Friday, November 29, 2013

TOE movies: Wilczek, Tegmark, Strominger, Guth, ...

Off-topic, via Fred Singer: Weak Lensing Contest: Participate in the "great challenge" where you should design algorithms decoding weak lensing ("unwarping images of millions of galaxies") and show you're better than the experts; NASA quiz example (I did it right LOL); Science Daily. Ends in April 2014. Winner gets $3,000 in hardware.
Someone started a YouTube project of recording 2-minute interviews with famous physicists about a theory of everything, (FB home page)

TOEmovie YouTube channel (videos)
So far, there seem to be eight videos in the channel.

First, pedestrians near MIT are asked what a theory of everything is.

They start with silence. Then they offer you a louder answer, namely əəəəəəəə. Finally, all of them reveal that they have at least some idea.

Ken Olum of Tufts is asked whether we live in the Matrix.

He is an atheist but he finds an overlord plausible. It should be considered, he thinks. Can we find out we are simulated?

Max Tegmark of MIT attracted the highest number of viewers by his question: How weird is reality?

Tegmark suggests that it is "hard" to construct physics theories that only contain the things we are seeing. (I agree with that but it doesn't necessarily imply that we have to incude "everything" that can exist, either.) We must study things that are weird as well, otherwise we have no chance to find the truth.

Andy Strominger of Harvard says that the fun is only starting to emerge now.

He compares the situation of the 20th century with the situation now. He summarizes the 20th century breakthroughs as well as the recent ones and the confusion that remains in the fog. He is a cheerleader of a sort here but I do tend to agree that the situation is more interesting now when the physics is already more mature than 100 years ago.

Paul Steinhardt of Princeton, a co-co-inventor and hater of cosmic inflation, tries to clarify what the Big Bang really was.

He compares the Big Bang with an ordinary explosion. The Big Bang should be called Big Stretch which is a terminological stretch. ;-)

Historian of science Peter Galison of Harvard (yup, I know him rather well, too) talks about how technology shapes scientific ideas. Note that he's been enthusiastic about the idea that Einstein's patent work for the railways was important for relativity, a meme I don't really share.

Similarly, Poincaré measured the longitude. Peter thinks that they found it important to study the spacetime issues to help practical problems. I don't believe that. It was clear to them that most of the relativistic corrections would be unmeasurable at their time. The situation wasn't "qualitatively" different from our research of branes or strings or black hole interior today.

Historian David Kaiser of MIT focuses on conceptual revolutions.

He thinks it's more interesting to start with the people before Einstein who were very good at calcuations (better than most of us today, I totally agree with that) who were thinking about the aether. They were working on the detailed properties of the aether, a project whose importance was treated as unquestionable, before someone finally pointed out that maybe, there's no aether. ;-)

Alan Guth talks about the inflating size of our universe – he is uncertain about the existence of the multiverse.

He says that we are small geometrically but we are still important for us, from our perspective. I totally agree with that.

Too bad that so few people are watching these videos. This blog post may very well double the visitor counts.


  1. The same thing happens with phenomenally talented classical musicians on youtube...maybe a few hundred views compared with millions for Bieber-Gaga tripe. I despair for the human race :0)

  2. Hmm, I will have to read your posts more carefully and not try the eidetic memory stuff :)

  3. Had a good chuckle - Thanks

  4. What do you have against Lady Gaga? Bieber I can understand, he's just another boring teen idol. But LG... it just floors me how she transformed herself from a mousy teenager into this world superstar of pop. At first I thought, blonde, young, Italian-American, pert, she'll be another Pia Zadora, a flash in the pan. But she can sing, play the piano, write songs, design fashion, and be genuinely zany and crazy. For sheer talent, her only rivals are the sadly departed Amy Winehouse and Janelle Monae. But the latter two were/are not as good at charting their own career and somehow always selecting the right people to use for her ends. So in that respect, she is the equal of Madonna, but Madonna cannot hold a candle to her talents otherwise.

  5. What does Tegmark say, I can't quite make it out: "I think the main reason people have resisted [pallyd] universe..." : polyuniverse?

    Love the particle collider analogy. You collide two Volkswagens and then three trains and a cruise ship come out: that is so neat.

    I don't think his support for an Everettian multiverse (at least that's how I understand him) will find much traction on TRF, but have there been any TRF articles in the past addressing Tegmark's "mathematical universe"?

  6. Ha ha Uncle Al,

    this comment made me heartily LOL :-D

  7. Thanks fur the funny introduction of these videos Lumo :-)

    I will happily add my views ... later today ... It's way after midnight again here, darn ...!


  8. Interesting, did look at all of them, one question Lubos, when will a segment with yourself be added, is the film crew on their way already ?

  9. what is pro environment meaning exactly

  10. That brings the question... Lubos, what's your view on TOE? Do you think that there is one? What are its characters? Your broader answer would make a great new post.

  11. Lubos, I have been reading your posts for more than a couple years and this has to be one of your most hilarious satires ever.

  12. "TOE questions" address such a tenuous topic (one to do with what is ultimately going on) that 'we all' - i.e. not just theoretical physics luminaries [of whom I sure know the one I most enjoy/prefer to spend my mental-metabolic currency paying actention to!] - can have a say on without running too much risk of getting caught with our pants down or with our high energy philosophical tools exposed and found being operated ineptly and coming up short (or not up to the task). ;>

  13. One of the interviewed males (with a short beard at 1:21 into the first video) mistakenly described a FOOT instead of (a mere) TOE. :>

  14. It seems by what Steinhard said that his comment was recorded before the discovery that 'his stretch' is getting increasingly hasty.

  15. That discovery came in 1998 ... so I think he got cut off by the two-minute mark :)

  16. Dear Eugene, the word you didn't understand was "parallel universes".

  17. Great to have these videos in one place. The topic is utmost scientific, philosophical and religious importance. Regarding the Inflationary Epoch I have solved 50% of it in viXra 1309: 0152 and I have significantly added Einstein's Relativity in SAJS: 104. 221. Two others are in press. I am not far from solving the ultimate mysteries including a beginning in TOE(superficially only, cant be otherwise)which is synonymous with Metaphysics, another future aspect of natural science. There is no such thing as multiverse, many worlds, infinite universe and it wont make the slightest difference for we cannot never prove they are there. But to me they dont exist for what I am finding more and more conclusively is that all the mysteries of our world have all the scientific explanation we need to know to understand all our physical realities. Last thing I should say is that I will come up with a new concept of the origin of the universe for in spite of some good points about the bb concept it is very very hollow in terms of elucidating our realities. We need to keep an open mind not have a partisan allegiance in science.

  18. Oh, ok, thanks. Having watched all the videos -- will there be another one featuring Prof. Wilczek? -- my two favorites are Tegmark and Kaiser. Tegmark because he's the only European in the bunch and he nicely embodies that old-world combination of charm and distractedness (his mind going in all kinds of directions while he talks) and Kaiser because he is so fussy and precise, qualities that I value especially in such a fact-rich discipline as history.

    I didn't learn anything new from any of the videos and it would be silly to demand being taught something new in a mere two minutes. The videos work as PR (sorry, "outreach") in an environment where fundamental research must justify its existence every day and they could inspire young kids of high school age to want to learn more about what fascinates and animates these guys so much.

  19. Am fairly sure Uncle Al did not list 'young JB' because he did not want to write something that was guaranteed to make himself blush. ;)

  20. Had a good laugh Dr. Motl, thanks!

  21. We are all wait with baited breath for you to lift the lid on everything! %}}

  22. American deniers will be called "astronots," Russian deniers "cosmonots."

  23. The wait will be worthwhile however I will attempt to come up with a scientific explanation of the origin of the universe which for the first time in the past 100 years will hopefully provide the beginning of an answer to Einstein's question about what was the thinking behind the creation of the universe. I have also said elsewhere, maybe in the Economist, that we humans are just as difficult to explain as the answer the origin of the mind which created the universe. So we need a scientific explanation not just imagining things which have no chance of being verified by any means.

  24. If you want to say that you are holding your breath, use "bated". If you want to say that you just ingested a handful of wiggling worms or stinking dead little fishes, "baited" is just fine :)

  25. Aww. Mayeau wiffs.

    Zombie comet.

    Proving once again that Lubos Motl is the great and all powerful Wizard of Awws.

    Your really kind of good at this stuff.

  26. Thank you Eugene!
    I did not intend the wormy spelling but
    you have made me think it also might be catchy (in the context it was written). :-)

  27. Thanks, papertiger!

    I was sort of amused by the obsessive reports of the media - and even some not so sensible physics bloggers like Matt Strassler - that the comet was resuscitated and it would become beautiful again and so on. This is so contrary to any common sense. The minimum distance from the Sun was about 100 times shorter than the Earth's distance from the Sun, which implies a 10 times greater absolute temperature - thousands of degrees. So some water-like materials evaporate completely. Some more solid materials may become intact but they either melt into a pretty flat piece of a metal, which is unlikely and this metal would reflect the Sun in a specific direction, probably not towards the Earth; or some really blackish oxidized dirt that absorbs even greater a fraction of the solar radiation so it may evaporate as well, and most likely, it wouldn't be too visible because it's too dark, either.

    Such temperatures simply don't keep objects light-colored and ice-like so treating the comet as "essentially doomed" was the only sensible approach. ison comet

  28. I’m so frustrated; none of these videos convey to the public the true essence of the quest for a TOE in the space of theories. They are just confusing people without
    explaining anything.

    Look figure 13 of this paper for example

    Is it so difficult to convey a similar mental picture to the
    public? I’m sure that people in the general public like me will much appreciate the work done in contemporary fundamental physics if physicists spend some time to explain a couple of simple things to them.

  29. Ha, that paper looks very interesting :-)

    Have to print that out, so thanks for the link !

  30. Hahaha. Your best climate post, so far,I think

  31. Feynman was once asked to comment on the Zapruder film and found something no-one had seen before. Unfortunately he was not perfect as he also failed to notice the fast-forward mistake.

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