Arcadian Functor

occasional meanderings in physics' brave new world

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Marni D. Sheppeard

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Abtruse Goose

The brilliance of Abtruse Goose is apparent in the variety of reactions to the Arguing with String Theorists episode.

Clifford Johnson, a string theorist, casually laughs at the accuracy of the cartoon without appearing to understand it at all. As a result, Peter Woit puts up with idiotic comments about his sex life and of course Lubos Motl also weighs in, patting himself on the back for his PC approval of the girl string theorist (the bitch slapper). Woit laments that nobody else is doing their blogging duty and criticising string theory.

Yes, this is all rather tiresome, isn't it? Since nobody has actually bothered to define String Theory, it clearly encompasses any successful theoretical predictions that might appear in the next few decades. Why are people complaining? If they were serious about changing the culture of theoretical physics, they would do something about it. Oh, but hang on a minute ... That might require actually taking risks and displaying courage. Well, we won't be holding our breath then. Obama can't be expected to sort out this mess on his own.


Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

Kea, you are right. The actual attempt to define string theory would sooner or later force return to the roots. Methods are not enough.

There are so many questions which are not even touched.

Should one integrate somehow over different spontaneous compactifications? Or does the notion of spontaneous compactification make sense at all? Is there something deeper behind spontaneous compactification, could this something be unique and could non-compactified and compactified theories provide only alternative manners to see the situation?

Are fundamental objects really 1-D? Could strings emerge from something deeper: slicing of space-time to 2-D stringy world sheets, extended string like objects,...?

How does the dimension for of observed space-time emerge at the fundamental level? Are standard model symmetries really something random or actually something very deep also mathematically.

What about Higgs mechanism: does Higgs expectation value really make particles massive or is Higgs expectation only a correlate for gauge boson mass scale determined by some deeper mechanism? What about CP breaking and matter antimatter asymmetry? What about dark matter? What about biology? What about the relationship between experienced time and physicist's geometric time? Could it be that our belief that we understand something about these problems be an illusion? ...

What about the mathematical and conceptual structure of fundamental theory? Should Eintein's geometrization program be extended to infinite-D context? Should one introduce additional principles. What about number theoretical universality allowing to integrate real and various p-adic physics to single coherent whole? What about first principle formulation for the notion of measurement resolution? ....

Should we question the basic mathematical structures of quantum theory itself. von Neumann found three different algebras allowing to construct quantum theory: factors of type I and III are taken for granted but what about factors of type II, which could be extremely relevant concerning solution of divergence difficulties? Is Planck constant really constant? Is our notion of physical state only an approximate one? ...

And then the last but not the least could-be. Could it be useful for a theoretician in CERN, Princeton, or Harward to bother to read what those less lucky ones have written? Just to check whether they really are crackpots?

February 07, 2009 4:30 PM  
Blogger CarlBrannen said...

May as well link to the Abstruse cartoon on arguing with a string theorist.

As far as the cartoon goes, I don't believe in background independence and so don't feel like criticizing string theory over that.

February 07, 2009 8:13 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

What did the string theorist say when caught by his wife in bed with another woman?

"I can explain everything!"

When the evidence is insurmountable that the speed of light changes, they will claim that some variant of string theory predicts it.

February 08, 2009 7:09 AM  

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