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« Are Scientists More Likely to Have Autistic Kids? | Main | How Smart Are Other Animals, Really? »

SLACer Whacks Pluckers

It’s not just renegade physicists like Lee Smolin and Peter Woit and obnoxious journalists like me who are whacking pluckers these days. In this month’s Physics Today, Burton Richter, former director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), blasts string and related pseudoscientific ideas , namely the anthropic principle (the universe must be the way it is because otherwise we wouldn’t be here to observe it) and landscape theory (all of the infinite universes permitted by string theory actually exist).

In “Theory in Particle Physics: Theological Speculation Versus Practical Knowledge” (forwarded to me by a Stevens colleague and friend, the physicist Ed Whittaker), Richter charges that pluckers have “gone off into a kind of metaphysical wonderland. Simply put, much of what currently passes as the most advanced theory looks to be more theological speculation, the development of models with no testable consequences, than it is the development of practical knowledge.”

What makes this doubly delicious is that Richter’s broadside is clearly aimed at his Stanford colleague Leonard Susskind, a leading plucker, landscaper and anthropic advocate. I wish I could have seen Susskind’s face when he read Richter’s comparison of the anthropic principle to creationism!

I disagree with Richter on one point. Trying not to be entirely negative, he contends that inflation has recently been transformed from untestable theological speculation into something resembling a genuine theory. As I pointed out two posts ago, inflation is based on unproven and probably unprovable physics, and it offers no predictions that cannot be accounted for by more modest big-bang models. That’s why the Nobel Committee for Physics didn’t mention inflation in its recent prize announcement.

Other than that, Burton, you're right on!


nigel cook

"... inflation is based on unproven and probably unprovable physics, and it offers no predictions that cannot be accounted for by more modest big-bang models."

One way to get rid of inflation and preserve the smoothness of the CBR from 400,000 years after the BB is to simply have an increase in gravitation strength G in direct proportion to time as in mechanistic Yang-Mills quantum gravity: contrary to Teller 1948, this doesn't affect the sun's brightness not indeed fusion rates at 3 mins after the BB.

This is so because the Coulomb force, unified with gravity, has the same time-dependence.

Because the Coulomb force is repulsive between protons and nuclei, the higher repulsion as the universe ages would exactly offset the higher gravitational compression! (Both Coulomb's law and gravity are inverse-square type long range forces.)

Fusion reactions occur when nuclei are compressed enough by gravity that they overcome the Coulomb repulsion and are fused at short range by the strong nuclear force. More info:

The comments to this entry are closed.

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