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Wilczek's Lightness and other indices

  1. Apr 11, 2009 #1

    marcus

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    Wilczek's "Lightness" and other indices

    Wilczek's "Lightness of Being" gives an up-to-date non-string vision of fundamental physical reality and the ongoing effort to understand it. First published in 2008, it is currently the most visible post-string foundations book for general audience. I keep track of its performance in the market as an indicator of a possible shift in how theoretical physics is perceived by the reading public.

    The benchmark I use for comparison is the average Amazon salesrank of the five currently most popular stringy books, at noon on the day in question.

    For example on 10 April the five most popular stringies (elegant, hyperspace, fabric, parallel, warped) ranked 1808, 4069, 4235, 4770, 9452, for an average of 4866.8. Lightness ranked 3540, so it was doing slightly better than par. The ratio was 1.4.

    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
    10 April 1.4
    11 April 1.1

    On 11 April, to take another example, the topfive stringies (elegant, fabric, hyperspace, parallel, and elegant paperback) ranked 2294, 2979, 3711, 4374, and 9637 for an average of 4599.0. Lightness ranked 4136. So the ratio was 1.1---Wilczek's book was again slightly above par.
    It hasn't always done this well. As you can see it experienced a slump, relative to the string benchmark, from around Christmas thru the first of March.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2009
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  3. Apr 11, 2009 #2

    marcus

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    Re: Wilczek's "Lightness" and other indices

    Another "sociological" index I keep track of is the number of papers published quarterly and by year, with keywords superstring, M-theory, brane, compactification, heterotic, AdS/CFT, as listed by the Harvard abstract service.

    These links fetch research published in the first three months of 2007, 2008, and 2009:

    2007: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/n...txt_wgt=YES&ttl_sco=YES&txt_sco=YES&version=1

    2008: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/n...txt_wgt=YES&ttl_sco=YES&txt_sco=YES&version=1

    2009: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/n...txt_wgt=YES&ttl_sco=YES&txt_sco=YES&version=1

    1519, 1380, 998

    The count for first quarter 2009 is preliminary and will most likely increase. I will update it in a few weeks. Even allowing for some late additions, we may be seeing a downward trend.

    Another indicator to watch is the Stanford database Spires topcites list, that comes out every year. This ranks papers in high energy physics and astrophysics according to how often they have been cited during a given year. Of particular interest are the recent papers: those that have been published in, say, the past five years. I've reported on this from time to time. To bring us up to date, compare the "Top 50" Spires listings for 2002 and 2008.

    2002:
    http://www.slac.stanford.edu/spires/topcites/2002/annual.shtml

    2008:
    http://www.slac.stanford.edu/spires/topcites/2008/annual.shtml

    I will just look at the top 30 papers on each list and see how many recent stringy papers make the cut in each case. In 2002, recent means published in the five-year period 1998-2002, and in 2008 it means the corresponding period 2004-2008.

    In 2002, there were eleven recent stringy papers that made the top 30, and in 2008 there were none.

    If you would like to check the lists out, the eleven papers on the 2002 list were numbers 2, 4, 6, 7, 10, 13, 14, 16, 19, 25, 29.
    There were, as I said, no recent string papers in the 2008 top thirty, which represents a noteworthy change from, for instance, 2002.
    Citations give some measure of how important or valuable the researchers themselves rate the recent work in their own field.

    I would tend to expect citations to act as a leading indicator. To change earlier than gross research output (number of papers published per year) and than public perceptions.

    =================
    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
    10 April 1.4
    11 April 1.1
    12 April 1.3

    On 12 April, to take another example, the topfive stringies (parallel, elegant, fabric, hyperspace, and elegant paper) ranked 1981, 2047, 2683, 4468, and 5245 for an average of 3284.8. Lightness ranked 2558. So the ratio was 1.3---Wilczek's book again doing slightly better than string par.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2009
  4. Apr 14, 2009 #3

    marcus

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    Re: Wilczek's "Lightness" and other indices

    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
    10 April 1.4
    11 April 1.1
    12 April 1.3
    14 April 2.3

    On 14 April (noon as usual) the topfive stringies (elegant, fabric, parallel, hyperspace, and idiot guide) ranked 1650, 2613, 3643, 5898, 7935 for an average of 4347.8. Lightness ranked 1863. So the ratio was 2.3---Wilczek's book again doing about twice as good as the average string topfiver.
    It is worth noting, i think, that the only new stringy title in the top five is Idiot Guide, which has quite a lot about Loop Quantum Gravity. It actually discusses several non-string quantum gravity approaches: LQG, CDT, causal sets. One can browse the book online. Do a search for keywords "loop theory" and read many of the pages that come up. One could argue about the accuracy but at least several approaches are presented in a reasonably favorable light. This may turn out to be the key to getting a book into good salesrank territory---don't make it only about string---make it comparative: pros and cons advantages disadvantages etc.

    Maybe. I'm on the lookout for signs of shifting public perception.

    BTW the Harvard stringy publication numbers for the first quarter of 2008 and 2009 are not stable, although they seem to show a downtrend. The 2007 first quarter figure seems stable. Currently the figures are 1519, 1400, 992.

    As I mentioned, recent stringy papers represented 11 of the Stanford topcites top thirty in 2002 and zero in 2008. Because citations are sensitive to what is happening within the community, I'm expecting this to serve as a leading indicator, followed by a downtrend in stringy publication (which we may already be seeing) and later on followed by a downturn in public interest, or perhaps a shift of public interest towards some newer non-string ideas of fundamental physical reality.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2009
  5. Apr 16, 2009 #4

    marcus

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    Re: Wilczek's "Lightness" and other indices

    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
    10 April 1.4
    11 April 1.1
    12 April 1.3
    14 April 2.3
    15 April 3.2
    16 April 3.8
    17 April 1.4

    On 16 April the top five stringies (elegant, fabric, parallel, hyperspace, and elegant paper) ranked 2540, 3002, 5606, 9343, 19171 for an average of 7932.4. Lightness ranked 2107. So the ratio was 3.8---Wilczek's book again doing nearly 4 times par ( 4 times as good as the average string topfiver, used here as a benchmark.)

    On 17 April elegant, fabric, parallel, hyperspace, and elegant paper ranked 1925, 3571, 4883, 8044, 13202 for an average of 6345.0. Lightness ranked 4630---1.4 of par.

    To keep the links handy for the Harvard abstracts and Spires database:

    2007: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/n...txt_wgt=YES&ttl_sco=YES&txt_sco=YES&version=1
    2008: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/n...txt_wgt=YES&ttl_sco=YES&txt_sco=YES&version=1
    2009: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/n...txt_wgt=YES&ttl_sco=YES&txt_sco=YES&version=1
    1519, 1400, 992 (publications with keywords superstring, M-theory, brane, heterotic, or compactification)

    2002: http://www.slac.stanford.edu/spires/topcites/2002/annual.shtml
    Eleven recent string papers in top 30.
    2008: http://www.slac.stanford.edu/spires/topcites/2008/annual.shtml
    Zero recent string papers in top 30.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2009
  6. Apr 22, 2009 #5

    marcus

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    Re: Wilczek's "Lightness" and other indices

    First quarter publication figures for three consecutive years:
    2007: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/n...txt_wgt=YES&ttl_sco=YES&txt_sco=YES&version=1
    2008: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/n...txt_wgt=YES&ttl_sco=YES&txt_sco=YES&version=1
    2009: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/n...txt_wgt=YES&ttl_sco=YES&txt_sco=YES&version=1
    1534, 1406, 1109 (publications with keywords superstring, M-theory, brane, heterotic, or compactification)

    The impression of a downtrend in publication rate persists.
    Anecdotal indications: Cumrun Vafa and Petr Horava are both known for their prominent stringy research. In both cases their most recent papers are non-string. It's not hard to think of other notable examples.
     
  7. Apr 29, 2009 #6

    marcus

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    Re: Wilczek's "Lightness" and other indices

    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
    29 April 0.846
    30 April 0.383

    To get the first-of-month figure I normally average several consecutive days. Publication rates for the first quarter seem to have stabilized, but there still may be some latecomers.

    2007: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/n...txt_wgt=YES&ttl_sco=YES&txt_sco=YES&version=1
    2008: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/n...txt_wgt=YES&ttl_sco=YES&txt_sco=YES&version=1
    2009: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/n...txt_wgt=YES&ttl_sco=YES&txt_sco=YES&version=1
    1534, 1406, 1110 (publications with keywords superstring, M-theory, brane, heterotic, or compactification)
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2009
  8. May 1, 2009 #7

    marcus

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    Re: Wilczek's "Lightness" and other indices

    Amazon salesrank indices:

    The Trouble with Physics (came out September 2006)

    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
    1 May 0.6

    The Lightness of Being (came out August 25, 2008)

    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
    29 April 0.846
    30 April 0.383
    1 May 0.224
    2 May 2.025


    The decline in research publication:
    First quarter publication rates for the last three years 2007-2009: 1534, 1406, 1110 (keywords: superstring, M-theory, brane, heterotic, compactification)

    The drop-off in citations to recent papers:
    2002: http://www.slac.stanford.edu/spires/topcites/2002/annual.shtml
    Recent (1998-2002) string papers in top 30 of the 2002 citations ranking: 11
    2008: http://www.slac.stanford.edu/spires/topcites/2008/annual.shtml
    Recent (2004-2008) string papers in top 30 of the 2008 citations ranking: 0

    As of noon 1 May the five most popular string books (fabric, elegant, hyperspace, elegant paper, parallel) ranked 2102, 2519, 4041, 6222, 8522 for an average of 4681.2. Smolin's book, for example, ranked 7708, so the ratio was 0.61.

    As of noon 2 May the five most popular string books (elegant, parallel, fabric, hyperspace, fabric hardbound) ranked 1561, 2081, 2154, 7161, 8237 for an average of 4238.8. Wilczek's book ranked 2093, so it was performing at about twice par. Better than the string benchmark average by a factor of about two.

    Hard to believe that Smolin's book has been out since September 2006, but it has. Here's the page for the hardbound edition, which hit the market first.
    https://www.amazon.com/Trouble-Physics-String-Theory-Science/dp/0618551050/
    In case anyone wants to check out the page for Wilczek's book:
    https://www.amazon.com/Lightness-Being-Ether-Unification-Forces/dp/B0023RT00E/
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  9. May 3, 2009 #8

    marcus

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    Re: Wilczek's "Lightness" and other indices

    I did a five-day average because the Lightness number is erratic and jumps around a lot.
    Today 3 May it was 0.956 so the fiveday average around 1 May was 0.887, rounding to 0.9

    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
    1 May 0.9

    Lightness ranked 4953. The stringy top five were elegant, fabric, parallel, hyperspace, and elegant paper, with average rank 4733.6.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2009
  10. May 21, 2009 #9

    marcus

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    Re: Wilczek's "Lightness" and other indices

    I'm on the lookout for indices that may signal the growth of more options, inclusiveness, balance in QG research, decline in string dominance, increased public awareness etc.

    I'm plannning to watch the sales performance of Oriti's collection of essays on QG "Approaches". It is an example of a balanced book. Chapters by string experts and chapters by LQG experts. The success of a book of this sort would signal the end of a kind of "string war" dominance and hostility to non-string approaches. Have a look at the table of contents! You can browse the book here:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Approaches-Quantum-Gravity-Toward-Understanding/dp/0521860458

    Another indicator would be when the large international conferences have a more inclusive representation.

    Another is decline in string research publication. Here's for the first three months of three successive years:
    2007: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/n...txt_wgt=YES&ttl_sco=YES&txt_sco=YES&version=1
    2008: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/n...txt_wgt=YES&ttl_sco=YES&txt_sco=YES&version=1
    2009: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/n...txt_wgt=YES&ttl_sco=YES&txt_sco=YES&version=1
    1536, 1412, 1177 (publications with keywords superstring, M-theory, brane, heterotic, or compactification)

    The drop-off in citations to recent string papers:
    2002: http://www.slac.stanford.edu/spires/topcites/2002/annual.shtml
    Recent (1998-2002) string papers in top 30 of the 2002 citations ranking: 11
    2008: http://www.slac.stanford.edu/spires/topcites/2008/annual.shtml
    Recent (2004-2008) string papers in top 30 of the 2008 citations ranking: 0
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2009
  11. May 21, 2009 #10

    atyy

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    Re: Wilczek's "Lightness" and other indices

    I kinda read Wilczek book as hoping the LHC would discover supersymmetry. If so, wouldn't that actually stimulate stringy research, since supersymmetry is a prediction of string theory?
     
  12. May 21, 2009 #11

    marcus

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    Re: Wilczek's "Lightness" and other indices

    It would greatly re-invigorate stringy research. Which would be fine.
    And it would do a lot more than that, I expect.

    Major revolution. I believe you understand the possible consequences better than I do. But I find the prospect of seeing SUSY very exciting.

    In the meanwhile I feel an urge to keep track of what is going on. The most marked development I've seen recently is the emergence of string/non-string parity on programs of international conferences, workshops, schools.
     
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