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'Theory of everything' tying researchers up in knots
SFGate.com ^ | March 14, 2005 | Keay Davidson

Posted on 03/15/2005 10:58:30 PM PST by snarks_when_bored

'Theory of everything' tying researchers up in knots
- Keay Davidson, Chronicle Science Writer
Monday, March 14, 2005

The most celebrated theory in modern physics faces increasing attacks from skeptics who fear it has lured a generation of researchers down an intellectual dead end.

In its original, simplified form, circa the mid-1980s, string theory held that reality consists of infinitesimally small, wiggling objects called strings, which vibrate in ways that yield the different subatomic particles that comprise the cosmos. An analogy is the vibrations on a violin string, which yield different musical notes.

Advocates claimed that string theory would smooth out the conflicts between Einsteinian relativity and quantum mechanics. The result, they said, would be a grand unifying "theory of everything," which could explain everything from the nature of matter to the Big Bang to the fate of the cosmos.

Over the years, string theory has simultaneously become more frustrating and fabulous...

[snip]

 

(Excerpt) Read more at sfgate.com ...


TOPICS: Miscellaneous; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: philosophy; physics; science; stringtheory; superstrings; theoryofeverything
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String theory is not without its critics in the physics community. I saw this article mentioned over at Peter Woit's blog, Not Even Wrong. Woit, who's quoted in the article, detests both string theory and the effects it's had on hiring, promotion and tenure decisions in physics departments around the country. He's not exactly a voice crying out in the wilderness, but he's nearer the outskirts of town than the town square.
1 posted on 03/15/2005 10:58:31 PM PST by snarks_when_bored
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To: RadioAstronomer; longshadow; PatrickHenry; RightWingAtheist; Ernest_at_the_Beach

Ping


2 posted on 03/15/2005 10:59:39 PM PST by snarks_when_bored
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To: snarks_when_bored
Ledbetter and Bezant actually saw what they called the Ultimate Physical Atom(UPA)in the 1920's using micro-psi(seeing with matter waves). If you are interested, the article is in a past issue of Infinite Energy Magazine. See . They verified the string construction of sub-quarks.
3 posted on 03/16/2005 12:40:49 AM PST by timer
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To: VadeRetro; Junior; longshadow; RadioAstronomer; Doctor Stochastic; js1138; Shryke; RightWhale; ...
Science Ping! An elite subset of the Evolution list.
See list's description in my freeper homepage. Then FReepmail to be added/dropped.

4 posted on 03/16/2005 4:14:02 AM PST by PatrickHenry (<-- Click on my name. The List-O-Links for evolution threads is at my freeper homepage.)
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To: snarks_when_bored

Yes, yes, yes, they know it all better ... so there is a theory for that and a theory for this. Reality is they know squat.


5 posted on 03/16/2005 4:18:21 AM PST by nmh (Intelligent people recognize Intelligent Design (God).)
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To: snarks_when_bored
I saw a two hour special on String Theory not long ago. In order to get the inconsistencies between quantum mechanics and relativity theory ironed out, the math becomes very complicated and you wind up with something like eleven dimensions. Scientists admitted that no one seemed capable of really understanding the implications of the theory and being able to convey it to each other, let alone a skeptical public.
My own belief is that as you bore down to an essential underlying theory of everything, explanations should become simpler and the math more elegant, not more complex.
My instinct tells me that String Theory is just a rickety scaffold for mathematicians to play on before the next genius comes along to show us how everything really works.
6 posted on 03/16/2005 4:49:47 AM PST by finnigan2
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To: snarks_when_bored
It's happened before. In the 1960's, all the theorists were into dispersion relations, S-matrices, Pomerons, and Regge poles. A few mavericks worked with quantum field theory, but most people regarded it as a dead end. Nowadays everyone works in quantum field theory, and those other formalisms aren't used.
7 posted on 03/16/2005 5:28:08 AM PST by Physicist
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To: Physicist
Mine is only a layman's view of all of this, but I think it's a rather appropriate irony that as we get closer and closer to the ultimate nature of reality, the more unreal it becomes.

It does seem that high energy physics has indeed been spinning it's wheels for many years now. It wouldn't surprise me if, in the coming years, some little fellow from Pakistan comes along with a completely new perspective that tosses the last two decades of work out the window.

8 posted on 03/16/2005 6:44:00 AM PST by Joe Brower (The Constitution defines Conservatism.)
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To: finnigan2
My own belief is that as you bore down to an essential underlying theory of everything, explanations should become simpler and the math more elegant, not more complex.

That's my opinion too, but I'm hardly an expert in this area. In the past, the great scientific work seemed to simplify the world, and describe it in ways that were relatively easy to understand. If I'm to understand anything more, there needs to be a new simplification, not this 11-dimensional beast that seems to be the most promising bridge between the Einsteinian and the quantum-mechanical world.

It's a bias -- and a hope -- built on my own limitations, but my suspicion is that deep down, and I mean way deep down, the universe is based on a few very simple rules.

9 posted on 03/16/2005 7:26:27 AM PST by PatrickHenry (<-- Click on my name. The List-O-Links for evolution threads is at my freeper homepage.)
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To: Joe Brower
. It wouldn't surprise me if, in the coming years, some little fellow from Pakistan comes along with a completely new perspective that tosses the last two decades of work out the window.

It's happened once already.

10 posted on 03/16/2005 7:28:12 AM PST by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch is der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: Joe Brower
It does seem that high energy physics has indeed been spinning it's wheels for many years now. It wouldn't surprise me if, in the coming years, some little fellow from Pakistan comes along with a completely new perspective that tosses the last two decades of work out the window.

It has certainly been spinning its wheels, and many little fellows have come along with many new perspectives. We don't lack ideas; those we have in spades. The problem is that we don't have any new experimental data that we could use to separate the relevant ideas from the irrelevant, the good from the bad, the useful from the useless. The highest-energy accelerator in the world is the Tevatron at Fermilab, which was built in the 1980's. We now have a pretty good handle on the physics at that energy scale; to get any deeper understanding requires more energetic collisions.

In the next five years a higher-energy accelerator will finally come online, the LHC at CERN. Then we will be able to resume progress.

11 posted on 03/16/2005 7:28:20 AM PST by Physicist
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To: PatrickHenry; betty boop; Physicist; tortoise; Right Wing Professor; Doctor Stochastic; ...
Thank you so much for the ping!

This was an interesting article revealing a bit of infighting among physicists wrt string theory.

IMHO, it points to an ideological difference which would stem from the priority given to pure mathematics in physics. Indeed we've seen similar disputes here on the forum between those of us who center on the mathematics (information theory, complexity, etc.) related to evolution and those who center on the sciences (biology, chemistry, genetics, paleontology) .

It is a philosophical difference which I believe we would all benefit from exploring.

Personally, I fall on the “math first” side of the debate – I put mathematics above all sciences - and physics at the top of the science heap because of its integration with the mathematics.

My reasoning is that mathematical structures are universals per se and thus their discovery sheds light on all the sciences. As an example I assert Einstein’s ability to pull Riemannian geometry off-the-shelf to describe relativity. Other examples include dualities and mirror images - the "unreasonable effectiveness of math".

An example related the subject of this article - some string theorists like Vafa (my personal favorite) treat the physical ramifications of their work as secondary, e.g. he was not troubled by the consequence of an additional time dimension in f-Theory though it caused quite a stir in the physics community at large. IOW, good mathematics may not be widely accepted or have an application at the moment, but will remain "on the shelf" - because they are universals, which may be relevant at some other opportunity.

Additionally, even if physicists were not pursing a "theory of everything" - the mathematicians would. As an example, here's a link to Jurgen Schmidhuber's Algorithmic Theory of Everything.

I’d love to hear any arguments for why mathematics should not be given a higher seat in our body of knowledge than science!

One last point - I do agree with everyone here who instinctively believe that mathematical truths ought to be conceptually simple. The Kaluza-Klein based compactified string theories are not without competition, e.g. the easy to comprehend non-compactified 5D higher dimensional dynamics.

12 posted on 03/16/2005 7:59:46 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Alamo-Girl
I’d love to hear any arguments for why mathematics should not be given a higher seat in our body of knowledge than science!

Mathematics asks different questions from those in the sciences. In turn, the various sciences ask different questions among themselves.

13 posted on 03/16/2005 8:14:08 AM PST by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch is der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: Doctor Stochastic; betty boop
Thank you for your reply!

Mathematics asks different questions from those in the sciences. In turn, the various sciences ask different questions among themselves.

Great insight! But do you see the mathematical structures as universals or merely a box of tools for the sciences?

14 posted on 03/16/2005 8:17:24 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Physicist
We now have a pretty good handle on the physics at that energy scale; to get any deeper understanding requires more energetic collisions.

Don't want to harp too much on this.

However, I lament the demise of the SSC. Sigh. What is done is done though. We will press on with the new tools that are upcoming. :-)

15 posted on 03/16/2005 8:23:12 AM PST by RadioAstronomer
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To: Alamo-Girl; snarks_when_bored

Mathematical structures are universal and some of them can be used as a box of tools for some sciences.

The problem with String Theory is that it is a machinery that takes a very long time to handle for the average PhD physics student. When you have been struggling with the mathematics for several years it still does not give you a nice answer as the equations are very difficult to calculate. We need a Witten II that can provide some insight and exclude some of the possibilities that so far are possible in String Theory.

Until that person will materialize my advice to a young PhD candidate is to stay away and go into some other fields of Physics. Note, I am not saying that String Theory is wrong, I just do not know.


16 posted on 03/16/2005 8:39:33 AM PST by AdmSmith
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To: All
Follow the fight:

the "stringer" Lubos Motl; http://motls.blogspot.com/2004/12/ny-times-20-years-of-strings.html

and the "non-stringer" Peter Woit http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/blog/
17 posted on 03/16/2005 8:52:47 AM PST by AdmSmith
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To: AdmSmith
Thank you so much for sharing your insight - and thanks for the links!

When you have been struggling with the mathematics for several years it still does not give you a nice answer as the equations are very difficult to calculate.

Indeed. Perhaps string theory is like art, where if it doesn't make sense early on - then it is better not to struggle with it?

18 posted on 03/16/2005 9:32:09 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Alamo-Girl

The String Theory is perhaps the The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse?


19 posted on 03/16/2005 9:42:50 AM PST by AdmSmith
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To: AdmSmith; betty boop; cornelis; marron; beckett
The String Theory is perhaps the The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse?

You sent me into a vortex of philosophical musing with that conjecture, thus I am pinging the philosopher-Freepers for their input. Thank you so much for the challenge!

As for me, string theory is only an alternative geometric for space/time and therefore corporeals, cosmology, etc. - the great meaning is in the universals, an interpretation that everything is a mathematical structure which exists apart from space/time dimensionality (the Max Tegmark Level IV universe, radical mathematical Platonism).

From that perspective, everything physical (and perhaps non-physical as well) - including the geometry and string vibration, fields, waves, particles, properties, organisms, etc. - actually exists in elegant simplicity which (at this time) is beyond our grasp from within a 4D (visual, mental limitation).

20 posted on 03/16/2005 10:13:25 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: PatrickHenry
"It's a bias -- and a hope -- built on my own limitations, but my suspicion is that deep down, and I mean way deep down, the universe is based on a few very simple rules"


You and I have disagreed in the past on that lightning rod of subjects (crevo) which I have no intention of reopening at this time.

Your comment, quoted above, however, I could not agree with more. My personal belief is that for these "few simple rules" to be discovered and understood, seekers of the truth will have to step outside the box of their own scientific disciplines and realize that there literally is no spoon - that consciousness itself is the stuff of the universe.
21 posted on 03/16/2005 10:26:54 AM PST by shibumi (You'd rather cry, I'd rather fly.)
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To: snarks_when_bored

I'd be interested in Ward Churchill's take on the 'Theory of Everything'. I'm pretty sure he could come up with the credentials in short order.


22 posted on 03/16/2005 10:39:03 AM PST by Zuben Elgenubi
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To: Alamo-Girl
I’d love to hear any arguments for why mathematics should not be given a higher seat in our body of knowledge than science!

There are limits, math theorems that cannot be proved within math. Ultimately we cannot know.

23 posted on 03/16/2005 10:39:16 AM PST by RightWhale (Please correct if cosmic balance requires.)
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To: snarks_when_bored
So they're searching for The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything?
24 posted on 03/16/2005 10:51:02 AM PST by Jonah Hex (Go. Hunt. Kill Skuls.)
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To: RightWhale; betty boop
Thank you so much for your reply!

There are limits, math theorems that cannot be proved within math. Ultimately we cannot know.

Indeed.

Seems like every discipline has things which we can know, things which we do not yet know, and things which we can never know.

Concerning the unknowable - in mathematics, we have Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems. In physics, we have Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. And in the historical sciences - evolution, archeology, anthropology, Egyptology - we have an incomplete record of evidence.

To me, all of these are cautions which attach to the value of evidence and/or work product - but not to the value of the discipline itself.

25 posted on 03/16/2005 11:21:14 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Alamo-Girl
My copy of the new Goedel book just arrived. Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Godel by Rebecca Goldstein. It is highly recommended as the author is a good writer and an actual philosophy of science prof. I have read the first couple pages and already it is getting heavy. This will be good; Goedel is variously estimated as the greatest logician since Aristotle.
26 posted on 03/16/2005 11:33:27 AM PST by RightWhale (Please correct if cosmic balance requires.)
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To: Alamo-Girl
"I’d love to hear any arguments for why mathematics should not be given a higher seat in our body of knowledge than science!"

Well, just the opposite here...a vote for math and all the "wunnerful" things that it 'hath wrought.'(If explanation is needed, you just ain't gonna get it )

27 posted on 03/16/2005 11:41:19 AM PST by litehaus
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To: Alamo-Girl
As for me, string theory is only an alternative geometric for space/time and therefore corporeals, cosmology, etc. - the great meaning is in the universals, an interpretation that everything is a mathematical structure which exists apart from space/time dimensionality (the Max Tegmark Level IV universe, radical mathematical Platonism).

Reification of mathematics. The map is not the territory. Mathematics is a map and does not "exist apart from space/time dimensionality" (or apart from the mind of man, for that matter.) If it did it wouldn't matter anyway because, by definition, we could never know that. Such radical Platonism would be unknown and unknowable.


28 posted on 03/16/2005 11:48:46 AM PST by LogicWings
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To: RightWhale
Thank you so much for the book recommendation! I look forward to reading it!
29 posted on 03/16/2005 11:48:53 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: litehaus
Thank you so much for your "math first" vote!!!

(If explanation is needed, you just ain't gonna get it )

LOLOLOL! So true.

30 posted on 03/16/2005 11:50:07 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Doctor Stochastic
It's happened once already.

I think that's his point.

31 posted on 03/16/2005 11:51:31 AM PST by krb (ad hominem arguments are for stupid people)
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To: Alamo-Girl

Goedel also said that if we ever develop complete proofs of complete math that would prove that we are not computing machines. That would annoy the AI fans.


32 posted on 03/16/2005 11:53:38 AM PST by RightWhale (Please correct if cosmic balance requires.)
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To: LogicWings; betty boop
Thank you for sharing your views!

Mathematics is a map and does not "exist apart from space/time dimensionality" (or apart from the mind of man, for that matter.)

This is the tension between the Aristotlean worldview and the Platonist worldview with reference to math. The Aristotles would say that the mathematician invents the mathematical structures. The Platonists would say that the mathematical structures exist and the mathematician only discovers them, e.g. pi exists, it was only discovered.

Tegmark: Parallel Universes

According to the Aristotelian paradigm, physical reality is fundamental and mathematical language is merely a useful approximation. According to the Platonic paradigm, the mathematical structure is the true reality and observers perceive it imperfectly. In other words, the two paradigms disagree on which is more basic, the frog perspective of the observer or the bird perspective of the physical laws. The Aristotelian paradigm prefers the frog perspective, whereas the Platonic paradigm prefers the bird perspective....

A mathematical structure is an abstract, immutable entity existing outside of space and time. If history were a movie, the structure would correspond not to a single frame of it but to the entire videotape. Consider, for example, a world made up of pointlike particles moving around in three-dimensional space. In four-dimensional spacetime--the bird perspective--these particle trajectories resemble a tangle of spaghetti. If the frog sees a particle moving with constant velocity, the bird sees a straight strand of uncooked spaghetti. If the frog sees a pair of orbiting particles, the bird sees two spaghetti strands intertwined like a double helix. To the frog, the world is described by Newton's laws of motion and gravitation. To the bird, it is described by the geometry of the pasta--a mathematical structure. The frog itself is merely a thick bundle of pasta, whose highly complex intertwining corresponds to a cluster of particles that store and process information. Our universe is far more complicated than this example, and scientists do not yet know to what, if any, mathematical structure it corresponds.


33 posted on 03/16/2005 11:57:27 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: RightWhale
Thank you for your reply! Lurkers interested in the point you raise might enjoy some of Penrose's books on the subject - he relies on the Incompleteness Theorems to illustrate that Artificial Intelligence is impossible.
34 posted on 03/16/2005 12:00:00 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: snarks_when_bored

You ain't got a thing, if you ain't got that string...do wop, do wop, do wop!


35 posted on 03/16/2005 12:01:19 PM PST by Lurking2Long
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To: Alamo-Girl

That might be so. Goedel was the best and in the same league with Einstein and Heisenberg. Too bad Heisenberg stuck to the losing side of WW II, he should have come to Princeton.


36 posted on 03/16/2005 12:02:09 PM PST by RightWhale (Please correct if cosmic balance requires.)
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To: Jonah Hex
So they're searching for The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything?

And the answer is....(the envelope please)...GOD!

37 posted on 03/16/2005 12:02:24 PM PST by Lurking2Long
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To: betty boop; All
Freepers and Lurkers wanting to wade deeper into the subject of dimensionality - especially as it relates to consciousness and the mind - might enjoy these links:

PSYCHE: Dimensionality (list of links)

Sirag: Hyperspace Reality

betty boop, you might find the second link particularly interesting considering our previous discussions of a universal vacuum field. Most of it is historical and putting string theory in context, but he gets into related concepts in the last few paragraphs.

38 posted on 03/16/2005 12:04:24 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: RightWhale
So very true, RightWhale! Thank you for your reply!
39 posted on 03/16/2005 12:08:01 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Lurking2Long
And the answer is....(the envelope please)...GOD!

God is 42?

That explains the condition of the world. God is having a midlife crisis. He's out tooling around in a red convertible, and not minding the store.

40 posted on 03/16/2005 12:08:21 PM PST by malakhi
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To: snarks_when_bored

We have a handful of these guys in our physics dept.

They're a little bit out there, even by our standards. :P


41 posted on 03/16/2005 12:08:55 PM PST by Constantine XIII
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To: PatrickHenry; finnigan2

Occam's Razor, baby.


42 posted on 03/16/2005 12:10:19 PM PST by stylin_geek (Liberalism: comparable to a chicken with its head cut off, but with more spastic motions)
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To: Jeremiah Jr

Strings ping.


43 posted on 03/16/2005 12:15:27 PM PST by Thinkin' Gal
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To: Jonah Hex

I sense that I am getting close to the answer.

I keep on coming up with 43. :P


44 posted on 03/16/2005 12:15:54 PM PST by Constantine XIII
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To: stylin_geek
Occam's Razor, baby.

Plastics.

45 posted on 03/16/2005 12:23:54 PM PST by PatrickHenry (<-- Click on my name. The List-O-Links for evolution threads is at my freeper homepage.)
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To: Alamo-Girl
Sorry, but the article at the link to "Sirag: Hyperspace Reality" get very high scores at this site

http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/crackpot.html
46 posted on 03/16/2005 12:59:29 PM PST by AdmSmith
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To: Physicist
There's one issue I'm not altogether clear about. Would the following not qualify as a "prediction" or "experiment" of string theory?

Finding the Ultimate Theory of Everything

Of course the nature of this CSL-1 anomaly remains unsettled, but if this and associated tests were to hold up as indicative of cosmic superstrings wouldn't that affirm that the string theory concept is on the right track?

47 posted on 03/16/2005 1:11:05 PM PST by AntiGuv ()
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To: AdmSmith; betty boop
Thank you so much for the url! The Baez crackpot index is a knee slapper. But for your raising it wrt Sirag to mean much, you'd have to score his article using the index.
48 posted on 03/16/2005 1:24:41 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: AdmSmith
A little follow-up on your previous post, you might find it interesting (I did) that John Baez includes the ADE theory on his website. ADEX is the basis of the Sirag consciousness model.
49 posted on 03/16/2005 1:51:35 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Alamo-Girl
The mere fact that Sirag is mentioning something does not mean that it is right or wrong, it is the way he connect it to other things. The totality of what he writes is still crap. Sorry for that.
50 posted on 03/16/2005 2:16:47 PM PST by AdmSmith
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