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1000 posts: do you want yours to be the next one ? October 2, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, internet, italian blogs, news, personal, physics, science.

Today this blog passed the respectable mark of 1,000 posts. Time for a small summary of traffic here.

  • 1000 posts
  • almost exactly 300,000 visits
  • on for 630 days
  • about 700 incoming links from around the web
  • more than 4,000 honest comments (there’s a few from spam that I was unable to remove)
  • on average weekdays, about 900 visits/day
  • on weekends, more like 600
  • about 200 spam comments a day – if you ever commented and did not see your comment appear: it’s gone, baby.

A warm thank you all for your interest in what is discussed here, and for your valuable contribution. You know it counts in making this site more useful and more entertaining!

I use this occasion to invite any of you who wish to discuss a topic in physics or astrophysics – but other sciences might be welcome – in a manner accessible to laypersons to let me know if you are willing to write a guest post. Guest posts get a link from the reserved tab (see above), and are a nice addition to this blog.

Ah, and: certified crackpots are encouraged to apply, provided they keep things simple, clear, and they declare their availability to stand by their post by answering any incoming comment or criticism on their pet theory. 


1. Kea - October 3, 2007

Congratulations! I’ll gladly do a guest post! I guess it will have to be on the importance of category theory for 21st century physics, or something like that ….

2. Paolo - October 3, 2007

My congratulations too! I discovered your blog only recently and I’m finding your mini-crash-curses incredibly clear and stimulating. Thanks! These days, I’m hoping for something more on the following topics: “flux stabilization”, “if not TeV scale supersymmetry then what, likely?”

3. Louise - October 3, 2007

Kea or I would happily contribute a guest post. As in my published work, both sides of an issue would be presented. If the post is about varying fundamental values, the case for alternatives would be presented too.

4. dorigo - October 3, 2007

Hi Kea,

that is great! Please start writing! I think you know the typical format, so I need not provide any guidelines…

Dear Paolo, thank you for your appreciation. I feel utterly incompetent on the first topic in your wish list, and the second could be better answered by a theorist. I will try to encourage one to write about that.

Hi Louise, thank you! Please start writing too… I will gladly “publish” you here. You too know the format.


5. Paolo - October 3, 2007

Actually, there is a typo in my post, I meant, much more generally, “moduli stabilization”… Thinking more about it, perhaps it would be nice to have people contributing sort-of dictionary entries explaining in “lay” language such terms of art + a couple of good references. About the experimental / theorist split, sorry, not being a professional physicist, I keep forgetting about it (and I like that 😉

6. Kea - October 3, 2007

Tommaso, please email me at mds67@it.canterbury.ac.nz and I’ll forward a post.

7. Tony Smith - October 4, 2007

Are controversial things OK?

If so, there is a line of comments that recently appeared on Clifford Johnson’s Asymptotia blog post “Whither String Theory …”, saying “… it is time to close this discussion thread. I don’t normally do this, but it seems like the right thing to do. …”.
The line began with Andy saying
“… Germany … has given us relativity and quantum theory. USA … has given us string theory. This is very sad and deserves some worthy reflections …”.
There was some discussion about which physics ideas came from which cultures (USA, European, Japanese, etc),
and ended by Clifford after Mark Srednicki said “… Let’s leave the “my team is best” claims to the world of sports. …”.

Unlike Srednicki, I think that the cultural background of physics ideas is interesting and relevant to understanding how physics advances. There is a letter from J. C. Phillips (of Rutgers) in the October 2007 issue of Physics Today (page 16) that says:
“… the tempest in a teacup surrounding string theory conceals a much larger problem in American physics. That problem is well illustrated by … high temperature superconductivity (HTSC). …
no fewer than nine Nobel Prize winners … have contributed theories on the subject …
Of the nine Nobel laureates, three supported … conventional electron-phonon interaction …
while six went for something exotic – usually electron-spin interactions.
The experiments are now in, and the majority was wrong – the electron-phonon interaction is responsible.
… now comes the interesting part – the three who were right are European, and the six who were wrong are American.
That can scarcely be a coincidence …
Plainly stated, string theory and erroneous theories of HTSC may have a common explanation: American… physics theories are disconnected from reality, not only when no data are available, but even when experimental data are abundant.”.

Tony Smith

8. Quasar9 - October 4, 2007

Hi Tony Smith, at the risk of sounding unscientific
it’s a matter of “art for arts sake and money for G’s sake” – G of course in Physics would be gravity and quantumn gravity.

But would you kill all the work done on Maths by String Theorists, just because no proof of strings is visible, whay would you have them do instead more econometrics.

Would you kill all the theorising & speculation in high energy physics, if the higgs does not reveal itself by 2008 or 2009 or 2010.

Would you kill space exploration and dreams of space travel, because with our current ‘limited’ knowledge we have no real hopes of reaching beyond our solar system in a lifetime, much less in the short lifespan of a government term. I guess landing on the moon was simply a race that had to be won – I cannot believe the ‘return’ (Man on the Moon, the sequel) has been several decades in coming.

Would you kill hollywood because it is nothing more than fantasy and make believe. Yet it is by letting the imagination run free that we get to enjoy everyday things like handheld mobile video phones. Albeit teenagers of 12 or 13 can communicate by satellite whether in the US, Europe, Africa, Asia or Australia, whether to make a date or do a drugs deal – or to organise a party.

PS – One does not need to prove another theory wrong, one should endeavour to prove one’s preferred theory right. Live & let Live – I say.

9. jeff - October 4, 2007

The problem with string theory fashion:
1) too many young talents are being distracted away from other legitimate forms of physics;
2) in particular phenomenologists are a dying breed as no young physicist is encouraged to become one; phenomenolgists recognize that theories are effective ones while this is philosophically unacceptable for string or brane physcists that indeed despise phenomenological approaches;
3) the ideology of string theorists is very politically very strong in the US;
4) funds and academics posts are assigned if you do strings, they don’t come if you are a phenomenologist;
5) youngsters are brainwashed into tying themselves up in strings or getting stuck in branes and you are back to point 1.

The way to break out of this is to tinker with 4. Create a new generation of phenomenologists. But what a tragedy if funding of strings decreases or even stops. How will the majority of those ex-talented no-longer young theorists recycle themselves?

10. Fred - October 4, 2007

Congrats T.

A very nice milestone. You have been very generous with your time. I hope you take a few lire (lol) out and mark the occasion with a fine dinner and evening with your wife for her apparant support. As Yogi might say, “You’re smarter than the average bear”, for offering guest posts to your even smarter scientific colleagues. Their past input and exchanges with you have been stimulating, rewarding and frequently a source of inspiration for my seemlingly unrelated endeavors.

Grazie mille,

p.s. To Tony and Jeff, in the most basic of terms, what are the obvious deficiencies, unresolveable contradictions or gaping holes in string theory and those furthering it’s legitimacy? I get the impression in here that it is eventually going to end up parking on a dead-end street.

p.s.s. Where has the piano playing Venetian been hiding these days and what are his thoughts on the role of the left hand (bass lines and movements) in the overall scheme of things? Is it the dominant or conductive side in playing classical keyboard pieces?

11. dorigo - October 5, 2007

Hi Paolo,

moduli stabilization -> see a string doctor 🙂
As for putting together a sort-of-dictionary, well… I agree, it is always nice to organize information in an accessible way. That is what I try to do in this blog, but only at a slow pace and only about things I think I can talk about… And then, there’s wikipedia, which remains a very useful source of information.


12. dorigo - October 5, 2007

Wow Tony, the example you quote is a blow to US phyisics indeed, especially when added with the fashion of ST there.

So yes, you have a point: we should keep discussing the sociological background…

On another note, the unfair but entertaining european game of listing things we inherited from the US and demonstrating their uselessness is not constrained to physical theories. I remember an italian comedian and singer who argued along those lines by citing the chewing-gum … Was he aware that if you stretch a piece you get a string ?


13. dorigo - October 5, 2007

Hi Quasar,

I like your take at the matter. However, the total science budget of a country hardly depends on what is funded, so in the end if you fund something fancy but off-target you damage the advancement of science overall. That, I think, is the whole point of criticizing string theory. It is a black hole of resources.


14. dorigo - October 5, 2007

Jeff, you pictured the situation well. I think what is happening is roughly going in the direction you mention: by raising the issue on the failure of string theory, one hopes that its funding will decrease, leaving more space to other directions of research.


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