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Math Science

Strings Link the Ultra-Cold With the Super-Hot 236

Posted by Soulskill
from the words-of-one-syllable-please dept.
gabrlknght writes "Superstring theory claims the power to explain the universe, but critics say it can't be tested by experiment. Lately, though, string math has helped explain a couple of surprising experiments creating 'perfect liquids' at cosmic extremes of hot and cold. 'Both systems can be described as something like a shadow world sitting in a higher dimension. Strongly coupled particles are linked by ripples traveling through the extra dimension, says Steinberg, of Brookhaven. String math describing such ripples stems from an idea called the holographic principle, used by string theorists to describe certain kinds of black holes. A black hole's entropy depends on its surface area — as though all the information in its three-dimensional interior is stored on its two-dimensional surface. (The 'holographic' label is an allusion to ordinary holograms, where 3-D images are coated on a 2-D surface, like an emblem on a credit card.) The holographic principle has value because in some cases the math for a complex 3-D system (neglecting time) can be too hard to solve, but the equivalent 4-D math provides simpler equations to describe the same phenomena.'"
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Strings Link the Ultra-Cold With the Super-Hot

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  • Of course (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @06:59PM (#27579203)

    Lately, though, string math has helped explain a couple of surprising experiments

    Yes, that happens all the time. The problem with string theoy is not that it doesn't predict anything. It's that it predicts everything. At least, one of the innumerable variants will predict anything after it's happened. If anyone could pick out some predictions before they happen then that might be something to get excited about.

  • Lovely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jimmyswimmy (749153) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @07:00PM (#27579223)

    Yet another physical phenomenon fits the theory of everything. How about a prediction from string theory for once?

  • Not even wrong! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FibreOptix (1028122) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @07:21PM (#27579521)
    String theory is ripe with predictions. The problem is we can't test most of them directly, hence the main problem - lack of falsifiability (see: not even wrong).
  • by sexconker (1179573) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @07:40PM (#27579759)

    They just make up math to cover everything.
    None of it makes any sense, and no one understands it, it just fits what we observe.

    When it doesn't fit, they add layers to the math to make it fit. It's not a theory, it's a table of data written in the most convoluted way imaginable.

    And this whole hologram bullshit is retarded. A "news" story about a "new" "theory" of how our 3D universe may be a holographic projection of a 2D plane on the edge of the universe comes out every few months. It's bullshit, and they always make an analogy to holograms, which are 2D but store 3D information.

    What fucking horse shit. Holograms are 3D (NOT 2D) and reflect light in 3D. To interpret a hologram, you read it as 2D data by viewing it from a single angle and alter the relative angle of the light incident on the surface to obtain more 2D data. Multiple sets of 2D data are then combined (by our magical eyes, or whatever reading device you want to use) and the 3D information is reconstructed. Effectively, a hologram compresses 3D data into thin 3D data, and analyzing it from multiple angles allows us to decompresses it decently.

    The incompetence if fucking astounding, and I wish the fucking scientific community would just say GTFO to string theorists until they can produce an actual fucking theory. Too bad so many scientists are in desperate need of grant money and are afraid of being ridiculed ("lol it's ok if you don't understand it, most people don't").

  • by artor3 (1344997) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @07:50PM (#27579885)

    If you want to be taken seriously, avoid descriptions like "a shadow world sitting in a higher dimension." It's a meaningless analogy that only serves to make your field sound like pseudoscience BS.

  • by superwiz (655733) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @07:50PM (#27579895) Journal
    While I am not sure that I agree with the sentiment on religion (we all have our own ways of coping... religion isn't the worst), I think you pretty much got it with string theory. It's disingenuous to call it science. Calling it math would be more appropriate. As a matter of fact, if it must remain a priory because its assumptions are not testable, it must be math. Now calling it religion is probably not fitting the bill. It is still based on postulate-and-then-use-logic-to-deduce paradigm. As opposed to religions' vision-followed-by-political-expedience paradigm. For anyone who wants to argue that "religion uses logic, too," I say "fair enough." But math uses only logic to come up with conclusions. And math can be based on arbitrary assumptions from which those conclusions are drawn (the only restriction is non-self-contradiction). Whereas religion will attempt to use plausible assumptions and then draw arbitrary (from the point of view of logical consistency) conclusions.
  • Here is the thing. There are people that understand it, and can explain it. Just because you need a Phd to understand it.

    You are right to be skeptical, but don't confuse not being able to understand something with it not being understandable.

    It also make predictions.

    There are tests, we need a certain collider to come on line...

  • by MrMista_B (891430) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @08:08PM (#27580135)

    Actually, you're completely, totally wrong.

    String Theory has not, and so far can not, produce a single theory, that can be tested in any way.

    That is, so far, all String 'Theory' is, is mathematical masturbation.

  • by c6gunner (950153) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @08:24PM (#27580327)

    Yah, that's the problem - every theology ever invented can be summed up with one line of code:

    If ($cause == $unknown) { exit("God did it!); }

    Of course, they all like to pretty it up by adding comments and redefining meaningless variables, but the end result is the same.

  • by JohnFluxx (413620) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @08:29PM (#27580407)

    Why are people modding this up?

    A thin hologram can be represented truly as a 2D surface. You can print a thin hologram out using a laser printer and transparencies. You can even display a hologram on a TFT.

    The fact that you don't even understand holograms makes me wonder why you are even commenting on string theory.

    It's become very popular these days to bash string theory, yet noone has an alternative.

    People like sexconker want to remove grant money from research into any new theory until they have a theory that is complete. And yet it can't be completed with people actually working on it.

  • by cmat (152027) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @08:50PM (#27580621)

    I think the issue with the testability of String Theory is as follows:

    In a theory, there are generally variables. For example, in General Relativity, there are "constants" (called such because they are measured via experimental science) that emerge from the theory. These "constants" are actually variables in General Relativity (if you were to set them to different values you would have a different "universe"). However the important thing is that "variables" that we had yet to measure which the theory predicted would be certain values (given other variables which we had measured and plugegd into the theory) turned out to be consistent with what General Relativity said they would have to be when we did get to performing experiments to confirm their values (so far).

    The problem with String Theory is that there are many variables (not a show stopper) but that they seem to need to be fixed at certain values to arrive at "our universe". One might say General Relativity did the same thing, but no, given a set of variables that we had measured, we got predictions on what the values of the remaining variables in the theory must be. This does not seem to be the case with String Theory where we have not found any good reason to set the variables the way they must be to get our universe's constants out of the theory.

    Why is this important? Because String Theory MIGHT be correct (i.e. more accurate than General Relativity) but we have no indication of why the variables in the theory should be set the way they are (i.e. no experiment has been constructed as far as I know that will measure a value in reality and set it to a specific value in the theory). And even if that were to happen, it seems that it is possible to fiddle with the other variables in String Theory to again arrive at the model of our universe. So it seems that we would need to experimentally resolve each variable in String Theory independently which says to me that the theory has no predictive capability.

    IANAP, just an enthusiastic amateur who is annoyed at the state of physics.

  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @09:02PM (#27580729)
    Sorry, but being conceivably testable is not the same as being testable. If I only had a ghost detector, then I could detect ghosts. Ergo, ghosts are a good theory to work on!

    As a rule, if you cannot test something today, and you don't have a working blueprint for a machine that, once built, can test your theory, then you don't really have a testable theory.

  • Re:Lovely (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bitrex (859228) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @09:08PM (#27580801)
    Fortunately, nature has probably created a workaround so that we will never run into the ennui that would result from knowing everything there is to know: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godel's_Incompleteness_Theorem#Theories_of_everything_and_physics [wikipedia.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @09:23PM (#27580979)

    It's not really maths either though. It might turn out to be maths, but at present there are too many points in string theory where the physicists have been unable to prove "obvious" theorems (not base axioms, but actual "x follows from y" type theorems) but have continued to build on them *assuming* them to be true. And as anyone who has ever encountered any amount of post-high-school maths will tell you, sometimes "obviously true" theorems in maths... aren't true. So it's very possible that a not insignificant part of what we call string theory will turn out to be incorrect.

  • by sokoban (142301) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @09:44PM (#27581201) Homepage

    Whoever modded me as a troll must have not read the mouseover on that xkcd.

  • by Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @10:18PM (#27581513)
    Not only that but my own string theory related theory is that 99% of the posters here bitching about string theory do not have the necessary knowledge of physics and math to actually have a truly informed opinion about string theory. And of the remaining 1% I would venture that only a small fraction have gone to the necessary effort to actually properly evaluate it. But then it's so safe to try and look intelligent by chanting with the crowd; after all everyone around you believes you.

    Here's a thought - the right to an opinion isn't a requirement that you have one.
  • by bcrowell (177657) on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @10:54PM (#27581721) Homepage

    It's become very popular these days to bash string theory, yet noone has an alternative.

    Actually, that's not true. There are alternatives, including loop quantum gravity. String theory has been kicking around for 20 years, and essentially no progress has been made. Therefore it makes sense to stop dumping funding into it that's wildly out of proportion to its level of promise relative to other avenues of attack.

    People like sexconker want to remove grant money from research into any new theory until they have a theory that is complete. And yet it can't be completed with people actually working on it.

    It's gone for 20 years without making a testable prediction. If it went for 50, would you support cutting off funding? 100? 200?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 14, 2009 @10:58PM (#27581733)

    Whoah, cowboy. When having a meta-discussion about the moderation of your post, always post anonymously. Unless you don't mind a string of offtopic/troll mods.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @01:32AM (#27582651)

    Woah - Signal 11, the notorious bitchslapper of Slashdot!

    How did he get the power anyway?

    It'll be great if Slashdot has a mod-check (if it doesn't already exist) that you can't mod down a person 3 times within 5 days. It'll prevent too much abuse. (Let's not wait for other Slashdotters to report abuse. It'll be too late - the victim's messages will be -1 and thus invisible.)

    - 7-digit new user

  • Re:Hang on (Score:5, Insightful)

    by emarkp (67813) <slashdot&roadq,com> on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @02:29AM (#27582905) Journal

    [Burning Karma]

    The problem is that String Theory (or M-theory or Brane Theory, whatever) is a bunch of mathematical models that are cool if you have 11 dimensions, so you have to hand wave about where those 7 dimensions went.

    And yet after 20 years of mathematical masturbation, I've yet to see any single prediction from the mathematical models that can be tested.

    Not one.

    That's not Science folks, that's theoretical mathematics. Which is a perfectly valid academic field, just don't call it physics.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @02:42AM (#27582959)

    As an interested layman who counts cosmology as a 'hobby', I keep feeling that the String Theories as well as M-Theory are somehow flawed for the very reason that they are not parsimonious and introduce more questions than they seem to answer.

    I can't help but wondering, how is that flawed? Almost every scientific breakthrough yields more questions than answers.

    I also keep feeling that at some point some brilliant young cosmologist is going to come up with a theory more elegant and 'simple' by an order of magnitude that renders them obsolete.

    I'm not sure. String theory is much like quantum physics a few years ago: lots of beautiful equations that are unmanageable for any current practical applications, but they have yet to be disproven. Once our understanding of the world as explained by ST grows, we might actually see some practical uses for it, like how QD explained viscosity. Besides, due to our understanding of QD we have been able to prove and refine a lot of classical physics equations. It is not unthinkable that ST might do the same.

    Then again, it might just be a load of bollocks.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 15, 2009 @02:53AM (#27583025)

    Not to pick on you because I appreciate your attempt to explain this, but, if you think about it, a shadow does not exist.

    That is more sophistry than scientific argumentation. You're simply discarding projection as a (valid) means of examining an object.

    It is an inappropriately named VOID

    To continue your sophistry, how can something be a void?

    Light is blocked by something else, to create what we incorrectly refer to as a thing (shadow)

    ... which is still a valid way of examining that "something else", since we have no way to observe it or measure it directly.

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