December 21, 2014


Is String Theory About to Unravel? : Evidence that the universe is made of strings has been elusive for 30 years, but the theory's mathematical insights continue to have an alluring pull (Brian Greene, January 2015, SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE)

But what happens in the event--likely, according to some--that the collider yields no remotely stringy signatures?

Experimental evidence is the final arbiter of right and wrong, but a theory's value is also assessed by the depth of influence it has on allied fields. By this measure, string theory is off the charts. Decades of analysis filling thousands of articles have had a dramatic impact on a broad swath of research cutting across physics and mathematics. Take black holes, for example. String theory has resolved a vexing puzzle by identifying the microscopic carriers of their internal disorder, a feature discovered in the 1970s by Stephen Hawking. 

Looking back, I'm gratified at how far we've come but disappointed that a connection to experiment continues to elude us.

No matter what Jackie said, we should generally believe rape claims (Zerlina Maxwell, December 6, 2014, Washington Post)

Now the narrative appears to be falling apart: Her rapist wasn't in the frat that she says he was a member of; the house held no party on the night of the assault; and other details are wobbly. Many people (not least U-Va. administrators) will be tempted to see this as a reminder that officials, reporters and the general public should hear both sides of the story and collect all the evidence before coming to a conclusion in rape cases. This is what we mean in America when we say someone is "innocent until proven guilty." After all, look what happened to the Duke lacrosse players.

In important ways, this is wrong. We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says.

Posted by at December 21, 2014 9:25 AM

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