Down The Line on Strings

The (spoof) phone-in “Down The Line” on Radio 4 last week was brilliant! It featured a guest talking about science, with a particular focus on his dislike of string theory, and with the callers (the usual brilliant cross section of UK phone-in archetypes) taking the discussion all over the place: Doctor Who, soccer, “female scientists”, gay daleks, and so on and so forth.

My favourite question: “Why do they have to keep mucking about with the dimensions? I mean, there’s nothing wrong with the ones we’ve got already…”

It’s all a bit silly, but quite enjoyable (although maybe some aspects will be lost to non-British ears). Link here*. Listen before Thursday 14th or it’ll have been replaced with the next episode.


*Thanks Ed!

Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Down The Line on Strings

  1. Nige Cook says:

    Thanks for the link, this is sooooo funny, especially the guy who has written a book about the religion of string theory and the nutty phone call complaining about it. Can you get BBC Radio 4 iPlayer access in the USA now? Do they still block iPlayer access outside the UK? Or is it only for TV, not for radio?

  2. Clifford says:

    I’ve never had a problem with iPlayer over here.


  3. Clifford says:

    What’s funny to me was the fact that the string theory guy could not seem to be able to get his story straight… on the one hand he was saying it was like a religion and then there’d be these long stretches where he seemed rather excited by the whole thing. This became apparent at the end when the host kept asking him “so why did you write the book, then?”. An amusing portrayal overall…


  4. Stevem says:

    Brilliant and very funny. The increasing gayness of Dr Who,lol. I like the fact they really did their homework on this with lines like:”Nambu realized that the dual resonance model of strong interactions could be explained by a quantum mechanical theory of strings”.

  5. You can listen to BBC radio anywhere, but only watch BBC TV if you’re in the UK.

    I’m off to listen to the program.


  6. Nige Cook says:

    I wonder who the character of Andrew Vester, paranoid author of The String Conspiracy, might possibly be based on?

    ‘The thing about it is that there is no string theory, there is just a theory that there might be a theory. Nevertheless it has become the dominant theory in physics. If you don’t adhere to it, you won’t get funding, you won’t get promotion, you won’t get science prizes, you won’t get a job. That’s what my book is about, how string theory has stifled all other research and become like a form of medieval religious orthodoxy. … One set of beliefs has suffocated all others.’

    But the best bit for me is the call in from Katrina, a Christian like me:

    ‘I’m a Christian, and for me string theory is so important because it explains God’s miracles. If you think about our world, the brane world, as a television inside a house; that is the bulk world, and we have only got our three dimensions where we are in the television, and in the bulk world there is the other [dimensions] out there, and that is where God is, and why we can’t see Him.’

    Andrew Vester: ‘That’s exactly the point I’ve been making about string theory. It’s based on belief, there is no actual proof that any of the string theory stuff actually exists, and it’s exactly the same with religious belief. There’s no definite proof that God exists, therefore the belief in string theory is extremely close to the belief in God. And yes, they’re both dealing with things we can’t see, things that are hidden.’

  7. Clifford says:

    As usual though, the real world is actually even funnier than the one made up by comedians. They made the mistake, for example, of making this character sound like he actually knew a little about string theory! Maybe even, you know, wrote an interesting paper on the subject with a result someone cared about… That made him less funny than some of the “strings are evil” yarn-spinners I’ve encountered…