Sunday, December 12, 2010

E-infinity communication number 52

It's up! Scroll down to it on FQXi-395, or jump directly to it in our archive.


It's described as

a summary of an interview with Prof. Mohamed El Naschie conducted by Shayma, a journalist based in Cairo which will be published in full length in Arabic

but it reads more like a book review for Peter Woit's book Not Even Wrong.

The passage

On [sic. One] piece of interesting information mentioned in Woit’s book which most of us did not know is that E. Witten has no degree, not even a Bachelors in physics. He was a journalist but his father worked in relativity and was a professor. This speaks of course for Witten. However some silly people hold it against El Naschie that he is a structural engineer and has no degree in physics.

refers with resentment to our Introduction to Mohamed El Naschie where we said

He earned a doctorate in civil or structural engineering from University College London in 1974, but has no physics or math degree, not even an undergraduate one.




Shrink writes in an email:

The blog software eats my comments. Here it is in full:

I've checked Woit's book on amazon. As expected, the Great Man deliberately degenerated the information about Witten's education. See for yourself:


EDWARD WITTEN

Edward Witten was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1951, the son of physicist Louis Witten, whose specialty is general relativity. As an undergraduate at Brandeis his interests were mostly nonscientific, and he majored in history and mirrored in linguistics. In 1968, at the age of 17, he published an article in the Nation about the New Left's lack of a political strategy, and another in the New Republic a year later about a visit to a commune in Taos, New Mexico. Witten graduated from Brandeis in 1971, spent a short time as a graduate student in economics at the University of Wisconsin, and worked for a while on the ill-fated McGovern presidential campaign of 1972. After deciding that politics was not for him, Witten entered the graduate program in applied mathematics at Princeton in the fall of 1973, soon transferring to the physics department. This was just after the discovery there earlier that year of asymptotic freedom by David Gross and his graduate student Frank Wilczek.

Witten's talent for theoretical physics was quickly recognized. A physicist who was a junior faculty member there at the time jokingly told me that "Witten ruined an entire generation of Princeton physics graduate students." By this he meant that it was a profoundly intimidating experience for them to see one of their peers come into graduate school without even a physics undergraduate degree, master the subject in short order, and soon start on impressive research work. Introducing Witten recently at a colloquium talk in Princeton,' my thesis advisor, Curtis Callan, Jr., recalled that Witten was a source of frustration to his thesis advisor, David Gross. Gross was convinced that the only way really to learn physics was to do calculations, and he kept giving new problems to Witten to work on, problems that he thought would require doing a complicated calculation. In all cases Witten would soon return with the answer to the problem, having found it from the use of general principles, without having had to do any calculation. Witten's first research paper was finished in late 1975. At the time of this writing, 311 more have appeared.

After receiving his PhD from Princeton in 1976, Witten went to Harvard as a postdoc and later a junior fellow. His reputation began to spread widely, and it was clear that a new star in the field had appeared. I gratefully recall his willingness to take time to help one undergraduate there who was trying to learn Yang-Mills quantum field theory (despite it being way over his head). In 1980, he returned to Princeton as a tenured professor, having completely bypassed the usual course for a particle theorist's career, which normally includes a decade spent in a second postdoc and a tenure-track assistant professorship. The fact that Ilarvard did not match Princeton's offer and do everything possible to keep him there is widely regarded as one of the greatest mistakes in the department's history. Witten moved across town to a professorship at the Institute for Advanced Study in 1987, and has been there ever since, with the exception of two years recently spent as a visiting professor at Caltech. He is married to another particle theorist, Chiara Nappi, who is now on the faculty at Princeton.

The MacArthur Foundation chose Witten in 1982 for one of its earliest "genius" grants, and he is probably the only person that virtually everyone in the theoretical physics community would agree deserves the genius label. He has received a wide array of honors, including the most prestigious award in mathematics, the Fields Medal, in 1990. The strange situation of the most talented person in theoretical physics having received the mathematics equivalent of a Nobel Prize, but no actual Nobel Prize in physics, indicates both how unusual a figure Witten is, and also how unusual the relationship between mathematics and physics has become in recent years.

When I was a graduate student at Princeton, one day I was leaving the library perhaps thirty feet or so behind Witten. The library was underneath a large plaza separating the mathematics and physics buildings, and he went up the stairs to the plaza ahead of me, disappearing from view. When I reached the plaza he was nowhere to be seen, and it is quite a bit more than thirty feet to the nearest building entrance. While presumably he was just moving a lot faster than I was, it crossed my mind at the time that a consistent explanation for everything was that Witten was an extraterrestrial being from a superior race who, since he thought no one was watching, had teleported back to his office.

More seriously, Witten's accomplishments are very much a product of the combination of a huge talent and a lot of hard work. His papers are uniformly models of clarity and of deep thinking about a problem, of a sort that very few people can match. Anyone who has taken the time to try to understand even a fraction of his work finds it a humbling experience to see just how much lie has been able to achieve. He is also a refreshing change from some of the earlier generations of famous particle theorists, who could be very entertaining, but at the same time were often rather insecure and not known always to treat others well.




Go to FQXi-395 and scroll down, or jump directly to the latest comments in our archive. There are two brand new ones chastising El Naschie for his Witten claim.


Translate English to Arabic
محمد النشائى El Naschie Watch محمد النشائي El Naschie News محمد النشائى محمد النشائي All El Naschie All The Time محمد النشائى
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20 comments:

  1. Uhhhh, what?

    Edward Witten
    Vita
    BA Brandeis University, 1971
    MA Princeton University, 1974
    Ph.D Princeton University, 1976

    Source: http://www.sns.ias.edu/~witten/witten-cv06.pdf

    ReplyDelete
  2. P.S. That's a Ph.D in *Physics* under 2004 Nobel laureate David Gross...

    ReplyDelete
  3. http://www.sns.ias.edu/~witten/witten-cv06.pdf

    The question is, then, who got it wrong: El Naschie? Woit?...or Witten?

    Witten's CV doesn't indicate explicitly that he got a math or physics degree. Can we firm that up?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Excellent, haha. He has a Fields Medal too, which is better than a PhD in math.

    ReplyDelete
  5. There's no doubt that Witten has a PhD in (mathematical) physics - here's the entry in the Mathematics Genealogy Project:

    http://genealogy.math.ndsu.nodak.edu/id.php?id=31293

    The Great Man's claim is therefore wrong and I really doubt Woit said that in his book.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It is interesting that Peter Woit criticized El naschie's work in Nature's article
    ".... Peter Woit, a mathematical physicist at Columbia University in New York, says he thinks that “it’s plain obvious that there was either zero, or at best very poor, peer review, of his own papers”. ......"
    http://elnaschiewatch.blogspot.com/2009/02/is-el-naschie-going-to-retire-as-editor.html

    ReplyDelete
  7. According to
    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,994019,00.html
    "The tall, thin, soft-spoken Witten, didn't even set out to be a scientist. He majored in history at Brandeis and originally planned to be a journalist but ended up getting a Ph.D. in physics instead."

    According to
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Witten
    "Witten went on to receive his Bachelor of Arts with a major in history and minor in linguistics from Brandeis University in 1971. He worked briefly for George McGovern, a Democratic presidential nominee in 1972. ...
    Witten attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison for one semester as an economics graduate student before dropping out. He then returned to academia, enrolling in applied mathematics at Princeton University before shifting departments and receiving a Ph.D. in physics in 1976 under David Gross, the 2004 Nobel laureate in Physics. ...
    Witten has the highest h-index (110) of any living physicist.
    ... the son of ... Louis Witten, a theoretical physicist specializing in gravitation and general relativity."

    According to Carlos Otero, "The cognitive revolution and the study of language" (1991):
    "One of the brightest students attracted by the new ideas about language was Edward Witten, a Brandeis history major whose `real interest, however, was linguistics' (Cole 1987). ... Witten completed a 139 page paper on pronominalization, apparently not accepted for publication by a prestigious journal at the time ..."

    ReplyDelete
  8. Haha, good one. Actually, Witten's dissertation is available in electronic form at http://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?did=756465041&sid=1&Fmt=1&clientId=30032­&RQT=309&VName=PQD (link would only work for those on an IP block recognized by UMI Proquest, e.g., a university's). Here's a preview: http://yfrog.com/2pwittenp

    Though it would appear Witten's BA is not is in physics, his PhD is beyond a doubt in physics and under an undisputed leader in the field. So, The Great Man is full of it and lying...as usual. There is no comparison that can be made between the backgrounds of Witten and El Naschie.

    ReplyDelete
  9. P.S. The dissertation is sorted on ProQuest under "Subjects: Particle physics".

    ReplyDelete
  10. I've checked Woit's book on amazon. As expected, the Great Man deliberately degenerated the information about Witten's education. See for yourself:

    EDWARD WITTEN
    Edward Witten was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1951, the son of physicist Louis Witten, whose specialty is general relativity. As an undergraduate at Brandeis his interests were mostly nonscientific, and he majored in history and mirrored in linguistics. In 1968, at the age of 17, he published an article in the Nation about the New Left's lack of a political strategy, and another in the New Republic a year later about a visit to a commune in Taos, New Mexico. Witten graduated from Brandeis in 1971, spent a short time as a graduate student in economics at the University of Wisconsin, and worked for a while on the ill-fated McGovern presidential campaign of 1972. After deciding that politics was not for him, Witten entered the graduate program in applied mathematics at Princeton in the fall of 1973, soon transferring to the physics department. This was just after the discovery there earlier that year of asymptotic freedom by David Gross and his graduate student Frank Wilczek.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Continued:

    Witten's talent for theoretical physics was quickly recognized. A physicist who was a junior faculty member there at the time jokingly told me that "Witten ruined an entire generation of Princeton physics graduate students." By this he meant that it was a profoundly intimidating experience for them to see one of their peers come into graduate school without even a physics undergraduate degree, master the subject in short order, and soon start on impressive research work. Introducing Witten recently at a colloquium talk in Princeton,' my thesis advisor, Curtis Callan, Jr., recalled that Witten was a source of frustration to his thesis advisor, David Gross. Gross was convinced that the only way really to learn physics was to do calculations, and he kept giving new problems to Witten to work on, problems that he thought would require doing a complicated calculation. In all cases Witten would soon return with the answer to the problem, having found it from the use of general principles, without having had to do any calculation. Witten's first research paper was finished in late 1975. At the time of this writing, 311 more have appeared.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Continued:

    After receiving his PhD from Princeton in 1976, Witten went to Harvard as a postdoc and later a junior fellow. His reputation began to spread widely, and it was clear that a new star in the field had appeared. I gratefully recall his willingness to take time to help one undergraduate there who was trying to learn Yang-Mills quantum field theory (despite it being way over his head). In 1980, he returned to Princeton as a tenured professor, having completely bypassed the usual course for a particle theorist's career, which normally includes a decade spent in a second postdoc and a tenure-track assistant professorship. The fact that Ilarvard did not match Princeton's offer and do everything possible to keep him there is widely regarded as one of the greatest mistakes in the department's history. Witten moved across town to a professorship at the Institute for Advanced Study in 1987, and has been there ever since, with the exception of two years recently spent as a visiting professor at Caltech. He is married to another particle theorist, Chiara Nappi, who is now on the faculty at Princeton.
    The MacArthur Foundation chose Witten in 1982 for one of its earliest "genius" grants, and he is probably the only person that virtually everyone in the theoretical physics community would agree deserves the genius label. He has received a wide array of honors, including the most prestigious award in mathematics, the Fields Medal, in 1990. The strange situation of the most talented person in theoretical physics having received the mathematics equivalent of a Nobel Prize, but no actual Nobel Prize in physics, indicates both how unusual a figure Witten is, and also how unusual the relationship between mathematics and physics has become in recent years.
    When I was a graduate student at Princeton, one day I was leaving the library perhaps thirty feet or so behind Witten. The library was underneath a large plaza separating the mathematics and physics buildings, and he went up the stairs to the plaza ahead of me, disappearing from view. When I reached the plaza he was nowhere to be seen, and it is quite a bit more than thirty feet to the nearest building entrance. While presumably he was just moving a lot faster than I was, it crossed my mind at the time that a consistent explanation for everything was that Witten was an extraterrestrial being from a superior race who, since he thought no one was watching, had teleported back to his office.
    More seriously, Witten's accomplishments are very much a product of the combination of a huge talent and a lot of hard work. His papers are uniformly models of clarity and of deep thinking about a problem, of a sort that very few people can match. Anyone who has taken the nine to try to understand even a fraction of his work finds it a humbling experience to see just how much lie has been able to achieve. He is also a refreshing change from some of the earlier generations of famous particle theorists, who could be very entertaining, but at the same time were often rather insecure and not known always to treat others well.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Continued:

    After receiving his PhD from Princeton in 1976, Witten went to Harvard as a postdoc and later a junior fellow. His reputation began to spread widely, and it was clear that a new star in the field had appeared. I gratefully recall his willingness to take time to help one undergraduate there who was trying to learn Yang-Mills quantum field theory (despite it being way over his head). In 1980, he returned to Princeton as a tenured professor, having completely bypassed the usual course for a particle theorist's career, which normally includes a decade spent in a second postdoc and a tenure-track assistant professorship. The fact that Ilarvard did not match Princeton's offer and do everything possible to keep him there is widely regarded as one of the greatest mistakes in the department's history. Witten moved across town to a professorship at the Institute for Advanced Study in 1987, and has been there ever since, with the exception of two years recently spent as a visiting professor at Caltech. He is married to another particle theorist, Chiara Nappi, who is now on the faculty at Princeton.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Continued:

    The MacArthur Foundation chose Witten in 1982 for one of its earliest "genius" grants, and he is probably the only person that virtually everyone in the theoretical physics community would agree deserves the genius label. He has received a wide array of honors, including the most prestigious award in mathematics, the Fields Medal, in 1990. The strange situation of the most talented person in theoretical physics having received the mathematics equivalent of a Nobel Prize, but no actual Nobel Prize in physics, indicates both how unusual a figure Witten is, and also how unusual the relationship between mathematics and physics has become in recent years.
    When I was a graduate student at Princeton, one day I was leaving the library perhaps thirty feet or so behind Witten. The library was underneath a large plaza separating the mathematics and physics buildings, and he went up the stairs to the plaza ahead of me, disappearing from view. When I reached the plaza he was nowhere to be seen, and it is quite a bit more than thirty feet to the nearest building entrance. While presumably he was just moving a lot faster than I was, it crossed my mind at the time that a consistent explanation for everything was that Witten was an extraterrestrial being from a superior race who, since he thought no one was watching, had teleported back to his office.
    More seriously, Witten's accomplishments are very much a product of the combination of a huge talent and a lot of hard work. His papers are uniformly models of clarity and of deep thinking about a problem, of a sort that very few people can match. Anyone who has taken the nine to try to understand even a fraction of his work finds it a humbling experience to see just how much lie has been able to achieve. He is also a refreshing change from some of the earlier generations of famous particle theorists, who could be very entertaining, but at the same time were often rather insecure and not known always to treat others well.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Shrink, great detective work. The bolded part clearly is what was meant.

    ReplyDelete
  16. A comment on the article this-surfer-is-no-einstein: http://elnaschiewatch.blogspot.com/2010/03/this-surfer-is-no-einstein.html
    The comment indicated that The great man met Witten in Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt. It seemed that the great man was giving lecture in the presence of Witten, you could imagine what was the hell. Here is the comment, but unfortunately there were missing words.

    I also cannot fathom some of the reactions of some of the big guys in theoretical Mohamed El Naschie. I was at a meeting in Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt. Witten gave a general lecture. Since EgBibliotheca Alexandrina in Egyptypt has no one who could possibly talk such a highly theoretical subject, the Director Dr. Ismail Sarageldin virtually Naschie to sit on the two man discussion panel: El Naschie and Witten. Prof. unfortunately subjective rather than objective on this occasion and was selling the Egyptians. El Naschie replayed with utmost politeness all the weak points arguments. Then Mohamed jokingly said something which everyone knows, is very lucky to have Witten on their side. Witten snapped and said rather harshly
    no other questions except from El Naschie?’. I thought this was not nice at Naschie gave a lecture on fuzzy Kähler in the presence of M. Green and the Chaired by Witten, there was an icy silence. The same silence was given to
    comments on string theory. In all fairness to Witten however, he did include Naschie in the proceedings of which he was the Editor.
    I guess these great figures cannot believe an Egyptian engineering professor a thing or two. However what they do not know is that, with all due respect Mohamed El Naschie is no ordinary Egyptian. He is a universal genius coached best scientists in the world, mostly European and his knowledge of art, literature, and music is overwhelming. But he has his share of problems with the health daughter being severely compromised and his beloved younger brother Said serious mental affliction causing havoc in the family. We all have our problems need for anyone to envy anyone else for money or prestige.
    Posted by Ibrahim Ali on April 2, 2008 5:24 PM

    ReplyDelete
  17. wow! I should try to reconstruct the missing words.

    ReplyDelete
  18. El naschie and Witten were together in Einstein symposium bibliotheca Alexandrina 2005.
    You can find them on the list of speakers
    http://www.bibalex.org/Einstein2005/speakers.aspx
    The affiliation of El naschie was
    Professor, Institute of Advanced Studies, Frankfurt University, Germany, Visiting Professor, Cairo University, Egypt and Visiting Professor, Alexandria University, Egypt.

    Please notice "Visiting Professor, Alexandria University, Egypt" and the date 2005, while rector of Alexandria announced giving El naschie visiting professorship on 2010!!!!!

    The program http://www.bibalex.org/Einstein2005/Program.htm
    On the program activity you will find Witten has given lecture on Einstein and unification.
    El naschie has given lecture on quantum space-time physics.

    There was a round table discussion formed from Prof. Murray Gell-Mann
    Prof. Klaus von Klitzing
    Prof. Gerard 't Hooft
    Prof. Mohamed S. Elnaschie
    and others

    This should be a scandal for Alexandria bibliotheca of Egypt.

    ReplyDelete