Saturday, June 25, 2005

New and used disk worldsheet instantons, only $6.99 !

After initially following a link off BioCurious and then getting sucked deeper and deeper into the vortex, I think that theoretical physicists are either playing a huge practical joke on everybody by pretending to say things that make sense but really don't, or you should be able to buy your very own warp drive for only 5 low monthly payments of $19.99 in about 6 months.

Consider this little excerpt from the blog of a theoretical physicist, talking about string theory:

It is also conceivable that someone - or a group of people - is very close to identifying the correct background of string theory that describes reality, and it is a matter of weeks, months, or years before convincing evidence that their background is the correct one will emerge. Among the promising backgrounds, I would list:
  • the weakly coupled or strongly coupled (HoĊ™ava-Witten) heterotic strings with an "E8 x E8" gauge group and an appropriate Calabi-Yau - the most interesting recent example is the Heterotic Standard Model. This is the class of models that gives the most natural explanation of the particle spectrum - namely the fermions being naturally grouped into grand unified families.
  • asymmetric orbifolds and free fermionic heterotic models - it is related to the previous item but the Calabi-Yau is replaced by fermionic worldsheet degrees of freedom that are roughly equivalent to a Calabi-Yau near a self-dual radius. While many advantages of the geometric Calabi-Yau backgrounds are preserved, a natural explanation of the number of families (three) may be given in the free fermionic models.
  • intersecting brane worlds - type IIA with orientifold planes and D6-branes and matter that lives at the intersections. The most attractive feature of these models, as far as I can say, is that the Yukawa couplings may be naturally hierarchical because they arise from disk worldsheet instantons where the disk is actually a triangle stretched between the three relevant brane intersections
"Disk worldsheet instantons" ? Wha' happen ? Biology is full of jargon but at least you can get to a decent understanding of a large portion of it by doing a bit of background reading, but to understand this stuff I suspect you're looking at an investment of many years, mainly spent on really complicated math. No wonder that sometimes utter gibberish gets published.

There is, of course, also the possibility that all this makes sense [to somebody], but isn't getting us any closer to the warp drive.

2 Comments:

Anonymous PhilipJ said...

It may be in no small part that theoretical physics has gotten so abstract that physicists in general are turning to biology as a new source of problems! It doesn't help that experimental particle physics is now costing lots of money (read: billions) to build new accelerators.

There is also a bit of a debate going on as to whether quantum gravities as they are formulated right now are even science to begin with. Without testable predictions made by these theories, I guess it is really more like stamp collecting (or physics-inspired mathematics) more than science.

PhilipJ | BioCurious.com

10:45 PM  
Blogger Corey said...

I like candy.

1:21 PM  

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