Blog Archive

Monday, 12 December 2011

Fed up.

Everything I want to publish has already been done.

Except it's been done badly. And when I say "badly", what I mean is that Physical Review, and in particular PRL, is full, literally bursting, with results which are so stupidly wrong they defy belief. Statements like "we artificially and without motivation or proof of reliability completely ignore the fact that this diagram is as infra-red divergent as fuck, so we can produce a pretty picture".

Which, oddly, makes publishing the correct results somewhat tricky, since you have to convince Phys Rev that the same thing is worth publishing again, convience the reviewer that the results in the literature are shit, and simultaneously avoid pissing off entire research groups. This is deeply, deeply frustrating.

It's hard not to sound arrogant, but I've spent my career to date doing field thoery, and my competitors have spent their careers to date doing something barely above engineering. And frankly I'm right and they're wrong and .

Monday, 28 November 2011

Photon photon scattering.

I'm sure I mentioned this before somewhere on the blog... yup, here:

It's heating up

Some chaps claimed that all the old photon-photon scattering calculations were wrong. It looked to me like they'd written "infinity - infinity =0" at some point. And here's the response! From the asbtract alone these guys seem to be better informed than the new radicals.

I feel a comment approaching.....

Monday, 31 October 2011

Phys. Rev. Zzzzzzzz

20Oct11 Reminder to referee [others sent (not shown) at 1-2 week intervals]
29Sep11 Correspondence (miscellaneous) sent to author
29Sep11 Right to publish signature received
29Sep11 Correspondence (miscellaneous) sent to author
29Sep11 Review request to referee; response not yet received
29Sep11 Acknowledgment sent to author
28Sep11 Correspondence (miscellaneous) sent to author

Come on you lazy lazy sod.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

It's even been published.

Must. Avoid. Anna. Phys.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Neutrino cascade 2: the sickening.

Another barrage of suspiciously 4-page papers on neutrinos today. It's getting a bit sad, boys.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Neutrino cascade.

Of all the desperate attempts to grab citations from the OPERA results, my favourite so far is this one:

Superluminal Neutrinos and Monopoles
Comments: 4 pages

In this letter, we show that superluminal neutrinos announced by OPERA could be explained by the existence of a monopole, which is left behind after the spontaneous symmetry braking (SSB) phase transition of some scalar fields in the universe.

Bless them. There are papers saying "the detectors were dodgy" and papers saying "string theory explains it", one of which is a sensible description, and then there's this, which tries to explain it using the Higgs. It had to happen. Genius. I love it.

Friday, 30 September 2011

The odd couple: part 3.

Touche, old man. You have closed the door and turned up the heating in the office. And on a particularly hot day. Touche.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

People who should not be allowed to publish.

Those who think the Dirac equation should be written with the \alpha and \beta matrices.

The phantom of the....

...yes, that. The arXiv is flooded with papers about sterile neutrinos (did they pass through South Korea? Zinnnnnger!) going faster than light, or not, or clocks not being synchronised properly or yawn.

I love it. A hundred peope jumping onto a bandwagon. If opera's results hold up/fall down then maybe one of them will have found a good explanation/good explanation. Hello TopCite. On the other hand, even if it ultiamtely all fades away, those papers will gather citations at a pleasing pace while the hullabaloo continues. We like citations.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The odd couple: part 2.

Today I turned down the air conditioning in the office by 5 degrees C. Take that, you old bugger. We'll see who gives up first. If you want it to warm back up in here, then I want the door open. Otherwise you will be freezing your scrawny arse off by the end of the week. It's up to you!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The odd couple.

I am away on a research visit.

I share the office with a Russian so bent and hawk-nosed that with sufficient speed and incentive to inhale I could give the room a thorough vacuuming.

The office is not cold. I arrive early and prop the door open with the remains of a chair. The Russian arrives. There is an awkward pause while he surveys the new arrangement.

"Do you want it like that?" he asks.

"Yes, if you don't mind."

He shuffles toward the door. "We can do it like this." he says. His dry twig fingers flake and crack as he acts out his idea of compromise. He drops the latch, so the door will not lock. And then he closes it.

Two weeks of this left.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Copy editing, part 2.

Let me be clear. I would not cross the street for a physical review copy-editor if they were on fire.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Higgs yet?


According to "Prof Matt Strassler" currently blogging from a conference, we're down to the range 115-145 GeV. Nothing more from Resonaances yet, but ATLAS's twitter account seems fairly busy...

Exciting times!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

This week....

... will see the following.

1) PRL will reject version 2 of the paper which is currently back with the editors. Not surprised. Didn't expect it to get in but it's worth trying. It will go into PR instead.

2) I will respond to Evil Professor and his Cronies of Hench.

Some time will then pass. Time in which I won't be able to relax, or focus on the infinite number of talks which need preparing (four! that's almost aleph0 in talk terms), or make any progress in my research. Thanks, bastards!

Friday, 19 August 2011

Revenge of the professor.

Remember the whole Comment / PRL thing? I'll remind you.

1) Powerful professor writes article with results which are demonstrably wrong.

2) I think about writing a comment. I don't, because it will make a powerful professor angry with me.

2) I do some thinking and get the correct results. I write an article.

3) I tell the professor I am not going to submit my paper as a comment, because that will just make everyone upset. He seems to take this well.

4) My paper is published. Reviews glitter.

Now. Here's the new bit. One of the professor's mates has written a comment on my article. He's sent it to PRL and now I have to defend myself. He has found no fault at all with any of the maths. He has found a problem with the interpretation. If I had included one word, ONE word in one sentence, he wouldn't have been able to complain. That word is "explicit", by the way, and not something game-changing like "not".

So this is it. The top level professor has decided to sabotage my career by sicking his mates on me. Does it matter than the Comment reduces to criticising a potentially misleading piece of grammar (which no-one else has complained about)? No, because the professor clearly has enough power to make sure that he has influence over whoever reviews the comment and my response.

One of my best articles is going to have a Comment and a reply tagged to it, for no good reason, and it is going to make me look shit. This is it. I am screwed. Royally screwed. Becauase of some mummy's boy who can't take it when his physics is crap. Double standard? No, not really. I made this mistake. I wrote:

"we see no dependence on X in expression Y"

I should have written

"we see no explicit dependence on X in expression Y"

The mistake the professor made was this. Instead of writing

"I don't know what to do here, because I don't really understand field theory, what with having spent most of my life using spanners to turn cogs"

he actually wrote

"so I think I'll take gauge theory and maul it so that nothing works properly any more but at least my computer will stop spitting "infinity" back at me and I can whip a paper out."

This is going to FUCK me!

Higgs yet?


But apparently news is coming this weekend. See Not Even Wrong.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Brief project update.

Spent a week calculating something very hard, communicating with the authors of the original papers on the subject. Recovered their results, finally, after hours of being a fool. Finally understood it. Extended it to the case I was interested in.

Result was boring. Sad. Still salvageable. If it hadn't already been found in 1970-odd by the same pair who have covered everything else in this subject.

Now at home. Have purchased chocolate, cake, steak and beer. The chocolate is gone. The steak is gone. And so is any chance I had of getting any more papers written this year. Balls.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

The year so far.

Project 1. Resulted in a paper due to having a decent student who could do the numerical stuff I neither have any stomach for nor am any good at. Have been waiting for journal's decision for three months. In limbo.

Project 2. Began with literature check. Discovered it was done in the sixties. Aborted.

Project 3. Spent several weeks struggling with an extremely simple toy model. Finally understood it all. Extenstion to interesting cases immediate. Cool. Pause. Discovered an uncited paper in a back-water journal which contained most of my "new" results. Now have to find a way to salvage my time. ARGHH.

Project 4. Boring. Will be very hard to sell. Hoping collaborators will think of a way to spin it. Waiting for collaborators. Who are on holiday...

Project 5. Missing entirely. Needed for a masters student. Help.

Project 6. Impossibly difficult. All simple cases, already in the literature, abosrbed, digested and understood. Very, very, stuck.

Project 7. Initiated by collaborator's suggestions. Spent some time elaborating on suggestions and creating lists of positive and negatives of each. Returned to collaborator. Collaborator had decided it was no longer interesting. RAGE.

Project 8. Theory done. Numerics to be done. Project on hold because numerical collaborator is entirely distracted by own research and....

Prject 9. ... which is rather more interesting, but somewhat harder, than project 8. Have reduced problem to one extremely tough differential equation. Buggered.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Dear Professor. I am not an idiot.

Hmm. I come across a reference to an intriguing looking paper. I cannot find this paper online. A spires search reveals nothing. A lot of googling reveals nothing. It appears to be an unpublished preprint. No-one references the paper except the author, in another unpublished preprint which does happen to be on the webnets.

I e-mail the author and politely request of the elusive missive. The author is a bigshot, so I try to be extra polite and sickeningly flattering.

"Dear bigshot,

You are superawesome. I am frankly gasping to get my hands on a copy of your undoubtedly brilliant opus "clever shit I did on holiday", which sadly I have been unable to obtain. I cannot find a journal reference nor an online copy. Would you please be super sweet and send me a copy, you great big hunk of lovely, you?

Yours with best wishes and huggles,

Lowely postdoc who worships the ground your sweet smelling footsies dain to walk upon."

And a couple of days later I get this reply:

"try looking on spires"

What. Do. You. Think. I. Tried. First. You. Sod.

Now the bigshot thinks I am a blethering idiot. Excellent self publicity there. On top of that, I still don't have the paper I want, and am faced with the prospect of writing back to said bigshot without using any of the following words or phrases:

"no, really"
"a bit of effort"
"porpoise up your sodding"

The summer lull.

This is currently the status of my paper.

29Jun11 Review request to referee; response not yet received
07Jun11 27Jun11 Review request to referee; message received
(not a report)
26May11 26Jun11 Review request to referee; report received
21Jun11 Reminder to referee
8Jun11 Reminder to referee
25May11 28May11 Review request to referee; message received
(not a report)
26May11 Correspondence (miscellaneous) sent to author
26May11 Right to publish signature received
25May11 Correspondence (miscellaneous) sent to author
18May11 Acknowledgment sent to author
18May11 Correspondence (miscellaneous) sent to author

So, the paper is recieved by the editor and a week is sent out to two reviewers. This means the editor didn't bother with the paper for a week. (It's not that he didn't think it was suitable -- that decision would have been a lot quicker in coming.) One referee replies almost immediately -- either he's too busy or it's not his subject. The remaining referee does nothing. For a month. Then he sends a report. Yey!

Sadly, this report does not say "publish now, you fools, before he sends it to a journal with less infuriating response times!" but perhaps, and I hope here for the best option, "it's fine but not good enough for this journal", which I'm expecting. Worst case, it's "this is western rot which was covered in my magnificent soviet article in acta physica incomprehensiba, 1822".

Anyhoo. After three weeks, this third reviewer says he can't be arsed either. Three weeks to say "too busy, sorry". The paper is sent to a fourth reviewer. A fourth!! At least I'm getting some exposure.

I suspect the reason for this widening chasm between submission and rejection is that everyone has buggered off on holiday over the summer. I know I have. I'm on holiday right now. And I've still found time to write a paper. Why can't these buggers find the time to review one?

Monday, 13 June 2011

Did you try Google?

Suppose you have an idea for a research project. You wonder if someone else has already looked at the problem. You might Google it.

Then you start working on the project. You encounter problems, things you don't understand. You might Google, looking for related problems and solutions.

You get some results. You might Google certain likely phrases, to see if anyone has discovered the same, or related, results by different means.

You think about what journal to send your paper to. You might Google for "journal name" and "project title" to see which journals might go for it.

You wonder who to suggest as a reviewer. Someone who works on related problems. You might Google to find out who that would be.

Or you could just blindly write a shitty little paper without citing any of the tens of papers on the same subject published in the past couple of years, papers which contain every result you claim is new, and written in a much nicer way, and send the bastard thing to the arXiv with an air of distain which borders on the insulting.

And then you might get in your tank and drive over the "insulting" line and rattle off cackling like a banshee into the no-man's-land of "fuck you".

God I hope I get the paper to review. I really really do.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Brian Cox: (even) better than the real thing

The Now Show has a great segment, about five minutes in, with Mitch Ben taking the piss out of Brian "I was partly responsible for the film Sunshine" Cox and simultaneously explaining the basics of quantum mechanics. Nice.

Listen here, it should be available for the next seven days from the date of this post.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Oh come on...

It's been over four weeks. Review my bastard paper already you lazy SODS.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

It's heating up...

I'm very glad now that I didn't go down the "comment" route. Let's look at someone who did!

First there was this:

A proposal to measure photon-photon scattering

which contains equations in the abstract and was therefore never going to be a fun read. The paper opens with a reference to an unpublished paper by the same author which apparently shows that the calculation of light by light scattering from Euler-Heisenberg is wrong. That's quite a claim.

The gist of the paper is that a bog-standard perturbative calculation gives the correct answer, as you'd expect. There is also a reference to an old, independent, perturbative calculation which reproduced E&H's result, but seemingly can't be trusted as it was fudged in order to agree with E&H.

Interesting so far!

The paper ends though with some dodgy comments on both gauge and Lorentz invariance: for example, they claim that the QED polarisation tensor isn't transverse... I'm pretty sure it is, you know. There's a reference to one of their own papers where they show this. Note that they're using a UV cutoff which doesn't preserve gauge invariance, so it seems to me that they've broken gauge invariance and found that... oh... gauge invariance is broken. Check.

So this morning comes the comment:

Comment on : A Proposal to Measure Photon-Photon Scattering

which, somewhat disappointingly, open with neither a disgruntled "this contradicts my fabulous result" nor a direct "this is HORSESHIT" slap-down. Instead, it rather mildly points out that the "new" result gives a cross section 40 orders of magnitude larger than the old, and that this violates known _experimental_ bounds on the cross-section.

Pretty slap-downy, at a medium pace.

But today also sees the full calculation of the new result! It's here:

Light-Light Scattering

and lays the blame at the foot of an "unphysical gauge condition" which I can't see discussed explicitly. They say that the box diagram is finite in QED... really?! Can an expert on this confirm or deny it? I could get up and open a textbook but, you know, sleepy...

Personally, I'd love it if Euler-Heisenberg was wrong. It would be tremendous fun. I think it's more likely that these trailblazing chaps have just screwed their calculation, either because they've shagged gauge invariance or ... ah, they add three box diagrams together, say "each is divergent but the sum is not and therefore we don't need to regularise." Hunggg. This could be where they dropped the ball. If I have an expression which is finite then clearly no regularisation is needed. However, if I have three dodgy expressions then I can't just add them up and claim the whole thing will be fine. So I guess they've dropped an "infinity - infinity = 0 ball.

Still! Let's hope it doesn't end here. There's plenty of scope for more comments with ever increasing irritation. Physicists -- I know you won't let me down!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

LC2011 - day 4

The day gets off to a rocky start after excessive drinking at the conference dinner, casused by my being outraged at the kind of socially despicable, teeth gringindly irritating, jaw-droppingly rude behaviour of one of the bigshots which I can't really talk about without risking revealing who I am. Which is a shame, because it's a cracking story which exemplifies the kind of despicable behaviour which made me start writing this blog.

The day proceeds to drag out interminably, scheduled to end at 6pm. Fortunately some speakers have pulled out and the schedule remixed, which should speed things up. Unfortunately we are already 30 minutes behind timetable by the time the last coffee break rolls up.

The afternoon session is clearly given over to talks that no-one really cares about. The topics are all `ab initio', or rather, they use lightfront co-ordinates or approaches to solve their problems, without focussing on the fundamentals or intricate details of lightfront methods. A few years ago, this was an integral part of the conference. Now it's an aside -- the community's focus is split between AdS/QCD and, basically, trying to get hadronic physics out of lightfront QCD by calculating extremely complex scattering amplitudes in whatever approximation/model is currently seen as been in fashion.

As a result, the lecture hall begins to empty out after lunch. At least two of the super bigshots are gone by the final coffee break. People are bored and tired. The later speakers must have felt awful looking out at the audience and seeing only a sea of very bored, uniterested faces. Still, one of them decidees that, another 10 minutes behind schedule, it is absoloutely necessary to begin their talk by spending several minutes eulogising the lightfront community.

Fortunately things pick up for the final talk which, clearly relagated to the death slot because of the off-topic topic, is delivered by a buoyant postdoc who manages to engage the audience by, in contrast to way too many other speakers, having put some effort into writing a clear presentation.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

LC2011 - day 3

Craig Roberts starts the day off looking sharp as hell and giving a nice clear talk. Apparently there are no flux tubes between light quarks! The argument why escapes me, but the result is very interesting. Violent changes in the analytic properties of quark propagators, it seems.

The proton mass is apparently 98% dynamical chiral symmetry breaking. Who needs the Higgs? Higgs also irrelevant for light quarks. Sadly Dyson-Schwinger turn up and I drift away....

There are BaBar anomalies which cannot be explained by QCD, apparently. Suspect we just don't know how to calculate.

I will never understand physics.

Marvin points out that we don't live in minkowski space, but in some kind of FRW universe. Apparently the instant form is tricky in such a universe, and the lightfront is really hard. Question is, does the lightfront approach make any sense at all for scales larger than that of the solar system?

A mobile phone rings. The same phone rings again. Sigh.

This girl refuses to answer questions. Not a good idea. Her response is "that is not my part of this project, so I refuse to answer the question". Idiot. And she over-runs. And the chair does nothing about it. And she says she has no intention of stopping. Her arrogance is astounding.

LC2011 - day 2

Today begins with a 24-hour-too-late attempt to reveal the meaning of the acronyms GPD, PDF, TMD, F2B and 5DOG9, amongst others.

I'm probably wrong but I don't think the fundamentals of QCD lie in incredibly detailed, complex, messy, ugly, poorly understood calculations of pion-pion-proton-J-rho meson scattering.

Apparently you can completely localise a relativistic particle in at most two dimensions (living in 3+1 of course). Nice.

Five minutes over time at the end of the first session the speaker announces that's he taking five further minutes. He doesn't even stop when the chair finally assembles the balls to pointedly stand up. 10 minuets later we get access to coffee.....

Lattice...lepton-lepton collisions. People seem to be worried about final state interactions. In QED this seems to correspond to accounting for the Coulomb cloud around electrons. What people here don't seem to realise is that that Coulomb cloud (together with the fermionic matter field) IS the electron. Dirac showed this in 1930 or something and then everyone forgot it. If you actually did scattering with physical fields rather than the Lagrangian fields then all this final state bollocks would be automatically taken care of. But no-one cares about that.

It's day 2 and the sodding laser pointer still doesn't work.

People might thank you for giving nice talks, but they won't cite you. The people who are cited are the people who give bad talks.

People are still shuffling infra-red divergences into things they're not looking at and then forgetting them.... QFT has come a long way. Hmmm. Other people think their made up bullshit is correct, while experiment is wrong. Humility is lacking at this conference.

A couple of choice nuggets from today:

"If you're in your right mind, you would never think that!"

"Oh! I'm out of time. I'll go quickly..."

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

LC2011 -- aside


I'll return to this when sobre.

LC2011: day 1.

Talks begin at 9am. At 9:11am the first mobile phone rings and the first person is asleep.

The conference begins with a five year old, rather too hype-filled discussion of Ads/cft/qcd and the wonderful things you can do by wrapping branes about each other. He is pleasingly honest in admitting that AdS/CFT has taught us nothing about real QCD.

Coffee and doughnuts! No-one speaks to me.

The second speaker begins with a sycophantic eulogy to Stan Brodsky, who is actually in the audience. Stan responds in kind. This goes on for several minutes. Just before the tears start to fall the speaker gets to his outline. It is 15 items long. The slides are almost blacked out with text. We have here yet another 50 year old physicist who can't write a talk. I die a little.

The morning session deteriorates into a bunch of wrinkly old sods cheerfully slapping eachother on the back. I vomit a little.

The topic of the day is AdS/QCD using lightfront approaches, in particular soft wall vs. hard wall models. There are, interestingly, several agressive questions from the audience about the physical relevance of all this research. In particular how the approach deals with stuff like the angular momentum of the proton, which it seems is something we should care and worry about. The answer to all such questions is simply "we'll probably be able to do it..."

Speakers begin to leave the conference entire.

There is some more simpering praise for various elderly physicists. Someone is annoyed that scalar fields are being used to model coloured particles. He interrupts with "I don't mean to interrupt but..." which is an arse-clenchingly irritating thing to say.

Advice: if your outline takes more than 30 seconds to present, it's not a fucking outline.

What astonishes, impresses and depresses me is that people can listen to all this badly presented complex crap and ask clever pointed questions about it, even if they admit they don't understand it. How do they do that? I am literally switched off.

Some people say some sensible things about confinement. It's all based on instantons and merons, it seems. Clearly I don't understand instantons in euclidean theories, because he's reduced his entire configuration space (of gauge fields) to just these configurations and says that does everything. Apparently the YM vacuum is a liquid crystal. That's nice.

Trousers which go up to the ribs. Astounding. I am eating way too many doughnuts.

Monday, 23 May 2011

LC2011: day 0.

I arrive in the US to be greeted by a long cue leading to a sign which promises me the immigration official will be corteous and professional, and then an immigration official who is rude and indifferent.

Then six hours of my life happen in Newark airport.

Then I arrive in Texas and am lied to and fleeced by some cunt of a taxi driver.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnyway. LC211 reception: decent snack food, free wine, immediate talk of physics amongst almost everyone, talk which turns to, yup, politics after a few glasses of the Pino Broncho. Cue slightly raised voices about whether killing Osama was a wonderful thing (angry russian) or something which will only heighen both resentment and fear of the US around the world (mild european chap).

The people I want to talk to about physics during the week are here. I'm still unhappy with my talk but I have time to fix it. Now, tea... talks begin soon...

Thursday, 19 May 2011

arXiv moderation

I submitted a paper to the arXiv the other day, and when it appeared I noticed the moderators had cross-listed it to some ridiculous pissant arXiv which I don't give a rat's ass about.

What's the problem? Clearly I get (a modicum) of extra publicity by cross-listing, so I should probably be indifferent to this. But I'm not. I think there are two reasons.

First, I suppose that every other physicist is a bit like me in how they see the arXiv. People who publish on hep-th sneer at people who publish on hep-ph, people on hep-ph sneer at those who publish on hep-ex, etc, so that people who work on the same area of me will think my paper is shit since I linked it to a shit arXiv.

Actually, I imagine everyone who publishes on hep-th sneers at everyone else, and I know that everyone, even passing marsupials who are mysteriously and briefly granted he understanding of science by a pissed up blue fairy and who happen to wander onto the arXiv while googling for "really good grubs to eat", sneer at physics.pop-ph.

Although I did just find this:


The second reason, and this is the real one, is that it's sodding well rude to reclassify an article and not tell the author. I can't abide these pissing up the wall contests with other physicists, and that is precisely what arXiv moderation is. Some high-up with a "I've got more citations than you" attitude can do what he/she likes with your paper and they know it.

If these people had an ounce of humility or just base gregariousness left in their citation-hunting blasted souls, they would fire off a fucking e-mail and say "hello, we'd like to cross list your paper. Please respond before the next deadline if there's a problem."

If I had received such an e-mail I wouldn't have batted an eyelid. Yes, I would still have been doubtful about the necessity of cross-listing my paper to physics.yawn but I wouldn't have objected actively to it, and I wouldn't have become this irate.

Cannot stand impoliteness.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Conference blogging: LC2011

I'll be blogging from LightCone 2011 next week. For those who don't know about this conference, it's a pleasant enough event where a lot of people who work on very different topics get together and try to sell their stuff to disparate communities by saying, at some point in their alloted 30 mins, "which we can do in lightcone co-ordinates as so..."

There are also a hardcore bunch working on the very old, very hard, still unresolved, problems of lightfront field theory proper. Last year the conference was somewhat tediously dominated by Schwinger Dyson people (few of whom even pretended to care about the lightfront - shocking!) but that was due to the location and the organising commitee. Since we're on the home turf of the lightfront bigshots this year (the US), I expect a great deal of ADS/QCD stuff.

Oh yes, and it's in Dallas, Texas. Embolism alert... packing prozac now...

Friday, 25 March 2011

Your desk? It went out with SUSY.

Having just had my grant application rejected, I am in a slightly contemplative mood. The rejection is more annoying than anything else, for two reasons. First, because I now can't hire someone to take the load off, and second because it means I have to spend more time applying for other grants this year.

So, the future. Promise lurks on the horizon. It lurks like a huge shadowy something which could be an awesome uber-pancake covered in yummmy job-jam, but could also be the unemployment squid, its many tentacles flicking over the land, picking off postdocs and professors alike.

The deciding factor between pancake and cephalopod is the LHC. Theoretical physics is in a state. Despite the velociraptuous support from the higher ups, a lot of modern theoretical physics is not science. (As I've posted before, some explain this away by saying that "Modern physics has nothing to do with the Marxist definition of science". I'll let you ponder that one while I get back to the point.) The multiverse is not science, the anthropic principle is not science, and the SUSY apologists' escape route, that it can always be shoved up to higher energies, is worryingly reminiscent of something which isn't science.

Saying any experimental result, or lack thereof, can be shuffled into another part of the multiverse, preserving the sanctity of The String, is not science. I'm not going to bash string theory, I think it's a cool idea, but arguing that the multiverse is the only possible option just because strings led us there is very lazy, and dangerous, thinking.

I think I'm drifting. The point is, if the LHC finds nothing, high energy physics is going to be in trouble, and jobs are going to be even more scarce than they are now. But this is obvious to everyone involved. So why am I mentioning it.... if I had a point it has escaped me. Sorry.

Oooh, waffles....

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The LHC - a big magnifying glass.

The Guardian explains why we haven't found the Higgs yet. Apparently the reason is that it is very, very small.

Monday, 21 February 2011


So, INSPIRE beta might look a bit naff (note the heavily downplayed significance of citations? Interesting huh?), but thank god it's faster than SPIRES, which has of late become the search equivalent of an overweight sloth with a sore foot. When there's something really good on the TV.

For those who want to set up a "search keyword" in Firefox for INSPIRE, it seems a little tweaking is needed. Using the default "add a keyword" dongle in Firefox means extra typing. For example, if your keyword was "spires", then you would have to type

spires find a witten and d 2010

to get hold of Witten's work from last year. Alternartively, if you can't be bothered typing two keywords, and I know I can't, then use this as your bookmark:

Note the adition of the "find" in there. Now you just need to type

spires a witten and d 2010

There. That's less typing.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Copy editing.

After the third version of my proofs were returned by Phys.Rev. without serious mistakes being corrected, I resorted to begging.

The mistakes were not mine, let's get that out of the way. What was accepted by the journal was 3.5 pages of nicely formatted and carefully checked LaTeX. What came back was, surprisingly, 4.5 pages of space gobbling elvish script which, after a cursory examination, was revealed to contain entirely different equations to the ones I had submitted.

No really. My Dirac matrices had been re-ordered. "p" had become "q". Subscripts had changed from "2,3" to "1,2". All inexplicable.

These kind of changes can presumably be explained by how copy editing works, but I'm honestly not sure. I presumed at first that these chaps were using LaTeX, but this is perhaps not the case -- I suppose its more likely that they "import" the TeX file into some kind of grown up proper publishing program (read "poorly designed, bug ridden, memory hogging Mircrosoft trash") which produces proper grown up printable pages (read "a mess of grossly ugly type and mis-spaced equations"). This import won't be perfect and presumably some equations have to be reformatted by hand.

Fine. So why don't the lazy buggers check what they have changed? Why don't they have, wait for it, both files open at the same time, and then move their eyes between those files to check if they are the same? Why not do that, which is, presumably, let's see, their job, rather than just guessing what should go into the equations and then sending it back to me so that I can whittle a few more months off my life with the added stress of having to do someone else's fucking job?

The next time I'm sent such a bucket of shite I'm going to ask "aps beacon" to pay me fucking overtime.

It is disputational death to convey the impression of superiority these days. You can't claim that one job is better than another for fear of being accused of intellectual discrimination. So let's clear that up too: nowhere do I claim that typesetters have an easy job. I am certainly not claiming that I could do their job -- I couldn't, I don't have the patience or a careful enough eye. But if I did have to do their job for a month, I'd at least be concientious enough to check that I wasn't so fucking lazy as to have actually turned someone else's effort into TRIPE.

Feckless, apathetic morons.

Maybe there are other explanations. If it's not incompetence or apathy, then maybe it's some kind of bad juju dark magic.

In which case I want it, because I could use that to scupper my rivals. With that:

Blessed be the mighty god Zarnax, lord of copy editors, I give praise to his name and humbly request he bestow his splendiferous talents upon me, so that I too may off-handedly fuck around with the science which someone else has poured sweating, irreplacable hours of their sodding lives into.

(Ah, I have a PRD proof waiting for me.... this should be a hoot.)