## The Two Cultures

November 13th, 2006

the book cover of “The Two Cultures”

I recently saw an essay about C.P. Snow’s famous lecture on the Two Cultures. In 1959 Snow observed that there was a “gulf of mutual incomprehension” between scientists and “literary intellectuals”. This resulted in a furor of name calling and fence building, that seemed to have more or less died down until the Sokal Affair. In Roger Kimball’s essay he quotes several of Snow’s critics as well as laying out his own criticism that science is intrinsically incomprehensable: “because of the extremely technical nature of contemporary scientific discourse—think, for example, of its deep reliance on abstruse mathematical notation—that gulf is unbridgeable and will only widen as knowledge progresses.” He further complains that science doesn’t deserve to be thought of as a culture in any case.  Assuming that we can consider Roger Kimball a “literary intellectual” this just seems to add evidence to Snow’s case.

What I think is interesting is that even though the gap between scientists and “literary intellectuals” still seems formidable, the general public  goes to a lot of effort in attempting to understand the latest scientific developments.  They are buying science books, going to public lectures, watching NOVA, and participating in science cafes. Even if “literary intellectuals” don’t know what exactly is meant by mass, acceleration, or the second law of thermodynamics, the “person on the street”  probably has some familiarity with electrons, quarks, and string theory.

## Cosmic Landscape

October 18th, 2006

Lenny Susskind

Leonard Susskind of Stanford gave a HEFTI public lecture, based on his book The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design at UC Davis on Oct 17.  About 400 people got an entertaining look at the “landscape” of universes allowed by string theory and how it might explain some of the apparent fine-tunings in nature that make life possible. “Lenny” (as he is affectionately known to almost all) was in high form, but also showed how he could be gentle with his critics.

## Higher Living

August 28th, 2006

real estate sign on the UBC campus

## Chiral Phase Transition

December 12th, 2005

QCD phase boundary from Braun and Gies

A new paper by Jens Braun and Holger Gies gives a nice picture of the chiral phase transition that links the finite temperature phase transition with the chiral phase transition that appears as the number of quark flavors is varied at zero temperature.  The idea is that in the chiral symmetric phase there is an infrared fixed point for the gauge coupling.  As the temperature or number of flavors in lowered, the fixed point coupling moves to stronger coupling.  Eventually the fixed point coupling is large enough that four quark operators become relevant (i.e have scaling dimensions less than four) and produce chiral symmetry breaking and destroy the infrared fixed point.  It would be nice if lattice gauge theorists who do Monte Carlo simulations would try to verify this picture.

## LHC Olympics

December 1st, 2005

olympic rings

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is planned to start running in 2007.  In order to help theorists to prepare themselves, the LHC Olympics are  currently underway. This is a “competition” to analyze simulated data from different models of new physics.  The simulated collisions have been put through a Pretty Good Simulator (PGS) to simulate the results from a LHC detector such as ATLAS or CMS. (By the way, PGS was written by John Conway of UC Davis.)  The idea is to get particle theorists thinking about what real data from the LHC will look like.