Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This and That

  • The Physical Review has made available for free three papers by Nobel prize winner Yoichiro Nambu, including the classical NJL papers A Dynamical Model of Elementary Particles Based on an Analogy with Superconductivity I and II (see Physical Review Focus - Nobel Focus: Particle Physics Gets a Break). The two papers are quite technical. If you are interested in a more accessible discussion of chiral symmetry and its breaking, you may find Aspects of Chiral Symmetry by Volker Koch (arXiv:nucl-th/9706075v2) quite helpful. There was a time at the Theoretical Physics Institute in Frankfurt when the figure with the ball in the Mexican Hat potential (the one on page 15) showed up in nearly every seminar talk.

  • The Royal Society of London offers the "Theo Murphy Blue Skies awards", to support fundamental research in new and emerging areas with the aim of providing preliminary proof of concept for unproven or novel and transformative ideas and projects which draw on the application of interdisciplinary expertise.

  • Under the headline "Publish and be wrong", the Economist writes about a paper arguing that headline-grabbing scientific reports are the most likely to turn out to be wrong ("Why Current Publication Practices May Distort Science", by Neal S. Young, John P. A. Ioannidis, and Omar Al-Ubaydli, PLoS Medicine, doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050201). The claim is that the pressure to publish in prestigious journals yields fosters overselling, thus increasing the risk of errors. The authors ' background is medical research, and I'm not so sure if their results can be readily transferred to other disciplines. But I'm quite convinced that their claim holds for research results with prominent coverage in newspapers. (via incoherently scattered ponderings)


  1. To bad one can only apply for the the Blue Skies award if one "holds a permanent post or Royal Society Fellowship in either a UK university or not-for-profit research organisation," I could need some blue sky.

  2. Weak forces' chiral symmetry breaking gives diastereomeric interactions. Gravitation is 10^(-25) of Weak force strength. Chemically identical, opposite parity atomic mass distributions will violate the Equivalence Principle.

    Centimeter radius opposite parity test masses are enantiomorphic crystallographic space groups P3(1)21 and P3(2)21: quartz, cinnabar, benzil. Do a parity Eötvös experiment. The worst it can do is succeed.

  3. About Economist article, bad papers, the whole "Publish or Perish syndrome":

    "Everybody Writes [ papers ]...NOBODY READS [ incl peer review ]"
    -- Dr. W. Haken, UIUC math prof
    [ personal communication, he proved 4-color theorem by computer with his colleague ]

    I am not surprised that junk papers get published.

    In my field 25 yrs ago, my arch-rival (clown, fancy math BS'er) stole my idea & used some idiotic fancy math ("snow job"). A trivial mistake went unspotted (until I found it 15 minutes into proofing his "paper"), which meant his PhD thesis committee & journal peer-review flat out DIDN'T READ HIS PAPER!! They had to make a journal retraction/correction, acknowledging me. Another clown wrote a book summarizing the field (quoted his paper, ignored mine which was simpler/elegant, more mathematically rigorous), & to THIS DAY this erroneous & non-simple method is being taught at Caltech, Stanford, Berkeley, et al!! They are teaching grad students how NOT to do research.

    Welcome to the Machine

    This paper mill controversy, with the twist of "error-prone", is just part of the whole "broken machine" that is R&D. It's based on Quantity of papers, not Quality. My sister is a Biochemistry PhD (director of a lab), & said "there is so much junk [ junk papers ] out there"

    I just spoke with an old classmate of mine, researcher at NREL (, about my idea for a new virtual R&D Institute:

    "everytime I see a paper written by xx, I think it's some politician behind it & it's all BS"

    "everyone [ scientists & politicians in Washington ] know it's fouled up, you have to provide solutions to improve the process"

    "it's all silo'ed, managers just do things to ..cover their ass..I turned down a management offer last year"

    "I thought about quitting & just being a manager at a Burger King"

    I remember an old professor of mine (who ditched Academia & joined Connection Machines, the same company R. Feynman worked for 1 summer), who described Academia as "the Grind". Imagine a potato-mashing machine, & you are being "grinded",

  4. Hi Stefan,

    Thanks again for the heads up and it’s nice to see there are more papers being released for free distribution, with this one being a mere 48 years old. This of course is not to complain for as you point out they all in the main are important works and as you allude to in you post perhaps the reader won’t need to consider they might be wrong with surviving as being relevant this many years:-)



  5. Bee said: "I could need some blue sky". But they also have another condition, that of a truly "blue-sky" and simultaneously "provable", concrete advance. So what's yours? Or if it's a secret, then at least a subject, general idea... Because being at the Perimeter Institute, you could apply to a similar FQXi initiative (already done?), with a very big chance to win, just due to strong peer-review effects, in this case.

    A more ambiguous question is whether you (anyone) would be so eager to spread that information if the conditions were just perfect for your own application (important to you). Because in that way you would increase, maybe considerably, the ranks of your potential competitors... Science progress and morals or your own, badly needed success? Just don't say that such a choice almost never happens...

    British prove thus, once again, that they are the most advanced ones (and it's difficult to blame them for the desire to maintain that property, by their money). Note, for example, the emphasised absence, here, of any usual peer-review procedures. Indeed, if any usual "peer-review" is inevitably strongly subjective, why not stating openly that subjectivity, while emphasising instead its preferences as necessary limitations?

    A heretical conclusion results from that funding possibility description, why any other funding of "adult" fundamental science, anywhere, should ever occur under different guidelines?! Only applied science (technology, engineering) and junior, "sub-professional" fundamental science could work differently...

  6. Andrei: What I am interested in is not a big secret, you can read my blog, my papers, or my homepage to find out. FQXi is not presently accepting grant applications. Best,


  7. So, what are you going to do? If yours is "blue-sky research", there are no many agencies ready to support this, especially for a long time. Maybe you can remain at PI? I think they could continue to employ you already because of this blog activity. Because it may well happen that all those so self-important and great theories will eventually turn out to be variously limited, wrong, fruitless, uninteresting... I don't say that anyone can state that but neither anything opposite (and last-time evolution doesn't really look promising). So in a not-so-improbable case where no essential problem solution emerges from PI activity in several years (as it seems to be the case until now), the only interesting result of its existence may be some new forms of internet-based scientific activity, with your blog in the first rank (mainly because not all my comments here have been deleted until today :) ). Certainly it all sounds not very serious, a big scientific institute compared to an informal blog communication... But looking deeper, there may be something to it, something quite serious, like the future of (efficient) knowledge production and communication (if there's any future there!).

    Anyway, everybody should push everything in science in the "blue sky" direction as exemplified by that British foundation approach. You'll tell us if there's one open for world-wide applications, won't you?

  8. Hi Andrei,

    Well, FQXi was open to everybody. So let's hope they get enough funding in to continue next year. I don't know of any comparable initiative.



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