Thursday, 19 April 2012


I don't seem to be finding the time to write proper blog posts, so here is a dot-point rundown of a few things I have found interesting lately:

  • Bobby Acharya, Gordon Kane, and Piyush Kumar released a preprint last week in which they discuss 'generic' predictions of string theory for low energy physics. It is well worth a look, and represents a good review of some of the progress of the last ten years, but the word 'generic' concerns me quite a bit in this context; I don't even know a way to define a 'generic' member of a discrete set (of purported string vacua, for example). To be fair, the paper contains a number of caveats pointing out the various assumptions being made.

  • IceCube is a wonderful experiment, which uses the Antarctic ice sheet as a giant neutrino detector. The collaboration has just published a paper in which they report a null result in the search for neutrinos from almost 200 gamma ray bursts, allowing them to set a limit for neutrino production about four times below predictions. In particular, this basically rules out gamma ray bursts as the dominant source of very high energy cosmic rays. For a press-release-level overview, see here; the BBC has also covered the story.

  • Only a couple of days ago, I finally registered an account on MathOverflow. This is a site designed for asking and answering research-level questions about mathematics. That is a nice idea, but what is remarkable is just how well it works. Some of the best mathematicians in the world are frequent contributors, and the questions are typically kept to a very high standard (almost entirely beyond my own ability…).

  • Since last year, I have been a reviewer for Mathematical Reviews. The rather neat idea is to have members of the community write short informal reviews of papers in their field of expertise, to help others quickly gauge the context and importance of a piece of work. This has mixed success; for example, only two of my papers have been 'reviewed', and in each case the reviewer has simply copied the abstract (this sort of thing is allowed, but only when there is a good reason, and I've never thought of one). Unfortunately, I think these reviews are behind a paywall, but then, reviewers are actually 'paid', in the form of points which can be spent on AMS membership or textbooks. Still, this is not really the motivation to take part in such a project, and it would be fantastic to have this sort of thing available for free (for example, as part of the arXiv).

This sort of blogging might be a way for me to be able to post more regularly, with longer, more detailed posts coming only occasionally, as they have so far anyway. Hopefully this sort of post is better than nothing.


  1. I really enjoyed reading the Acharya, Kane, Kumar paper. Although it covered several topics, it was still fairly easy to follow.

  2. I'm surprised you are worried about this post; it contains lots of information and is definitely better than nothing!

    1. Thanks Sesh. I guess I'm just a bit annoyed that I didn't get around to writing a proper discussion of the Acharya et al. paper. At some stage I feel like I should put down my thoughts on the predictive power of string theory, and it seemed like a good excuse. I'm sure I will do so some time soon.

  3. It would be great to get an unbiased opinion of the Acharya paper as there are seem to be only either very negative (Woit, Strassler) or very positive (Motl) responses with regard to string phenomenology in general, and this work in particular.


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