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When string theory fails, what’s the next fad?

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File:Millisecond pulsar and accretion disk - NASA animation (low res).ogv
Pulsar animation/NASA, Dana Berry

No, really, that’s a serious question.

At New Scientist (August 21, 2011), we are told, “Black holes and pulsars could reveal extra dimensions.” You knew that, of course. The theorists need all those extra dimensions the way governments these days seem to need dimensionless amounts of cash. So,

String theory, which attempts to unify all the known forces, calls for extra spatial dimensions beyond the three we experience. Testing the theory has proved difficult, however.

Now John Simonetti of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and colleagues say black holes orbited by neutron stars called pulsars could do just that – if cosmic surveys can locate such pairings. “The universe contains ‘experimental’ setups we cannot produce on Earth,” he says.

Of course, they may not produce everything we want. Then what?

At Not Even Wrong, Peter Woit wonders that too:

This hype goes back to at least 2008, where we might have learned,

In the New Scientist piece, astrophysicist Avi Loeb makes the comment:

There are a lot of layers here of nonstandard assumptions… If nothing could be observed in this context, then it would not surprise me.

Besides which,

Unlike most recent examples of such hype, which appeared in conjunction with the acceptance or publication of a paper in PRL, this one is based solely upon the submission of a paper to PRL.

File under: Hope strings eternal.

File with: If it mentions space wormholes, it’s not serious.

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Understanding the cutting edge of high energy physics is by its very nature speculative at this point, since we are unable to probe those energies and length scales. What we know is that our current models of General Relativity and Quantum mechanics are inadequate to describe these scales, and that the standard model is incomplete. What I do think is a big problem at the moment is the way that the media is developing a tendency to leap on pre-publication archives such as Arxiv. Jet Black

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