Archive for August 6th, 2007

Monday late evening links

August 6, 2007
  1. Fuji at Savage Minds is starting a series on why studying sports matters (Savage Minds site seems to have some problems though; if the link does not work, you may have to revisit the site after a while);
  2. According to Wikipedia,

    In physics, the Casimir effect or Casimir-Polder force is a physical force exerted between separate objects due to resonance of all-pervasive energy fields in the intervening space between the objects.

    And, now Scienceblog tells us that the Casimir effect can be reversed; here the paper titled Quantum levitation by left-handed metamaterials by Leonhardt and Philbin, which explains the details of how such a reversal could be achieved.

  3. You remember the series of Sean that I told you about the other day on how research is done? Not everybody is as starry eyed about it as I am; Julianne at Cosmic Variance, for example, has this to tell about the process described by Sean:

    I’m not trying to disrespect the theorists, but it takes a certain mindset to enjoy the type of process Sean described. If you read the three part series, nowhere will you see the evidence that Sean or his collaborators actually believe that inflation had a preferred direction. They just decided it would be cool to explore, and will shed no tears if inflation turns out to be a nice creamy vanilla of isotropy. Me, I’m enough of pragmatist that I’m happiest spending my time working on stuff that actually exists. So, no Nobel Prize for me, but I’m ok with that.

    I have several issues with that paragraph; but the most obvious, in my opinion, is that Julianne does indeed have disrespect for the theorists; look at the last couple of sentences about Nobel prize and being pragmatic about studying stuff that exists. Does she mean that Nobel Prize is given to unpragmatic studies about stuff that does not exist? Or, is she implying that only pragmatic researchers who study about stuff that exists get Nobel prizes, and hence Sean et al are not in the race? In any case, what is it that Sean has written in the post tells her that Sean et al will not shed a tear if inflation turns out to be isotropic? It is not as if Sean knew that there are good reasons to be expect inflation to be isotropic, but still decided to go ahead and look at anisotropy:

    (I should make clear that this particular “What if?” question is not completely unmotivated speculation. Inflation is a great theory, and is likely to be “right” in some yet-to-be-defined sense, but it’s not something that anyone should think we more or less understand. We’re extrapolating well beyond known physics, so it pays to keep an open mind. One way of forcing yourself to keep an open mind is to ask specific and testable questions about the space of possibilities encompassed by your ideas.)

    At this point, it may be necessary to mention that most of my own research is computational in nature; and, I have met several people who speak ill of my kind of work–directly and indirectly. The most irritating one such comment I received from a respected experimentalist: we were in a party; he was asking each of the graduate students in the group as to what they were doing for their PhD. When I mentioned my thesis topic, he shrugged and said “Oh! Theory. I am not that good to understand what you guys are doing”. It certainly was not humility (or, humbility, as we used to call it); that much was clear from the tone of his comment. It was just another way of putting the theorists in their place, you see!

    Anyway, probably, Julianne knows Sean et al personally; and, probably, she does know that they will not shed a tear if inflation happens to be isotropic. May be I am just over-reacting based on my personal bad experience with experimentalists who do not like theorists. But still, I was not happy to see those few sentences, especially, since they do not add any value to the clear and strong arguments that Julianne is making in the rest of the post for her not spending the majority of her time in studying dark matter and dark energy.

  4. Sean finds that religion is impovershing our language, and wants God back 🙂

Happy reading!