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Kids' breakthrough videos on string theory

...and other topics in physics and science...

Off-topic, LHC: The calendar shows that tomorrow, Wednesday, is the last day of the proton-proton collisions in 2016. Both detectors will have accumulated almost exactly 40/fb of data in 2016. CMS is 1/fb ahead of ATLAS, probably to compensate that it used to be the other way around in previous years. LHC status
Two weeks ago, kids and teenagers began to flood YouTube with their 5-minute videos on string theory and other topics which they had created during the previous month. It seems to me that the topic wasn't explicitly required to be string theory but very many contestants think that it's the most likely theme that can make them win a $250,000 Breakthrough Junior Prize (see the announcement as a video). In total, $400,000 goes to various related prizes.

I have some trouble with such contests. To shoot a popular video on science is something that a rather high percentage of kids or teenagers may do – it's not something that proves that the author is exceptionally talented or going to do exceptional science. Moreover, many parents and other mature relatives understand that $250,000 is a lot of money even for the parents so they won't hesitate to help their kids etc.




At any rate, I think that the winner hasn't been picked yet – am I right? – even though the deadline was October 10th. So we may play some of the videos.



Here, Darren Suen explains string theory by badly laced shoes that make him fall, quarks, picture of Witten and M-theory, and a supermarket. You need to watch the video for a longer time if you want to produce a more intelligent review of the content than I did. :-)




Leonidas Ramirez Quintero enumerates four forces in Nature and claims that they've been divided like that for 70 years – a historical claim I find controversial. He builds on a forest, big trees, a Newton-like apple, a girl with a guitar, a football, and explains the Planck scale and the number of dimensions.



Tristan Pang is just 14, lives in New Zealand, and starts with Einstein and GR. It's about the unification of forces, cartoons of weight lifting etc. It is amazing if he created the video by himself:



Vinayak Joshi wants to scare you and look at a cup. It's made of glass i.e. of open and closed strings. ;-) Dimensions and other things are talked about. His 7-minute video probably shows that he overlooked the 5-minute limit.



Daniel Oleksiyenko asks which string and what it's made of? Lots of animated filaments and skyscrapers in the video.



OK, I must stop now because I've realized that there are dozens of other videos primarily focusing on string theory and perhaps one-thousand of other videos in this challenge. The most widely watched videos are about the wave-particle duality (by Ace Nallawar), the path integrals (by a young, thoughtful, creative, and probably non-criminal Hillary), and the nature of matter. Are the committee members expected to fully watch every single video in this ensemble? That could be quite hard: note that 5 minutes times 1,200 is 6,000 minutes or 100 hours (correct?).

If you believe and realize that 1,000 videos like that have been created, it's not too bad for a $250,000 investment. In fact, I am confident that the overall amount of work that has gone to the creation of these videos exceeds $250,000. So even though I will probably have some doubt that the winner of the contest is "qualitatively better" than all other contestants, the prize may have a positive return-on-investment.

Popular videos are nice but the kids should be encouraged to study modern science seriously. It seems to me that the general demand for new science by the public has dramatically decreased. In 2025 when the dystopia of Idiocracy will look closer than ever before, I believe that foundations such as the Breakthrough Foundation will award millions of dollars to the kid below 18 years of age who learns a string theory textbook better than others or other things.

If one could make dozens if not hundreds of kids learn a string theory textbook in some detail for $250,000, that would quite something.



I don't claim to have watched most of the videos, not even a visible fraction of the 600 hours, but Hillary Diane Andales of the Philippines and her musings about the path integral could be my winner – given my limited exposure.

It has some idiosyncrasies and perhaps even somewhat unscientific memes such as the harmony and synergy encoded in the path integrals (her framing of the classical limit arising from the path integral formalism), but the material stands at a higher "mathematical" level than the bulk of the videos which are laymen-oriented and she did a lot to convince me that she sees some true scientific beauty behind the physical concept and that she has articulated her ideas and feelings about it herself – while many others are just repeating things that have been aired in popular programs many times.

Hillary's victory could compensate another Hillary's coming loss in the U.S. elections. I also liked that she has been good at some math contests so she's not just some teenage filmmaker.

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