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April 8, 2004


The newly-formed sci.physics.strings newsgroup is finally available via Google Groups. Since UT’s NewsServer still does not carry it, this was my first opportunity to check it out. Having long-ago abandoned USENET as a hopeless cesspit, it was pleasant to find real intellectual content, with interesting posts by actual physicists. I keep shaking my head in disbelief; I wonder what it will be like when it’s carried by more that a handful of NewsServers in the world.

Right now, there’s an interesting thread on the “Landscape”. Lubos Motl, Wolfgang Lerche, Shamit Kachru and Joe Polchinski have all weighed in on this contentious subject. Alas, I see from my sidebar that Peter Woit has joined the party, so presumably, USENET will soon return to normal.

In the meantime, I’ve created an RSS feed for the new group1, and syndicated it on my sidebar. Right now, the newsgroup itself is coming from an obscure open-for-reading NewsServer in Poland. Since my NewsServer (and, presumably, yours) doesn’t carry the group yet, I’ve set the links to open in Google Groups. This has an odd side-effect: there’s a few hours delay between when articles are posted and when they appear of Google Groups, which means that the most-recent links will invariably be broken, whereas the older ones will work.

1 The idea of converting NNTP to RSS and then converting RSS to XHTML is supposed to remind you of the old joke about the mathematician:

Placed in a room with a sink, a stove, and an empty pot sitting on a table, he is given the task of boiling water. The mathematician thinks for a moment, takes the pot from the table over to the sink, fills it with water, takes the pot of water over to the stove and turns on the stove.

Having passed this test, he is again placed in the room. This time, however, the pot is already sitting on the stove, full of water. The mathematician thinks for a moment. Then he walks over to the stove, picks up the pot, empties it into the sink, and places the empty pot on the table. “Thus, we reduce to the previous case, which has already been solved.” he announces with satisfaction.

Since I already had an MT plugin for syndicating RSS feeds, and a quick search turned up a Perl script for generating an RSS feed from a newsgroup, it seemed easiest to adapt and extend the latter script, rather than figure out how to go directly from NNTP to my sidebar.

Update (4/8/2004): There’s an obscure bug in the Text::Header Perl module, which I use to parse the headers of the USENET posts. Change line 68 of Text/ to read

$line .= $lines[$i] while ( ++$i <= $#lines && $lines[$i] =~ /^\s+/);
Posted by distler at April 8, 2004 11:17 AM

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Excerpt: While reading Distler's post on sci.physics.strings I saw him mentioning the rather famous joke of mathematicians: Placed in a room with a sink, a stove, and an empty pot sitting on a table, he is given the task of boiling water. The mathematician thin...
Tracked: April 8, 2004 12:43 PM

Re: sci.physics.strings

interesting posts by actual physicists

I am very glad about the current development of sps and I hope that it will be possible to acquire a critical density. But it’s hard. Joe Polchinski has already complained that he would rather interact with colleagues than with his keyboard. Of course that was in response to Woit, but I was hoping that interaction with sps might not be disjoint to interaction with colleagues, once.

Posted by: Urs Schreiber on April 11, 2004 11:28 AM | Permalink | PGP Sig | Reply to this

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