Collection of string theory jokes

Philandering String Theorist Can Explain Everything
•The Onion, October 12, 2005 | Issue 41•

BATAVIA, IL—Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory physicist Laird Karmann, a noted string theorist and accused philanderer, said Monday that he can “explain everything” if his wife Elizabeth will just give him a chance. “Surely, anyone can see that, mathematically, the universe is composed of Riemann surfaces, having positive-definite metrics, across which the attached ‘loops’ or free ‘strings’ have a (1+1) dynamic topology,” Karmann said. “But string behaviors are Lorentzian, meaning that they—like me—need an intense dual-phase Wick rotation now and then just to stay in rational space. I mean, it was just a b***job.” Elizabeth refused to accept her husband’s theory, suggesting that he study the transformational loop dynamics implicit in her hurled wedding ring.

Nothing gained in search for ‘theory of everything’
By Dr Robert Matthews
Financial Times, London. Published: June 2 2006 19:45

“They call their leader The Pope, insist theirs is the only path to enlightenment and attract a steady stream of young acolytes to their cause. A crackpot religious cult? No, something far scarier: a scientific community that has completely lost touch with reality and is robbing us of some of our most brilliant minds.

“Yet if you listened to its cheerleaders – or read one of their best-selling books or watched their television mini-series – you, too, might fall under their spell. You, too, might come to believe they really are close to revealing the ultimate universal truths, in the form of a set of equations describing the cosmos and everything in it. Or, as they modestly put it, a “theory of everything”.

“This is not a truth universally acknowledged. For years there has been concern within the rest of the scientific community that the quest for the theory of everything is an exercise in self-delusion. This is based on the simple fact that, in spite of decades of effort, the quest has failed to produce a single testable prediction, let alone one that has been confirmed. …

“Most theorists pay at least lip-service to falsifiability, popularised by the philosopher Karl Popper, according to which scientific ideas must open themselves up to being proved wrong. Yet those involved in the quest for the theory of everything believe themselves immune from such crass demands. Mr Woit quotes a superstring theorist [lenny susskind] dismissing the demand for falsifiability as “pontification by the ‘Popperazi’ about what is and what is not science”. …

“Coming from a community that refers to Prof Witten as The Pope this is a bit rich. But it also suggests the whole field is now propped up solely by faith. Woit provides plenty of evidence for this: the insistence of M-theorists that in the quest for ultimate answers, theirs is “the only game in town”; the lectures with titles such as The Power and the Glory of String Theory; the cultivation of the media to ensure wide-eyed coverage of every supposed “revelation”. …

“But why should the rest of us care? The reason is simple: the quest for the theory of everything has soaked up vast amounts of intellectual effort and resources at a time when they are desperately needed elsewhere. … the huge intellectual effort needed to enter the field compelling them to plough on regardless of the prospects of success. It is time they were put out of their misery by being told to either give up or find funding from elsewhere (charities supporting faith-based pursuits have been suggested as one alternative).

“Academic institutions find it hard enough to fund fields with records of solid achievement. After 20-odd years, they are surely justified in pulling the plug on one that has disappeared up its Calabi-Yau manifold.”

The writer is visiting reader in science at Aston University, Birmingham

Ed Witten’s string theory lecture

A string walks into a bar with a few friends and orders a beer. The bartender says, “I’m sorry, but we don’t serve strings here.” The string walks away a little upset and sits down with his friends. A few minutes later he goes back to the bar and orders a beer. The bartender, looking a little exasperated, says, “I’m sorry, we don’t serve strings here.” So the string goes back to his table. Then he gets an idea. He ties himself in a loop and messes up the top of his hair. Then he walks back up to the bar and orders a beer. The bartender squints at him and says, “Hey, aren’t you a string?” And the string says, “Nope, I’m a frayed knot.”

Murphy’s Ten Laws for String Theorists:

(1) If you fix a mistake in a mathematical superstring calculation, another one will show up somewhere else.

(2) If your results are based on the work of others, then one such work will turn out to be wrong.

(3) The longer your article, the more likely your computer hard disk drive will fail while you are typing the references.

(4) The better your research result, the more likely it will be rejected by the referee of a journal; on the other hand, if your work is wrong but not obviously so, it will be accepted for publication right away.

(5) If a result seems to good to be true, it is unless you are one of the top ten string theorists in the world. (By the way, these theorists refer to their results as “string miracles”.)

(6) Your most startling string-theoretic theorem will turn out to be valid in only two spatial dimensions or less.

(7) When giving a string seminar, nobody will follow anything you say after the first minute, but, if miraculously someone does, then that person will point out a flaw in your reasoning half-way through your talk and what will be worse is that your grant review officer will happen to be in the audience.

(8) For years, nobody will ever notice the fudge factors in your calculations, but when you come up for tenure they will surface like fish being tossed fresh breadcrumbs.

(9) If you are a graduate student working on string theory, then the field will be dead by the time you get your Ph.D.; Even worse, if you start over with a new thesis topic, the new field will also be dead by the time you get your Ph.D.

(10) If you discover an interesting string model, then it will predict at least one low-energy, observable particle not seen in Nature.


Above: string theory cartoons by the Abstruse Goose. Dr Peter Woit gives a discussion of the truth of the second cartoon in the blog post What the M Stands For. Seriously, Dr Ed Witten’s World of Mathematics biography states: “Witten, whom his students affectionately nicknamed “the Martian” because of his brilliance and soft voice, gave up his teaching duties in 1987 to concentrate on his research. … His wife reports that Witten does calculations only in his head.”

What do string theorists use to preserve their modesty? G-strings.

What happens when two string theorists marry? 10500 children across the multiverse, but all with differing amounts of dark energy.

What do you get when string theorists party? Entanglement.

What do you get when you give a string theorist plenty of rope? A Gordian Knot.

What happens when two string theorists have an argument? Branes collide.

What’s the difference between a good string theorist and a bad one?The good one predicts nothing; the bad one predicts everything!

What does a string theorist do when a duck says “quack”? Ignores, then shoots the messenger!

What do undead string theorists absolutely crave? Branes.

It is said that papers in string theory are published at a rate greater than the speed of light. This, however, is not problematic since no information is being transmitted.

How many string theorists does it take to play hide and seek? 10500 + 1 … so that there exists at least one universe with two people in it.

In 2006, the bestsellers by Lee Smolin and Peter Woit “Not Even Wrong” and “The Trouble with Physics” were published, showing that superstring theory has become a dogmatic consensus, like epicycles being “defended” by less-than-objective methods. Right on cue, the world’s greatest genius behind M-theory, Ed Witten, happened to write a letter to Nature (v. 444, p. 265, 16 November 2006), headlined:

Answering critics can add fuel to controversy.

“SIR — Your Editorial “To build bridges, or to burn them” and News Feature “In the name of nature” raise important points about criticism of science and how scientists should best respond (Nature 443, 481 and 498–501; 2006). The News Feature concerns radical environmentalists and animal-rights activists, but the problem covers a wider area, often involving more enlightened criticism of science from outside the scientific establishment and even, sometimes, from within.

“The critics feel … that their viewpoints have been unfairly neglected by the establishment. … They bring into the public arena technical claims that few can properly evaluate. … We all know examples from our own fields … Responding to this kind of criticism can be very difficult. It is hard to answer unfair charges of élitism without sounding élitist to non-experts. A direct response may just add fuel to controversies. Critics, who are often prepared to devote immense energies to their efforts, can thrive on the resulting ‘he said, she said’ situation. [Critics must never be permitted to thrive.]

“Scientists in this type of situation would do well to heed the advice in Nature’s Editorial. Keep doing what you are doing. And when you have the chance, try to patiently explain why what you are doing is interesting and exciting, and may even be useful one day.

“Edward Witten
Institute for Advanced Study, Einstein Drive,
Princeton, New Jersey 08540, USA.”

The next letter on that Nature page (from genetics engineer Boris Striepen) stated: “How and why did our public image change from harmless geeks to state- and industry-sponsored evil-doers worthy to be a target? More importantly, what do we do about it? And how do we communicate more effectively what we are doing, why we are doing it and what the opportunities and challenges of modern science are?”

“Centralization of information and decision-making at the top has been destructive to most organizations. The Greeks had a word for the notion that the best decisions can only be made on the basis of the fullest information at the highest level. They called it hubris. In a living scientific organization, decisions must be pushed down to the lowest level at which they can be sensibly made. … Leadership would be decentralized throughout, not concentrated at the top. … It would also facilitate the downward transmission of goals, the only things that can be usefully passed down from above, and make room for the upward transmission of results, which should be the basis for reward. It should be obvious that this structure need not be imposed from above. There is no reason to await a decision from the top to do so. Everyone in the chain has the flexibility to organize his own life and thereby to decide whether he is to be a manager or a leader.”

- Gregory H. Canavan, The Leadership of Philosopher Kings, Los Alamos National Laboratory, report LA-12198-MS, December 1992.

Paul Frampton newspaper article

Paul Frampton newspaper article

Above: just to prove that supersymmetric particle phenomenologists are human and make errors, Professor Paul Frampton’s suitcase error may be mentioned. Frampton is author of Gauge Field Theories (Wiley, 3rd ed., 2008), deriving Yang-Mills equations in gauge theory:

“The first edition of this necessary reading for cosmologists and particle astrophysicists was quickly adopted by universities and other institutions of higher learning around the world. And with the data and references updated throughout, this third edition continues to be an ideal reference on the subject. The tried–and–tested logical structuring of the material on gauge invariance, quantization, and renormalization has been retained, while the chapters on electroweak interactions and model building have been revised. Completely new is the chapter on conformality. As in the past, Frampton emphasizes formalism rather than experiments and provides sufficient detail for readers wishing to do their own calculations or pursue theoretical physics research.”

Frampton is also co-author of an arXiv preprint called Primordial Black Holes, Hawking Radiation and the Early Universe which calculates that “The 511 keV gamma emission from the galactic core may originate from a high concentration (~1022) of primordial black holes (PBHs) in the core each of whose Hawking radiation includes ~ 1021 positrons per second.” Another worth mentioning is Considerations of Cosmic Acceleration ( which solves the “dark energy” problem (the cosmological acceleration of the universe) as a Hawking black hole temperature radiation effect from modelling the whole universe as a (radiating) black hole, finding on page 4: “This approach provides a physical understanding of the acceleration phenomenon which was lacking in the description as dark energy.” The error here, as we have repeatedly pointed out on this blog, is that large electrically neutral black holes don’t have any pair production near their event horizon and so can’t radiate.

Julian Schwinger’s IR cutoff for pair production proves that in order to have spontaneous pair-production (leading to phenomena like vacuum polarization phenomena, and Hawking radiation) you need an electric field strength exceeding 1.3 x 1018 volts per metre, which only occurs out to 33 femtometres from the core of an electron. The fact that the electron’s charge stops running and remains constant at energies below the IR cutoff (~0.5 MeV energy), i.e. the fact that classical electromagnetism exists at all, is entirely due to Schwinger’s 1.3 x 1018 volts per metre threshold field strength for pair-production and vacuum polarization (pair production is also the physical mechanism of Hawking radiation):

QED running coupling diagram (nige cook)

QED running coupling diagram (nige cook)

No uncharged black hole can radiate Hawking radiation, because to do so would require the absence of an IR cutoff (i.e. pair production would occur all over space, not merely within 33 fm from an electron core or in particle collisions above ~0.5 MeV energy), so the logarithmic running coupling function would not have any lower limit cutoff to prevent the running of the electronic charge to absolute zero beyond 33 fm radius. So no atoms would exist, because the electric charge would be completely cancelled by vacuum polarization at the relatively large 53 pm Bohr ground state radius of the hydrogen atom. It is essential for atoms to exist, therefore, that Julian Schwinger’s IR cutoff does exist to prevent the QED running of the electronic charge from going to zero at distances beyond 33 fm from a fundamental charged particle. Without an IR cutoff due to this Schwinger threshold electric field strength for vacuum polarization (caused by the effect of the field on the vacuum pair production of virtual fermions), there would be nothing to prevent the charge of the electron from falling to effectively zero at a few hundred femtometres radius! This kind of mechanism is totally absent in QFT due to the “wilful blindness” which excludes all physical understanding and mechanism from being discussed in papers and textbooks, leaving just maths.

I fear that with his popularity waning, Britain’s David Cameron might decide to boost national unity by declaring a Eton-style “let’s liberate Paul Frampton from the dasterdly Argentinians”-war in a half-baked effort to emulate Thatcher’s Falklands War against Argentina. Perhaps he will decide to get rid of all our Trident missiles in the process, by wasting them on soft targets in South America, when they are designed for hardened targets in Russia. However, let’s be optimistic and try to remain cheerful. Some will pray and hope Frampton will be released without millions being hormesis-irradiated by cancer-preventing, life-enhancing strontium-90 in WWIII.

Lynch Bastards

Lynch B******s

Above: remember, kiddies, if you want to learn to be clever, don’t just go to a library and work yourself through all the textbooks and past exam papers you can find, and then book yourself into external candidate exam. This cheats the rich professors (Einstein impersonators) out of their lucrative pension funds! It also reduces their ability to “brane”-wash your mind with their pet stringy prejudices about what science really is. Instead, get yourself into debt by paying a fortune to be lectured to by card-carrying members of the Union of professional geniuses.

“I consider it quite possible that physics cannot be based on the field concept, i.e., on continuous structures. In that case, nothing remains of my entire castle in the air, gravitation theory included, [and of] the rest of modern physics.”

- the real Albert Einstein, 1954 (letter to Michele Besso, quoted by Abraham Pais in his biography Subtle is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein, Oxford University press, 1983, p. 467).

“Wilful blindness” leads 100% of spin-2 graviton theorists to ignore all of the caveates of Albert Einstein! There are no smooth geodesics of curved trajectories in quantized fields, just a lot of impulses from field quanta, gravitons. Einstein was exaggerating the problems of quantum field theory, however, since calculus is a useful approximation on large scales where the flux of field quanta involved in the interactions between particles is large. The real problem is that the differential geometry of tensors provides the wrong framework mathematically for making progress on the fundamental problem of quantum gravity, ad when the mainstream is in a hole, it keeps digging instead of trying alternatives. There is a problem on both sides of the differential field equation of general relativity: firstly, you can’t fundamentally model (except as an approximation valid statistically only for large scales) the distribution of particulate matter using the energy-momentum tensor T_{nm}, and second, you can’t model field quanta interactions accurately by the Ricci tensor for curvature R_{nm}.

When Newton’s apple fell, presumably it was accelerated by gravitons interacting with it. That’s not a truly continuous acceleration. Presumably according to quantum gravity, only at the instants when gravitons are being exchanged, do accelerations occur as impulses. I don’t see how there can be any curved trajectories, because if fields are quantized, the field quanta will only approximate to curves on large scales. On sufficiently small scales, motion will be more erratic. Is anyone really sure if there are any really continuous curves in nature? Because everything is made up of particles, if you magnify a curvy line or anything physical that looks curved, eventually you’ll come to a series of atoms arranged in what (on larger scales) looks like the shape of a curve. The illusion of continuous curvature will of course disappear on on the scale where you can see the individual molecules and particles.

“A possible explanation of the physicist’s use of mathematics to formulate his laws of nature is that he is a somewhat irresponsible person. As a result, when he finds a connection between two quantities which resembles a connection well-known from mathematics, he will jump at the conclusion that the connection is that discussed in mathematics simply because he does not know of any other similar connection. It is not the intention of the present discussion to refute the charge that the physicist is a somewhat irresponsible person. Perhaps he is. However, it is important to point out that the mathematical formulation of the physicist’s often crude experience leads in an uncanny number of cases to an amazingly accurate description of a large class of phenomena.”

- Eugene P. Wigner, The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences, 1960.

“It always bothers me that, according to the laws as we understand them today, it takes a computing machine an infinite number of logical operations to figure out what goes on in no matter how tiny a region of space, and no matter how tiny a region of time. How can all that be going on in that tiny space? Why should it take an infinite amount of logic to figure out what one tiny piece of spacetime is going to do? So I have often made the hypothesis that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement, that in the end the machinery will be revealed, and the laws will turn out to be simple, like the chequer board with all its apparent complexities.”

- R. P. Feynman, The Character of Physical Law, BBC Books, 1965, pp. 57-8.

“I adhered scrupulously to the precept of that brilliant theoretical physicist L. Boltzmann, according to whom matters of elegance ought to be left to the tailor and to the cobbler.”

- Albert Einstein, December 1916 Preface to his book Relativity: The Special and General Theory, English translation by Robert W. Lawson for the 1920 Methuen & Company edition, London. (Something quite heretical to today’s string theorists!)

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