Saturday, December 08, 2007

An Interview with a Relativist

Kip Thorne, in an interview published by Discover magazine gives a couple interesting quotes

  • Regarding rumors that he's working with Steven Spielberg:

    I’m working on a science fiction film with Steven that’s based on a treatment I coauthored with the producer Lynda Obst. I will be an executive producer on the film, basically focused on bringing good science into it. I expect that nothing in the film will violate fundamental physical law, and all the wild speculations in the film will spring from science. The working title is Interstellar, but it’s unlikely that will be the final title. It is a story in which the warped side of the universe plays a major role.

  • Regarding the merits of string theory:

    It shows many signs of being on the right track toward a correct quantum theory of gravity. It has given rise to a number of very important ideas that have a good shot at being correct, such as higher dimensions, such as the possibility of forming mini-black holes at the LHC [Large Hadron Collider, a new particle accelerator that may be up and running next year], and thereby probing higher dimensions. String theory is now beginning to make concrete, observational predictions which will be tested. Claims that it is just theorists playing mental masturbation are, I think, nonsense.

    Interestingly, the article provides a link with the words "mental masturbation" to an article about Peter Woit's book, though it's not perfectly clear (to me at least) that Kip is refering to "Not Even Wrong." Not to mention the fact that both Woit's and Smolin's criticisms don't really reduce to that particular alliterative phrase. Have either of these two, or anyone else for that matter, used such a criticism?

(via It's Equal, but It's Different)

3 comments:

Peter Woit said...

"mental masturbation' is not a term I've ever applied to string theory. Joao Magueijo in his book does suggest that the M in M-theory should refer to this and I do mention that in my book.

As for Thorne's claims that "mini-black holes at the LHC have a good shot at being correct" and that "string theory is now beginning to make concrete, observational predictions which will be tested", these are, I think, nonsense.

Ben said...

You did quote something similar a few weeks ago, to be fair.

November 24th, 2007:

"...
Lenny Susskind and Frank Wilczek may be unable to pursue their anthropic-principle-inspired research programs out of fear that I might criticize them. I would think they might be even more intimidated by P.Z. Myers, who reaches rhetorical heights I can not aspire to, referring to the Anthropic Principle as that tiresome exercise in metaphysical masturbation that always flounders somewhere in the repellent ditch between narcissism and solipsism. "

Peter Woit said...

1. String theory is not the Anthropic Principle, and I wouldn't refer to the Anthropic Principle myself this way. I see nothing wrong with masturbation, but something very wrong with physicists using the Anthropic Principle to avoid acknowledging the failure of their theory.

2. I was pointing to P.Z.s comment as an example of crude rhetoric I myself would not engage in....