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Vogue July 31, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in physics life.

Hey — Lisa Randall made it into Vogue! Lisa is famous for her work on Extra Dimensions (there is a whole class of models named after her collaborator Raman Sundrum — Randall-Sundrum models). Now, if only it wasn’t so unique that she was a woman in physics!!

Both my wife and I have searched for an online link to the article, but we can’t find it. But are sure that she appears in the US edition of Vogue! Amazing that not everything (or at least a reference) is online these days!



1. Not Even Wrong » Blog Archive » Really Quick Links - July 31, 2007

[…] an article about Lisa Randall in Vogue. […]

2. nigel cook - July 31, 2007

Sorry, but this is what I don’t like about string theory. No offense to Professor Randall, but string is sexy whoever writes about it, women or even aging old men. I think something is being lost. It’s the opposite of what science is all about:

‘Science is the organized skepticism in the reliability of expert opinion.’ – R. P. Feynman (quoted by Smolin, The Trouble with Physics, 2006, p. 307).

The way string theory works is the opposite of doing science: it gets celebrated before it makes successful predictions, instead of the other way around. It’s run by an elite of patronising mathematicians, and with exceptions like Peter Woit and Lee Smolin (both of which are elitist themselves, Smolin saying in a footnote of his book that his comments in defense of alternative ideas only apply to PhD physicists, not to the Faraday’s or amateurs of the world), they get away with hand-waving explanations and smugness. There is only religion and spin coming out of string theory so far as anyone competent can tell. There is also a problem of smugness from string theorists, who make no falsifiable predictions but are not treated like crackpots; they defend themselves just like crackpots (endlessly asking for more money and hype when it is pointed out that their theories are half-baked physical failures). They even try to defend themselves by arrogantly proclaiming that there aren’t any alternative ideas, having not bothered to read any (or having submitted negative ‘peer-reviews’ to suppress and censor out any theories, without making any scientific comment or even showing any evidence of having read the alternative idea objectively).

3. diogenes - July 31, 2007

nigel cook writes:
“Sorry, but this is what I don’t like about string theory. No offense to Professor Randall, but string is sexy whoever writes about it, women or even aging old men.”

Sorry to spoil your rant, but it is irrelevant to this posting. Lisa Randall
is an outstanding physicist, who happens NOT to be a string theorist. [notwithstanding what her publisher put on the dust jacket of her book, under the assumption that somehow the word “string” would magically increase sales]

What she does do is the model building and phenomenology of models of physics beyond the standard model, and she is damn good at it. She has worked on technicolour models, neutrino physics, heavy quark flavour physics, supersymmetry, cosmic baryogenesis, and warped extra dimensions, among other topics. Take a look at the listing of her papers on the Stanford SPIRES database of particle physics publications for a complete compendium.

In the interest of people like yourself looking to post an anti-string rant on
a blog somewhere, perhaps I should list all the Harvard HEP faculty and their research interests. They are:
-String Theory: Strominger, Vafa
-HEP Models/Phenomenology: Arkani-Hamed, Georgi, Randall
So the next time you see a “Vogue” piece with photos of Andy Strominger or Cumrun Vafa, by all means please feel free to flay string theory to your heart’s content. But if Nima, Howard, or Lisa , are the “Vogue” subject, perhaps you should bring out your anti-phenomenology rant, which would be the appropriate one.

4. Jimbo - August 1, 2007

She should certainly be in vogue in fashion as well as physics ! Any doubters, check out that foxy dress she wears during her first TASI lecture…I’m sure testosteronic levels approached critical mass, as apprentice theorists got a little behind in their physics for a change.
Her resemblance to a 40-something Barbara Streisand is incredible.

5. carlbrannen - August 1, 2007

I heard Randall’s lecture at the APS06 meeting in Dallas. Most of her lecture was an unabashed advertisement for her book. And the title of her lecture? “An Evening of String Theory and Cosmology”. Enough said.

6. gordonwatts - August 1, 2007

Was that meant to be the public lecture? She gave an award lecture at the last APS and the talk was quite good. I think it is excellent that she has such broad public appeal — the more people we have out there the better. And to boot, I think she has made significant contributions so I don’t find myself resenting it — which I have sometimes when I don’t think the person’s publicity is deserved.

7. gordonwatts - August 1, 2007

Hmmm, from these comments I can’t decide if we should start a fan club or not! 🙂

8. gordonwatts - August 1, 2007

In defense of string theory, I’d like to point out that recently there has been a revolution in the field — at least from my point of view. I’ve often considered string theory to be off on the edges — something others do and that doesn’t really affect me. But the recent mappings between many-body QCD (and other similar things) and string theory seem to indicate that the mathmatical tools developed for string theory may really aid us solving problems that we can test and examine today. This is quite a hot topic of theoretical research now, and with good reason I think. Unfortunately, I think it is probably more applicable to nuclear theory than it is HEP phenomenology, but still. 🙂

9. Showing a Different Way - Asymptotia - August 1, 2007

[…] at Life as a Physicist. […]

10. Stefan Scherer - August 1, 2007

Both my wife and I have searched for an online link to the article, but we can’t find it.

My wife could 🙂

it’s here

11. nc - August 30, 2007

“Lisa Randall is an outstanding physicist, who happens NOT to be a string theorist.” – diogenes

Wrong, I didn’t say she was a string theorist! I wrote she writes about string theory which you would find true if you read more than merely the publisher’s blurb on the back of her book. She works on extra dimensional attempts to explain the weakness of gravity, which is linked to string theory: even Professor Jacques Distler who teaches that stuff at the University of Texas, has written that he doesn’t view himself as a “string theorist”, just as a physicist who spends some time on that topic.

The fact remains, string theory is “sexy”. Most of Lisa’s discussion about string in Warped Passages is the usual speculative ranting that you complain about, but she has a couple of more truthful disclaimers there as well.

Lisa writes on page 295 (UK edition) that ‘even if string theory is correct, we are unlikely to find the many additional particles it predicts. The energy of current experiments is sixteen orders of magnitude too low. … because the string length is so tiny and the string tension is so high, we won’t see any evidence to support string theory at the energies achievable in accelerators, even if the string description is correct.’

In addition, she admits the fact that not only are these speculations impossible to test convincingly, they are also extremely vague because there are many variations of the extra-dimensional theories. She remarks on page 456: ‘We now know that extra-dimensional setups can come in any number of shapes and sizes. They could have warped extra dimensions, or they could have extra large dimensions; they might contain one brane or two branes; they might contain particles in the bulk and other particles confined to branes. … Which, if any, of these ideas describes the real world?’

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