But when and if the issue of finiteness is settled, we will have to ask how it happened that so many members of a research program were unaware of the status of one of the key results in their field. Should it not be of concern that between 1984 and 2001 many string theorists talked and wrote as if it were a fact that the theory was finite? Why did many string theorists feel comfortable talking to outsiders and insiders alike, using language that implied the theory was fully finite and consistent?
Finiteness is not the only example in string theory of a conjecture that is widely believed but so far unproven. What is sure is that the strongest of these conjectures is far from proved, although some weak version is certainly well supported. But this is not how some string theorists see it...
Friday, 5 March 2010
1. Saturday was decent. I went to work for an hour, went for a walk, and got some writing done.
2. I managed to miss the Olympic game on Sunday. I screwed up what time it was on, and turned the TV on to see the Canadian team skating the flag around the ice after receiving their gold medals.
"Well," my Mom said, "at least we're saved the suspense."
Belatedly, then, "Go Canada! Woo!"
3. I found out that I was accepted into grad school to study English. I was expecting a phone call at work, so left my cell on (which I never do). I received a call and answered it, and it turned out to be from a university! They are not my first choice, but they are offering me nice incentives, so I'll need to see what I get from other schools which may or may not make offers in the near future. I haven't heard from a few, yet.
4. I spent a lot of time with children at work. This was fun. Where I work we have the Open Minds program, in which a class from a local school will come to the Park for one week and we'll run a program for them. Their teacher and some parent volunteers are there, too, so it's not like we have to run the program entirely by ourselves. For reasons irrelevant to this story I was asked to help with the program quite a bit this week. I have a hard time saying, "No," most times at work; I have an even harder time declining working with kids; and I have an exceptionally hard time saying, "No," to a young and pretty teacher who would like me to work with her class.
Apparently some of the kids thought I was an artifact and wanted to write journal entries about me. Actually, they did write entries about me, but Miss Teacher convinced them that I wasn't actually an artifact, even if I had been at the museum for three years.
Oh, and I got married to a supervisor in a skit for the kids. This is the second time I've been wed in the course of working here. This time there was less ceremony, but a bigger audience.
5. It's been t-shirt weather here in Fort McMurray. It's still chilly in the mornings, but by the end of the day I'm going around in short sleeves.
6. I'm re-attempting The Trouble with Physics. After floundering around in the middle of the book, no longer able to pretend I understand this level of theoretical physics (though I think I did quite well considering when I stopped taking physics in highschool), I quit for a littel while. I have now come back to it, skipping to the final section. This section is less about the history of theoretical physics, what string theory is, and what string theory's rivals are, and more on the social mechanics of the situation.
The book is about the author's misgivings about the resources spent on string theory and the amount of confidence string theorists (and the general public) have in this theory when, in fact, it is far from being proven with any confidence. There are enormous problems with the theory (though no worse than with any of its alternatives) which string theorists seem unaware of. Further, he points out the ways in which physics departments stifle dissent and independent thought, which prevents any progress in either string theory or its rivals. If you're interested, you need to read the book, not what an English major thinks of the book.
Anyway, I'm almost done reading it.
7. I just purchased season 4 of Battlestar Galactica. Uh-oh.
Worth reading: Esther Elizabeth's post.
Posted by Christian H at 18:49