A "Web of Stories" interviewer was under a visible influence of several crackpots who have polluted the science (and other) popular media in recent years so he asked Nobel laureate Murray Gell-Mann what he thought about the testing of superstring theory.
Murray Gell-Mann was obviously surprised by the question, thinking it was a strange one, and he enumerated some important successful postdictions (especially Einstein's equations derived from a deeper starting point) as well as some predictions waiting to be checked (SUSY: watch also Crucial tests of string theory).
He doesn't see anything wrong about superstring theory when it comes to testing. There's really no conceptual difference between the tests of this string theory and tests of older theories, e.g. those that Murray Gell-Mann became most famous for almost half a century ago.
In the interview, Gell-Mann has also defended the two main pillars of progress in high-energy physics – the theoretical extraction of the appropriate predictions; and the collider technology we must try to push to as high energies as possible.
In a different short video, Gell-Mann chastised Shelly Glashow for his hostile attitude towards string theory that Gell-Mann cannot understand. Glashow is a lot of fun, as I know from many social events in Greater Boston, but I can't understand it, either, even after I have used ex-his Harvard office for quite some time. ;-)
Gell-Mann also (partially) blames the completely wrong idea that superstring theory can't be tested on Glashow. One must carefully distinguish about direct tests of the "unified [Planckian] regime" and any tests of a theory; these are completely different questions. Glashow's attitude is even more paradoxical given his key contributions to grand unification in Yang-Mills theory which would also occur at (directly) inaccessible energy. Glashow is therefore a clear example of a person living in a wooden house not throwing termites. Why he should do that?
Gell-Mann and foundations of QM
In another video, Gell-Mann discusses Hugh Everett. Gell-Mann, Feynman, and others spent a part of their 1963-1964 years by thinking about the foundations of quantum mechanics and their conclusions didn't really differ from the "consistent histories" etc. that Gell-Mann (with Jim Hartle) was contributing to in recent decades, from 1984-1985.
He credits John Wheeler himself for the concept of "many worlds" while Everett was primarily interested in solving problems, not specifically in quantum mechanics, so he wasn't really disappointed by solving military problems in the rest of his life. At any rate, Gell-Mann didn't know about Everett; they reproduced some of the features. Like myself, it doesn't make sense to say that there are "other worlds that are equally real as ours".
See many other videos in the list at the bottom of this page which contains literally hundreds of several-minutes-long interviews with Gell-Mann. There are of course more than 7,000 other stories recorded by 166 other famous people on that website, too. You may try e.g. James Lovelock on his being a green skeptic (story 15).
Hat tip: Paul Halpern and B. Chimp Yen
Spain vs Portugal
Our, Czechia's quarterfinal conquerors, Portugal, are playing the semifinals of the Euro against Spain as I am typing these words. I can't stop thinking of Treaty of Tordesillas (1494). A Pope just wrote a one-page document and divided a planet, planet Earth, to two nations, Spain and Portugal, along a meridian that was chosen by randomly spinning a globe in his office. The paperwork used to be tolerable 500+ years ago. ;-)
In fact, they didn't talk about hemispheres: if you moved to the West from the demarcation meridian, it would always be Spanish; and the colony would be Portuguese anywhere to the East. Only decades later, Spaniards realized a conflict and argued that there was also an anti-meridian that helped to divide the world to two hemispheres.
At any rate, the reason why Brazil speaks Portuguese and occupies the Eastern corner of the South America boils down to the 1494 treaty. I was also intrigued by this 1502 Portuguese map, Cantino Planisphere:
Note the accurate shape of Africa – it is much more accurate than some obscure islands such as Great Britain. ;-) As you go further, the accuracy goes down and the map resembles an area settled by mysterious dragons. In some sense, this map is exactly "in the middle" of the explorers' mapping process. I believe that our current picture of the landscape of string theory is somewhat analogous. Lots of things that are very accurate in our minds, lots of sketches that are off, some identifications that shouldn't be there and some missed identifications that should be there, a few missing continents such as Australia ;-), but it is clear that we already know "much more than nothing".