I was just recently watching a TED talk about string theory, by Thad Roberts, and at around 11:10 into the video he mentions a constant for maximum spacial curvature called "zhe" (the Cyrillic symbol Ж). I had never heard of this before, and I know the use of Cyrillic characters is rare in mathematics, so I decided to Google to to find more information on it and I ended up dry. Does anyone know what the deal with this Ж constant is, and where I could learn more about it? Is this based off some new, obscure research in string theory?

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    $\begingroup$ Hi user1946002, and welcome to Physics Stack Exchange! I edited the corrections you mentioned into the question, but you can always do that yourself (and are encouraged to do so) if you have more things to fix. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Jan 19, 2014 at 6:12
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    $\begingroup$ In his next 'slide' he writes the fine structure constant as $\alpha = 1/(4\pi)$ * Ж^2 (the exponent might be a three instead of a two, not easy to read). $\endgroup$
    – Vibert
    Jan 19, 2014 at 18:43
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    $\begingroup$ For posterity, Thad Roberts has no idea what the hell he’s talking about. He’s a vapid self-promoter with a following on more credulous sites, like Quora. $\endgroup$
    – knzhou
    Jun 30, 2018 at 9:53
  • $\begingroup$ @knzhou for what it's worth, I just looked at his Quora page (I'd never heard of him before), and I'd like to object to the point that he has a following there: he doesn't. I can't find any papers (co-) authored by him on arxiv, and a google search reveals nothing by him. $\endgroup$
    – user191954
    Jun 30, 2018 at 10:21
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    $\begingroup$ Since this question is getting bumped up again, I guess there's another thing that should be said for posterity: don't trust generic TEDx talks, especially ones about subjects that the audience knows little about. They have no quality control mechanisms whatsoever. The main TED event is a little better though it also screws up sometimes. $\endgroup$
    – knzhou
    May 19, 2019 at 19:24

1 Answer 1


Is this based off some new, obscure research in string theory?

No. This is fringe science. There is no mathematical connection to string theory.

It is remarkably bad behavior for this man to set himself up as a public intellectual -- giving TED talks, making a website comparing himself with Einstein, writing a popular science book -- when he has no scientific papers describing his results. (He has a pdf on his website. It contains no details of any significance.)

Looks like TED's decided brand dilution is OK.


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