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The say of the week March 10, 2008

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, games, humor, mathematics, physics, science.

At least 99% of the 10^500 possible vacua are complete garbage and can be ruled out easily. Thus, the regions of the landscape for which realistic vacua may arise is limited.”

Eric (string theory enthusiast)



1. DB - March 10, 2008

If I may corrupt a Pope (Alexander, not Benedict): “Hype springs eternal in the human breast”

2. Myke - March 10, 2008

Okay, so that leaves 10^498 possible vacua. At a billion eliminations per second that’s still closer to eternity than now!


3. Randall - March 10, 2008

Just a dumb question from a not high energy theoretician: is there any serious alternative to string theory to go beyond the SM?

Because if not, it seems we are in trouble…aren’t we?



4. Peter Woit - March 10, 2008


There are plenty of alternatives for possible beyond the SM physics, but none (including string theory) are very convincing. We’re in trouble not because of this, but because of the lack of any experimental evidence for beyond SM physics. Oh, and we’re also in trouble because more and more smart young people are abandoning particle theory, leaving it to the Erics of this world (he has a Ph.D. in the subject).

5. Eric - March 10, 2008

Well, we certainly can’t leave it to the Peter Woits of this world who contribute precisely nothing other than nagging and diatribe.

6. island - March 10, 2008

You’re in trouble when you still have a fine tuing problem yet don’t have 10^500 possible vacua to speculate about, so the same biocentric “animal” still owns you all, regardless.

Look on the bright side. The experimentalists gurantee that you won’t have to wait another 20 or 30 years worth of unobservable speculation to find out if the last two or three decades worth of claims by string theorists are ever justified, theoretically, and that says a lot.

But my bet is that particle theorists will continue to bail since nothing will change as long as “anticentrist dogma” rules the minds of theorists, because you’ll never find a structure mechanism if it exists where you *absolutely* refuse to look, speaking of failures, but who am I to make this observation, right?… 😉

7. amanda - March 11, 2008

If I may quote Jacques Distler:

” I’ve explained why I think it is likely that, when we manage to find a family of vacua which bear more than a passing resemblance to the Standard Model (so far, we haven’t), they will have a sparse distribution of values for the parameters — both those which have already been measured (which can, if you want, be used to further prune the vacua which bear looking at) and, more importantly, of the parameters we have not yet measured.

Since we haven’t yet found the family of vacua we are looking for, my argument can hardly be called ironclad*. But it is a good deal more persuasive than the mere assertion than “You can get anything you want on the Landscape.”

In any case, if you’re going to go around repeatedly making the latter assertion, then you have to explain why the above argument is wrong.”

I guess PW has had enough time by now to think about his response to that last sentence. OK, PW, so what is your explanation? Which part of JD’s argument is wrong or likely to be wrong? Note: by now we all recognise “wishful thinking” as one of your patented techniques for evading concree argument. But of course you have others……

By the way, the following is very conspicuous. On his website, Bert Schellekens outlines several different possible explanations for anthropic coincidences. PW doesn’t believe the one favored by Schellekens. So which one *does* he favor? Or does he really think that endless, *endless* repetitions of “IT ISN’T SCIENCE!!!!!!” is a replacement for an argument?

8. Peter Woit - March 11, 2008

Re: “Amanda”

First of all, I’m sick and tired of being attacked anonymously by gutless cowards. I think this behavior is shameful and unprofessional.

Secondly, I responded, in detail and at length to Distler in the comment thread where he made this comment, as well as at many other times. I don’t see any point in trying again since whoever “Amanda” is, he or she shows no indication of being a person interested in a serious discussion of this subject.

9. Randall - March 11, 2008

Dear all,

please do not argue! 🙂 I think science can be smooth. I understand that the situation of particle physics is very complicate due to the lack of new experiments that can go beyond the SM (and I sometime feel very happy to be in nanotechnology where things are more under control from this side).

As far as I know (Eric correct me if I am wrong) one of the major problem of string theory is that it is still at a perturbative stage and what exactly M-theory is it is not known. In other word we have not the equivalent of a Schrödinger equation there that we can approximate later, but only the approximation (better to say the approximations…because as far as I know Witten has demonstrated that the 5 string theories plus supergravity are particular perturbation approaches of M-theory).

I just wonder if someone has found a possible way to circumvent this. For example: how string theory is related to the other theories for quantum gravity (I mean other no stringy theories)? Can them, or some of them, be recasted as a reformulation of string theory? Or are they completely separate theories?

Another question, maybe more difficult: how much are scientists confident that the LHC would be able to provide new physical insight in the particle world?

If you have a bit of time, dear Eric and Peter, It would be very interesting and inspiring (at least for me 😉 ) to have some insight in the field.

Best to all,

Randall 🙂

10. dorigo - March 13, 2008

Hi all, and sorry for leaving this thread unattended…

On the other hand, I do not see much to answer here 🙂 In any case,
Eric, Amanda: please leave a real e-mail if you want to be taken seriously. Eric, we certainly can’t take seriously the anonymous commenters: the power of words without a face behind them is zero.

Along the same lines, Island, you say “who am I to make this observation”… At least you have a name and an identity here.

Randall, I can answer your question about LHC: there are huge expectations on the insights that LHC will give on New Physics. If one believes in SUSY, in fact, LHC experiments should be able to find a signal easily and rather early-on. If other models of New Physics turn out to be the correct description of reality, things may be murkier, but still, the window opened by 14-TeV collisions is huge. LHC may even find NP with B-physics measurements, and so not only in the high-energy tails, but also in high-statistics studies of low-Pt processes. All this is double-edged for particle physics: should LHC not find anything new, we would be in a higher dimension of trouble than the one described in the recent books by Woit and Smolin…


11. Eric - March 13, 2008

Dear Tommaso,
FYI, that is my real email address. It’s a shame that you try to mislead people otherwise and play the same kind of dirty games as PW.


12. dorigo - March 13, 2008

Hi Eric,

I am sorry about this – Amanda did not leave a valid email I got confused and included you in the list… I assume you had in your former comment (I get emailed the comments and there I can read the address, but I deleted yours with a bunch of others the other day). Apologies.

In any case, I believe you are mistaken, Peter does not play games like this. He is in fact pissed off by people who leave anonymous comments on his blog -and here too.


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