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Archive for February 9th, 2009

Comment policy

Since I’m quite unhappy with the way the comment thread of my last post unfolded, I thought I’d briefly set some ground rules and ask for further advice. Here are a few things I did not like:

First and foremost: long, long, long comments about someone’s favorite alternative theory of the universe. I’ll adopt zero tolerance policy from now on. I will, reluctantly, accept links to the innovator’s own blog, but anything else will be deleted. One of the ideas of the blog (besides me having fun) is to serve an educational goal, and I will not have this space serve as a source for false information. Yeah, that’s right, censorship.

Similarly, if you write a comment or two which does not catch anyone’s attention, I’d recommend chilling for a little while. I’m tempted to start deleting or shortening long manifestos that lead nowhere. While we are at it, a side comment: my participation in a conversation, or lack thereof, has to do with many things, including my own time constraints. If you don’t get a reply to your question, it is not a reflection on your personality.

Also, other people’s comments, including other string theorists’ comments, do not necessarily reflect my views. They certainly do not always reflect my motivations and approach to the subject matter. I appreciate the help others provide, and I’m happy when they show up and explain their viewpoint in detail. But, in case the conversation develops, it is likely to diverge very quickly from the original intention of the blog post. In this case I’d much rather the conversation changes venue, so it doesn’t clutter the comment thread here.

In the end, despite all the noise, we had a few pleasant conversations, some of which did not yet reach their logical conclusion. For example, I think I still owe Giotis and Amused some answers to their excellent questions. Stay tuned, I’ll get to that.

Any advice or response is appreciated. I’d like this to be a pleasant experience for everyone involved. I have no respect at all for controversy, and I am not trying to generate it, I am still puzzled by the strong emotional response some of these fairly technical issues generate. Similarly, I do not view the comment threads as “debates”, but rather some space for people to share their knowledge and experience, and to learn from one another. Some ground rules do seem necessary to make that happen, let me know what you think.

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Over at Cosmic Variance, they had a recent post on big surprises that one could have in physics. In the comments someone suggested that we should be looking for messages from the creator in the digits of pi. I’m sure this was said in jest, but I’ve seen enough similar attempts forwarded into my e-mail box to know that this goes on.  Of course, this is just one more version of what we in physics pejoratively describe as numerology: some random collection of facts about some really important mystical number, that has no physical mechanism to describe a physical situation . Apart from pi, another very popular set of such numbers are 42 and 137. The plan of this approach is that everything there is to know about the world is encoded in these numbers, if you only have the correct algorithm to decode it. One of the popular algorithms is to look for the digits of pi or some other irrational number and to try to see patterns in them.

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