Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Wisdom of Ms. Rabett

Reading in Gizmodo

researchers from Towson University are claiming that incredibly precise measurements of the positions of solar-system bodies could provide a test capable of proving string theory right or wrong.

Ms Rabett speculated that they may have actually found the Big Ball.

BTW it's just more press office churning as Peter Woit pointed out
This is following the usual pattern: published article includes only minor references to string theory, since no referee would allow the author to claim that this was a “test of string theory” (since it isn’t). On publication of the article, the author has their university press office issue a press release about how they have discovered a “test of string theory” (I don’t believe in claims that university press offices issue press releases about their faculty’s work without the faculty member’s agreement). The press release then gets spread through various media outlets, often with the outrageousness of the claims increasing as it spreads. Finally, you end up with lots of news stories like

There are by now dozens of examples of this. You can argue about who is responsible for the public getting misled here, my vote would be for the physicists who allow or encourage such press releases to go out (together with their colleagues who raise no objection or sometimes provide supporting quotes for the stories).
and Eli repeats his recommendation that all grant applications have to be accompanied by press releases from the previous cycle so that reviewers can evaluate the noise.


Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

I personally tested string theory with heavy gauge spirally wound cables weighing tons. It worked.

Rattus Norvegicus said...

When I see string theory, I reach for my Browning...

EliRabett said...


Those are at least two bridges too far

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Go right ahead and try the brute force method. I predict you will soon be looking for a better theory.

Hank Roberts said...

If you want to get on the gravy train, though, I have a suggestion. Start with this:
Then argue that a computer that small could be nanofactured to wave little conducting wires and little magnets together to pump out electrons, and Lo, we have Maxwell's Demon.

Maxwell's Demon doesn't work for free, of course, but why not postulate a small positive profit?

Maybe as a Kickstarter ploy, if you want something to beat out the string theorists for public attention and funding.