Wednesday, 31 December 2008


Another year in physics approaches. I'll begin the year with a visit to another dept. and a paper on noncommutativity, which is looking like it might shape up well. I would like to be able to stretch it into two papers, but that might not be feasible. That's January, and probably a chunk of Feb. taken up with.

In March it's another visit and back to QCD, and a paper for which the preliminary results have been sitting around for a couple of months, waiting for some serious attention. Lookinig forward to getting that one out for political reasons, but no-one is going to cite it, I can tell you that now.

Beyond that, no current plans. I suppose I could try the string field project -- recently had an idea for a paper based on my PhD, a subject I left behind years ago. Don't know if it's tractable, and if it is I don't know what it would reveal... it would be a hard sell, since no-one cared about my PhD. Well, a few guys in Japan did, but not in any serious way. Still, it might be nice to write a short paper and throw it at Int.J.Mod.Phys.A. Sigh.

Politically, I need another QCD paper before August. Even more importantly, I need a paper with someone in my current institute, which is going to be tricky. Hang on. Sending an e-mail about that now... ok, done, self promotion sucky uppy e-mail sent. I also need a referee from the current institute. Which will be impossible if I don't write a paper with someone. But being seemingly the only person doing analytic (as opposed to numerical) field theory in a group which is pronouncedly split between lattice and strings doesn't make that particularly easy. Shit shit shit.

Then, beginning in August, it's application time again. And seeing as I'm onto my second postdoc, this means writing big impressive research proposals and applying for 5 year and permanent positions semi-seriously.

HAHAHAHAH hah ah ah oh dear, I almost believed that for a moment. I'm screwed. There are so few jobs anyway, and no reason for anyone to give one to me. Ha. I'm 30 and shortly to be turfed out of my chosen career because I don't work on trendy bandwagon subjects. Oh dear. On that note, I need a bacon sandwich.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

An idiot.

My reviewer thinks that the following object is not Lorentz invariant:

p_\mu T^{\mu\nu} p_\nu

where p_\mu is the four vector momentum of a particle and T^{\mu\nu} is an energy momentum tensor.

And this prick probably has tenure.

UK Annual Theory Meeting, day 3.

Physics Highlights from the Tevatron -- Beate Heinemann

No deviation from the SM in diboson (WZ or ZZ) production. These investigations are important as they're sensitive to trilinear gauge boson couplings which are a direct consequence of the SM's SU(2) x U(1) gauge group. If there is something else going on, it might be seen here. 5.7\sigma significance.

Theory says that a CP violating phase \beta_s measured in B_s->J\psi\psi should be very small -- it can be measured at the LHC, but it's too small to be seen by the Tevatron -- unless there is some new physics going on. And indeed, the Tevatron seems to see something. This is early data, so will be watched closely.

Still no concensus on whether the
CDF results indicate new physics or a miscalculated background.

LHC Prospects -- Dave Charlton

This was depressing. I have three words written down on my pad:

"LHC: is fucked"

The machine will be cooled back down in Jult 2009. So you can kiss goodbye to any really interesting physics until 2010, I guess.

Harmony of Scattering Amplitudes: From QCD to Gravity -- Zvi Bern

Oh my word, this is an outttrraggeee.

After the three year old \cite{Bern, Kosower} introduction to MHV amplitudes \cite{Bern, Kosower} during which the word "harmony" was thrown about almost enough to make me vomit bile over the sleeping head of the chap in front, Bern spent his hour glorifying and citing himself and Kosower \cite{Bern, Kosower}. I actually don't care if what they're going is important, but I hate the approach -- consider some subset of loop diagrams which are "cut constructable", or otherwise handy to play with, do all your work on those and then claim that it applies to the whole theory. Oh shut up. This ad hoc approach yields a shed load of results, certainly, \cite{Bern, Kosower}, but it's never going to give you a genuine undersanding of the whole theory, despite what Bern claims. \cite\cite\cite\cite{Bern, Kosower}.

And, not once, not even god damned once, did Bern mention any of the work done by either the Durham or Southampton groups. Hello? Hello, Bern? You're at the UK theory meeting and you don't mention the papers of two of the larger groups in the country? Your arrogance appalls. Are you going to mention any UK contributions? Oh, the London guys. They get a nod at one point. Not even a mention of the seminal paper by Mansfield, who is at Durham and was sat in the bloody audience! Perhaps the citation count on that paper isn't high enough. That's what matters, after all, not content. Not like Bern and Kosower's papers. Oh no. They have big \cite{Bern, Kosower}, sorry, very big citation counts.

You make me sick.

UK Annual Theory Meeting, day 2 again.

Town Meeting

This meeting discusses the state of the UK theory community -- which, as might become apparent during this post, doesn't really exist. It's more a collection of people who don't like each other very much, resigned to either being in Oxbridge and therefore safe and happy in their jobs, or to being in a small group and having to fight and claw for a single postdoc every few years. The big groups don't care about the little groups, the little groups are bitter because the big groups take all the money.

I'm getting ahead of myself.

There was again no official STFC representative at the town meeting (disgusting, despicable cowards). Ruth Gregory, who is on the PPAN board, acted as host and told us what she knew. Get yourselves a galss of something single malt, now.

6 of 19 rolling grant applications were not funded this round, and these were mostly from the smaller UK groups. STFC's line was "consolidating", I think. Sucking the nuts of Oxbridge would be my choice of words.

Georg Weiglein voiced a suspicion that this was part of a long term STFC objective to close down the smaller groups, but Ruth disagreed (phew).

The word is that over the next 5 years, there will be a 25% cut in the number of RA posts awarded -- so in five years time, there will be a total of 20 RA's funded. Ruth thinks this is very, very, likely to actually happen, barring some miracle. Oh god.

Even worse, STFC has been considering tieing the number of studentships awarded to the number of RA posts (so they control even more of a department's research direction). Given that there are going to be so few RAs, we're going to lose all our students too. Ohhhh god.

STFC's new "roadmap", called a "strategy" or some such feculant dribble, has just been announced. The document is open for consultation until March, and the message from Ruth is that we have to give STFC our feedback, loudly, but in a unified and non bitchy/backstabbing way (it's no use blaming Cambridge for stealing all the cash, as it will just give STFC a target to point their guns at, was the subtext, I think).

You might have heard the rumour that STFC had discovered an extra 9 million quid lying around. This is true, but no-one seems to know what the money should be used for. STFC has said that it will not be used for grant rounds which have already passed. There is a chance it will go to experiment, who are facing cuts at least as bad as theory, although Ruth says that we should make the case for it to come back to theory. YEY to that idea.

So, that's it. It's all bleak. We've been screwed by capitalisism and our vile PC culture of letting any bullshitting idiot walk into an important job and do it by spousing stolen, contentless, soundbits rather than thinking about all the people their decisions will affect.

So screw you, STFC.

UK Annual Theory Meeting, day 2.

There isn't much to report from this, the only full day of talks at the conference, as every presentation was pretty dire. Special mention must, however, go to:

Searching for B-mode polar anisotropies on large angular scales --George Efstathiou

We're treated to a 15 minute engineering porn flick on the cooling systems of the Planck satellite. No really. He means well, I think, but once again this is a staggering misinterpretation of what the meeting is about and misunderstanding of how the audience is composed. So it gets to the results, and there are lots of pretty pictures I don't understand. And why not? Well, at the end of the talk, some brave sod raises their hand and asks

"So what is a B-mode and why is it so important?"

That's right. He hadn't told us. It's in the title of his talk, and he hadn't told us what it bloody was. Arghhh.

This guy is an FRS and a professor at Cambridge, and he can't be bothered to do more than cannibalise a talk he's clearly given many times to specialists in his field. And this guy must be on the chair of a hundred commities, deciding the fate of postdocs and research groups, and he's lazy. Well that bodes well.

Physicists suck.

Friday, 19 December 2008

UK Annual Theory Meeting, day 1.

Neil Lambert --- Multiple Brane Dynamics: D-branes to M-branes.

Apparently string theory needs promoting again. Presumably at the behest of the organisers, the talk began with a 10 minute introduction to string theory which would not have taxed a PhD student. He began with the usual force unification picture, some trouser diagrams, and then ending with the string dualities and the hints of M-theory. All very old stuff.

There were some strange, to be honest sloppy, statements, such as the existence of 10 dimension being the "great prediction" of string theory -- this is clearly wrong. First, it's not a prediction of string theory, it's a requirement, and secondly, if we discover there are 6 hidden dimensions it neither proves nor disproves string theory. Sadly, no-one called him on this. Sigh.

There were some other statements I was unsure of -- apparently you still can't get the exact standard model as one of the plethora of string vacua, but I thought that perhaps Hui-He and collaborators had managed this some years ago. Unsure. Also, there is "great evidence that magnetic charges exist in nature, but they are very massive". Really? Can someone enlighten me? He's not talking about branes, is he?

After this dubious introduction, the talk turned to the Bagger--Lambert model. It was not thought possible, until recently, to be able to write down actions for (the low energy effective theory of) D-branes (2 and 5) in M--theory. The way around this is to take the symmetries of the theory to be generated not my Lie algebras, but by three algebras -- which just means you have a bracket [A,B,C] rather than [A,B], but where the bracket need not be totally antisymmetric. The nice example given was the space of M by N matrices, which are not a Lie algebra, but are a 3 algebra with the bracket [A,B,C]=AB^\dagger C-CB^\dagger A. A nice description of these 3--algebras is as a lie algebra with matter in the bi-fundamental, all packaged up into one object. Using this you can write down actions with the right symmetries of M--theory, but apparently you have to then do a bit more work to get actions which describe the branes you're interested in.

So yes, there were snippets of interesting information, but the talk would have benefited enormously from having a gentle introduction to M--theory and its branes, before progressing, rather than having a trivial introduction to string theory before leaping tall buildings.

Edward Shuryak -- Strongly coupled quark-gluon plasma.

RHIC has seen events involving sQGP (as in the title), I think. That's what I managed to pull out of the ultra-dense slides of this extremely busy talk. And then I lost interest, until half way through when there was a slide of diagrams which looked very much like the trajectories of a particle in an electromagnetic vortex (must check that), and then I lost interest until the conclusions. There were slides with pages of text taken from his research papers -- this is not the way to give a talk.

So, the conclusions -- QGP behaves like a very good liquid because of "magnetic bottle trapping", for T<1.4 Tc it is dominated by magnetic monopoles. But forget all that, the important point to take away is that QGP does not behave the way people expected it to. Apparently this chap is a candidate for a Nobel prize for discovering this, and it was nice to hear about this `negative' result. But t was obvious. The people who first suggested that QGP was not going to agree with expectations will, of course, never get the credit. Why? Well, this comes down to the assumption that you lose confinement in QGP. And that's wrong. Why? Well, confinement means the absence of physical, colour charged states (to a field theorist) or a confining potential (to a lattice guy). The latter might well fail at high temp when you get QGP, you almost certainly have some other form of potential, but the former is a consequence of the global (non pert) properties of the Yang Mills configuration space, for example Gribov copies. None of this is altered by going to high temperature, so individual quarks and gluons aren't suddenly going to become observable.

But yeah, there we go. No-one listens to whispers.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Watch your factors

This amused me -- it's an entry in "comments" field on version 2 of an arXived paper:

"A missing complex "i" is included in the field strength and the divergent contributions corrected accordingly. As a result the model turns out to be asymptotically free."

So casual. Beautiful.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Peer review

I've just been royally screwed by an editor at JHEP. I can't go into details without giving away who I am. I'm too fed up to detail the problems with peer review in physics these days. Actually I'm really depressed about the whole thing.