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Wilczek's and Smolin's books: performance in February

  1. 1.3 of par

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  2. 1.1 as it was on 21 December

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  3. 0.9 of the string benchmark

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  4. 0.7

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  5. 0.5 i.e. half as good as the string topfive average

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  6. 0.3 abysmal

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  1. Dec 21, 2008 #1

    marcus

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    Lightness and Trouble describe current thinking about the most fundamental physics questions--the underlying nature of space and matter. Ten years ago such books might well have emphasized string efforts in that direction. These books do not. They are in that sense post-string popular accounts of fundamental physics.

    How they do on the market is an indicator of how readers see research progressing in deep-foundations physics. It is interesting to track, and check for signs of a shift in public perceptions.

    I will track both books and try to predict how their salesrank ratios do compared to the average salesrank of the five most popular stringy books on any given day. Readings of Amazon salesranks will be at noon pacific time.

    Today 21 December the five most popular stringy books were fabric, elegant hardbound, blackhole, parallel and hyperspace---salesranks 1886, 2347, 2493, 3001, 4006, for a benchmark average of 2746.6.
    Lightness ranked 2506, so the ratio was 1.1---it was doing slightly better than par.
    Trouble ranked 5647, with ratio 0.5---it was performing only about 50 percent of par.

    Let's try to predict the larger of the two ratios as of noon 1 February. I think the larger will be Lightness, so I look at this as forecasting Lightness' ratio. But I could be wrong and Smolin's book might move ahead, so we'll take whichever ratio is larger to allow for that possibility.

    Closest guess wins.
    As a help in predicting, here are past performance ratios:
    https://www.physicsforums.com/showpost.php?p=1986028&postcount=13

    For some reviews and current information here are the Amazon pages for the two books:
    http://www.amazon.com/Lightness-Being-Ether-Unification-Forces/dp/0465003214
    http://www.amazon.com/Trouble-Physics-String-Theory-Science/dp/061891868X

    =======================
    Update:
    As of 22 December both books' ratios were 1.1, they were both doing slightly better than stringy par.
    The five most popular stringies were parallel, blackhole, fabric, elegant hardbound, and hyperspace, with an average rank of 3999.8.
    Smolin's Trouble with Physics ranked 3537 and Wilczek's Lightness of Being ranked 3631.

    This may seem quite ordinary if you didn't happen to notice what happened to string and non-string market share two years ago (2006) at the Christmas season. Right before Christmas it seemed like all the parents were buying their kids string books---or kids were especially asking for Brian Greene and Lisa Randall books. They dominated the physics bestseller list and Smolin's book was temporarily wiped out. This year, in the Christmas present book market, the non-string theory books seem momentarily at least to be holding their own. There's a marked difference.

    Also another straw in the wind: the blackhole book that is doing quite well has nothing about strings until the last quarter, when it talks about applying string to speculating about black holes. I include it with books by, for example, by Brian Greene, but it is not primarily of that genre.
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2008
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  3. Dec 29, 2008 #2

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    For comparison, here are some figures on past performance of the two books
    At noon 29 December Lightness ranked 7485---70% of stringy benchmark---and Trouble was doing slightly better, ranking 6853 or 76% of par.
    The five most popular string books were elegant hardbound, fabric, parallel, blackhole, and hyperspace, with an average rank of 5209.6.
    At noon 30 December Lightness 6970 (0.59) and Trouble 4379 (0.94). The topfive stringies were elegant hardbound, parallel, fabric, blackhole, and hyperspace, with average rank 4113.2.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2008
  4. Dec 31, 2008 #3

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    To eliminate some random fluctuation, I'll be using a fiveday average of noon readings.

    Code (Text):
    Date      Lightness       Trouble
    30 Dec       0.59            0.94
    31 Dec       0.91            0.60
    1 Jan        0.48            0.57
    2 Jan        ...             ...
    3 Jan        ...             ...
     
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2009
  5. Jan 2, 2009 #4

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    Wilczek's The Lightness of Being

    1 October 1.9 (2008)
    1 November 2.2
    1 December 0.8
    1 January 0.6 (2009)

    These are based on noon saleranks, smoothed by averaging over a five-day period around the first of the month to eliminate some random fluctuation.

    Smolin's The Trouble with Physics

    1 January 1.5 (2008)
    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 August 0.4
    1 September 0.8
    1 October 0.4
    1 November 0.6
    1 December 0.6
    1 January 0.6 (2009)

    The fiveday averages for 1 Jan were very close: Lightness 0.648 and Trouble 0.646.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2009
  6. Jan 6, 2009 #5

    marcus

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    Checked in at noon yesterday and today to see how things were going:

    Wilczek's The Lightness of Being

    1 October 1.9 (2008)
    1 November 2.2
    1 December 0.8
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    6 January 1.7
    7 January 0.7

    Smolin's The Trouble with Physics

    1 January 1.5 (2008)
    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 August 0.4
    1 September 0.8
    1 October 0.4
    1 November 0.6
    1 December 0.6
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    6 January 0.7
    7 January 1.0

    On Tuesday, Lightness ranked 4596 and
    the topfive stringies ranked 5504, 5623, 8564, 9191, 11129--average 8002.2.
    They were fabric, elegant hardbound, hyperspace, parallel, blackhole.
    Trouble ranked 11585.
    On Wednesday, Lightness ranked 12793 and
    the topfive stringies ranked 3507, 5762, 6566, 12028, 14639--average 8500.4.
    They were fabric, elegant hardbound, parallel, hyperspace, elegant.
    Trouble ranked 8796.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2009
  7. Jan 8, 2009 #6

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    Wilczek's The Lightness of Being

    1 October 1.9 (2008)
    1 November 2.2
    1 December 0.8
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    6 January 1.7
    7 January 0.7
    8 January 1.2
    9 January 1.2

    Smolin's The Trouble with Physics

    1 October 0.4
    1 November 0.6
    1 December 0.6
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    6 January 0.7
    7 January 1.0
    8 January 1.0
    9 January 0.6

    On Thursday, Lightness ranked 5573 and
    the topfive stringies ranked 3932, 5099, 6843, 8506, 8610---average 6598.0
    They were fabric, parallel, elegant hardbound, blackhole, hyperspace.
    Trouble ranked 6800.
    Today since I may not be able to make the check at noon, provisionally I'll record the 11AM ranks
    Lightness was 6561, Trouble was 12502, stringy average was 7646.4 (eleg.hard., parallel, fabric, blackhole, hyperspace).
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2009
  8. Jan 10, 2009 #7

    marcus

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    Yesterday I got home just in time to record the noon ranks for 9 Jan. The ratios were 1.3 and 0.6, so I can correct the earlier table in one case, and also put in 10 Jan noon readings:

    The Lightness of Being

    1 October 1.9 (2008)
    1 November 2.2
    1 December 0.8
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    6 January 1.7
    7 January 0.7
    8 January 1.2
    9 January 1.3
    10 January 0.9
    11 January 1.5

    The Trouble with Physics

    1 October 0.4
    1 November 0.6
    1 December 0.6
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    6 January 0.7
    7 January 1.0
    8 January 1.0
    9 January 0.6
    10 January 0.8
    11 January 0.5

    On Saturday, Lightness ranked 7190 and Trouble 8091. It is surprising how close these two are running, much of the time lately. Particularly as Trouble came out September 2006 over two years ago and Lightness is new.
    The topfive stringies ranked 1753, 2288, 6430, 9024, 11071---average 6113.2
    They were parallel, elegant hardbound, fabric, elegant, hyperspace.
    It's interesting to see that the black hole book now appears less often in the stringy topfive, and lower in the list when it does.

    As of noon Sunday 11 January, Lightness 4224, Trouble 13074, string topfive average 6463.0, ratios 1.53 and 0.49 rounded to 1.5 and 0.5.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2009
  9. Jan 18, 2009 #8

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    Another bunch of January noon* readings:

    The Lightness of Being

    1 October 1.9 (2008)
    1 November 2.2
    1 December 0.8
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    16 January 0.7
    17 January 0.8
    18 January 1.1

    The Trouble with Physics

    1 October 0.4
    1 November 0.6
    1 December 0.6
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    16 January 0.7
    17 January 0.7
    18 January 0.4

    On Sunday, Lightness ranked 5731 and Trouble 13826.
    The topfive stringies ranked 3258, 3636, 4908, 6626, 12352---average 6156.0
    They were elegant hardbound, parallel, fabric, blackhole, hyperspace.

    *Saturday 17 Jan, reading was at 11 AM pacific time instead of noon because I had to be out.
     
  10. Jan 23, 2009 #9

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    The Lightness of Being

    1 October 1.9 (2008)
    1 November 2.2
    1 December 0.8
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    16 January 0.7
    17 January 0.8
    18 January 1.1
    ...
    23 January 0.4
    24 January 0.7

    The Trouble with Physics

    1 October 0.4
    1 November 0.6
    1 December 0.6
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    16 January 0.7
    17 January 0.7
    18 January 0.4
    ...
    23 January 0.7
    24 January 0.5

    On 24 Jan, the five most popular stringy books were fabric, elegant, parallel, elegant (paperback), cosmic landscape, with average rank 7071.2. Lightness (10781) and Trouble (14505) stood at 0.7 and 0.5 of par.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2009
  11. Jan 26, 2009 #10

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    The Lightness of Being

    1 October 1.9 (2008)
    1 November 2.2
    1 December 0.8
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    16 January 0.7
    17 January 0.8
    18 January 1.1
    ...
    23 January 0.4
    24 January 0.7
    25 January 0.8
    26 January 1.4

    The Trouble with Physics

    1 October 0.4
    1 November 0.6
    1 December 0.6
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    16 January 0.7
    17 January 0.7
    18 January 0.4
    ...
    23 January 0.7
    24 January 0.5
    25 January 0.9
    26 January 0.4

    On 26 Jan, the five most popular stringy books were elegant, parallel, fabric, elegant (paperback), hyperspace, with average rank 8067.0. Lightness (5965) and Trouble (22636) stood at 1.4 and 0.4 of par.
     
  12. Jan 30, 2009 #11

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    By custom, the recorded first of month figures are 5-day noon averages, so I'm checking to see how Wilczek's LoB and Smolin's TwP do on 30 Jan thru 3 Feb.

    LoB
    30 Jan 0.68
    31 Jan 0.37
    1 Feb
    2 Feb
    3 Feb

    TwP
    30 Jan 0.59
    31 Jan 0.72
    1 Feb
    2 Feb
    3 Feb
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2009
  13. Feb 1, 2009 #12

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    LoB
    30 Jan 0.68
    31 Jan 0.37
    1 Feb 0.18
    2 Feb
    3 Feb

    TwP
    30 Jan 0.59
    31 Jan 0.72
    1 Feb 0.73
    2 Feb
    3 Feb

    As of 1 February, the five most popular stringy books were elegant, fabric, idiot guide, parallel, and black hole, ranking 2367, 3164, 7115, 7946 and 8128 for an average of 5744.0.
    Trouble with Physics ranked unexpectedly high at 7915, and so was 70 percent of par.
     
  14. Feb 2, 2009 #13

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    LoB
    30 Jan 0.68
    31 Jan 0.37
    1 Feb 0.18
    2 Feb 0.60
    3 Feb 0.21

    TwP
    30 Jan 0.59
    31 Jan 0.72
    1 Feb 0.73
    2 Feb 0.85
    3 Feb 0.86

    As of 2 February, the five most popular stringy books were fabric, elegant, parallel, elegant paper, hyperspace, ranking 3635, 3929, 5655, 9433, 10416 for an average of 6613.6.
    Trouble with Physics ranked 7772 and stood at 85 percent of par. The preliminary 4-day average for TwP is 0.7 which is what was predicted for the higher of this pair of post-string physics books.

    The fiveday average figure for TwP is 0.75
    and that for LoB is 0.41.
    The higher of the two is 0.75, and that is what was being predicted.

    The Trouble with Physics

    1 October 0.4 (2008)
    1 November 0.6
    1 December 0.6
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    1 February 0.7

    The Lightness of Being

    1 October 1.9 (2008)
    1 November 2.2
    1 December 0.8
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    1 February 0.4
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2009
  15. Mar 2, 2009 #14

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    The Trouble with Physics

    1 October 0.4 (2008)
    1 November 0.6
    1 December 0.6
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    1 February 0.7
    1 March 0.5

    The Lightness of Being

    1 October 1.9 (2008)
    1 November 2.2
    1 December 0.8
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    1 February 0.4
    1 March 0.5

    At noon on 1 March the five most popular string books were elegant, fabric, parallel, idiot guide, and hyperspace with salesranks 2588, 2953, 5023, 6334, 8035 and average 4986.6. Trouble and Lightness ranked 9365 an 9208, and so were 53% and 54% of par.
     
  16. Mar 23, 2009 #15

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    I'm still keeping track of how Trouble and Lightness are doing. As far as I can see they are the only two post-string fundamental physics books for wide audience. So how well they do is a kind of indicator. Has there been any change in public perception, if so how much and how persistent?

    So I looked at the noon rankings yesterday and today.

    Both days Lightness was 0.9 of par, and Trouble was 0.4.
    Just to see how the stringy benchmark stacked up, today the five most popular stringy books were warped, elegant, fabric, hyperspace, parallel ranking 1309, 3051, 3636, 5398, 6880 for an average of 4050.8.

    Lightness ranked 4514, and Trouble 10,151.

    One possibly significant feature is that the string top five are almost always two by Kaku (hyperspace and parallel) and two by Greene (elegant and fabric), plus one other which right now happens to be Lisa Randall's book, Warped Passages. The public's stringy favorites have not undergone any permanent change for a rather long time.
     
  17. Mar 27, 2009 #16

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    Today 27 March, Lightness was 1.2 of par and Trouble (which has tended to slip lately) was 0.3 of par. At least Wilczek's book Lightness of Being seems to be doing all right.
    The makeup of the stringy top five continues to be interesting in a way. The new batch of string books that have come out since 2006 have by and large tended not to take root.

    Here are some examples you'd think might have captured a more lasting share of the market:
    Susskind "String Landscape and the Illusion of Intelligent Design"
    Susskind "Black Hole War"
    Musser "Complete Idiot's Guide to String"
    The Becks' textbook
    Steinhardt Turok popularization of recurrent brane clash cosmology

    There have been many other offerings in the past 3 years, but I happen to remember these. Those that make a temporary splash tend to drop out of sight after not too long. Lisa Randall's book "Warped Passages" comes back strong every time she makes a media appearance, but otherwise drifts down the list.

    So the benchmark top stringy five is almost entirely composed of old favorites. Today it was parallel, fabric, elegant, warped, and hyperspace---ranking 2512, 4255, 4437, 5929, 12362, with an average of 5899.0.

    My intuition is that the academic standing of string research declined considerably after, say, 2006. There was a sharp drop in string citations by scholarly research papers, which we noted at the time. String cosmology also lost its dominance in the field of quantum cosmology (in terms of citations, the top 20 recent papers there are now almost all LQC).

    One might have expected this to be echoed in the popular book market. So far I don't think it has been, at least in any clear way. People are still buying the same two Kaku string books (parallel and hyperspace) and the same two Greene books (elegant and fabric) that they were buying 5 years ago, and in respectable numbers.

    ==============
    As of noon 28 March, Wilczek was doing 1.4 of par and Smolin was at 0.54 of par
    Their salesranks were 3629 and 9390 as compared with stringy topfive average 5095.8.
    The five most popular stringy books were warped, elegant, hyperspace, fabric, and parallel.
    Ranked 3978, 4167, 4961, 5224, and 7149 respectively.

    The Trouble with Physics

    1 October 0.4 (2008)
    1 November 0.6
    1 December 0.6
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    1 February 0.7
    1 March 0.5
    28 March 0.5

    The Lightness of Being

    1 October 1.9 (2008)
    1 November 2.2
    1 December 0.8
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    1 February 0.4
    1 March 0.5
    28 March 1.4
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2009
  18. Mar 29, 2009 #17

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    As of noon 29 March, Wilczek was doing 1.81 of par and Smolin was at 0.70 of par.
    Their salesranks were 2825 and 7338 as compared with stringy topfive average 5123.2.
    The five most popular stringy books (fabric, elegant, warped, parallel and elegant softbound)
    ranked 3112, 3468, 3722, 5050, and 10264 respectively.

    As of noon 30 March, Wilczek's book stood at 2.27 of par and Smolin's was at 0.80 of par.
    Their salesranks were 3765 and 10714 as compared with stringy topfive average 8560.6.
    The five most popular stringy books (elegant, fabric, warped, elegant soft, and parallel)
    ranked 3961, 4902, 8085, 12192, and 13663 respectively.

    The Trouble with Physics

    1 October 0.4 (2008)
    1 November 0.6
    1 December 0.6
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    1 February 0.7
    1 March 0.5
    28 March 0.5
    29 March 0.7
    30 March 0.80

    The Lightness of Being

    1 October 1.9 (2008)
    1 November 2.2
    1 December 0.8
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    1 February 0.4
    1 March 0.5
    28 March 1.4
    29 March 1.8
    30 March 2.27
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2009
  19. Mar 31, 2009 #18

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    Wilczek's standing approaches 4 times string benchmark

    As of noon 31 March, Wilczek's book stood at 3.92 of par and Smolin's was at 0.31 of par.
    Their salesranks were 2154 and 27201 as compared with stringy topfive average 8454.4.
    The five most popular stringy books (fabric, elegant, warped, parallel, and black hole)
    ranked 4409, 6078, 7725, 11949, and 12111 respectively.

    The Lightness of Being

    1 October 1.9 (2008)
    1 November 2.2
    1 December 0.8
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    1 February 0.4
    1 March 0.5
    28 March 1.4
    29 March 1.8
    30 March 2.27
    31 March 3.92
    1 April 1.58

    The Trouble with Physics

    1 October 0.4 (2008)
    1 November 0.6
    1 December 0.6
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    1 February 0.7
    1 March 0.5
    28 March 0.5
    29 March 0.7
    30 March 0.80
    31 March 0.31
    1 April 0.91

    At noon 1 April Wilczek's and Smolin's books stood 1.58 and 0.91 of par, with ranks 4305 and 7490 compared with the string benchmark average of 6822.8. The five most popular stringy books (fabric, elegant, parallel, black hole, and elegant soft) ranked 2674, 3943, 6567, 10314, 10616.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2009
  20. Apr 3, 2009 #19

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    Re: Wilczek's standing approaches 4 times string benchmark

    As of noon 3 April, Wilczek's book stood at 2.76 of par and Smolin's was at 0.60 of par.
    Their salesranks were 2377 and 10938 as compared with stringy topfive average 6552.6.
    The five most popular stringy books (elegant, fabric, parallel, hyperspace, warped)
    ranked 1928, 4371, 4426, 7906, 14132 respectively.

    The Lightness of Being

    1 October 1.9 (2008)
    1 November 2.2
    1 December 0.8
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    1 February 0.4
    1 March 0.5
    28 March 1.4
    29 March 1.8
    30 March 2.27
    31 March 3.92
    1 April 1.58
    2 April 0.88
    3 April 2.76

    1 April* 2.28

    The Trouble with Physics

    1 October 0.4 (2008)
    1 November 0.6
    1 December 0.6
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    1 February 0.7
    1 March 0.5
    28 March 0.5
    29 March 0.7
    30 March 0.80
    31 March 0.31
    1 April 0.91
    2 April 0.28
    3 April 0.88

    1 April* 0.64

    * The first of month figure is always a 5-day average taken around that date.
    This was Gokul's suggestion for eliminating some random fluctuation.
    After rounding off, the updated record now reads:

    The Lightness of Being

    1 October 1.9 (2008)
    1 November 2.2
    1 December 0.8
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    1 February 0.4
    1 March 0.5
    1 April 2.3

    The Trouble with Physics

    1 October 0.4 (2008)
    1 November 0.6
    1 December 0.6
    1 January 0.6 (2009)
    1 February 0.7
    1 March 0.5
    1 April 0.6
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2009
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