Thursday, 26 August 2010


As I've mentioned already, I have a "comment" on a paper ready to go. The paper is by a powerful professor. The paper is in PRL. My comment is one column long, but it could be a paragraph because I can demolish all his arguments in one line. Alright, two. One line for the shiny equation. So two lines, but kind of irrefutable because, um, well, the bit of maths in that second line which is, well, correct. (I might also not use the word screwed.)

Not that my comment will ever seee the light of day. I have already been warned off trying to publish it by my colleagues, because it will be politcal suicide. They are correct. They're also correct to say that most comments and the resulting counter comments end up as whingeing rants and/or personal attacks. See for example this one.

No idea who this guy is or whether the comment he is replying to was correct or not. Again, though, moderators? Hello? Five pages of text with no equations, again. (He has some in-line stuff, but it looks like notation.)

It's hard not to become irate when someone tells you the paper you've just poured months of your life into is a sack of crap. Or when you know that you can shit papers which are better the crap being published by people with All Hallowed Sacred Tenure (blessed be it's permanenty name).

But, as with most occasions in life, becoming angry does nothing for you. The sad thing is that being correct doesn't do anything for you either, when in comes to physics. Celebrity culture has infected the game - you need to have money and the prestige and networking which comes with it to get into the best journals. Once you have the money, you could scrawl your poop on a page and PRL would still go giddy over it.

Yeah, I'm jealous. I'm also right, but we've already established how relevant that is....

Twilight falls on the arXiv.

26 August 2010. The seas boiled, lightning cracked, Duncan's horses did turn and eat themselves as usual, the Kraken rose in a foul mood and...

...well. Some physicists may have become a tad disgruntled this morning, but that's all that happened. Even that isn't likely these days, so I doubt anyone really marked that today was the day when the arXiv finally jumped the shark.

Theck out this missive on emergent gauge fields.

Four pages of "Microsoft Word" text with not a single equation. Moderators? No, ok.

Over on hep-ph, the only single topic which has been considered important in QCD conferences for the past N years continues to dominate -- we have yet more attempts at solving the Schwinger-Dyson equations, and an introduction to the Dyson-Schwinger equations.

For those of you not up to date on the Schwinger/Dyson/Dyson/Schwinger Saga, it goes like this: Schwinger is a scrawny looking, possibly in-the-closet sappy wet vampire, while Dyson is a super-buff certainly-in-the-closet werewolf jock. The physics community has divided itself into two screaming fan-girl groups who rate one of these two celebrity-fuelled man-whores over the other. One group works on what they call Schwinger-Dyson equations, the other on Dyson-Schwinger.

The rivalry has become so fierce that you can't even attend conferences on one "topic" if you work on the other: a young postdoc recently made that mistake and had to miss the poster session because he was putting a plaster over a really, really nasty nail scratch. That particular conference was cancelled soon after because the keynote speaker became so distressed over his broken nail that he locked himself in the toilet and cried so hard his mascara dripped all over his presentation, ruining his homemade fan-girl drawning of himself being tenderly yet firmly embraced by a mysteriously pale and moody looking Witten.

(Oh, and all that Twilight stuff goes for lattice people who argue about which fermions are less wrong on the lattice, too. You really can't mix up your conferences there -- mee-ow!)