Response to "String Bashing" by M.J. Duff

If you have read Smolin’s and/or Woit’s books arguing against string theory then please read Duff’s response  here.

Duff’s “String and M-theory: answering the critics” is quite accessible and does a good job explaining why people are interested in string theory, both from a physics and mathematics point of view. One major point he makes is the unfair coverage of “anti-string theorists” and  works that are wrong.

For example, Lisi’s theory of everything based on \(E_{8}\).  This theory is mathematically wrong, it does not describe  the correct matter content of the universe.  Also, the use of the exceptional groups  in theories of everything, including string theory pre-dates    Lisi’s work.  I would say that the media and the “blogosphere”  was too quick to hail Lisi’s work and too slow in pointing out the errors.

Duff also points out how quickly the attacks on string theory become personal attacks on string theorists.

Is it important that the general public has a reasonable understanding of string theory and supports such reserach?

I would have to say  yes.

Not that science or mathematics is a popularity contest that will be won via the general media, it will be won via peer-reviewed papers. However, the general public pays for almost all fundamental science research and thus it is vital to keep the public on board. There will always be speculation, disagreements and conflicting points of view in science at the frontiers of our knowledge, but this should not devolve into personal attacks. This only weakens the position of  science in wider society.

String does  have many attractive features and seems to be our best hope at understanding the Universe.  The best response to  the critics is come up with an alternative!

CERN to announce glimpse of the Higgs.

Today at CERN scientists will present reports on the progress of the hunt for the Higgs boson.

I await the news…

For now read the BBC report here.

CERN’s public website can be found here.



Both the Atlas and CMS experiments at CERN independently suggest that the Higgs has been observed and has a mass of about 125 GeV.  However, the statistical uncertainly in the data means that the Higgs has not truly been discovered.

There will be further experiments and lots of data analysis before the claim of discovery will be made.

Optimistically,  some time next year we may have confirmation of the Higgs.

Find out about the press release  here.

Read the BBC News report here.



Now we await news of supersymmetry.


Bridging mathematics and art

We all know that art,  symmetry,  beauty and mathematics are well intertwined.  Since 1998 the Bridges Organization organised an annual conference bringing together mathematicians and artists. All very interesting stuff and shows that mathematics can be appreciated by those who are not traditional mathematicians.

The next conference is July 25-29, 2012 at Towson University, located in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area.

I guess I will now have to go away and create some interesting computer graphics or something! (Not that I think I will be attending this conference)

2015, The International Year of Light

The European  Physical Society has initiated a drive to get the United Nations to proclaim 2015 as the International Year of Light.


Light plays a central role in human activities in science, technology and culture. Light itself underpins the existence of life, and light-based technologies will guide and drive the future development of human society. Light and optics have revolutionized medicine, have opened up international communication via the Internet, and continue to be central to linking cultural, economic and political aspects of the global society. Advances in lighting and solar energy are considered crucial for future sustainable development.

Follow this link to the full statement.


I think making 2015 the International Year of Light is a great idea. Of all the physics, understanding light and more generally electromagnetic radiation,  has had a huge impact on society as well as all branches of  science and engineering.

2005 was the International Year of Physics, 2009 was the International Year of Astronomy and 2011 is the International Year of Chemistry. It seems fitting that 2015 be the year of light, lets see why…

  • 1815  Fresnel published his first works on light as a wave.
  • 1865 Maxwell mathematically described electromagnetic phenomena via his now famous equations.
  • 1915 Einstein developed general relativity, which shows that light is fundamental in understanding space-time and gravity.
  • 1965  Penzias and Wilson discover the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR).


Let us hope the United Nations agree on the importance of  light in all our lives and declare 2015 The International Year of Light.