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Lisa Randall: Black holes out of reach of LHC August 29, 2007

Posted by dorigo in news, personal, physics, science.

This week I am spending a few days at CERN to get back on track with CMS activities after my long vacations. I was planning to follow the talks of the Physics Days this afternoon, but as I learned that Lisa Randall was about to give a seminar on “Black Holes and Quantum Gravity at the LHC”  I could not resist and changed my plans to accommodate it.

If you allow a slip to inappropriate comments, Lisa Randall is notoriously not only an esteemed and well-known theorist, but also a quite attractive woman – a powerful mix, capable of turning to jello the knees of most men. Today she wore a nice black and white dress which left her shoulders and arms exposed, a necklace of mother-of-pearl, and a wide-band silver bracelet with colored stones. Her hair was collected in a pony tail. She looked nice and fit – for some reason it made me think she probably works out on a regular basis.Lisa talked in front of a large audience – I could count about 150 heads – which packed the auditorium. She was introduced by the convener by what must have been the shortest introduction in the history of theoretical seminars ever, something like:

 “Hre’s Lisa, she’ll tlk ’bout bloles quagity”.

I’m serious. Hilarious, but an odd note if combined with the fact that, despite my attempt at an initial applause, the audience stood quite still. She balked not, and started to talk with no further ado.

So let me do the same and try to put together some notes from her seminar. As always when I discuss things above my head, be compassionate with my ignorance, and grateful for my effort. In other words, don’t shoot the pianist.

The talk focused on models with higher dimensions of quantum gravity in the context of a low quantum gravity scale. How low ? Well, as low as one can hope for – about 1 TeV or so. Naturally, at the LHC one would expect quite dramatic signatures. Should LHC be looking at black hole production or elsewhere ? It turns out that the best way is to look for compositeness scales. But let’s not jump to the conclusions yet.

The questions experimentalists have to ask themselves at the start of a project like the LHC, which will explore unknown new energy scale and domains, are like “Are we optimizing existing searches for the signatures we might have access to ?”, “Are we sure we are not missing possible searches ?”, “Will this get me a salary increase ?”. The latter is my own contribution to the list. One interesting question, connected to the scope of Lisa’s talk, is: “If there is new physics, but it lies at a higher energy scale than the one directly accessible by the machine, how do we maximize our chances to see it ?”

Historically, the reason that black holes appear so promising as compared with other possible signatures is the predicted huge cross section for their production if there is a low quantum gravity scale. Lisa ventured to compute that if quantum gravity turns on at a scale of a TeV, one gets 100 pb cross sections at the LHC for producing black holes, naively. There is no suppression from gauge couplings, so it is indeed a large signal. Also, the signature is spectacular, since these objects are predicted to decay into large multiplicity final state, with highly spherical distributions. Very distinctive, unmistakable new physics.

But the problem is that the idyllic picture is not very realistic. The onset of a non-perturbative regime where black holes are produced and decay with those signatures is much above the QG scale, and this appears to be above the reach of even our brand new pupil, the LHC. The poor sucker has not emitted the first burp yet, and it is already criticized for being a midget. In any case, at threshold one would not see the striking signatures, but maybe something can be saved. How much could we learn from that ?

Randall was very clear in stating that LHC is unlikely to make classical BH states decaying with Hawking radiation. She appeared to be interested in assessing the damage: and the answer is that, if you have a low quantum gravity scale and you cross it, you will have a change in the two-particle final states. Things are not calculable, but there appear to still be distincitve experimental signatures that are capable of distinguishing among different models.

Lisa did not discuss much what brought the optimism down in the last few years. She just stated that you have to go well above M, the energy scale of quantum gravity, to be sure to hit the striking signatures publicized in the past. The parton distribution functions of the proton drop rapidly with the fraction of parton momentum, and since we are by necessity near threshold, the value of the latter is very important in determining what the rate of the new process is going to be. To make matters worse, M is convention-dependent. Factors of 4 \pi fly around easily, and although one knows these are only conventions and what one cares for is just the actual threshold, there is a big difference between 1 TeV and 2 TeV for the LHC. So the picture is fuzzy.

Lisa discussed some of the models and the resulting conventions and equations for the schwarzschild radius, the energy scale, and the other main characteristics. I prefer to avoid entering these details in this short writeup, because I am sure I would drop some dimensional factor here or there. Not that many of you would notice, but I’m a perfectionist 🙂

One point which looked important is that in the models considered, the black hole lifetime is bigger than the inverse of the energy scale of quantum gravity. This drives some of the phenomenology of the black hole decay. Another point is that every degree of freedom should carry an insignificant amount of energy with respect to the total; and since we are never going to get far above threshold at the LHC, we will have to be careful to call what we produce a real classical black hole. These things have low entropy close to threshold, and the multiplicity of the decay will be affected.

A critical factor in the computation of the number of particles emitted in the black hole decay is the assumption of the dimensionality of the space: particles emitted in the bulk have more directions in which to oscillate. Furthermore, since the threshold for producing black holes is not M, but a higher energy, even if we did see a black hole, we would not be able to extract M from the total cross section, because of inelasticity effects: not all the energy of the colliding partons goes in the creation of the black hole, due to initial state radiation.

The difficult question to answer is in fact, what fraction of the energy gets trapped inside the horizon? It is of course important since the PDF fall rapidly with energy. What is clear is that the inelasticity effectively increases the threshold. The reduction in cross section due to this effect is enormous, and it is the lack of considering it which has brought some overoptimistic predictions in the past.

So, the upshot is that BH production threshold is higher than originally thought. It means a lower production cross section, a lower reach in black hole mass, and it translates into lower entropy reach as well. The conclusion of Lisa Randall is that we will not produce classical thermal black holes at the LHC. What will we still be able to produce, then ? And what kind of multiplicities should we expect ?

Lisa discussed the calculation of the multiplicity of final state particles. She said that the calculation is totally unreliable. But one thing stays clear: low multiplicity final states will dominate even if we call it black holes. So we have to face the facts, and study 2-body final states: jets and leptons. Can they be distinguished from backgrounds by rate, kinematics, bra size? Yes. For jets, transversality is the key. QCD is dominated by t-channel exchange, i.e., forward scattering. Black hole events are isotropic. So this is really becoming like any other compositeness search: massive states produced at low rapidity.

The most concrete proposal of the talk came now. At the LHC, one should measure the differential cross section for dijet production by determining the angular dependence through R_\eta , a variable defined as the ratio of events in a 0 to 0.5 absolute rapidity range by events in other 0.5-wide ranges: R_\eta is an indicator of strong dynamics.

While describing a scenario where the LHC will have to walk the walk of unclear kinematical analyses rather than being hit in the face by those firework-like signatures that experimentalists have started to dream more and more frequently as of late, Randall was careful to insist that the LHC is indeed a powerful machine, although she fell short of declaring it will make everything clear about quantum gravity. It reminds me of an episode of South Park where chinese conspirators keep american people happy and oblivious by telling them they have larger penises.

After discussing the signature of black holes, Randall really took a walk on the wild side, by delving with the possible signatures of the same kind from alternative models of quantum gravity, such as a weakly coupled string theory. There one apparently expects a resonance behavior, followed by a dramatic drop in transverse cross section, which can be used to distinguish the stringy behavior from the simple production of a new Z’ boson, blah blah.  

In addition to the resonance, you would also see a drop in the quantity R_\eta. This could also allow to distinguish models: you could decide you are finding a stringy state, and you could even distinguish different stringy models, because the correlation between R_\eta and the cross section is different for different models.In summary, black holes are not as spectacular as advertised in the past. However, they may still provide lots of information about quantum gravity, through careful studies of 2 \rightarrow 2 processes.

Lisa said she would love to see these studies done by Atlas and CMS: energy-dependent angle studies in dijet production. I bet she will.

After Lisa concluded her talk there were several questions. Some of them were quite critical of the reliance that had been put on the model discussed. I found even some point of acrimony in a couple of questions, but Lisa was not intimidated. She explained she had stated quite clearly the limitations of the results she had been discussing. I was slightly surprised to find a non totally friendly atmosphere. Evidently, times are hard for theorists these days.

In the end, I myself asked a question. I knew from previous blogging on the issue that when one reaches a quantum gravity regime, the QCD cross section of dijet production has to go down, but Lisa had not discussed this feature. She explained that before one reaches the regime when QCD 2-particle cross section gets reduced, the cross section has to go up, in any case. So the dijet cross section reduction that Sabine has first studied happens at a regime that LHC will fail to cover.


1. Andrea Giammanco - August 29, 2007

> for some reason it made me think she probably works out on a regular basis.

She is notoriously sporty, in particular she loves climbing.
(I think it’s written in her book, but some other climbing-enthusiast colleague had told me the same some time ago.)

2. Blake Stacey - August 29, 2007

Japanese conspirators.

3. Sean Carroll - August 29, 2007

Tommaso, you’re right, that is inappropriate. No matter how complimentary you are, when you insert remarks about appearances into a discussion of a talk by a female physicist, you contribute to an atmosphere in which women are outsiders to be gawked at rather than colleagues like anyone else. The post would have been great if you had just stuck to physics, why not?

4. Guess Who - August 29, 2007

Bah! Rather than descend into the hypocrisy of thinking something but not daring to say it aloud (a.k.a. Political Correctness), let’s try practicing some equal treatment of the genders. Like so: “Sean Carroll looked his usual sloppy self. It’s clear he still isn’t doing anything about his weight problem. For some reason it makes me wonder if he’s ever heard of workouts.” 😛

5. dorigo - August 29, 2007

Sean, GW,

I think GW captured my idea of blogging much better. Sean, I think impersonality must not be confused with lack of style of a writer. Blogs serve many functions – they are an outlet of one’s writing impulses among other things. Sorry to say it, but it is true: I write about physics to do outreach, but not just because of that. I also do it because I love to write. And I have my own style. The moment when I will have to put my style aside, I will do something else.

I think Lisa is much above feeling offended by my description of her self as well as the atmosphere of the auditorium (I pointed her to my post). And while I think I would not go to such lengths to describe you or whatever other male speaker, I am a male, and so I am a persona, not an impersonal software for post generation. I of course notice a bracelet on a woman, while I often overlook a tie on a man. There are tons of female bloggers out there, who are encouraged to give the details they care about males. And some do.

What I dream of is a society where man and woman are really equal in the way they are accepted as centerfolds as much as rocket scientists. I think restraint is not the way to achieve that aim.


6. Sad in Ohio - August 30, 2007

T, if your style is coming off as a stereotype of a sexist old-boys-club physicist, with a nice dusting of who-me? faux innocence, you’ve done well. I won’t be reading this blog much anymore, I don’t think.

7. dorigo - August 30, 2007


what is wrong with many of you in the US ? Your sexophoby has reached to such levels that it affects your judgement. Fine, don’t read this blog, it is not for you. It is for women and men who have overcome that frame of mind.


8. Anonymous - August 30, 2007

Tommaso Dorigo is a short man with a somewhat wispy black moustache, who tends to dress rather poorly, or unnoticeably. He could probably use a little more exercise, although he does try to get outside when he can. An examination of his muscle tone was not possible, because he tends to keep himself covered up.

He is also an experimental physicist working on CDF and CMS, with a focus on Higgs searches, and maintains a blog.

9. dorigo - August 30, 2007

Very good anon, that at least is a practical attempt at making a point, rather than a stereotyped argument.

I think we should not forget the spirit of the quantum diaries, which were a great outreach success because they allowed people to get up close and personal with scientists around the world. Yes, that meant knowing whether one dressed sloppily or another had a third size bra. Horrified ? Buzz off, you are unrecoverable. We are looking for bright open minds, not bigots.


PS I shaved my moustache the other day
PPS I am 1.77, not exactly short
PPPS the rest is rather accurate.

10. dorigo - August 30, 2007

… And to make it clear, anon: as long as personal descriptions are not overly inaccurate, I am all for them. What is the purpose of a picture then ? I chose a nice one for Lisa. I bet a few others I found around the web would have not pleased her nor most of you. So what ? I still do not get it.


11. Sad in Ohio - August 30, 2007

Thinking that publically discussing people’s attractiveness is tacky and sends the wrong message is hardly ‘political correctness’ run amok. It’s just civilized behavior.

I still do not get it.

Perhaps you should ask some of your female grad students or colleagues.

12. Kea - August 30, 2007

Poor Tommaso! Well, I for one will happily continue to read this blog for its excellent physics coverage, and even if Tommaso is a stereotypical hot blooded (and he’s cute) male at times, he is completely forgiven for his long running support and good sportsmanship, something that appears to be entirely lacking in his critics here.

13. Still So Far To Go - Asymptotia - August 30, 2007

[…] then out of the blue, there’s a reminder of just how far things still have to go. Check out this post – supposedly a report on the contents of a physics seminar given by a woman – on the blog “A […]

14. Samantha - August 30, 2007

As a woman scientist, it is extremely tiresome and disheartening to read first, such a breathless description of LR’s appearance and then second, that the author has no idea why some people might find this offensive.

When I give a lecture, I don’t want you speculating about my appearance. I want you to think about what I am saying. Just as you would for a man.

15. Kea - August 30, 2007

Samantha, Clifford just put me on his moderation queue. Do you think that’s a reasonable response to my supporting Tommaso?

16. Mark Trodden - August 30, 2007

Hi Tommaso,

It really isn’t about political correctness or about attitudes in the U.S. vs the rest of the world. As a European living in the U.S., I can certainly tell you that the problems that many of my female coleagues in Europe tell me about center on this kind of attention from men overpowering their professional accomplishments.

It would be unfair to act like you are a horrific sexist, since anyone is capable of a lapse of judgement, and you have a very enjoyable blog in general. I do, however, think that this particular post presents an unfortunate portrait of how women can be viewed in academia.

I don’t think anyone reasonable is suggesting people don’t notice personal characteristics, such as attractiveness, in others. All that is being suggested is that in a professional setting, when discussing professional matters, these observationas should not be part of the discussion, or play a role in judging the worth of what the person in question is saying. Mentioning details of these things invites their inclusion in other people’s judgement of what went on, even if we are to assume they didn’t affect your own.

Best wishes, Mark.

17. Mahndisa - August 30, 2007

08 29 07

I like the post and particularly enjoyed the comments about her appearance. The description really set the tone for the environment. I think you needn’t worry about offending the sensibilities of anyone when you write. I would have been complimented had someone said the same thing about me:) In fact, let us perform a swapping operation of sorts- I am willing to bet that if a woman authored your post, folk would have congratulated her on her wonderous eye for details. I did not find your post sexist in the least! Take Care. Sometimes I lurk here, but am not sure if I ever commented.

18. Anonymous2 - August 30, 2007

When I read this, before it showed up in other feeds, I honestly thought the intent was to show how many people were losing their heads over the way she looks. I still think it looks much more like a description of an environment from a fiction book designed to evoke a specific reaction instead of a sexist comment. However, I certainly think it would be easy to read it the other way depending on which ways ones biases lean.

19. Sad in Ohio - August 30, 2007

Moderation queues are automatic, people.

20. In case you were happy [Uncertain Principles] · New York Articles - August 30, 2007

[…] talk on black holes at the LHC, with the unfortunate addition of a detailed look at her clothes, hair, and body. Good times. It’s a good blog otherwise, and worth reading; I’m hoping that this is a […]

21. Louise - August 30, 2007

I have no problems with Tommaso and thing the criticism of him is more disturbing.

22. In case you were happy [Uncertain Principles] · Articles - August 30, 2007

[…] talk on black holes at the LHC, with the unfortunate addition of a detailed look at her clothes, hair, and body. Good times. It’s a good blog otherwise, and worth reading; I’m hoping that this is a […]

23. Tony Smith - August 30, 2007

Over on Asymptotia (in comment 12 that seems to be critical of this blog post by Tommaso)
Elliot asked for “… an example of a male lecturing on physics which starts with something like…. He was wearing a neatly pressed blue blazer …”.

I replied in comment 15 there by mentioning that the book Genius by James Gleick said something like:
“… Feynman .. repeated the talk … at … CERN … standing before them in his new dress suit …”.

Tony Smith

24. JoAnne Hewett - August 30, 2007

Tommaso, you went way, way past inappropriate with that introductory paragraph. And unfortunately, things didn’t get better as the post progressed. You started off on a sexual tone, and then brought in a Southpark reference to penises? Why? Got sex on your mind while writing this post, do you? And why make the point that Lisa was not intimidated by the questions after her talk? Think the “girl” can’t take tough questions, do you? She may sport cute bracelets, but she’s one of the best physicists on the planet and she’s not going to be intimidated by stupid questions.

You should know better than to write a post such as this. From your responses to the comments, I am sorry to see that you just don’t get it.

25. Andrea Giammanco - August 30, 2007

The polarization of these comments makes me think that it’s true what Anonimous2 said about biases and interpretation:
– if you know the author (even just cybernetically) and you trust him as a non-sexist, you don’t find sexism in his words;
– if you have no reason to believe that he is better than the rest of his environment, you are in some sense allowed to assume that his words are sexist.

I remember a conversation with some colleagues at the cafeteria, about two other colleagues that I knew and they didn’t. When talking about the male one, I was asked “is he smart?”, and when talking about the female one, the question was “is she pretty?”
I am ashamed to say that it took me a couple of seconds before saying “ehy, this is a textbook example of sexism on the workplace!”

26. Am I a sexist ? « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - August 30, 2007

[…] social life, language, physics, politics, science, humor, personal. trackback It seems that my description of the speaker and the audience  in a CERN seminar yesterday raised some eyebrows, and the comments column of that post got filled […]

27. jeff - August 30, 2007

Find it hard to resist this thread. In Italy sexism is everywhere! Find me an italian male that is not sexist and most likely he grew up abroad for most of his life. Tommaso’s remarks about Randall, from an italian perspective, are perfectly normal. He could and should have avoided them as his blog is read from many non-italians.

Strangely, the prime vigorous vectors of the propagation now-a-days of sexism in Italy are italian women themselves. I live in Italy and I have become somewhat contaminated, but I am really shocked to see many italian women enthusiastically raise their small female children to dress, pose and behave just as this new TV-dominated sexist culture expects them to. I am ashamed to say that I’ve become sensitive to this ONLY after having a small baby girl.
How are you going to raise your children?

28. Nigel Cook - August 30, 2007

I think Sean Carroll is right and political correctness is necessary nowadays in order to avoid opprobrium. Clearly, Lisa has never, ever made use of her appearance in a physics context and therefore she doesn’t deserve to have her appearance commented upon. All that matters are that her science is solid, her predictions are falsifiable, and that she doesn’t over-hype speculative claims for personal gain, to the detriment of people with alternative ideas.

I’m a great big fan of hers, because she is so critical of string theory:

Lisa writes on page 295 of the UK edition of her book Warped Passages that ‘even if string theory is correct, we are unlikely to find the many additional particles it predicts. The energy of current experiments is sixteen orders of magnitude too low. … because the string length is so tiny and the string tension is so high, we won’t see any evidence to support string theory at the energies achievable in accelerators, even if the string description is correct.’

In addition, she admits the fact that not only are these speculations impossible to test convincingly, they are also extremely vague because there are many variations of the extra-dimensional theories. She remarks on page 456: ‘We now know that extra-dimensional setups can come in any number of shapes and sizes. They could have warped extra dimensions, or they could have extra large dimensions; they might contain one brane or two branes; they might contain particles in the bulk and other particles confined to branes. … Which, if any, of these ideas describes the real world?’

29. Guess Who - August 30, 2007

This is getting beyond ridiculous.

Read the post again: the incriminated section is a short description of what Lisa Randall looked like on the occasion, leading up to the unusual behaviour of people around her: mumbling convener, transfixed audience. These are observations of objective reality, something which physicists are supposed to be somewhat familiar with. OK, I am willing to exclude Carroll (who notoriously specializes in conveniently unverifiable speculation, so he can’t really be expected to know any better) from this category, but the rest of the Cosmic Variance crew descending here to preach their PC gospel is just pathetic.

Given my own strikingly attractive appearance (trust me on this one 😉 I have no problem seeing the real reason for this nonsense: it’s jealousy, of course. Lisa Randall looks good, I look great, most of you poor souls don’t, so every time our looks are mentioned you go berserk. Especially plain-looking women and girly men, a.k.a. Variances.


30. jeff - August 30, 2007

I’m jeolous. but not of her looks. She is damn good, bright and has a future in 21st century science. We will here more about Randall.

31. TomWeidig - August 30, 2007

Give him a break!

A blog is about a first person experience. And if the author has these though processes, then he should be allowed to write about them.

However, if such an activity is financed by an organisation or tax payer’s money, the author must adhere to the principles of that organisation or government policies, which might state that descriptions about talks of physicists should be on content only.

To summarise, those who criticise the author, simply want to impose their own political views on others.

32. Luboš Motl - August 30, 2007

Hi Tommaso,

I discuss the fun sociological gender issues on my blog. You should link to me if you want to survive for one more day before you’re burned at stake by the PC bigots. Click my name.

The black holes clearly need higher energies than the norminal fundamental scale because of many factors of order-one. You really need the number of Hawking particles to be much greater than something like 7 – a normal number of jets that you produce non-gravitationally. Otherwise there’s a problem to distinguish a black hole from other new physics phenomena.

I find Lisa’s work on the differences between the different regimes – a new Z’ article vs string tower vs black hole evaporation – important. It should be done by more people.

Finally, Lisa is tough enough but as I say, the anti-theoretical atmosphere these days is a work of not only the Swolin jerks but also many of their diluted imitators including yourself. This is an unpleasant time not only for theorist but an unpleasant time for all people with IQ above 135. Science today is largely controlled by aggressive people with IQ around 90 – like the typical global warming believers – these days.


33. Bee - August 30, 2007

Hi Tommaso:

You know, reading the first paragraphs of your post I thought: how sad, now the comments will go on about the women-in-science issue instead of the content of her talk. And sure enough, that’s what you get. Besides being jealous of her cite index and her good looks, I am presently kind of annoyed since her new paper that talks about the things above


doesn’t cite any of mine, too bad, since I’ve been running around the last four years saying exactly that: the LHC is a hadron collider and the so much discussed events much above threshold are exceedingly rare. The relevant plot for this is e.g. on that slide, upper left which shows the distribution of the black holes over their mass (the talk is from 2003). You see that it drops very rapidly (it’s a log plot!). The events that have been discussed in the literature usually focus on evaporating black holes with an initial mass around 10 times the threshold where the evaporation had a good chance to be Hawking-like for a while. However, the much more common events at LHC are those very close by threshold.

Now the problem is that in this case the black hole’s decay is dominated by the last few steps, Planckian regime, about which we know essentially nothing. It is usually assumed that the black hole makes a final decay into some few particles, but really nobody knows. When I played around with the event generator for black hole (charybdis) for that paper, I had to realize that it’s indeed the final decay that dominates the signatures for exactly the reason that most of the black holes essentially would do ONLY that final decay – the details of which are basically put in by hand (thus the reason why having a relic instead would make a big difference, even if it’s only the final step that is modified).

Besides this, there was an (as far as I know unpublished) paper in ’99 by Banks and Fischler that also mentions the jet cut-off in a sentence, I think it’s this one.

Thanks for the link and for the mentioning.



PS: It’s always nice to see that some men pay attention to the details. You didn’t mention her earrings though 😉

34. Luboš Motl - August 30, 2007

Come on, Sabine, you’re not the only person who has ever said that a collider could have a problem to create events above the threshold. And you’re certainly not the only one who has figured out that the LHC is a hadron collider. 😉

Show me where you have made a related calculation of the Hawking evaporation in low-energy RS, otherwise there is nothing to talk about here. Analogously, Tom’s and Willy’s paper was maybe published even before RS: why do you think it’s relevant? I can’t believe that you’re so sloppy to argue that a sentence containing the word “black hole” and a few adjectives similar to a technical paper by Patrick and Lisa is a reason to be cited.

This is maybe how Lee Smolin understands physics, but it is certainly not how actual physics works or can work.

35. Eric Dennis - August 30, 2007

“what is wrong with many of you in the US ?”

A good question. What is wrong is this transformative moral vision, which demands in man’s actions what it cannot make real in his nature: metaphysical equality of the sexes. Like string theory, this vision is a crusade, not a science. And the sanctimony is a projection of self-contempt, the emotional state assumed by someone at war with reality.

36. Bee - August 30, 2007

Lubos, I have no idea what your problem is. In my above comment I added some explanations on the issue about black holes in extra dimensions, I haven’t talked about RS specifically. I have several papers about bh evaporation in extra dimensions, and for obvious reasons I like it better if my work gets noticed. I have never said that I am the only person who has figured out integration over PDFs can be quite annoying.

Tom’s and Willy’s paper was maybe published even before RS: why do you think it’s relevant? I can’t believe that you’re so sloppy to argue that a sentence containing the word “black hole” and a few adjectives similar to a technical paper by Patrick and Lisa is a reason to be cited.

If you had bothered to at least have a look at the paper by Randall and Maede, you’d have noticed that they do cite the Banks and Fischler paper. I just wanted to add that piece of information for the discussion.

Besides this, it’s fairly interesting how you manage to mention Lee in almost every of your writings, whether it has something to do with the topic or not.



37. changcho - August 30, 2007

“what is wrong with many of you in the US ?”

It is true, the ‘politically correct thing to do’ trend is very strong in the US. It’s a cultural thing in the US. She does great physics and she looks good, so thank you for speaking your mind. Thank you for your (Italian) point of view, it’s a breath of fresh air!


38. layman - August 30, 2007

…and the winner is…Mark Trodden

39. Arun - August 30, 2007

Lisa did not discuss much what brought the optimism down in the last few years. She just stated that you have to go well above M, the energy scale of quantum gravity, to be sure to hit the striking signatures publicized in the past.

I’m curious as to how this happened. How did physicists so mis-estimate this? Was this part of the general hype around string theory?

Regarding the one paragraph, Tommaso, I don’t know if you follow US political news a lot. I’m providing you a satirical link to recent “news”. (I’m trying to make your learning experience fun!) It is about how the media tried to distract attention from Presidential candidate and Senator Hilary Clinton’s ideas to discuss junk instead. (Of course, some readers here will say her ideas are junk too. 🙂 )Even a serious newspaper like the Washington Post stooped so low.



I hope it helps you understand the American context.

40. Qubit - August 30, 2007

The first Paragraph it the only reason I read the rest of it! Am no scientist but I would say that science defiantly needs a overhaul, what the point of have a subject where you need to climb up a mountain to understand what is happing. Come to think of it, the first few paragraphs are the only ones I understood.

Science has become so boring and so hard to understand, that in England they have decided to make GCSE in science really easy, so more people will take it up.

Although I reckon Hawking radiation sounds like Pinocchio, he was a object that became real person (it really does not stop there does it?). I think all you scientist are telling porky to us non-scientist. You’re all using fairy tales and turning them into mathematical equations, or we are all really living in a dream world? If you think am a crackpot then tell me why modern theoretical physics all match fairy tales?; Time Travel? Coincidence? Masterplan? God? stupidity? Pre Programmed? Or just that we really are not that smart?


41. Qubit - August 30, 2007

Sorry that’s having and happening.

42. Arun - August 30, 2007

I miswrote in my previous comment – the stuff about Ms Clinton was started in the Washington Post and repeated endlessly on every news outlet. It was an attempt to diminish or trivialize her, IMO.

43. a woo - August 31, 2007

Tommaso, i couldn’t agree with you more.

Lisa Randall is a total babe. Nothing is better than hearing a talk on good physics while staring at a heavenly body.

44. G - August 31, 2007

Has anybody noticed the same Lisa Randall is spoted at those posters about physics which pollute all physics departments? She DOES NOT look like a babe on those gotta tell ya… 😉

Despite her fame, she does not impress me as particularly smart I should add…

45. Luboš Motl - August 31, 2007

Dear Sabine, my problem with you is that you don’t seem to understand very basic physics but you want to be cited for your opinions for it.

It is completely nonsensical to talk about the numerical distributions of “any” black hole productions at the LHC. The normal 4D black holes surely can’t be produced at the LHC because the minimal 4D black hole is Planckian in energy and size and the LHC doesn’t have Planckian energy.

One can only produce black holes on the LHC if there are some significant extra dimensions and the distributions of their masses and other quantities surely depend on the model. The fact that you were not talking about RS is exactly why your work is irrelevant and mostly nonsensical.

Sabine, you are a crackpot – one that wants to be treated as a great physicist.

46. B - August 31, 2007

Says the anonymous commenter on a blog…

47. Luboš Motl - August 31, 2007

Two more comments, Sabine.

I mention the name of that guy in your context often because you are becoming a small appendix of this particular crackpot and your way of thinking and judging physics mimicks him.

Concerning Tom and Willy, of course that I know that they are cited. I was also recommending some references to Patrick and Lisa, as you might understand from the references. What you don’t seem to see is that the point of Lisa’s and Patrick’s paper is just the opposite than Tom and Willy. Lisa and Patrick say that realistically the energy of the LHC is so low compared to the fundamental scale that the low-number-of-Hawking-particles-production will dominate over the thermal one.

Willy and Tom have studied the “deep” gravitational regime where the number of the Hawking particles is high and they are cited only because they were among the first ones who studied a related topic (unlike you). You only want to see some vague similarities about the papers but physics is not about vague similarities or writing accidentally a sentence with a correct core between thousands of random incorrect sentences. Physics is about getting arguments right – according to clear rules – and finding the right results if the assumptions are right.

Whether someone randomly writes a sentence that looks like a sentence in a newer paper is irrelevant.


48. Luboš Motl - August 31, 2007

One more topic. Remnants. In this thread, you also promote your paper


which is complete rubbish, too. It’s been known for quite some time that black hole remnants can’t exist. The only final result of black hole decay are the known particles of the Standard Model – or perhaps some other stable particles in particle physics.

Remnants were believed to exist because it would solve the black hole information paradox by preserving the information inside this remnant. This motivation is completely gone because we know that the information is preserved in the normal radiation. And we know that there are simply no stable remnant states. Lisa, Patrick and virtually all physicists just think that whoever is studying remnants today has lost contact with good physics. I think that Lisa and Patrick refer to Susskind’s Trouble for Remnants


to explain why remnants can’t exist on purely theoretical grounds. I think that a paper that is mostly dedicated to remnants would have to contain something really extraordinary to be worth citing even though the main content is rubbish.

If you think that people who complain about not being referred to (in your case even in the public), even though there is no scientific reason to refer to them, and who are doing it for purely egotistic reasons – just like you have admitted – are very obnoxious people. I think it’s very bad that such people are not eliminated before it’s too late.

49. Christian - August 31, 2007

crackpot..complete rubbish..obnoxios people..eliminated before it’s too late ???

I find this more disturbing and inapprioate then the mentioning of Lisa Randall looks.

Wished Sean Carroll, Clifford or anybody else would address this inapprioateness of Lubos once in a while.

50. dorigo - August 31, 2007

Hi all,

first of all, my thanks to all who contributed to this discussion, except those few who did it to insult me. It is not easy to insult me – I can take a lot without getting upset – but JoAnne made it by pretending she knows what is in my mind, by using a very uni-dimensional array of neurons in her head, all screaming “sexism! sexism!”, and by accusing me of implying I find it worth noting if a woman can answer nasty comments in a talk.

I forgive her anyway, because I myself am not immune to getting over the edge when something irritates me. I hope she will use some restraint in the future.

Now let me go through the comments one by one and pick what I find relevant to answer, starting from #11.

#12 Kea, thank you for your support and for the comment on my physical appearance 🙂

#14 Samantha, I understand you have a problem with your appearance in public, but it is not my fault. I spent 90 minutes in front of Lisa Randall and all I thought about was the physics and taking notes of it. I believe I can do the same with you, so worry not.

#16 Mark, thank you for your balanced comment. I still think it is not a lapse in judgement, but a characteristics of this site, where you can find my personal thoughts as much as physics, chess, and whatever else I find fit to discuss. If I occasionally do not help the cause of political correctness in the world, too bad – one can’t have the best of all worlds.

#17 Mahndisa: thank you for understanding the comment fit in with the post.

#18 good point anon2, I too think that one’s reaction to some quite neutral sentence depends totally on one’s bias.

#21 thank you Louise, the criticism is fine to a certain point but I agree, it got to a disturbing threshold here at times.

#23 tony, thank you for letting me know… Public figures are usually commented in their appearances, that’s all.

#24 no further comment is necessary, I answered above and in another post.

#25 lol Andrea, sexism is everywhere, as is sexophoby. I am more disturbed by the latter, but hey, I am a male, and sex is very important in my life.

#27 Jeff, thank you for noting my comment on Lisa is normal for our “sick” standards.

#28 Nigel, thank you for your attempts at diverting the thread back into physics… Despite the failure 😉

#29 GW I find it rather annoying that we have started to agree more and more on different things lately 😉 PS send me a pic of yours :))

#31 Tom I think it indeed has to do with imposing one’s way of life on others. In the US my comment would be inappropriate (were it made on someone not so publically known as Lisa), in Italy it is rather dry. Maybe my worst fault is to be an italian pretending to speak to the world, by using a language I do not fully master and ending up being read in a part of the world where people behave differently and pretend to teach the world how to.

#32 Hi Lubos, I did link you today, as an act of distension 🙂 And thank you for trying to talk on the physics, too.

#33 Bee, your prediction was accurate – no way to divert the discussion off the sexism here. And thank you for the links to those papers, I will give a look to them. It was indeed not clear to me how one models the signature of two-particle decay as opposed to multiparticles: I understand the thermodynamics of the first phases will be giving some spherical signatures, but the rest I do not get. Ah, and I think she did not wear any earrings, or maybe some in parure with the necklace. I do not remember. I was too busy checking out her breast, you know.

#35 Eric you are right, it is a crusade.

#37 Thank you changcho, I appreciate your feedback.

#39 I am no expert Arun, but I think the initial enthusiasm of discovering something really new is at reach, combined with neglecting strong effects from initial state radiation, made for too optimistic predictions when this started. And thank you for the links – one never stops learning.

#40 See, Qubit, indeed I write those sorts of introductions to avoid getting non-physicists feeling they are unwelcome here.

#43 woo, LOL yours IS a sexist comment. But it makes no sour effect to me anyway 🙂

#45 Lubos, you are welcome here, but Bee is an esteemed physicist and calling her crackpot only casts doubts on your own authority.

#48 I am actually interested in understanding what you write here Lubos, so I will give a look at the link, but I fear it is way above my head. As for your last comment, what do you mean by “eliminated” ?

#49 Christian, everybody is entitled to being outraged by whatever one wants, but I agree, Lubos is notorious for going over the edge…

Cheers all,

51. A - August 31, 2007

I’m with Tommaso.
He described first the first thing that one see: the appearance.
but, imho, there’s not sexism in this.
and, yes, italians take care about elegance and beauty… what’s the problem?

(maybe it’s for this reason that Italy have 50% of arts in the world… while usa have only money… )

52. Luboš Motl - August 31, 2007

Dear Tommaso, if you think that Sabine is an “esteemed” physicist, then you are a crackpot, too.

53. Quasar9 - August 31, 2007

Hi dorigo, interesting summary of the talk/seminar.

Glad there are real women like Mandhisa who appreciate people like Lisa Randall are women, and not adverse to flattery.

Joanne Hewett, the South Park crack may have been below the belt, but it expressed graphically what Tomasso & Randall had ‘intended’

Sabine, you are right – those who had nothing to say or comment on the content of the talk fell for the opening paragraph (hurdle).

Looks like sometimess bigger is just not big enough, but then again americans should already be aware of that by now. So where’s the next generation of colliders gonna be built Russia or China?

54. Arun - August 31, 2007
55. dorigo - August 31, 2007


I think I might agree, if you disclose your definition of a crackpot and explain in what way I conform to it. I think we are all under a spell of bad communication, which is unfortunate given the chance internet gives to XXI-century women and men (see how PC I’m becoming).


56. Yinmik - August 31, 2007

Why can the guy not just say she is a shaggable bit of totty?

57. Daryl McCullough - August 31, 2007

In my experience, there is only a tiny range of opinions that Lubos does not consider crackpot, whether the topic is politics or Loop Quantum Gravity, or global warming, etc.

58. Stefan Scherer - August 31, 2007

Hi Lubos,

thank you for confirming once more that you haven’t even read Bee’s papers about black holes.

But maybe I should visit you in Pilsen and have a decent and detailed discussion with you on this topic, even so that may prevent you from writing such entertaining comments for some time 😉

Best regards, Stefan

59. Bee - August 31, 2007

Hi Lubos,

As it seems I have finally managed to raise in your opinion up to being called a crackpot! My papers are about BHs in ADD, as I must have mentioned repeatedly, besides this, you find it in the abstract. But don’t bother with reading it – you already know that the content of my papers is bullshit anyhow. Reg. the remnants, I know the theoretical reasons that speak against remnants, I myself tend to believe they don’t exist, but the point of the paper you mention above was simply to find out what signature would result in case they did exist (if you had read the paper…). Unlike to what you state, nobody (except maybe you) ‘knows’ that remnants don’t exist – since nobody knows what the last stages of the evaporation process look like. In fact, nobody has even ever seen a black hole evaporating to begin with, not to mention the time dependence of that process. Your sentence “The only final result of black hole decay are the known particles of the Standard Model – or perhaps some other stable particles in particle physics.” is an unverified assumption, and one of your usual overconfident statements.

Regarding your flattering remarks about my way of thinking:

I mention the name of that guy in your context often because you are becoming a small appendix of this particular crackpot and your way of thinking and judging physics mimicks him.

I have been thinking the way I think, and judging the way I judge, long before I met Lee, as everybody of my friends and coworkers can easily verify. You have a very particular case of paranoia. I would really appreciate if you’d not try to put me in your Lee-Smolin-drawer just because I happen to work at PI.


60. amanda - September 1, 2007

Well, Bee, you beat me to it. Lubos’ belief that he “knows” things that, in fact, nobody “knows”, is the principal psychological reason underlying his failure as a scientist. One simply cannot be a successful scientist if one “knows” everything, and LM is a very outstanding example of the consequences of that attitude.

61. Hypocrites « Proses Anonymitus - September 1, 2007

[…] in a paragraph and went on to describe what the speaker spoke upon in about 19 paragraphs in his post in his blog A Quantum Diaries […]

62. dorigo - September 1, 2007

Hi all,

definitely this thread was doomed from the start! After pulling itself up from the sexism debate, it fell in the black hole of accusations to a respected scientist by a respected blogger. What can I say… Let’s move on, how about it ?


63. Arun - September 1, 2007

Respected blogger? Respected by whom? Not I. I think already he has been in part responsible in two women shutting down their physics blogging. The asymptotia and cosmicvariance crowd remain silent in front of his pitbull bullying tactics; but rain blog missiles around one who is essentially a gentleman.

64. Bee - September 1, 2007

Who is the second? I know about Christine? Yes, indeed I find it very interesting that the PC tactic to deal with Lubos’ offensive remarks is ignoring, delinking and banning his comments, whereas in cases like this here, everybody points fingers and makes imho things even worse.

Hi Tommaso:

Well, yes, I guess that’s a good suggestion. Hope you learn from it, but stay yourself. We don’t need all science blogs to be copies of CV or Asymptotia style. As a side remark, I recently asked my husband which science blog he thinks is the best, and interestingly we both immediately agreed it’s yours. (That’s despite us rarely commenting on other people’s blogs. You probably know the situation, you either blog OR comment, but there is hardly time enough for both.) Best,


65. Bee - September 1, 2007

Dear Amara: Thanks for your support. Best, B.

66. dorigo - September 1, 2007

Arun, I was being sarcastic in the qualification of Bee vs Lubos !
But thank you for the gentleman part 🙂 Yes, I think that is what I really try to be, when I do not slip in the obscene.

Bee, Stephan, you can’t be serious! There are dozens of blogs out there which I regard more than my own. Yours, for sure (I especially envy your ability to end your posts with quite informative “further reading” links – I always fail to do that for laziness), but also several others. I do try my best, but there is a wall I cannot break, and that is my essential ignorance of some theoretical aspects of particle physics. In any case, you made my day with your remark. I think I have to insert more cryptosexist remarks in my posts in the future, the feedback in the end is largely positive! And poor Clifford’s criticism really backfired.

As for Lubos’ comments, a word from you is enough to cancel his offenses to you here.


67. Arun - September 1, 2007

Readers may enjoy this:


“I think there is a lot of truth there, although I wouldn’t be as directly prescriptive as Heidi. The clear point, applicable to persons of any gender, is that, if you are wondering whether people judge you on the basis of how you look, the answer is an unambiguous “yes.” But it’s up to you to decide what to do with that fact. Maybe you want to be sexy, or maybe you just want to blend into the woodwork; but there is no simple neutral place to stand at which no judgments are being made of you. What do you want those judgments to be? Do you care?

There is a range of complex possibilities on both sides (you and whoever is looking at you). If you put some effort into your clothes, some people may judge you to be frivolous, while others will treat you with greater respect. Academics in general, scientists in particular, often implicitly attach a kind of moral superiority to nondescript clothing. If you look like you actually put some kind of an effort into how you look, you are automatically suspect. Especially if you are female, some of your colleagues will not take you as seriously if you are perceived as stylish, not to mention sexy. (For many people, one of the attractive features about science is that it can serve as an escape from all the terribly messy and ambiguous features of human interactions, and if you remind them of these things they can become insecure and defensive. Or jealous. Or intimidated.) At the same time, others might tend to take you more seriously, for better or for worse — they might perceive you as just a little bit more with-it and competent than your slovenly colleagues. The only certain mistake is to think that it doesn’t matter at all.”

68. Count Iblis - September 1, 2007

Well, I never wear a suit when giving talks….

69. The CERN Colloquium of T.D.Lee « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - September 3, 2007

[…] the end of Lee’s talk, there were quite a few questions, but Lee was not intimidated ( wink). Here are a few: Q: “You reminded us that higgs particle could be something like a cooper […]

70. nOnoscience » Blog Archive » Unfullpostables #3 - Open Lab 2007, Blog Day and more - September 3, 2007

[…] sexist by many physics bloggers, when he wrote a detailed post describing a seminar on black holes, complementing in an initial paragraph the lady speaker for her good looks. In the science blog world some nice guys writing mostly […]

71. Dr C - September 3, 2007

Hello everyone, I’ve come here from badscience.net to see what the fuss is about – not much apparently.

First, is this not a personal blog? It even says at the top ‘private thoughts of a physicist and chess player’ so why don’t we all read the label before we take a drink? This is not an academic journal or official publication and is entirely the right place for the author to write his personal thoughts about a meeting he has recently attended. Hence, accusing the author of being unprofessional seems like a bit of a non-starter to me.

As a physicist (albeit in another researcher area) I am constantly told by other people of the stereotypes in physics and how they need to be overcome. It is a sad fact that we have an underrepresentation of women in our subject and those that are in it are stereotyped (along with the men) as being unattractive social retards. It seems like a nature reaction for a physicist (especially a male one (or lesbian) who would more likely notice an attractive woman) to actually make a point of bring to the attention of people of the existance of a bright, attractive female physicist because we are constantly told that we are all unattractive men by society and those who point fingers at the inequalities of science.

72. Walter L. Wagner - September 3, 2007

The Large Hadron Collider [LHC] at CERN might create numerous different particles that heretofore have only been theorized. Numerous peer-reviewed science articles have been published on each of these, and if you google on the term “LHC” and then the particular particle, you will find hundreds of such articles, including:

1) Higgs boson

2) Magnetic Monopole

3) Strangelet

4) Miniature Black Hole [aka nano black hole]

In 1987 I first theorized that colliders might create miniature black holes, and expressed those concerns to a few individuals. However, Hawking’s formula showed that such a miniature black hole, with a mass of under 10,000,000 a.m.u., would “evaporate” in about 1 E-23 seconds, and thus would not move from its point of creation to the walls of the vacuum chamber [taking about 1 E-11 seconds travelling at 0.9999c] in time to cannibalize matter and grow larger.

In 1999, I was uncertain whether Hawking radiation would work as he proposed. If not, and if a mini black hole were created, it could potentially be disastrous. I wrote a Letter to the Editor to Scientific American [July, 1999] about that issue, and they had Frank Wilczek, who later received a Nobel Prize for his work on quarks, write a response. In the response, Frank wrote that it was not a credible scenario to believe that minature black holes could be created.

Well, since then, numerous theorists have asserted to the contrary. Google on “LHC Black Hole” for a plethora of articles on how the LHC might create miniature black holes, which those theorists believe will be harmless because of their faith in Hawking’s theory of evaporation via quantum tunneling.

The idea that rare ultra-high-energy cosmic rays striking the moon [or other astronomical body] create natural miniature black holes — and therefore it is safe to do so in the laboratory — ignores one very fundamental difference.

In nature, if they are created, they are travelling at about 0.9999c relative to the planet that was struck, and would for example zip through the moon in about 0.1 seconds, very neutrino-like because of their ultra-tiny Schwartzschild radius, and high speed. They would likely not interact at all, or if they did, glom on to perhaps a quark or two, barely decreasing their transit momentum.

At the LHC, however, any such novel particle created would be relatively ‘at rest’, and be captured by Earth’s gravitational field, and would repeatedly orbit through Earth, if stable and not prone to decay. If such miniature black holes don’t rapidly evaporate and are produced in copious abundance [1/second by some theories], there is a much greater probability that they will interact and grow larger, compared to what occurs in nature.

There are a host of other problems with the “cosmic ray argument” posited by those who believe it is safe to create miniature black holes. This continuous oversight of obvious flaws in reasoning certaily should give one pause to consider what other oversights might be present in the theories they seek to test.

I am not without some experience in science.

In 1975 I discovered the tracks of a novel particle on a balloon-borne cosmic ray detector. “Evidence for Detection of a Moving Magnetic Monopole”, Price et al., Physical Review Letters, August 25, 1975, Volume 35, Number 8. A magnetic monopole was first theorized in 1931 by Paul A.M. Dirac, Proceedings of the Royal Society (London), Series A 133, 60 (1931), and again in Physics Review 74, 817 (1948). While some pundits claimed that the tracks represented a doubly-fragmenting normal nucleus, the data was so far removed from that possibility that it would have been only a one-in-one-billion chance, compared to a novel particle of unknown type. The data fit perfectly with a Dirac monopole.

While I would very much love to see whether we can create a magnetic monopole in a collider, ethically I cannot support such because of the risks involved, until we obtain sufficient data [not theory] from experiments such as Pierre Auger, etc.

For more information, go to: http://www.LHCdefense.org


Walter L. Wagner (Dr.)

73. island - September 3, 2007

Maybe Krauss could tell us how she lectures about strings in a string… ?

And I’m still on topic!

74. dorigo - September 4, 2007

Dear Walter,

I am not the person to discuss this with, but while indeed, I concede that a black hole produced in a ultra-high energy interaction of a cosmic ray with, say, a nitrogen atom in our atmosphere would have a speed indistinguishable from c, I do not see why that implies that it would escape punching the earth through. Are we sure we know how to compute the cross section ?


75. Ed Darrell - September 7, 2007

My experience is that all physicists seem much more attractive in person — Stephen Weinberg’s photos do not in any way show the way he captures a room when he enters (which he put to very good use in 2003 when he helped save evolution in Texas’s biology textbooks).

The best part, as always, is when they get down to physics.

About 18 months ago I dragged our youngest son to a Randall lecture at an APS meeting in Dallas. He’s looking for a college to study physics now. Powerful personalities often advance the science in ways way beyond the chalkboard.

76. Alex - September 10, 2007

“bloles quagity”.

I like it

77. Matteo Martini - September 12, 2007

I would like to have a comment by Miss Randall, in this forum, to know what she thinks about Tommaso` s comment.
But, in short, my opinion is that Tommaso` s comments were totally fair, polite and legitimate.
It is incredible to see how many bigots we still have around.

78. An Outsider - September 12, 2007

As someone from outside the field, it was the speaker’s description, and yes, the photograph that made me read the blog. I learned something, from the blog, about the science I did not necessarily care out — until I came to the comments section! That part is pathetic.

Essentially, all comments are about her appearance and not about the science she presented. What does that say about all of you? Don’t rip the author part, from my perspective, he made it interesting and made me read it. We do often judge the book by its cover!

Grow up and focus on science if you have anything useful to say.

79. dorigo - September 12, 2007

Dear Outsider,

thank you – it is exactly the cover, or the package if you prefer, which I was trying to embellish with a description of the atmosphere in the seminar hall and the speaker herself. It was for the reason you mention: to make the post readable for non-physicists. Nobody in his or her right mind can claim this concept is too hard to understand, so critics of this post are for the most part hypocrites and bigots.


80. An Outsider - September 13, 2007

Well, I am a physicist but from a different subfield and I won’t waste my time reading a boring and stale description of a concept from another subfield of physics. Let us face it, I will never encounter a blackhole in my life time!
But this article taught me something! Thanks.

81. Ed Darrell - September 14, 2007

Hey, Outsider, want to encounter a black hole? C’mon down to Texas; we got Tom Delay, Warren Chisum, and probably 40 other guys just like them.

82. dorigo - September 14, 2007



83. An Outsider - September 14, 2007

Yes, the rest of them are in the DC! May be they ought to be sent back to TX.
In addition to the sexist issue raised by others in this blog, I want to raise a racial issue.
Why does your community always discriminate against white holes? While your give all the attention to black holes, white holes are never ever mentioned let alone discussed or given importance. They lead a life of utter neglect. I hope your community will be able to right this wrong. If that does not happen soon, future generations will wonder – what were we thinking? 🙂

84. Ed Darrell - September 14, 2007

It’s a question of terminology. White holes are sometimes called “stars,” but there is controversy over whether the definitions are clear.

85. robert - September 15, 2007

And she’s old enough to be his mother.


86. dorigo - September 15, 2007

Hi Robert,

not sure what you’re referring to – Lisa is about my age anyway.


87. Sexist italian press on Lisa Randall « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - October 2, 2007

[…] is a sexist magazine, at least if we follow the standards of those who reproached me for my description of Lisa’s outfit in a post discussing her seminar on black holes. Surely. It is a fact that L’Espresso often […]

88. Reply-anon - October 7, 2007

T rocks..LR is really bright and attractive (aka sexy)-and thats a compliment not sexism..so no apeshiting you overly conservative prejudiced T-bashers..pun intended

89. dorigo - October 7, 2007

Hi anon,

thank you! Drink whatever you like, it’s on me.


90. Ilya Mandel - October 23, 2007


I wonder how images.google.com works: I was looking for the LISA noise curve (that’s LISA, the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna), anf got this instead. 🙂

Anyway, I am with you in not understanding why people are offended. Anybody who has seen Lisa Randall, whether male or female (at least, anybody I’ve discussed this with) has noticed that she is uncommonly attractive. So you are just pointing out the obvious. And it’s not exactly possible to turn off that switch in your mind that evaluates the appearance of the person you are looking at just because they are giving a physics seminar, and then turn it back on during more social occasions…

91. dorigo - October 23, 2007

Hi Ilya,

well, Lisa and LISA have something in common after all, so don’t complain too much 🙂

I think the criticism I attracted pointed to the fact that one should indeed be able to actually turn that switch off in professional settings. Where they failed was in understanding that when one tells a tale, some description of the landscape is necessary.

(And since this thread is basically dead I can write it here now: some of the critics – see #24 for instance – were just furiously envious of Lisa, and I looked like a convenient scapegoat!)


92. Lex - October 30, 2007


Reading through this thread was an entertaining experience. The bloggers presented a strong line-up of stereotypical characters more commonly found in fictious literature. A handful of them unwittingly morphed into the very essence of what they claimed you were; bigoted, narrow-minded, biased, sexist and shallow. I think blogger 6 stated her opinion on this point most concisely, “T, if your style is coming off as a stereotype of a sexist old-boys-club physicist… you’ve done well”.

Eruditious curmudgeons, sarcastic martyrs, angry feminists, macho men, stoic rational minds, poor unattractive souls sniping from the shadows, and beloved defenders of the innocent were all present. Sadly, the point of your post, a positive recognition of a gifted physicist, was muddled by nonsense. Lisa Randall has a tremendous opportunity to take physics and share it with the world. She is brilliant, well-spoken, confident and blessed with physical beauty which makes her an excellent candidate for public speaking. If this is a dificult pill for some to swallow, they should consider what Stephen Hawking has said in regard to his disabilities and it’s role with public speaking.
“I was lucky to have chosen to work in theoretical physics, because that was one of the few areas in which my condition would not be a serious handicap. And I was fortunate that my scientific reputation increased, at the same time that my disability got worse. This meant that people were prepared to offer me a sequence of positions in which I only had to do research, without having to lecture.”

If Hawking’s disability was a self-described handicap to public speaking, can’t the opposite also be true? That a healthy and attractive person would be in an advantageous position on the lecture circuit?

When SH comes to mind, I envision a wheel chair. When LR comes to mind, I envision a beautiful woman. Neither mental picture blots out or minimizes my perception of their genius.

Let’s stop slinging mud at each other over such a trivial matter. It looks bad for us. Besides, aren’t biologists, not physicists, the ones who play in the mud????


93. dorigo - October 30, 2007

Hi Lex,

indeed, good parallel the one with SH. I do think of a wheelchair, although a very well equipped one, when the name is mentioned. That is probably also due to the fact that Steven is known for the hype about the genius in the wheelchair in the media, and it is difficult to avoid getting biased even if one has read a book or a paper by him. The very same thing happens with LR: we know the physicist, but we are flooded with other less relevant information and we get biased. Why not reporting about the way she looked ? I did report about SH’s computer rebooting, when I discussed a conference I attended (PASCOS2007) in July…


94. Jimbo - November 13, 2007

Hi EveryOne,
Kudos to T. for standing his ground, and to most for the intial stimulating discussion of `sexism-in-physics’, P.C., etc., something we Americans have to do battle with everyday, and pay a terrible price for. In Europe, its just no big deal….
Just as in nature at the fundamental level, there is a broken symmetry; so too with man-woman (thank god !). The glossy inside jacket of LR’s pop book clearly takes `air-brushing’ to the state of the art, just as these pix clearly do not: http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/images/35.jpg
Despite the abundance of cleavage, I dare say sex was probably the farthest thing from the minds of the participants !
The symmetry has been broken by biology & evolution, and only in the modern western world, particularly in the last 40 yrs, have desperate attempts at restoration been made. Yet the broken symmetry of man-woman remains forever immutable, and until we acknowledge this, and move on, we are forever doomed to be at war.

Stefan – I would love to be a fly on the wall when you chat with Lubos, man-to-wimp.

Yours in the Qwest !

95. dorigo - November 13, 2007

Hi Jimbo,
that is right, there is a sort of broken symmetry between man and woman, and no hiding one’s feelings under the carpet of hypocrisy can change that.


96. Unruled Notebook » Blog Archive » Hypocrites - February 5, 2008

[…] in a paragraph and went on to describe what the speaker spoke upon in about 19 paragraphs in his post in his blog A Quantum Diaries […]

97. Scarlett and Natalie « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - February 17, 2008

[…] directs people willing to discuss the physical appearance of Lisa Randall to my blog. [A long thread and a followup discussion developed six months ago here after I included a description of Lisa in a […]

98. Alex Reynolds - March 12, 2008

Honestly, nothing Lisa Randall has said is particularly earth shattering, Ive seen these theories bandied about since the mid 90s. She merely clarifies them and gives them coherence for the popular reader.

Her being the most cited particle phycisist of the past 5 years is a bit overblown as well; I would put Hawking, Penrose, Witten and Thorne all way ahead of her. She isnt even as well known as some of you think she is; those others have made far more contributions to quantum physics than she has, and string theory itself is no longer in vogue as it once was.

On the matter of her outfit, I (and many others) think that if she doesnt want this kind of attention than she shouldnt dress the way she does. If you women want to be treated like a man then dress like a man. If she wore a more professional outfit then perhaps she wouldnt get the attention she does, unless thats what she wants. Although a middle aged woman past her prime seeking attention in this manner is pretty pathetic!

99. dorigo - March 13, 2008

Alex, Lisa has the right to dress how she best likes, without having to be criticized for “seeking attention”. I think she has more attention than she wants anyways. And even if one is “past his/her prime” does not mean one cannot continue to enjoy being attractive or attracted to other human beings.


100. Bob Merkin - March 29, 2008

Lisa Randall is mentioned in the story:

The New York Times
Saturday 29 March 2008

Asking a Judge
to Save the World,
and Maybe a Whole Lot More

by Dennis Overbye

More fighting in Iraq. Somalia in chaos. People in this country can’t afford their mortgages and in some places now they can’t even afford rice.

None of this nor the rest of the grimness on the front page today will matter a bit, though, if two men pursuing a lawsuit in federal court in Hawaii turn out to be right. They think a giant particle accelerator that will begin smashing protons together outside Geneva this summer might produce a black hole or something else that will spell the end of the Earth — and maybe the universe.

Scientists say that is very unlikely — though they have done some checking just to make sure.

The world’s physicists have spent 14 years and $8 billion building the Large Hadron Collider, in which the colliding protons will recreate energies and conditions last seen a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. Researchers will sift the debris from these primordial recreations for clues to the nature of mass and new forces and symmetries of nature.

But Walter L. Wagner and Luis Sancho contend that scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have played down the chances that the collider could produce, among other horrors, a tiny black hole, which, they say, could eat the Earth. Or it could spit out something called a “strangelet” that would convert our planet to a shrunken dense dead lump of something called “strange matter.” Their suit also says CERN has failed to provide an environmental impact statement as required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Although it sounds bizarre, the case touches on a serious issue that has bothered scholars and scientists in recent years — namely how to estimate the risk of new groundbreaking experiments and who gets to decide whether or not to go ahead.

The lawsuit, filed March 21 in Federal District Court, in Honolulu, seeks a temporary restraining order prohibiting CERN from proceeding with the accelerator until it has produced a safety report and an environmental assessment. It names the federal Department of Energy, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the National Science Foundation and CERN as defendants.

According to a spokesman for the Justice Department, which is representing the Department of Energy, a scheduling meeting has been set for June 16.

Why should CERN, an organization of European nations based in Switzerland, even show up in a Hawaiian courtroom?

In an interview, Mr. Wagner said, “I don’t know if they’re going to show up.” CERN would have to voluntarily submit to the court’s jurisdiction, he said, adding that he and Mr. Sancho could have sued in France or Switzerland, but to save expenses they had added CERN to the docket here. He claimed that a restraining order on Fermilab and the Energy Department, which helps to supply and maintain the accelerator’s massive superconducting magnets, would shut down the project anyway.

James Gillies, head of communications at CERN, said the laboratory as of yet had no comment on the suit. “It’s hard to see how a district court in Hawaii has jurisdiction over an intergovernmental organization in Europe,” Mr. Gillies said.

“There is nothing new to suggest that the L.H.C. is unsafe,” he said, adding that its safety had been confirmed by two reports, with a third on the way, and would be the subject of a discussion during an open house at the lab on April 6.

“Scientifically, we’re not hiding away,” he said.

But Mr. Wagner is not mollified. “They’ve got a lot of propaganda saying it’s safe,” he said in an interview, “but basically it’s propaganda.”

In an e-mail message, Mr. Wagner called the CERN safety review “fundamentally flawed” and said it had been initiated too late. The review process violates the European Commission’s standards for adhering to the “Precautionary Principle,” he wrote, “and has not been done by ‘arms length’ scientists.”

Physicists in and out of CERN say a variety of studies, including an official CERN report in 2003, have concluded there is no problem. But just to be sure, last year the anonymous Safety Assessment Group was set up to do the review again.

“The possibility that a black hole eats up the Earth is too serious a threat to leave it as a matter of argument among crackpots,” said Michelangelo Mangano, a CERN theorist who said he was part of the group. The others prefer to remain anonymous, Mr. Mangano said, for various reasons. Their report was due in January.

This is not the first time around for Mr. Wagner. He filed similar suits in 1999 and 2000 to prevent the Brookhaven National Laboratory from operating the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. That suit was dismissed in 2001. The collider, which smashes together gold ions in the hopes of creating what is called a “quark-gluon plasma,” has been operating without incident since 2000.

Mr. Wagner, who lives on the Big Island of Hawaii, studied physics and did cosmic ray research at the University of California, Berkeley, and received a doctorate in law from what is now known as the University of Northern California in Sacramento. He subsequently worked as a radiation safety officer for the Veterans Administration.

Mr. Sancho, who describes himself as an author and researcher on time theory, lives in Spain, probably in Barcelona, Mr. Wagner said.

Doomsday fears have a long, if not distinguished, pedigree in the history of physics. At Los Alamos before the first nuclear bomb was tested, Emil Konopinski was given the job of calculating whether or not the explosion would set the atmosphere on fire.

The Large Hadron Collider is designed to fire up protons to energies of seven trillion electron volts before banging them together. Nothing, indeed, will happen in the CERN collider that does not happen 100,000 times a day from cosmic rays in the atmosphere, said Nima Arkani-Hamed, a particle theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

What is different, physicists admit, is that the fragments from cosmic rays will go shooting harmlessly through the Earth at nearly the speed of light, but anything created when the beams meet head-on in the collider will be born at rest relative to the laboratory and so will stick around and thus could create havoc.

The new worries are about black holes, which, according to some variants of string theory, could appear at the collider. That possibility, though a long shot, has been widely ballyhooed in many papers and popular articles in the last few years, but would they be dangerous?

According to a paper by the cosmologist Stephen Hawking in 1974, they would rapidly evaporate in a poof of radiation and elementary particles, and thus pose no threat. No one, though, has seen a black hole evaporate.

As a result, Mr. Wagner and Mr. Sancho contend in their complaint, black holes could really be stable, and a micro black hole created by the collider could grow, eventually swallowing the Earth.

But William Unruh, of the University of British Columbia, whose paper exploring the limits of Dr. Hawking’s radiation process was referenced on Mr. Wagner’s Web site, said they had missed his point. “Maybe physics really is so weird as to not have black holes evaporate,” he said. “But it would really, really have to be weird.”

Lisa Randall, a Harvard physicist whose work helped fuel the speculation about black holes at the collider, pointed out in a paper last year that black holes would probably not be produced at the collider after all, although other effects of so-called quantum gravity might appear.

As part of the safety assessment report, Dr. Mangano and Steve Giddings of the University of California, Santa Barbara, have been working intensely for the last few months on a paper exploring all the possibilities of these fearsome black holes. They think there are no problems but are reluctant to talk about their findings until they have been peer reviewed, Dr. Mangano said.

Dr. Arkani-Hamed said concerning worries about the death of the Earth or universe, “Neither has any merit.” He pointed out that because of the dice-throwing nature of quantum physics, there was some probability of almost anything happening. There is some minuscule probability, he said, “the Large Hadron Collider might make dragons that might eat us up.”

– 30 –


CERN opens its doors to the world

On 6 April 2008, CERN will open its doors to the public, offering a unique chance to visit its newest and largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), before it goes into operation later this year.

101. Overbye’s piece on the lawsuit against LHC « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - March 29, 2008

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104. jai - September 9, 2008

I disagree!!

i dont want them to do it i just saw this ? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moEzECvJDas
i don’t know if this is whats going to happen or not, but there putting the world in danger, cause people don’t know yet if its going to work fine or if its going to go badly wrong??

i for one am not ready to die yet, and i really dont want them to end the world they should be in jail and locked up cause there putting the world in danger!

but i agree with them doing a exspriment and seeing what they can do , a little black hole is ok but what if that hole gets bigger and ends up like on that video??
or what if it exspluods when they switch it on, our worlds going to be gone eaither way!! my answer is dont switch it on distroy it!!

and i cant belive people are looking forward to this i mean our world might end, i mean for goodness sake.

please are they going to do it for defant!?


105. dorigo - September 9, 2008

Hi Jai,

rest assured, nothing like that video will ever happen. The LHC will *not* recreate the conditions of the big bang, as you may have read in illiterate news pieces. It will not create stable black holes. Nothing that isn’t happening on a daily basis in our solar system is happening in the LHC tomorrow, or a month from now.


106. Carl Simon - September 12, 2008

There is enough research showing that adults (both male or female) between 20 and 30 think about sex several times a minute.
Most people are attracted to the opposite sex. That is also shown by research.

Whoever says that either behaviour is sexist is wrong. In fact, a law of nature says that whoever pretends that “reality is different from what it is” ends up living in a way that all agressive people that pretend not being agressive: he or she will be either depressed, or frustrated, or violent – or all of them.

Carl Simon

107. dorigo - September 12, 2008

Carl, I agree – the above thread shows clearly how aggressive some individuals, even well-learned ones, can become on these issues, to try and hide their own frustration.


108. Open Lab 2007, Blog Day and more « Unruled Notebook - November 30, 2008

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[…] sexist by many physics bloggers, when he wrote a detailed post describing a seminar on black holes, complementing in an initial paragraph the lady speaker for her good looks. In the science blog world some nice guys writing mostly […]

110. Ascendancy - August 14, 2009

Damn, how I hate self-righteous hypocrites. Women will be treated equally to men when they are *equal* to men not any sooner.

111. greg - October 15, 2009

this sexophobic discussion is a bore. Get passed it people. If a female blogger remarked about a male physicists level of attractiveness in a complimentary way, none of you would raise an eyebrow. I’m a proponant of equality of the sexes. Sexual equality involves lacking the assumption that men who make such comments are inappropriate, while women to do the same thing are humorous free spirits.
Enter the 21st centure people. Its a cool place.

112. cdj - October 20, 2009

My wife is smarter than I am!! She can make cake icing just like they do in a bakery. I notice what she is wearing sometimes and that makes her mad. My cat is black and white but I like her anyway. I am a happy man.

113. Alfonze - February 24, 2010

I am very glad I found your website on bebo. Thanks for the sensible critique. Me and my girlfriend were just preparing to do some research about this. I am very glad to see such reliable information being shared for free out there.
Best Regards,
Doron from Citrus Heights CDP

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