Poll Results, and What’s Next

I’ll leave last week’s poll up a while longer as more votes trickle in, but the overall pattern (beyond “Zipflike“) is pretty clear.

From pretty early on, most requests were for more explanations of QFT, gravity, and string theory concepts, with amplitudes content a clear second. This is something I can definitely do more of: I haven’t had much inspiration for interesting pieces of this sort recently, but it’s something I can ramp up in future.

I suspect that many of the people voting for more QFT and more amplitudes content were also interested in something else, though: more physics news. Xezlec mentioned that with Résonaances and Of Particular Significance quiet, there’s an open niche for vaguely reasonable people blogging about physics.

The truth is, I didn’t think of adding a “more physics news” option to the poll. I’m not a great source of news: not being a phenomenologist, I don’t keep up with the latest experimental results, and since my sub-field is small and insular I’m not always aware of the latest thing Witten or Maldacena is working on.

For an example of the former: recently, various LHC teams presented results at the Moriond and Aspen conferences, with no new evidence of supersymmetry in the data they’ve gathered thus far. This triggered concessions on several bets about SUSY (including an amusingly awkward conversation about how to pay one of them).

And I only know about that because other bloggers talked about it.

So I’m not going to be a reliable source of physics news.

With that said, knowing there’s a sizable number of people interested in this kind of thing is helpful. I’ve definitely had times when I saw something I found interesting, but wasn’t sure if my audience would care. (For example, recently there’s been some substantial progress on the problem that gave this blog its name.) Now that I know some of you are interested, I’ll err on the side of posting about these kinds of things.

“What’s it like to be a physicist” and science popularization were both consistently third and fourth in the poll, switching back and forth as more votes came in. This tells me that while many of you want more technical content, there are still people interested in pieces aimed to a broader audience, so I won’t abandon those.

The other topics were fairly close together, with the more “news-y” ones (astrophysics/cosmology and criticism of bad science coverage) beating the less “news-y” ones. This also supports my guess that people were looking for a “more physics news” option. A few people even voted for “more arguments”, which was really more of a joke topic: getting into arguments with other bloggers tends to bring in readers, but it’s not something I ever plan to do intentionally.

So, what’s next? I’ll explain more quantum field theory, talk more about interesting progress in amplitudes, and mention news when I come across it, trusting you guys to find it interesting. I’ll keep up with the low-level stuff, and with trying to humanize physics, to get the public to understand what being a physicist is all about. And I’ll think about some of the specific suggestions you gave: I’m always looking for good post ideas.

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5 thoughts on “Poll Results, and What’s Next

  1. Saul Goodman

    How about a post on good books/textbooks for different areas of physics to learn from at mid/upper-level undergrad and graduate levels? Just a thought. There are so many books out there, I was just wondering if you have thoughts about that to help narrow things down. 🙂

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  2. Xezlec

    Ooh, I got a mention! I see your point about not being in a position to be an ideal source of news. But yes, I sure would be interested to hear about progress in the whole N=8 supergravity thing, if it’s possible to give any sense of it to an armchair “physics fan” with an engineering background. Even if it’s a little (or a lot) fuzzy.

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  3. Lubos Motl

    Dear Tetragraviton, the logistic hurdle how to pay $100 to Adam Falkowski was tiny. Like Grothendieck, Falkowski lives in France with the sheep and pigeons and would never touch PayPal, Amazon, or anything like that. I live in civilized Europe and can make Eurozone bank transfers but I don’t trust them too much and didn’t want to convert money to euros. So paying 5% to PayPal and using a kind intermediary Tobias S. was easiest. I would have had many other ways to give him what he won, including personal envoys in Paris.

    If all hurdles were this easy.

    David Gross has a similar bet (an expensive dinner) against Kenneth Lane but with 60/fb, not 30/fb. I think that technically, the bet doesn’t have to be closed but the probability that a discovery of SUSY will hide in 60/fb seems very small now because there’s no good enough 3-sigma excess in the existing twice 36/fb. Really, there should be a discovery in the combined ATLAS+CMS data now for David to win.

    I guess that his attitude is the same as mine – SUSY is gonna be there somewhere, anyway. Broadly low-energy SUSY is more likely but 100 TeV is broadly low-energy SUSY.

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