There's Gold in the Landscape

By cjohnson | March 18, 2006 9:44 pm

I return you to regular physics programming here on CV with a brief summary for our non-experts of some of the [screaming and shouting] passionate, informed debate that usually takes place whenever I do a post on string theory…..

String theory (or whatever it will be called when we figure out what it actually is) is a work in progress. It is an attempt to formulate the physics which will help us understand Nature at a level well beyond that at which we understand it now. Among the things we hope that such a theory will tell us about are:

  • The quantum physics of spacetime. Nature is at its heart quantum mechanical, yet we don’t yet know what happens when we combine quantum physics with the physics of spacetime (phenomena such as black holes, vacuum energy, the nature of the very early universe, (and possibly more things we just have not realized yet!) depend on us understanding this);
  • The connections between gravity and the other forces of Nature (lots to say here too…..much overlap with the other bullet points’s parenthetical remarks);
  • The physical origin of several unexplained patterns and mysteries in our current models of particle physics (the matter/anti-matter imbalance, the origin of mass, the weakness of gravity, why three similar families of matter particles?, Why are “force” particles and “matter” particles so different from each other anyway?);
  • The structure and evolution of our universe (Dark Energy and Dark Matter, which make up a whole 96% (or so) of our entire universe!…..what the Dickens are they? See several posts here on CV on these constituents of our universe.)….

….and several other questions that I don’t want to go into here, otherwise it stops being of benefit to non-experts…. (I also won’t go into all of the excellent things string theory has been useful for in our potental understanding other things about Nature, such as the nature of the Strong Nuclear force, why you never see a quark all on its own (“confinement”), etc…..)

Ok. So where are we?

Well, string theory is very complicated. It may well be that all we’ve worked out about it so far, over quite a few years, is just a tiny fraction of the whole story.

Maybe when we have the story worked out, we’ll have a big party in celebration of all that we learn about Nature from it. Or, we’ll see that it’s just the wrong story. Nobody knows whether or not this is the case. We need to work it out in order to know. Another perfectly fine possibility is that string theory tells us about *some* of the list of physics issues above, but not all of it.

In an effort to understand if the theory makes contact (or even has a chance to make contact) with Nature, many have attempted to extract physical scenarios, corresponding to our world, from the theory. Many of these scenarios are difficult to extract. They are often called “solutions” of the theory, in a (partial) analogy to finding solutions to a set of equations in an exercise in high school algebra. (Caveat: The analogy is only partial, because it is not clear if we really have all of the equations yet. This bit is important to remember!)

Workers in the field have found that (keep the above caveat in mind) there are apparently very very many solutions, making up a whole “landscape” of possibilities. (See my earlier, more technical post on this.)

So somewhere in that apparently vast landscape of (possible) string theory solutions, one of them might just correspond to Nature.

The big questions (in this context) for our field right now are:

  • Is there a dynamical (or other physical) principle we’re missing that will help us find the One Solution? (In other words, maybe all those solutions aren’t solutions.)
  • Must we appeal to other means of selecting the correct solution? (This is where arguments about things like the “Anthropic Principle” begin. See that earlier post and its discussion thread, and several others.)
  • Will we just end up choosing a “solution” by hand and see if there’s still interesting science to be done, post-pick? (In other words, use observation/experiment to guide you in determining some parts of the solution (“fitting some parameters to the data”) , and then the theory makes predictions about the rest of the physics.) A perfectly sensible possibility that seems to get forgotten in these discussions, despite the fact that it happens all over the rest of science!)
  • Or is it totally random, there’s nothing further to be understood, and string theorists are not doing science any more?

All good questions. Nobody knows the answers, but several people have strong opinions in various directions. Meanwhile, research continues. Excellent.

While we wait for the answers, here’s some hope:

desert gold

Ok. I’ll come clean now:

This was all a ruse to do one of my irregular posts in a series of weekend botanical/gardening pictures. The above is something I saw yesterday. Possibly my favourite photograph from the entire trip “off-planet“. This plant is often called “Desert Gold”. I do think that it resonates rather nicely with the physics issues too though, so I hope it helped form a picture in your mind of what people are up to in the research.

(I find myself wondering: Why do I not have any of these types of flower in my garden? Must look into getting seeds for them.)

-cvj

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Gardening, Science
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  • Elliot

    Clifford,

    Thank you for this post. It is very helpful for us laypeople to once in a while get a simple overview of where things are without the technical issues overwhelming the discourse.

    Hope the flower blooms in your garden

    Elliot

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Elliot:- It’s a pleasure… and thanks.

    -cvj

  • Matt B.

    At the risk of wasting everyones time…

    On my favorite new math blog, it was mentioned that “We can’t tell when something complicated is minimal.”

    I won’t pretend to understand pertubation theory and the maths that are used to explore string theory, but I wonder: if a a solution is found, will this idea come to bear on it? If we find the solution (or the equation) to string theory, will there be another theory that can simplify things further?

    Please tell me if I am way off in la la land…

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Matt B. It’s an interesting question. I don’t know the answer. Usually, we worry about that once we’ve found a theory and understood it a lot better. Take the case of GR, for example. There are several ways of making it “non-minimal” in a number of senses… but this was best understood well after the fact of its formulation.

    Cheers,

    -cvj

  • Marty Tysanner

    Hi Clifford,

    Something you wrote,

    … Nature is at its heart quantum mechanical, …

    touches on a question that is important to me. How do we really know that quantum mechanics is fundamental in nature, or just emergent? I don’t think this question has an obvious answer, so I would appreciate any insight. I asked this question to the professor for the QFT course I am taking this quarter (he is a well known string theorist, very knowledgeable) and his response was basically that

    (a) the fantastic success of quantum mechanics and the lack of any productive ideas about its origin led most people to stop asking “why quantum mechanics?”

    (b) there are exceptions to the generally held view that QM is fundamental; he mentioned that ‘t Hooft believes QM is emergent and has invested some real effort in developing this idea.

    Since string theory and other popular approaches to quantum gravity take quantum theory as a starting point, this question seems very relevant. (If the assumption ultimately turns out to be incorrect, it probably will inhibit progress toward a fundamental theory, since the precursor phenomena would be overlooked.) Certainly any theoretical approach must assume some things as “given” and see where the resulting theory leads, so I’m not arguing that assuming fundamental quantization is an indefensible choice. On the other hand, my observation has been that in in classes and elsewhere it is rarely emphasized that nobody really knows whether quantum mechanics is emergent. And if this possibility is not pointed out as a genuine possiblity, few budding physicists may think it worthy of consideration in developing a new theory. And then we might end up with a situation where anthropic reasoning takes hold as the ultimate “explanation” for why our universe corresponds to one of a vast number of possible points on some string theory landscape, rather than entertaining the possibility that a key assumption may have been incorrect…

  • Ruth Ellen

    Do you know the scientific name for California Gold? Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers & Native Plants, Inc. in Sun Valley – http://www.theodorepayne.org – may have the seeds.

  • http://1034:Incorrectkeyfilefortableusers;trytorepairit sisyphus

    I’m still aspiring to non-expert level in my own snail-pace way, but I do appreciate the clarity with which you express yourself.

    I have only intuition to go on, but I’d put my money on the undiscovered (or simply unnoticed) principle(s).

    The flower’s a wonderful metaphor for many things human. The world, like that desert, is beautiful but very cruel. It’s a miracle that we survived those first few million years. ‘Hope’, you say.. Some say that hope is a kind of madness. The Catholics’ Angel of Hope even visits those in Hell – those who have no cause to hope. I wonder if our prehistoric forebears had hope.. or if they were driven on by something simply instinctual that in the modern context we experience as hope.

    Regards.

  • http://www.pieterkok.com/index.html PK

    Marty,

    One reason we believe that the world is quantum mechanical is that if you try to formulate certain classical model of quantum mechanics, you can derive so-called Bell inequalities, after the Irish physicist John Bell. Experiments have shown that Nature violates these Bell inequalities.

    In a nutshell, it works like this: consider a source that creates entangled states. We can measure each particle individually in different bases. Call the observables with these eigenbases A and B and A’ and B’ for the two particles, respectively. If quantum mechanics has a classical foundation, meaning there are hidden variables that account for the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics, then you can derive that certain functions of expectation values of of A and B and A’ and B’ must be bounded by 2. As I said, experiments have shown that Nature violates this bound. There are some loopholes that haven’t been ruled out yet, but most people believe that they do not affect the violation. In fact, a violation of a Bell inequality is nowadays often used to show that a source produces an entangled state.

    Of course, this does not rule out the possibility that Nature is not quantum at all, and that there is an underlying theory of which emergent phenomena are described by QFT. But that underlying theory cannot be classical in the sense described above. Therefore, the emergent version of ‘t Hooft’s quantum mechanics would not be based on any classical theory as we understand it.

  • http://electrogravity.blogspot.com/ Science

    They were going to name the flower “Desert Iron Pyrites”, but then they decided “Desert Gold” is more romantic 😉

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    I agree with Marty. Of course, as explained by PK, the Bell inequalities rule out any ‘naive’ attempts to construct a deterministic theory. But it is certainly possible for a classical theory to explain quantum mechanics.

    The proof that it can be done is to consider a classical computer simulating the Schrödinger equation including the observers. The computer would then operate according to local deterministic laws. The physical world that the simulated observers would see is a world described by quantum mechanics.

    Only when you attempt to describe the workings of the computer in terms of the emergent laws of physics experienced by the virtual observers will you encounter problems. Bells theorem implies that you must encounter nonlocalities. However, in this example, the notion of locality the observers use is itself an emergent phenomena. This could also be the case for the real universe.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Marty,

    It is a nice possibility, but nobody has made any real progress on that yet. So until that day, we’re taking our cue from experimental physics, which seems to urge us to take quantum mechanics as fundamental. PK filled in the details rather well (thanks!), and so I will not try to add anything further. But I repeat that it is certainly worth exploring that the correct approach should allow QM to arise in an emergent way. This is what spacetime is supposed to do in these theories (arise in an emergent way), and this is currently hoped to happen with the aid of quantum mechanics…. but yes, maybe both spacetime and QM emerge for the same reason from the same underlying structure in a way not currently incorporated in strings or related approaches. Another possibility is that QM emerges first, and then spacetime emerges later with the aid of QM in the way we currently expect. Or maybe the other way around…… interesting….

    Ruth, Science, Sisyphus, Count: -thanks.

    Cheers,

    -cvj

  • Maynard Handley

    “String theory (or whatever it will be called when we figure out what it actually is) is a work in progress. It is an attempt to formulate the physics which will help us understand Nature at a level well beyond that at which we understand it now”

    The screaming and shouting would not occur were it not for the fact that the String theory zealots go on to claim that they have the only possible solution to the problems of physics, that all problems have been solved, and so on in most of their pronouncements. Don’t believe me — listen to a few of the talks at Kavli. Few of them say anything as measured and provisional about ST.

    If these people stopped stating such blatant nonsense, they wouldn’t provoke sucha harsh reaction.

  • http://www.pieterkok.com/index.html PK

    Count Iblis, Marty, Clifford,

    These are really interesting questions (and there is a whole research area devoted to them). However, the Count’s proof requires an exponential amount of resources in order to simulate the quantum world (that is, exponential in the number of particles involved). Quantum mechanics needs only polynomial resources.

    Right now, we believe (no hard proof due to unknowns in the theory of complexity classes) that a quantum computer offers an exponential speed-up over classical computers. So a classical computer cannot simulate the quantum world with the same efficiency as a quantum computer. The other way around does work, so that makes quantum mechanics more fundamental “in some sense”.

    cheers,
    PK.

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2004/11/entanglement-and-new-physics.html Plato

    Since the basis of this talk had gone in the way of what entanglement might mean, then of course I have to follow such thoughts. :)

    Murrays Gellman’s statement here points us in the direction, Are we to discount “supersymmetry” and the possibilties of what is to emerge?

    To a condense matter theorist what building blocks we use might not matter? The question still arises, as to the initial conditions.


    It is appropriate that plectics refers to entanglement or the lack thereof, since entanglement is a key feature of the way complexity arises out of simplicity, making our subject worth studying.

    So One had to understand the “initial conditions” and without this, is any model to make sense? Where would such conditions arise? Using analog models in nature are really quite helpful sometimes.

    I believe it is very hard not to look at “the cosmo” without thinking about the probabilities that could emerge. Just like that flower, in all places? :)

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Maynard Handley… why not go and shout at *them*? I do not make -and have never made- such claims and so do not welcome being shouted at by people who have a beef with something someone else said.

    Bottom line: take the fight to where it belongs, i.e., not here.

    PK:- yes….. that’s my feeling too.

    -cvj

  • ChrisTheRed

    I cannot contribute anything save starry-eyed wonder toward the discussion of string theory, but I can offer that California Gold is probably Lasthenia spp. of one sort or another. Also called “California goldfields” (L. californica) or “Fremont goldfields” (L. fremontii).

  • Richard

    Can someone give me a precise definition of “emergent phenomena” as it is used in physics? I’ve seen this expression used before in physics discussions. Does this concept have an analogy in mathematics?

  • http://None Doug

    Thank you for your brief summary of string theory for non-experts.

    As a non-expert, I have several questions about various readings and observations. If these are not appropriate for your blog, could you kindly inform me of the proper website to make such inquiries?

    1 – Your use of the word – landscape – reminds me of the ‘The String Theory Landscape’ by Raphael Bousso and Joseph Polchinski in Scientific American p 78-87, September 2004 [although Lee Smolin apparently first used the term].

    A – Is the concept of nested bubbles discussed within their article related to embedded Riemannian manifolds in the theorem proved by John Nash?

    B – When the Earth and the Magnetosphere are visualized as one entity does this remind anyone of a Calabi-Yau manifold – with the Earth on real and the Magnetosphere on imaginary axes – with three complex dimensions rather than six total dimensions?

    C – Is the concept of energy tunneling applicable to neutrinos passing through Earth, especially the core that generates the Magnetosphere – this is a potentially tremendous external source of kinetic energy that may interact in some manner with the core?

    D – Can the equations of the late astrophysicist John Bahcall which were used to calculate the statistical interaction of neutrinos transforming chlorine to argon atoms be adapted to possibly account for some of the missing neutrinos in the Super-Kamiokande experiment by Masatoshi Koshiba?

    2 – The helical mechanics emphasized in twistor theory [Penrose et al] and embraced by twistor string theory [Witten et al] seem applicable to both quantum mechanics and relativity.

    E – Are the Schrodinger equation of quantum mechanics and the phasor equation of Charles Steinmetz in electrical engineering examples of helical mechanics?

    F – The Earth orbit, described as a nearly circular ellipse, is accurate only when the sun is considered stationary and the helical angle is zero. Since the sun is in motion and the helical angle is greater than zero, is the Earth orbit more accurately described as a helix – or even double helix when the Earth-Moon system is considered – consistent with helical mechanics in relativity?

    G – Is the complex-3D, time-D space-time of twistor string theory related to the work of Richard Borcherds when he proved the ‘monstrous moonshine’ with complex-24D, string-D, time-D?

    3 – I do not know how reliable this resource is –
    http://universe-reviewDOTca/R15-18-stringDOThtm.
    However it discusses U Duality and 11 Dimensions “with IIA [string theory] case the eleventh dimension is a tube, whereas in the HE [string theory] case it is a cylinder”.

    H – The Earth relative to the sun forms a cylinder in the Solar Gauge while the Earth relative to the black hole Sagittarius A [at our Galaxy’s center] forms a tube in the Galactic Gauge. Could HE correspond to Solar Gauge and IIA correspond to Galactic Gauge?

    Thank you.

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2005/12/laughlin-reductionism-emergenence.html Plato
  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    PK,

    That’s certainly true. But then, is it fair to consider only the computational resources to calculate our own universe if there exists a landscape of 10^(many hundreds) of other universes? :)

    Why not consider a ”landscape” of classical algorithms? :)

  • http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/blog Peter Woit

    Clifford,

    I don’t think the possibility that you can fit some parameters from experiment and then make predictions is getting forgotten here, it’s the main motivation of those who advocate the study of the landscape. But there are two big problems with this:

    1. The numbers of vacua are so large that, generically, you expect to be able to fit all standard model parameters (as well as any others you’re likely to be able to measure i.e. those of the MSSM). The only hope is that there is some structure on the landscape so that things are very non-generic, and thus predictions are possible. Problem is, no one seems to have a plausible argument for what such a structure might be. Absent such an argument, it appears to me that people are advocating the detailed study of the landscape based on nothing more than wishful thinking that some predictivity will magically appear here.

    2. Denef and Douglas have recently shown that even in simplified models of the problem, identifying vacua with small enough CC is computationally completely intractable. So one can’t even get off the ground, trying to fit the single parameter that most people believe is the most likely one to be environmental.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Peter,

    Thanks. I think that the programs of research you’re talking about are far from complete pieces of a part of the story, so I don’t feel inclined to condemn the entire program of research on string theory based on those partial results. You’re also not leaving any room for surprises, which if history of the subject is anything to go by (not to mention our lack of understanding of the overall structure of the theory) could well have us looking at everything quite differently (for better or worse) all of a sudden. Continuing work in the area, using several approaches, is the best way to ensure such progress will happen. [Update: so I don’t offend anyone with too much optimism that might get interpreted as string-theorist-arrogance, please change that to “ensure that such progress will happen, if indeed it can happen”, or better: “ensure that such progress has its best chance of happening”.]

    Cheers,

    -cvj

  • Chris W.

    Stephen Adler, who has been at the IAS for a number of years, is another theoretician of stature comparable to Gerard ‘t Hooft who has devoted substantial effort to formulating a theory that can be regarded as underlying quantum mechanics—indeed, all of quantum field theory. See this thoughtful review of his recently published book.

  • http://www.pieterkok.com/index.html PK

    Dear Count,

    Going to the many-worlds interpretation could offer an explanation of the computational speed-up of quantum mechanics over classical mechanics. There is no way we can implement this kind of parallelism in classical physics: Classically, there is only one universe (and in my opinion, quantum mechanically too). So the difference remains.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    PK,

    I agree with that. But I still don’t agree with favoring QM on these grounds. The Planck scale is so far away from what is experimentally accessible that we have to be open about explanations that violate some of our basic intuitions about the properties of physical laws.

    In the early 1900s physicists had to abandon their intuitions based on classical physics. The problems with QM such as the measurement problem etc. could be fundamental problems similar those when you apply classical physics applied to the atom.

  • Elliot

    In response to reducing the number of vacua candidates, I suspect it may be possible to constrain/reduce these based on increased data moving up the energy scale. (obviously not to the planck scale) but higher than what is experimentally accessible today. 2X, 3X, 10X

    What that data might be or what constraints it might reveal, I honestly cannot say but the history of science is to probe deeper for more data until patterns emerge which fit theoretical models more closely.

    I could be completely wrong here and am coming from the position of a semi-naive layperson but I am eternally optimistic about the ingenuity and continual progress of scientific inquiry.

  • http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/blog Peter Woit

    Clifford (and Eliot),

    Just saying “maybe something will turn up, even though we have no evidence for this” is not a viable justification for a scientific research program.

    I’m in no way condemning the entire program of research in string theory here, but am objecting to something very specific. If you want to claim to be doing science, you need to be able to point to some plausible scenario in which what you are doing will lead to testable predictions about the real world. I think most string theorists can do this: it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that if you ever really understood what non-perturbative string theory is, you’d be able to make predictions about the strong interactions, or see if a viable, predictive theory of quantum gravity unified with other interactions emerges. But those working on the landscape really seem to me to have crossed a line. I’ve looked very carefully in landscape papers and Susskind’s book for any sort of plausible idea about how this stuff will ever lead to a prediction of anything and I can’t find it. All I continually see is the argument that the thing to do is to keep investigating the details of the landscape, and hope for a miracle. You really need to do better than that if you want to claim that this particular research program is science.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Thanks Peter.

    -cvj

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/03/ways-in-which-to-percieve-landscape.html Plato

    I thought there would have been more of a response to Peter’s comment, in a nice way? More on Name.

    “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music?” Peter did not like this response? :)

    Sylvester, delivered in an 1869 address [45, vol. 2, p. 654]. We are told that “mathematics is that study which knows nothing of observation…” I think no statement could have been more opposite to the undoubted facts of the case; that mathematical analysis is constantly invoking the aid of new principles, new ideas and new methods, not capable of being defined by any form of words, but springing direct from the inherent powers and activity of the human mind, and from continually renewed introspection of that inner world of thought of which the phenomena are as varied and require as close attention to discern as those of the outer physical world, …that it is unceasingly calling forth the faculties of observation and comparison, that one of its principal weapons is induction, that it has frequent recourse to experimental trial and verification, and that it affords a boundless scope for the exercise of the highest efforts of imagination and invention. …Were it not unbecoming to dilate on one’s personal experience, I could tell a story of almost romantic interest about my own latest researches in a field where Geometry, Algebra, and the Theory of Numbers melt in a surprising manner into one another.

  • Chris W.

    Clifford, you said this:

    Well, string theory is very complicated. It may well be that all we’ve worked out about it so far, over quite a few years, is just a tiny fraction of the whole story. [emphasis added]
    Maybe when we have the story worked out, we’ll have a big party in celebration of all that we learn about Nature from it. Or, we’ll see that it’s just the wrong story. Nobody knows whether or not this is the case. We need to work it out in order to know.

    How much does the complexity of string theory worry people in the field? Is there any sense that this is itself an indication that we don’t understand the problem? It seems to me that as a mathematician* or mathematical physicist one can happily explore this territory more or less indefinitely, without worrying about whether it’s the “wrong story” (as physics) or whether it has been “worked out”, as long as the specific mathematical assertions being made are reasonably well posed and interesting and the arguments are reasonably rigorous. All this requires considerable skill and mastery of a great deal of formalism, and the acquisition of these skills can effectively become the main point of the effort—something that is demanded of anyone working in fundamental physics regardless of their misgivings about the basis and direction of the enterprise.

    (* Indeed, at least one mathematician who has been generally supportive of string theory, Michael Atiyah, has expressed such concerns.)

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Chris W:- See my post on Einstein’s struggle with formulating GR. Link here. The same concerns could have been raised there. At the time, GR was an immensely complicated theory. We don’t think so now in retrospect, now we understand it so much better. Who knows if this won’t also be true for strings (or whatever) without working hard on it in advance?

    Cheers,

    -cvj

  • anonymous

    Nice post, Peter. Most of what you are saying are truisms – one can’t expect millions of dollars of public money for something as random as “hope some miracle happens for it to be actually science”.

    If one has to base entire research progress on the “room for surprises” argument, it much tells you what the state of the area is.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    anonymous:-

    (a) Sadly, from your comments you don’t seem to know much about the history of scientific research. Or you’ve forgotten temporarily, since I like to give the benefit of the doubt. Don’t forget:- The unexpected is a large part of the point of research, actually! Just as one example, take non-abelian gauge theory, the structure upon which so much of the Standard Model of particle physics is based…… how directed an approach was it at the outset? Who knew for sure what it was going to lead to when the first steps were made along that road? There are so many other examples like that, which are key to what we take for granted right now.

    (b) I did not say that the entire research progress is based on leaving “room for surprises”. That’s an overstatement. Please read carefully what I did write, without overlaying your own bias onto it first. Peter does not believe this either, by the way (see his comment #27). He is focusing his criticisms on the Landscape approach, which is a small part of the research program into string theory. I happen not to agree with his dismissal of that sub-program of research, but that’s immaterial right now. The point is that it is part of a much larger program, and should be viewd in that light. There is nothing wrong with purely exploratory research.

    (c) How about having the guts to take part in the discussion using a real name, if you’re going to make such broad and inaccurate statements?

    Cheers,

    -cvj

  • LambchopofGod

    Clifford said: “Meanwhile, research continues….”
    Question: does it?
    Before we get started, let me say that I am strongly pro-strings. Heck, I’m even open to the idea that landscape research is worth doing. *But* I’m also open to Peter Woit’s claims [see his blog] that progress is rapidly grinding to a halt. Is he right? As I say, I hope that this won’t turn into another debate about whether the landscape is science. I’m talking about factual questions, and about impressions regarding those factual questions — eg, I have heard it claimed that the rate at which fairly new string papers [in all areas] on the arxiv are being cited has reached an all-time low. Does that sound plausible? Does it matter?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/clifford/ Clifford

    Clifford said: “Meanwhile, research continues….”
    Question: does it?

    Answer: Yes.

    The research activity in a field is not measured entirely in terms of the number of citations each new paper gets. I don’t understand exactly how the average number of citations of new papers correlates with the research activity going on at a particular time. If what you and Peter are asking is whether or not there is a new fashion in town, then that’s a different matter. There’s no fashoin that everyone is working on. Actually, that’s rather healthy to have for periods. People think harder about what they’re really up to, consilidate results, take stock, etc. (And have useful discussions such as this and others….)

    I’ve not paid any attention to the issue, frankly, so cannot really comment extensively. All I know is that people are doing work on answering interesting questions, just as they always were. That’s research.

    So…. Yes.

    Cheers,

    -cvj

  • http://eskesthai.blogspot.com/2006/03/wholeness-and-creativity-under-guise.html Plato

    I relayed this to Elliot.

    When I qouted Witten here it is understood that the levels of integration that had gone on historically, with model application called “strings?” It is important to me, that such a model be understood in that context. As having foundational perspective(not religion based ideologies applied, philosphical based without reason) in our approaches to reductionsism and the “finest states” of existance possible. While in turn, recognizing the energy valuations arising, as we move down.

    Witten by recognizing the “condense matter theorist” it is understood that perspective is changed in a way to encourage, investigation of new ways in which to continue with perception. It’s applicabilites.

    This predates, “existing calls” for a jihad against scientific valuation?

    With that historical background included, such irresponsibility heaped on those who wish to continue, is “very insulting” to the adventourous. :)

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