Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I'm back in Beijing now and the pollution, the racket and the chaos on the roads actually feels satisfyingly like home. It was superb to go and see Japan and I really do plan on heading back there as soon as I have an opportunity but getting back home to my own flat is good.

Things are now pretty hectic with work and I have a few ideas floating around that I would like to crystallise before they disappear completely. (Baryons in singular AdS geometries along with baryons in holographic toy models are interesting areas to tackle at the moment, though both may be blind alleys).

I have my first Chinese crackpot physicist. I've spoken a little about crackpots over the last week or so but today I met one first hand.

A middle aged chap sidles nervously into my office, looking a little lost. He mumbles something in Chinese to me so I mumble something back. He then pulls out a lever arch file, brimming with papers and scribbled notes and takes from this file a ten page document in Chinese and English. The title is something about grand unification, geometrics, global economics and politics. I look puzzled as the English seems to have been created using a piece of automatic translation software and appears to consist of a broken string of physics terms along with names of famous physicists interspersed with the word Nobel throughout. I can't understand what he's talking about and tell him this, in Chinese. We go through to a friend's office where I ask if he can help out with interpreting what the guy is trying to tell me. In the end we had a half hour chat (with me just listening and picking out key words in the Chinese chatter). The guy claims to have a grand unified theory, even better than Einstein he says! He appears to be unaware that Einstein never came up with a grand unified theory (though he did of course try). It's pointed out to him that he has no predictions and indeed no equations in his work to which his reply is that he has the equations in his head. Predictions are a bit of a sticky point and are glossed over. He claims that he will win the Nobel prize but needs some help in checking through his paper first. In fact he does have an equation in his paper which claims that some unit of energy = 5000 US dollars. This is a truly unified theory linking economics with high energy physics. Impressive stuff. I do feel sorry for him, though I'm told that this is quite common in China for rich men, who want to make their mark, to write a paper peppered with key terminology and absolutely no physics whatsoever. They then come to the department looking for support. I think that there's a bit more to it than this and this chap was clearly not quite with it. I'm not sure what was going through his head but his arguments about David Gross, Einstein, quantum mechanics and the Swedish Nobel academy obviously made sense to him.

Anyway, another eye-opener and apparently I should a) expect more of this and b) not take these people to my colleagues offices for interpretation.

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