Re: Why hep-th has 40% red-links

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2000 16:58:14 +0100

On Tue, 12 Sep 2000, Tim Brody wrote:

> "Some of my colleagues in Santa Barbara--the string theorists, for
> example, and several of my coworkers in condensed matter theory as
> well--insist that they don't need The Physical Review. For research
> purposes, they don't need refereed print journals at all. They are
> producing remarkable results this way, so I take them very seriously."
> "What they are doing is using the Los Alamos e-print archive for all of
> their research communications. They check it every day for new
> information. They post all their papers there, cite references by archive
> number, use the search engine to find other papers, and need little or no
> other publication services."
> I don't know whether "string theory" is hep-th, but it would look like a
> credible explanation why hep-th has such high "hits" for red-links,
> compared to hep-ph (which is a area of similar size and lineage).
> Perhaps this is a rule that can be extended to all theoretical science -
> that theory does not demand the same level of "invisible hand" rigour as
> more practical research.

Elite string theorists are a small, specialized group. Their numbers
and stature are about comparable with the scale of all of science in
the 17th/18th century, where the few practitioners world-wide (Newton,
Leibniz, etc.) at any time could communicate their research by simply
writing letters to one another.

This is neither representative of research as a whole today, nor will
it scale (in my opinion).

Remember "Simon-says": We should definitely find out (but not
necessarily believe) what people SAY they are doing, and why.
We should also find out what they DO do, and what others do/say too.

Then let's piece together the picture objectively.

The string theorists are definitely a piece of the whole picture,
but equally definitely not a representative microcosm of it!

[Nor is "theory" in general the dividing line, I think, for there are
more and less populated, more and less elite areas of theory too --
in my (Stevan-says) opinion...]

Cheers, Stevan

Stevan Harnad
Professor of Cognitive Science
Department of Electronics and phone: +44 23-80 592-582
             Computer Science fax: +44 23-80 592-865
University of Southampton
Highfield, Southampton
Received on Mon Jan 24 2000 - 19:17:43 GMT

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