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Brian Greene: The Hidden Reality (in Czech)

In April 2011, when I was serving as a jury member at an academic film festival in the historical city of Olomouc, I got a call from a woman I collaborated with ten years earlier. The question was whether I wanted to translate Brian Greene's third major popular book, The Hidden Reality, first discussed on TRF in January 2011.

After a couple of sentences and after I was informally promised that I wouldn't be responsible for the renumbering and resorting of the index (and indeed, she did those things at the end, spending almost a month with these mechanical steps, and I am grateful for this work of hers), I said Yes. The bulk of the job was completed in 2 months; it was intense work in Spring 2011, indeed.

A close relative of my editor was seriously ill which didn't have a happy end (on the Christmas Eve...) so the project got delayed by 7 months or so. She returned to work in early 2011 and in February, I was doing a new wave of corrections. The final ones were completed in June. String field theorist Martin Schnabl agreed to become an independent scientific corrector, thanks to him, too.

The publisher's website indicates that the book will or should be published soon, probably in August 2012.

The website gave me the first opportunity to see the cover. Fonts with more than 6 pixels per character would probably be too expensive. ;-)

The third books: evolution

As soon as Brian Greene's first popular book, The Elegant Universe, hit the shelves and once I had read a couple of excerpts and enthusiastic reviews ;-), I decided it had to be a great book. And because, as a Rutgers student, I found it important for the Czechs to have access to some good enough popular text on string theory, I immediately started to translate it – well before I actually had any contract for the work. It was stealing my time as a Rutgers student which wasn't the only reason why the "first wave" of the work was completed in 3 months, quickly but less quickly than the recent book.

I couldn't know it in advance but The Elegant Universe (TEU) looked totally flawless to me. It didn't contain any excessive oversimplifications, widely spread misconceptions, etc. Because I was excited about the project, I could swallow some annoying parts of the collaboration with the publisher. Despite clear rules in the treaty with Brian, the publisher didn't ask him about the design of the cover so he was upset when he saw the smashed brain or whatever picture was chosen by the publisher from my 30 proposals. The technical parts of the publication process were annoyingly slow. A good move was that I hired my kind classmates to renumber and resort the index (which was just $100 or so), and I don't want to overwhelm you with boring details. It got finally published sometime in 2001.

Brian was an unknown author in my homeland, string theory was a largely unknown field, and I was an unknown translator and everything else was unknown as well ;-), so I felt the book needed some promotion to get the appropriate exposure. For example, for several months, I was collecting e-mail addresses of more than a 1,000 of people who could or should be interested in the book such as high school physics teachers etc. ;-)

When I was sending the spam e-mails in the wake of the publication, I fully realized that it wasn't quite kosher and I had decided to react in as user-friendly ways as possible and suppress all seeds of a potential conflict. But it wasn't really necessary, lots of people wrote me that it was the best spam they had ever received. The book sold something like 20 times more copies than an average book in Czechia and got dozens of stellar reviews in Czech newspapers etc.

In TEU, Brian presented sort of "textbook stuff" clustered into naturally separated chapters. All the explanations were laymen-friendly but the science was pretty accurate and didn't even try to avoid technical topics such as mirror symmetry or flop transitions at any cost. I appreciated all those things.

Brian's second major popular book, The Fabric of the Cosmos (FOC), was the only one I was sending feedback to while it was being written. We had quite some e-mail debates with Brian. To compensate for this fact, it was the only one I wasn't translating to Czech and I believe that Olda K. whom I recommended has done a very good job, at least in some respects better than I would do, and that's how things should work. FOC is the story about our changing scientific understanding of space or spacetime as concepts.

Among hundreds of details, I remember two "major" findings I considered errors; a technicality about the way how he calculated the entanglement in a cool EPR-or-GZHM-like experiment that I didn't quite know at that time; and comments about entropy's being predicted by the laws of physics to be higher in the past.

Concerning the first point, it got quickly resolved. Brian's numbers were actually totally exact, describing a real quantum information experiment and not just a "popular caricature" of it. Not knowing too many "quantum games" at that time, I was impressed. Concerning the second point, it didn't get resolved, at least not for years. As far as I can say, Brian just shares some misconceptions about the arrow of time with many others.

The core of this misconception is an invalid way how he thinks that science may be used to say something about the past. He thinks that retrodictions follow the same rules as predictions. But they obviously don't; you are not allowed to evolve macroscopic properties into the past in the same way as if you were evolving them to the future.

Retrodictions are examples of Bayesian inference. They need to choose – subjective and somewhat arbitrary – priors. But when you do things right, you will be able to see that the probabilities of evolutions \(P(A\to B)\) and \(P(CPT(B)\to CPT(A))\) are not equal to each other if \(A,B\) represent macrostates i.e. ensembles of microstates. Instead, the ratio of these two probabilities is \(\exp(S_A-S_B)\) because the probabilities have to be "summed over final states but averaged over initial states", as I have emphasized many times. This simple asymmetry, the logical arrow of time, is the core reason behind the thermodynamic arrow of time and many other phenomena. Whether you predict or retrodict properties of a physical system, you will get a consistent picture if you do things right: the entropy is lower at earlier moments than it is at later moments.

In his third book, The Hidden Reality (THR), I don't see the "arrow of time denial" anymore so it's OK. Still, THR makes some points – including whole chapters – that I consider totally wrong. That's one of the reasons why I was radically less obsessed with the translation of THR than I had been with TEU a decade earlier. Another reason is that it wasn't a new topic on the book market anymore.

One more reason was that I had concluded that even if a popular book is immensely successful, it doesn't make almost any long-term impact because most people will always be irrational and they will prefer various crazy beliefs for various emotional reasons (or the beliefs they were taught as kids). Even if people claim to have understood something about modern physics and it looks like they have, it's almost always just a temporary state of affairs. The first or second crackpot they listen to who says some bullshit will undo the people's understanding.

As you can see, I grew very skeptical about the assumption that it makes much sense to try to educate the laymen about things that are clearly too advanced for them. That doesn't mean that I hadn't desperately tried to do such things in recent years; but it does mean that I have realized that such efforts are largely desperate. ;-) People's stupidity knows of no boundaries.

But let us return to THR. THR is a comprehensive presentation of all kinds of parallel worlds and multiverses one may think of.

There are many types – a simple "infinitely large Universe", the multiverse from eternal inflation, many worlds of quantum mechanics, braneworlds, cyclic cosmologies, pairs of holographic descriptions that are dual to each other, construction of new simulated worlds on computers, and the gedanken Universe containing all mathematical ideas and structures.

Those things may perhaps be described in a unified way as examples of "ideas in which scientists are willing to talk about multiple worlds" which is why it may have been a good idea to discuss them in the same popular book. However, their status is completely different. Some of them are pure metaphysical speculations, others are speculative interpretations of some theories that try to change nothing about the predictions (Everett), others are alternative models of particle physics or cosmology which may be somewhat unlikely but they belong to the same philosophical frameworks as the dominant scenarios (cyclic cosmologies and braneworlds), others are just equivalent descriptions of the same physics so they shouldn't be multiply counted as many words at all (holography and other dualities), others are widely believed frameworks to do cosmology (the multiverse of eternal inflation), and there are things that are discussed by mathematically oriented philosophers and that don't claim to make any contact with any "details" of observable physics as an empirical science at all (mathematical multiverse etc.).

It seems to me that Brian thinks that it's not just a "vague similarity" between a certain feature of very different ideas. He must genuinely think that all these ideas are "dragging science in the same direction". This opinion explicitly stated at several places in the book – and implicitly being Brian's genuine opinion – seems extremely superficial and mostly wrong to me. These ideas must be evaluated separately. They have nothing to do with each other and most of them are either physically wrong or physically vacuous, too. There is surely no "trend" in contemporary (genuine) science that would be leading us to "many worlds" in the most general sense.

While Brian is much more pro-anthropic than I am, I found the chapters about the eternal inflation and the related multiverse insightful, clear, and relatively uncontroversial and balanced (although not all crucial and most intrinsic problems of the anthropic reasoning have been presented). However, the chapter about Everett's many worlds seemed awful. It's OK as a thought-provoking reading for armchair physicists but if Brian is serious about the content of the chapter, it's just bad. (Of course, I decided to be a pure translator and haven't incorporated any "notes by the translator" in the whole book whatsoever; if there are some of them, they were suggested by the editor and I said at most OK. There would be hopelessly many if I tried to promote mine.)

It's not just about very particular isolated invalid propositions about the Copenhagen's interpretation being unable to do this or that, and about Everett's interpretation to be great because of one thing or another. Most of the statements made in the book about these matters are just upside down. I will sometime analyze the chapter in detail. However, it's also about the overall spirit. The chapter reads like a neverending hardcore conspiracy theory in which Niels Bohr and his friends play the role of the ultimate villains who suppress great thinkers and revolutionary discoveries. This gang of thugs sometimes intimidates other scientists in the grey zone, like John Wheeler, and forces them to bully pure and ingenious thinkers such as Hugh Everett III.

Please, give me a break with this stunning garbage! Niels Bohr and other founders of quantum mechanics – I mean Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, Paul Dirac, and a few others (I deliberately omit folks like Louis de Broglie and Erwin Schrödinger because they may have made important contributions but they just didn't understand the final result of the research well so they shouldn't be counted as "defining men" of the Copenhagen interpretation) – performed the most important revolution in the 20th century physics and arguably in the whole history of science. And yes, I am writing this sentence aware of relativity. Quantum mechanics, the new framework for physics that they discovered, has passed all tests in the 85+ years since the discovery and we understand increasingly well that it can't be deformed in any way without spoiling the consistency of the framework.

The founding fathers also understood that quantum mechanics applies to all objects in the world. But they also knew that classical physics emerges as the limiting description in the appropriate situations – in the classical limit of the general conditions. They also realized that the classical logic is required to deduce meaningful logical implications and calculated probabilities out of the quantum mechanical framework.

One part of the emergence of the classical limit, decoherence, wasn't understood in the full quantitative glory (that's the only valid "recent" development clarifying the foundations of quantum mechanics – since the 1980s) but literature makes it rather clear that Bohr and friends knew about the "spirit of decoherence".

In the last 85+ years since the discovery of quantum mechanics, all people opposing quantum mechanics have lost, all of their predictions differing from the predictions of quantum mechanics have been proved wrong, and the whole philosophy of trying to find and promote "problems" with the proper Copenhagen quantum mechanics – and all these efforts are always driven by the desire to undo the quantum revolution and return physics to the age when the classical framework was dominant – has been an utter failure, an embarrassing pseudointellectual catastrophe, a huge pile of stinky junk that no sensible scientist would associate herself with.

I am amazed that even this modest and balanced summary of the situation may be considered controversial by some physicists in 2012. I am amazed that Brian Greene may be on the evil side, too.

Niels Bohr treated the theories about many worlds as garbage bringing nothing new and correct to physics for a simple reason: they were garbage that was bringing nothing that was both new and correct. Despite his obsession with unusual ideas, this fact was pretty much clear to John Wheeler, too. He didn't want to look like an idiot; but he didn't want to sadden his student by destroying his pet cranky theory, either.

At any rate, I am annoyed by the fact that the men behind the deepest revolution in the history of physics are still not being celebrated for what they have done. This is primarily a criticism of the media exposure and popular books and it's sad to notice that in this respect, THR is another average pseudoscientific book that is willing to promote any wrong, dysfuctional, and quasi-religious belief system (GRW, Bohm's theory, MWI, anything else) as long as this belief system is designed to downplay or assault the framework underlying modern physics and, indirectly, all of modern science, namely quantum mechanics. It is sad. We are still not living in a scientific world.

And that's the memo.

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reader Mephisto said...

I read only FOC (translated by Olda Klimánek). The translation was not bad but there were some wannabe funny translations of names (Knížák - I get an urtica just by hearing his name, the Gondíks, Klaus etc). It is even more annoying to read it now after the years. I hope you avoided such stuff.
BTW: it might be more interesting, if you translated some of your educational physics blogs and tried to publish them. There are surely thousands of physics enthusiasts in the Czech Republic who would buy it. There is very little good quality literature on advanced physics like QFT, gauge theories, string theory etc in CR, that would try to make the important concepts understandable (most scripts are just totally unpedagogical collections of advanced formulae)
But thanks for the translation. I hope the sales will be high enough. I might give it a try also

reader Luboš Motl said...

Not sure how broadly you define "such stuff".

The closest thing to politics that I have in the new book is "Šárka and Stanislav" [without a surname] instead of two names serving as explanations of perturbation theory. Otherwise I used lots of Czech fairy-tales icons instead of the American ones, most notably Mach and Šebestová instead of their U.S. counterparts that I no longer remember. There are lots of others including Otesánek. In one case, "Howard and Penny" who are not Czech replace two other American heroes who were unknown to me, and so on.
Despite my deep patriotism, I think it's silly to write textbooks on string theory or "comparably difficult topics" in Czech because the requirements for someone to understand the English used by the technical literature are much less scarce than the requirements to understand string theory at the technical level. In other words, who has the capacity to understand string theory at the technical level will overcome the obstacle known as English, too, so a Czech text will be useless, anyway.
My book in French has been successful as well but I don't really see much commercial purpose in those things, either.

reader David Nataf said...

Apparently, a very common comment undergraduates write on their statements to get into physics graduate school is that they fell in love with string theory (or whatever) after reading Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe.

I don't know if these people are serious, but if they are it shows that there is value to these books. It is certainly true that most people will forget everything they've learned after listening to 1 or 2 crackpots, but if 1% of the readers are more motivated to be physicists then that makes the project worthwhile.

I don't know that anybody would become a physicist without there being any popular science, science fiction, etc. The way it's taught in most high schools is unexciting, and does put many bright young minds to sleep. At best, the only thing they can know about science from those courses is that they're good at it.

In my own case, it was certainly helpful to read articles in Scientific American, New Scientist (it took me a few years to realize they were sensationalist), American Scientist, seeing pretty pictures of the planets from the Voyager probes, etc. So I think these books help though I'm biased to popular science magazine articles.

All that said, it's unfortunate Greene is presenting these different many-worlds in a manner that implies they're equivalent.

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear David, it's very true that undergrads are often saying it, I've heard it as well. but it's really about TEU so one may better avoid the generalization to "these books".

The difference between TEU and other books may arise from TEU's relative uniqueness, from TEU's own qualities, from TEU's clear enthusiasm for the true science that is motivated by actual knowledge, and perhaps from higher level of teenagers' excitement about science just a few years earlier as the humanity is arguably deterioriating. There are many factors at play here.

The central topics of TEU, FOC, and THR are of course different, and they should be for different books. It's only TEU that is focusing on the path towards the state-of-the-art research. FOC with its focus on the "story of space" is more history-oriented and less focused on actual future researchers. THR is sort of refocused on current research except that it's not the kind of research who makes anyone who is quantiatively oriented truly excited. While I am ready to believe that many physicists genuinely believe in many worlds etc., I don't believe that any (or many) of them think that the multiverse, even if true, is as far-reaching a breakthrough as the discovery of relativity or other major things.

reader Eugene S said...

Dear Lubos, congratulations on the long-awaited publication of your Czech translation of Brian's book, which must be all the more gratifying for the extra long wait between your completion of the job and the book launch. As I know from experience, translating a book can be an immersive experience that demands a lot in terms of focus, discipline, and creativity. You are fortunate to be personally acquainted with the author and more than that, I would expect that you also figure as an important influence by way of your e-mail exchanges, for "Fabric of the Cosmos" at least. On the fiction side of the aisle, Umberto Eco is famous for corresponding at length with his translators and he has often acknowledged their valuable input, especially their fact-checking skills.

I particularly remember my second book translation for the luxurious amount of time I had for research and rewriting (six weeks -- a far cry from the breakneck tempo in commercial translation) and for the visit I paid to the German Architectural Museum. I wanted to look at some of Venturi's architectural drawings "first hand", so to speak, and so I presented myself at the front desk one morning, explained why I was there, and immediately was escorted into the basement, where the lady pulled open a drawer from one of the giant architectural filing cabinets, told me to make myself at home, and left me to my own devices. The mind boggles at the insured value of the irreplaceable drawings and blueprints and the mischief I could have done if so inclined!

Dr. Greene, if you are reading along, I'm sure many TRF readers would welcome a guest blog from you on a topic of your choosing -- with a spirited debate between you and TRF's host as the topping!

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Eugene, it's not published yet. ;-) Thanks for your kind words but let me admit that I don't find translation - or writing of generally accessible texts - to be too exhausting... ;-)

Your stories are fun, your proposal for a guest blogger would be fun but I think he has more influential places to write for...

reader Dilaton said...

Dear Lumo, thanks for this interesting and nice to read review :-)
From all of the four Brian Green books I`ve only read the Elegant Universe so far, as my nice colleague borrowed it to me ... :-P. Maybe I shoul soon order my own copy since it seems I`m not able to persuade my colleague to leave it to me as a present, arguing that it should be mine because I like string theory more than he does ... ;-).

For me, the idea to fuel the love of fundamental physics by means of popular books some kinde of worked :-):

About four years ago I was limitedly of educated about classical mechanics, quantum mechanics,(nonequilirium) statistical mechanics, and fluid dynamics but I had no clou about relativity, cosmology, QFT, particle physics and string theory I thought is something to put on my breakfest bread on the morning :-P
After reading "Out of This World" and looking at the nice pictures of your colleagues therein you have taken I thought these are all cool people doing awesome and interesting stuff and fell in love with fundamental physics.
Then, after having finished the Elegant Universe, I was (and still am !!!) so excited about fundamental physics that I was no longer satisfied by "equation free" books containing analogies that I since then testing if I`m not able to understand things at a deeper level by turning to slightly technical descriptions such as my beloved Lenny Lectures (I still love them even though he promotes the anthropic reasoning which I like not) and the Demystified books for example...

If fear learning as much as I can about fundamental physics just for the heck and fun of it and following the newest developements will be my favorite hobby for the rest of my life now ... :-)))

reader Frederick Bloggs said...

Lubos, I hope you will find time to write a book too. You have a lot of good and interesting things to say and I think you could clear up a lot of myths and misunderstandings. Why should Brian Greene get all the glory ? ;-)

reader Ghandi said...

Lubos, what do you think about the title "The Hidden Reality"? To include the word "reality" even though its unproven, is a bit misleading don't you think?

reader Luboš Motl said...

I don't have a real problem with that. Brian clearly believes it. Even if he didn't or even if this weren't reality, which it probably isn't, it's OK to say that it's hidden. In fact, it's perfectly hidden, into the warehouse of non-existence, together with angels and tooth fairies.

reader Shannon said...

Hey I chatted briefly with Brian Greene yesterday ! No kidding. I bought his book outside the room and thought I might as well queue up to have it signed too. Everybody wanted to have a word with him. I didn't. I had no questions. I read TRF ;-). When he was signing his book for me I felt I had to say something apart from my name... first that came was "I heard about your new book through TRF : he had a swift reaction "yes ! Lubos Motl !" he said smiling... and he started telling me about the little disagreement :-)... I said the anthropic principle ?... to which he said "no I think we've settled our disagreement on that one. Lubos disagrees on some QM things I've said in my book etc... I don't fully understand why, it all "seems extreme" to me...".

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Shannon, that's cool! Where was it? ;-) Aren't you joking?

Otherwise if that's a real story, I think that I can mostly subscribe to his interpretation! We have mostly settled our disagreements on the anthropic stuff, but Brian's views on QM are what's really energizing our little disagreement in an extreme way! :-)

reader Dilaton said...

What ...?!
That' s cool Shannon :-D

reader Shannon said...

It is not a joke Lubos !! It is the Science Festival in Dublin this week. Brian Greene had a talk last night at the Science Museum at 5:30pm.It was actually only 5€. It was an ok talk, he repeated a few jokes I heard before on the net. He's a nice guy to talk to.

reader Shannon said...

reader Mephisto said...

Mach and Šebestová are perfect. I didn't want to read popular books about string theory yet. I hope that I will understand at least the basics on a mathematical level one day (I already understood how to derive Feynman diagrams through the Dyson series). BTW: I just read a very good interveiw of yours at Technet. You should be more in the Czech media. There is also one very good writer about physics at (Vladimir Wagner)
But you really should avoid politics. The part in the discussion where you claim that Kalousek is the best finance minister in the world made me laugh. What you have in brilliance in physics, you compensate in political naivity ;-) I hope you don't take it personally. It is well meant.

reader Shannon said...

Hi Dilaton ;-) yes it was really cool to talk with Brian Greene. At the end of the conversation I felt he was expecting me to say more but I was too kinda frozen... don't know... so when he said Lubos was extreme, I ended the conversation by "well.. hum I like his blog though" and BG looked at me sort of... hurt/surprised/wondering... don't know...

reader Luboš Motl said...

I believed you the first time you said it, Shannon! Moreover, I've read somewhere that he would be in Dublin but mostly forgot it.

You shouldn't have frozen so much. You should have given Brian a physics lecture; his reaction in the face clearly indicates that he doesn't have the privilege of meeting a regular TRF reader too often! ;-)

reader Shannon said...

Right ! When I was leaving people just behind me were looking at me probably wondering what did I say that made him react so lively ;-)

reader Luboš Motl said...

They must have thought you have learned some secrets from Sheldon Cooper:

And they were partly right! :-)

reader Shannon said...

Lol ! :-D I had forgotten he appeared in TBBT... Sheldon Cooper can be so bold, I would never dare ! Although with 2 glasses of wine ya never know... ;-)

reader Eugene S said...

So it's quantum mechanics that forms the main disagreement between you and Greene? And here I thought it was entropy and the arrow of time...

Am I correct that the paragraph in the article above these comments which starts "Retrodictions are examples of Bayesian inference..." is in fact highly insulting... the equivalent of a gas station attendant telling a driver, "Sir, the car won't start unless you put the key in the ignition first?"

(although between good friends, what may look like insults to others can be just good, clean fun :D )

reader Dilaton said...

Ha ha, Shannon, your funny comments concerning the chat make me LOL :D

Ts ts ts ... poor poor Brian Green .. ;-)

I dont understand WHY he disagrees with Lumo and writes wrong things about QM now. I mean, to be such a powerful physicist as he is he MUST correctly understand QM ... Or how could he do string theory otherwise ...?

Anyway, I still think he is a cool ;-)

reader Luboš Motl said...

LOL, wine sometimes helps to break such barriers and chicken-little-ness. I mostly praise Brian's work in this popularization business because it's been great but of course I share lots with Sheldon's opinions as well and I would never be afraid of saying such a thing if I believed it was true...

Brian's stunned reaction at the end has so many potential explanations and all of them would sound colorful if I presented them, none of them would be established, so I will probably not speculate. ;-)

reader Luboš Motl said...

Yup, Eugene, I am confident that foundations of QM are the deepest layer of my disagreement with BG these days. As far as I can say, there's not a single wrong claim about the arrow of time in his latest book I translated recently, The Hidden Reality - just some "not quite dismissive" comments referring to his discussion in The Fabric of the Cosmos which had lots of incorrect claims about thermodynamics, predictions, arrow of time, and information.

However, THR has dozens of pages of material that is either explicitly false or false in spirit and that is about QM.

Concerning ignition, it's good you see it in this way but I don't see anything insulting in that paragraph. If you meant that the facts I was building upon in that paragraph are elementary, I totally agree. But these elementary facts are in striking contradiction with what Brian and others have been saying about the arrow of time. I am almost sure that he has never stated - or actively realized - that retrodiction is an example of Bayesian inference so it's "indirect" and/or "reverse" and can't lead to unique, objective answers. And I am also pretty sure that he has never actively made the calculation showing that the CPT inverses of macroscopic processes don't have the same probability but the probability ratio is actually exp(S_A-S_B) for them. The wording makes it clear that he believes that the ratio is 1.

A not-so-subtle mistake of a missing factor of exp(–10^{26}) which suppresses the processes with a decreasing entropy, whether they are supposed to occur in the future or in the past. So I don't know whether "insulting" is the right word. It's "embarrassing" because people talking about "the arrow of time being still mysterious" don't know how to use the ignition keys.

reader Eugene S said...

Shannon, our Ambassador to Ireland :)

reader Luboš Motl said...

Eugene, our cherished diplomat. On the other hand, from my ethnic-oriented viewpoint on nationality, she's de facto at home over there so how can she be an ambassador? ;-)

reader Eugene S said...

Yes, I suppose you could overlay an alternative map on top of Europe and then Ireland, Scotland, Brittany and Wales would form their own country (Celtica?).

When I worked in Ireland, two of my co-workers -- Annick from Brittany and Gwyn from Wales -- would converse with each other sometimes, each speaking in their own language yet understanding each other (although with some difficulty).

P.S.: Annick was the girl, Gwyn was the guy.

reader Giotis said...

But what are the alternatives within String theory?

I see two:

A non perturbative formulation of String theory which will give the vacuum of String theory or a selection mechanism a la Hartle-Hawking wave function which will peak the most probable from the low energy effective vacua. I think the latter is improbable at this point; the former is elusive too...

So without a better idea on the horizon, theorists are doing well to consider the anthropic reasoning as a plausible theoretical explanation. That's what they should do...

reader Luboš Motl said...

A nonperturbative formulation of string theory isn't an alternative to string theory. It's string theory itself when studied properly and accurately enough.

No theorists are doing well with an anthropic explanation. It's just a religious attitude, not an actual scientific research program that has generated true scientific results - or that can generate true scientific results in a foreseeable future.

No scientists should do such things. There is really no science located in this direction.

reader Giotis said...

Nature does not have to comply with our definition of what science is or isn't.

There might be indeed a multiverse out there and scientists should consider this possibility.

You don't provide a solid theoretical argumentation which could explain why we live in the specific vacuum of String theory.

Anthropic reasoning and the multiverse on the other hand provides such an explanation and it's the only one so far.

Brian Greene correctly says that we should consider this explanation too at least until a better one appears or until someone shows that thoretically is ill defined. It's wrong to say that scietists should completely ignore this possibility; you don't have theoretical arguments to support such a view.

reader Luboš Motl said...

I agree Nature doesn't have to comply with our definitions of science. To mention a textbook example, it doesn't comply with your definitions.

We definitely live in a *specific* vacuum. This much may be proven simply by measuring the properties o elementary particles many times, at different places. We always get the same values. So it's surely a specific vacuum. If it were not, we would be getting either variable or ambiguous values.

I don't know what specific claim you're making. As far as I can say, you're just spamming my blog with meaningless junk, the kind of spam that will have to enrich the black list after some time.

reader Mephisto said...

Eugene, my favorite mathematics magazine has 2 articles on the Higgs mechanism

reader Eugene S said...

Good find,m thanks!