, dogmatic, and undocumented. But I think his contribution is highly ATYPICAL and also educational. If one listens carefully one can learn from Juan about the need to not be dogmatic, to not be always on the attack, to not make too many statements unsupported by links. So in the end I think his hot-tempered remarks DO NOT HARM anyone. and maybe they actually teach us valuable lessons. This is just my private opinion however.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2005
  13. marcus

    marcus 24,229
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    hossi, it seems that the lines you quoted were written by Billy Bragg in 1990.
    they are very far from being a translation of the original song. this is not good or bad but
    it is more a case of NEW LYRICS vintage 1990 to an OLD TUNE.

    the original poem was written in 1871 by Eugene Pottier
    the translation into German in 1910 by Emil Luckhardt

    orig. French:

    German transl.

    BTW I do not much like it as a poem. I think the American union song called
    "Solidarity Forever" has better words. just my personal opinion

    If anyone is interested in the new Billy Bragg words, go here and scroll far down the page, past the official UK and USA and Canadian versions of the song
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2005
  14. Chronos

    Chronos 10,349
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    We need more people like Smolin [and Kea] who want to join forces, not stake themselves to 'sacred' turf and defend it to the death. It's hard to imagine any correct theory of QG that would not submit to both ST and CAT treatments.
  15. hey Kea...

    pardon my ignorance but as non technically as you possibly can, could you give us a rundown on category theory, what some of it's predictions are and how it ties into string theory and the background dependence thing ???

  16. If Kea can't offer anything herself, perhaps she knows of a very simple category theories for dummies paper somewhere. I've looked for Lawvere and a few others she has mentioned, but I've yet to come up with anything that is non technical. Or better yet, gives some deeper metaphysical justification for category being ultimate - like the sort of arguments that used to bandied about for set theory.

    Anything on this site for a start?

    Cheers - John McCrone.
  17. Dear me, boys. Can't we just meet for coffee? I do try.

    Kea :smile:
  18. Hey, I'm all for working togheter.
    I've never understood people like Lubos Motl (on the string side) or Juan R. (on whatever side) who just ridicule away people who work on approaches that do not seem proper to them. Altough I'm a string guy, this is not an informed descission, it's just what I'm studying right now. And learning alot of mathematics and QFT along the way :biggrin: . I'll make up my mind later when I've been able to study all these things.

    I think any approach is worth-while, it's not like there is a clear path to take (experiments?) with QG. I'm with Gerard 't Hooft, let's just let everybody stumble along and in the end we'll get it!
  19. marcus

    marcus 24,229
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    may actually be the best philosophy of all

    (as an observer on the sideline I don't need to take a position about what is the best strategy---the actual research people decide how they place their bets---I watch because it is an interesting time in physics history and not because they need my advice! but if I WERE one of them I think I might find Dimitri's simple sketch of an argument persuasive for multiple lines of attack----I might even be currently working on more than one line of investigation myself, if I had the good fortune to be able to do this. But I would not necessarily try to MERGE approaches at this point. it would be too likely to produce a collage of the worst aspects of each.)
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2005
  20. Typical but 'impartial' argument. Why do not also emphasize that String theorists critize other theories without knowledge. It is well known that Lubos Motl writes reviews of books that newer read with "I do not recomend this book because this guy is not a string theorist and, therefore, it is a stupid mo-on" This attitide is rather extended between string community. Some call it sect.

    Hum! There is not string theory and that people has done during decades has been to modify string theory, very often taking parts of other theories. If you can write a theory where absolutely nothing is defined, then...

    String theory is a "theory" with strings and without strings, with commutative geometry and without it, with 26, 10, 11, or 4 dimensions, reversible and irreversible, unitary and nonunitary, etc, etc.

    Only two decades ago almost all string theorists claimed IN PUBLIC that LQG was acomplete nonsense (i still remember very hard discussion on the Wiki). Now Vafa and others string theorists are claiming that LQG, if correct, may be part of string theory. and they do emphasis on the 'if'

    If LQG gravity is correct then it will be introduced into a NEW version of string theory, if it is not then will be newer introduced. It is very easy do this kind of research where your theory is not defined and you can modify it when you need either by experimental need of by theoretical consistency.

    What string theorists do not publicy is that they call string theory to everything.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2005
  21. I consider that none of current approaches to quantum gravity is correct. By this reason i am working in my own approach.
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