The Chopped Liver Accelerator

I had errands to run this morning before work, which meant that I didn’t have time to queue up the usual handful of blog posts to appear during the day. I don’t want to have the site go dark, though, so I’ll throw up a post or two on my lunch hour, to note some physics stuff that’s kind of cool.

I’ve been meaning to say something about this for a while, as the physics blogosphere has been overrun with talk about how cool the Large Hadron Collider is going to be (my own contribution is a few posts back), but I keep putting it off on the theory that I’ll do something really substantial. The odds aren’t good, though, so I’ll just throw out some quick links.

So, while you’re waiting for the LHC to get up to speed, how about some love for the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), which has done some amazing stuff by smashing gold nuclei together at very high speeds? I realize it’s not as sexy as the LHC, given that it’s only working with particles we already know about, as opposed to hypothetical particles that may or may not exist, but the quark-gluon liquid was a surprise to basically everyone, and is a pretty darn cool development, and they’ve got some experiments going on now involving spin-polarized proton collisions that sound interesting.

Neither of those is going to test string theory, of course, which demotes them to stamp collecting in the minds of some, but these are arguably the most interesting accelerator-based experiments currently underway, so take a moment or two to appreciate them.

13 thoughts on “The Chopped Liver Accelerator

  1. Chad, No.

    You’ve a very narrow view of what string theorists are interested in, it seems. Several of us have had our eye on what might come out of RHIC for at least 8 years, and others perhaps more. And if you look on the hep-th archive right now you’ll find that recently there have been several papers about RHIC and related physics, written by string theorists and about string theory. The point is that string theory actually teaches us about the type of gauge theories that govern the strong interactions, and since 1997’s AdS/CFT breakthrough in our understanding about the nature of gauge theory, is hoped that one day we can use string theory to understand the strong interactions (QCD) to the point where we might be able to reproduce the key features of the temperature-density phase diagram of QCD, which RHIC is helping to map out. The big surprize – the Quark-Gluon liquid’s particular properties – actually seems to be a robust feature of the this stringy formulation of QCD. SeeThere is a lot more to come. So RHIC is far from stamp-collecting – it is at the heart of a large amount of effort in the field, and provides possible tests for some of the oldest and deepest ideas in string theory, at the same time as some of the newest and most profound of our modern results.

    See for example the paper of Kovtun, Starinets and Son, which can be found here.

    And see for example the numerous papers that refer to it, that can be found in this link here.
    Please don’t believe all the things said about string theory by people who don’t work on it. Chat to us about it from time to time.



  2. Ah, you beat me to it Clifford… let me add that most of the recent interest is manifested by joint papers written by string theorists and other physicists, for example the paper you cited. This I see as a very healthy phenomena, maybe even a better explanation for string theory’s success than the usual conspiracy theories.

    In any event, some of the physics is nicely summarized by two recent postings of Jacques’:

    Part I

    Part II

  3. Oh, my comment was sucked into a vortex, and I wasn’t even more obnoxious or unnecessarily argumentative than usual…just an overly agressive spam filter I hope.

  4. There is, indeed, a new spam filtering tool in use, which was cleverly installed on Friday, just before everybody skipped town for the weekend. The bugs are still being worked out.

    I’m currently at Readercon, and posting this from the hotel lobby, but I rescued the comment in question from the junk bin. As for the comment about string theorists, that was not entirely serious– it was some linear combination of an oblique reference to the antics of a certain individual theorist, and a cynical attempt to drive traffic (because I almost always get a bump in traffic when I talk tabout string theory– think I could pick up an extra 500 visits/day by posting one piece daily with the title “String Theory Is a Bunch of Crap”).

  5. Chad. Well, that is all very amusing and good for traffic, but are you blogging to get traffic, or to reach out with information to people interested in science and scientists? In other words, is it really a good idea to make deliberately misleading statements about an entire field like that “all in good fun”, on a site about science outreach and on one of the few physical sciences channels on ScienceBlogs? Imagine if on Cosmic Variance I said some random thing -before checking my facts- about how people working in experimental atomic physics were not interested in the results from (insert name of highly relavant experiment here), just to get extra hits. I’m not sure you’d agree that it was a good thing to do. Some people come to your blog to find out what is going on in the physical sciences… they might not be able to tell that you are joking.

    Please be careful. There’s enough misinformation out there already. Please try not to add to it.



  6. Hey Chad, we more or less covered that ground before, the one that Clifford is discussing, and I am personally fed up with all the “string wars” business, I’ll leave it to the next generation of commenters. I hope though that every now and then we can get to discuss some of the physics involved, which was the purpose of my comment and the links I included.

  7. Oh, and thanks for rescuing my comment Chad, I’ve had clean record with my comments so far, but I did learn which of my buttons get easily pushed in the process…

  8. I think you’re attaching far too much importance to a throw-away remark in a quickly-written blog post. Anybody looking for information about string theory will come across far worse than that, long before they get to me. But I apologize for any distress I may have caused.

    I do appreciate the links, Moshe, even though that’s probably what tripped the spam filter. I’m going to back that setting off a bit, in light of the new plugins, and see what effect that has.

  9. Instead of links to press releases, I suggest that you carefully
    read some RHIC papers. The latest abstract clearly says:
    “However, the measurements themselves do not yet establish unequivocal evidence for a transition to this new form of matter. The theoretical treatment of the collision evolution, despite impressive successes, invokes a suite of distinct models, degrees of freedom and assumptions of as yet unknown quantitative consequence…”

  10. Chad,

    These guys have sore toes a mile long. Don’t let them get you down. There are a lot of us out here who just read this stuff to laugh at them.


  11. Chad,

    I was disappointed to learn (from Lubos Motl) that you squeeze a huge amount of irrational hatred against theoretical physics and string theory into … your blog. Of course I had long suspected that you were in fact either Demandred or the Dark Lord himself, so I wasn’t surprised that you wrote one of those uninformative worthless and colorness negativistic far left-wing activist anti-Bush anti-capitalist anti-American anti-religious pseudoscience blogs

    I was, however, shocked (just shocked) that one of the chosen would fail realize that RHIC physics is just exactly quantum gravity. As Steve Gubser put it in one of the articles Lubos cited: In most circumstances, replacing QCD by N = 4 super-Yang-Mills can be charitably described as an uncontrolled approximation. The gauge fields and their tree-level interactions are identical between the two theories, but the matter fields and the quantum dynamics are different in many ways.

    Like gee whiz, how clearly do you want it said? String theory is RHIC physics! Lubos says so.

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