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The Emperor's Last Clothes

Why the string theory landscape (whether or not it is all really a part of the same quantum "theory" in the strict sense) is a blessing, and not a curse...

The Emperor's Last Clothes?
"We are in the middle of a remarkable paradigm shift in particle physics, a shift of opinion that occurred so slowly that some even try to deny that they changed their minds at all."

Nothing really new in this paper, but I think it's a nice summary of the various misunderstandings that a lot of particle physicists (mostly phenomenologists and experimentalists) have regarding the anthropic principle and the string theory landscape. I think Lubos Motl may be among those who has changed his mind and is still pretending he hasn't =)

I've had the same argument more times than I'd care to admit with other grad students and postdocs... and I've even encountered professors who just don't get the anthropic principle. Or worse, running into people who share Barrow and Tipler's crazy/meaningless/anthropocentric interpretation of it (fortunately, it always seems to be non-physicists there).

From the subsection (of section 4) entitled "Disgust, Denial, Derision":

Some of the versions of the anthropic principle may sound preposterous, but so are some of the reactions it has received. During the many discussions I have had on this subject, I learned that it is against some unwritten rule of particle physics to think like this. Someone even called it “religion”, a word some physicists use as the superlative of “disgusting”. This strong resistance exists until today. Just last year (2006) a respected colleague vowed to quit his job if the anthropic principle would ever play a role, and he was not the first to make such a statement. In Physics Today Nobel prize winner B. Richter refers to people thinking in this way as “creationists” [19]. I could fill an entire section with similar remarks.

What is even more remarkable than the emotional language used in these criticisms is the fact that – in the area of Particle Physics – nearly all of them date from the last few years. Before that time, particle physicist and string theorists tried to ignore the issue altogether. An interesting example is [7] by R. Cahn from 1996, containing a very nice discussion about the contours of our region in the Gauge Theory Plane, pointing out that many aspects are crucial for our existence, all without any mention of the anthropic principle (by then a well-known subject, at least in cosmology), not even to reject it.

From the "Superintellects?" subsection:

But the question I am addressing here does not hold much promise for evidence for superintellects. A fundamental theory with a huge number of solutions solves the anthropic coincidence problem without any need to monkey with the laws of physics. After many frustrating debates with physicists, I was delighted to see that biologist Richard Dawkins understood that point immediately [27] (among physicist there are notable exceptions, including Weinberg, Linde and Susskind).


domino plural

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