Saturday, February 03, 2007

Barton Zwiebach: String theory for pedestrians

Prof Barton Zwiebach (MIT), a world's leader in string field theory who has just analytically solved, with his collaborators - and independently of Martin Schnabl, the author of the zeroth approximation himself - the issue of marginal deformations of the tachyonic vacuum in cubic string field theory ... and an author of a classic string theory undergraduate textbook ... gave three lectures at CERN:

that many readers may enjoy, especially typical pedestrians:

He covers the classical theory and its application to the cosmic superstrings, applications of AdS/CFT to heavy-ion physics, and braneworlds based on D-branes. His estimate for the time needed to get the full unified theory - whatever it exactly includes - is 10 years. Prof Barton Zwiebach treats the likely insight about the potentially large number of vacua very calmly and rationally (citing three options "no vacuum is right", "one vacuum is right and will be located", "many vacua may be right and we won't distinguish them" - somewhat disappointing), unlike the folks at the World Crackpot Headquarters at Columbia University.

(I just opened their page, after some time: it is simply astonishing what kind of meaningless and vicious garbage written by people who are both obvious ignorants as well as obnoxious sourballs someone wants to read. The readers must have four stomachs like cows. Only two things are infinite - human stupidity and the Universe - and I have strong doubts about the latter.)

As the current atmosphere of political correctness run amok dictates, Barton was kind of pressed or convinced or forced to talk about various kinds of bad science such as loop quantum gravity, so he did what the context required, in the Galilean fashion. He said that he had to mention loop quantum gravity for sociological reasons and wasted a few minutes with this topic, as ordered. A wise method to pay a finite tax for the cranks' influence. ;-)

Barton simply said that loop quantum "gravity" probably didn't work because it couldn't be shown to include gravity. A lot has been inserted into loop quantum gravity's starting point but not much has come out of it; string theory, on the contrary, had humble beginnings but is leading to one discovery after another. It happens that the video miraculously stops at the beginning of Barton's talk about loop quantum gravity - I was informed that it is because of the end of a tape.

Some people are trying hard to hide the simple fact that every informed person knows about the status of that theory, namely that loop quantum gravity almost certainly doesn't work - and the two recent popular books are cheap porn for undemanding consumers. It has become effectively impossible to both report about the actual current status of physics as well as to keep the talk publicly available.

I wonder what percentage of the talks will have to be doctored, preordained, or censored before other people start to realize that there is a problem. Be sure that once more than 50% of talks are doctored or censored, it will already be too late because those who don't exactly believe that science should be made by free scientists who are not intimidated will already be in charge.

Finally, let me say that some sources such as Resonaances below celebrate that some talks focus on topics that reveal intimidation by certain organized groups - e.g. focus on experiments. While AdS/CFT and heavy ion physics is fun, we agreed with a senior leading string theorist that it is something like 1% of string theory and it is not why many of us do string theory. The opinion of some people, especially crackpots, that string theorists should focus on topics with practical applications remind me of the same ideological, Marxist-Leninist pressure during socialism. Some communist ideologues would say that science had to be useful for the working class but as far as I remember, none of them was as primitive and fanatical as Peter Woit, among a few other examples.

The goals of high-energy theorists have always been, are, and will be much more ambitious and abstract than a particular dirty experiment, whether or not an unrefined and uncultural observer of science likes it or not. Barton's focus only reflects the experimental character of the location where he gave the lecture.

And that's the memo.

Via Resonaances.

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