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Neil Turok's crisis in physics is a hallucination

Update: Hamish Johnston wrote a blog entry for Physics Today describing Turok's talk rather accurately as one that reignites the string wars. Your humble correspondent is also linked to.

For visitors who came here from that source: clicking at the pirate "flag" near the title of this article will show you this text in the minimalistic, mobile template.
Cosmologist Neil Turok, the new (but already reelected) director of the Perimeter Institute in Canada, gave this 82-minute welcome speech (well, only 1/2 of it is his presentation) to the participants of the 2013 Perimeter Scholars International. It's been discussed in Macleans, a Canadian newspaper, where an equally large article is dedicated to the Perimeter school canteen.

The beginning of the talk is a fine but not too original promotion of physics as a science. Some comments about his institute's being unique are exaggerated. Look e.g. at all topcite 250+ papers from the Perimeter, ever, and compare the number and list with those at Harvard since 2003 or something like that. Perimeter may only be beginning to be competitive. Perhaps.

After 4 minutes, however, Turok's speech became an anti-physics tirade of a sort in which we hear many wrong things and many wrong things that are troublesome at the same moment. We learn that physics is at crossroads by which he means a "very big crisis". We don't have to wait much for Turok to clarify why he thinks so.




The problem seen by Turok is that "people have been building models, models, models". It seems that he believes that theoretical physicists should have been building castles of sand on the beaches or they should have spent their time by bodybuilding instead.




His list of the "signs of the crisis" looks like this:
“There’ve been grand unified models, there’ve been super-symmetric models, superstring models, loop quantum gravity models... Well, nature turns out to be simpler than all of these models.”
Given the local political influence of this chap, I am seriously afraid that the string theorists and other credible researchers at the Perimeter must even be afraid to publicly point out that their director is a complete idiot. If I were employed there, and yes, it could have happened because I was offered a job, at least in a preliminary way, it's more likely than not that I wouldn't be afraid to point that fact out. ;-)

Theorists were building models because it's been a major part of their occupation for centuries. Another task associated with their job is to apply the existing models to the newly observed phenomena. But because the latter job has been more or less completed a few decades ago – the Standard Model and/or general relativity have explained pretty much all observations made by the experimenters in their everyday careers, the theorists inevitably had to spent most of their time by thinking about possible future experiments and phenomena as well as theoretical laws, mechanisms, and phenomena that are important for the inner workings of Nature but that will probably never be observed.

It has always been clear (long before the 2012 LHC run) that with at most one exception, all the models they think about are wrong. But thinking about the possible new physics that will be found is cheaper than to build state-of-the-art colliders which is why it's not unreasonable that hundreds or thousands of detailed models are competing even though at most one of them will turn out to be right. The salaries for all the theorists who constructed all these models is still comparable to (if not lower than) the cost of the LHC hardware. I was (and formal high-energy theorists were) personally never in favor of the construction of many models most of which are guaranteed to become irrelevant as soon as we know more (the value of string theory's insights is arguably much more long-lived) but I have always appreciated this activity as a legitimate if not crucial part of high-energy physics.

Moreover, it is complete nonsense that there is any evidence that Nature is "simpler than that". What is true is that according to the recent results from the LHC, the well-known and appreciated Standard Model has a wider domain of validity than what some physicists were assuming. But the arguments that it can't be the final theory are as strong as they were before the LHC began its collisions. That's why theorists will still continue to study supersymmetry, grand unification, strings, and other things, whether or not a Neil Turok will discourage his employees from doing this research – the very reason why they were hired by the institute. There's no "new evidence" that the three principles I mentioned are irrelevant for Nature's inner workings.

Loop quantum gravity is studied at the Perimeter because Lee Smolin befriended some of the influential founders of the institute a decade ago.

The low-brow criticisms of string theory, supersymmetry, grand unification, and so on is associated with the cranks' hatred towards state-of-the-art physics but as a director, Neil Turok supplements this pathological discomfort with yet another, more dangerous flavor. He really tries to threaten the meaningful research at his institution as a whole.

It's just a fact that the dozens of people in theoretical physics branches of the Perimeter Institute were hired because they were doing good enough research of string theory, SUSY, grand unification, and also loop quantum gravity (if you allow me to pretend that I can't distinguish valuable theories from the others for a while). Most of them surely believe that the theories they study are fundamentally true and important parts of the wisdom of Nature. Now, a director arrives and claims that these theories – the very reason why they work at the Perimeter Institute – aren't precious intellectual gems and jewels discovered by the humans. Instead, they're contributors to the "crisis in physics". I suppose that it means that according to their boss, they should better do something else.

Just for fun, let's take this lunacy seriously. What should they do? Should Freddy Cachazo start to produce his own perfumes, the Perimeter Cachazo Scent (PCS)? Or reduce his IQ by 20 and switch from exact novel expressions for scattering amplitudes to Neil Turok's superficial childish models of the cyclic universe (yes, even Turok has contributed some models to the crisis in physics – except that his models are far less profound, justifiable, coherent, and able to explain patterns in Nature)? Can't you see how ludicrous such suggestions are? The people were carefully hired but the only field in which they were demonstrated to have special talents are the fields in which they have worked and related fields. Cachazo's perfumes will probably suck. His and Gaiotto's papers on cyclic universes will also suck (after all, all papers on cyclic universes suck).

Look at the 14 papers from the Perimeter Institute that have at least 250 citations. There's one WMAP paper (with a large collaboration including someone from PI), one spin foam paper, two deformed special relativity papers, and ten AdS/CFT-like papers. Is Turok really proposing to stop the work on all the topics that earned 13 out of 14 topcited papers by his institution? So that negligible contributions of his institute to experimental teams with lots of redundant heads will become the only work done in Waterloo? Isn't Canada's health system good enough to offer him a chair in a mental asylum?

Imagine that the new boss of Microsoft who comes after Steve Ballmer will declare that Microsoft or programming is in crisis because Microsoft and others were writing software, software, software or programs, programs, programs – like Windows, Microsoft Office, XBOX firmware, Visual Studio, Windows Live Essentials, Bing, Skype, and Silverlight. What's needed is something simpler than programs. When people can arguably see that such a situation would be insane in the case of Microsoft and software, why they don't see a completely isomorphic insanity in the case of the Perimeter Institute and theoretical physics? Probably because they don't give a damn about theoretical physics, right? You just shouldn't become a boss of an institution if you think that 90+ percent of the work the institution has done is crap.

Turok claims that theorists are in the "state of confusion". Well, I am surely not. The situation is as clear as you can get. The Standard Model is OK up to all data extracted from 25/fb of 8 TeV proton-proton collisions. It may be OK for some greater luminosities and energies, too. It's surely not the whole story so at some point, it will break down. The qualitative situation is exactly the same as it was before the LHC began. This status quo includes all the reasons why competent theoretical physicists thought and still think that string theory is the framework that has to replace or extend quantum field theory because of the existence of gravity.

The director also states that "we" were expecting new physics to be there. Well, I was surely agnostic, and so were many others. Six years ago, I was quantifying the odds for new physics at the LHC (or its early runs) to be around 50 percent and I made a bet about the papers published after the first 30/fb – the moment hasn't arrived yet – in which I win 100 times greater a bounty if I win than what I lose if I lose. The justification of my participation in the bet was that after the total luminosity that will be reached in 2015, as we know now, the probability that no new physics will have emerged is smaller than 99 percent. It's this innocent statement that I believed and I am still pretty likely to win this bet. Other people believed the same thing. People preferring "extreme naturalness" arguments may have expected something else but it's not "we". Turok's word "we" shows that he can't really live outside the group think. In general, theoretical physicists believe many things about questions that haven't been answered yet. There was no solid argument that would imply the appearance of new physics in the first 25/fb at 8 TeV proton-proton collisions so there was no way how "we", meaning the body of physicists, could have considered it inevitable that new physics would be found in the 2012 LHC run. Science just can't be done by emotions or group think. Its journey is dictated by the evidence and there was no solid evidence in one way or another.

So Turok thinks that the absence of new physics in the 2012 run means that "the theories [GUT, SUSY, ST, perhaps LQG] have failed". This is a completely unjustified piece of bullshit but he goes further. They failed because they didn't introduce sufficiently new concepts. This opinion is even less justifiable. If one talks about the failure that is justified at least by "something", then the "something" is the absence of new physics in the 2012 LHC run, so the reason why the theories "failed" was that they introduced too many new concepts – they shouldn't have introduced any new physics at all and be equivalent to the Standard Model. In that way, they wouldn't "fail". ;-)

Just to be sure, it's not true that the theories have failed. Dozens or hundreds of supersymmetric and string-inspired and grand unified models so far "passed" exactly as the Standard Model did. This is a trivial point that particle physics outsiders like Neil Turok seem to be totally incapable of understanding. Models aren't evaluated in collectives along with their similar competitors. Models may only be falsified separately and each element of a (justifiably or injustifiably clumped together) class is only falsified once the whole class and not just its majority is falsified.

He's also confused about the simplicity. He oversells the simplicity and rigidity of the Standard Model while all BSM thoughts are more complicated in his opinion. This is also complete nonsense. Much of the BSM model building is driven by pretty much the same simplicity criteria (plus naturalness), consistency conditions (anomaly conditions, for example), and the desire for parsimony (preferred absence of non-minimal pieces that don't have a justification) as the model building that has led to the Standard Model. Supersymmetric models are clearly simpler in most respects – they're more constrained than the non-SUSY Standard Model, by an extra symmetry - and they have pretty much the same number of independent multiplets of fields as the Standard Model and/or its next-to-minimal extensions. In the same way, grand unified theories simplify things by reducing the independent factors of the gauge group. They only add several more fields like some extra Higgs multiplets – a small number of additions if you believe that independent factors in the gauge groups make the theory "more arbitrary" than just another generic matter field.

The simplicity of string theory is a category of its own. Instead of having independent multiplets for spin-0, spin-1/2, and spin-1 fields and their interactions with dozens of coefficients, string theory only starts with one primordial concept, e.g. the fundamental string, and produces all the particles as well as the spin-3/2 gravitinos and spin-2 gravitons as predictions resulting from oscillations and splitting/joining interactions of this single elementary object, a piece of a string. Turok must completely misunderstand the inner organization of state-of-the-art theoretical physics if he doesn't see in what sense the BSM paradigms make physics simpler.

His counting of the parameters is also demagogic. The Standard Model has 20 or so free parameters while GUT or SUSY theories have 100 or more. This is a misunderstanding of the parameter counting. What has 100 parameters is an effective theory that ignores the true high-energy physics that is responsible for SUSY breaking etc. and that describes the SUSY-breaking coefficients via soft SUSY breaking fudge factors. When the high-energy physics responsible for this breaking is included and we consider theories that hold up to very high energy scales, the number of parameters is far smaller. Most extremely, string theory has no continuously adjustable dimensionless parameters at all. A particular chosen vacuum – from a discrete set of stabilized solutions – dictates and predicts everything. The discrete set is "large" but it's normal even for sufficiently complicated field theories to have very many vacuum-like solutions. If we considered the effective theory for the Standard Model beneath the QCD scale, we would also find a theory with hundreds of parameters (masses of all hadrons and coefficients of their interactions) but that doesn't mean that there's something wrong with the Standard Model.

The deluded director even repeats the mystification by some of the outspoken crackpots that string theory offers \(10^{1000}\) different "laws of physics" (he took the square of the usual number to sound cooler than the other crackpots). This is bullshit. String theory is the most robust mathematically possible set of laws of physics. It only has one set of laws of physics. The landscape doesn't produce different "laws of physics"; it represents a set of different solutions to the unique laws of physics. Some equations have many solutions – many different "environments" (with different effective, but identical fundamental, laws of physics). There is absolutely nothing wrong about it. The Standard Model predicts that there are roughly hundreds of stable nuclear isotopes and thousands or millions of pure liquid compounds (I mean liquids composed of identical molecules). Is it too many? Well, it's whatever it is. The number of prime integers is infinite. Does it mean that number theory is sick?

For Turok, it does. He calls it the "ultimate catastrophe". I really don't understand how it works politically for the smart folks at the institute. You have this guy who paints himself to be both a researcher and your boss yet he is saying things you would recognize as idiotic ones already when you were a schoolkid. Can you tell him? Can you tell anyone? It must be scary. I think that directors of such research bodies should either be "close to the top researchers" in their field or they should at least have "some respect for the top researchers". Turok satisfies none of these two conditions. He is a subpar researcher and has no respect for the top researchers of the current era, even at his institute.

The young people in the audience are already stunned at this point but Turok continues with his rant. Cosmology is also in a crisis. It's in a crisis because of some weird interpretations of the dark energy and the Higgs instabilities (which are really challenges for particle physics, not cosmology, but this confusion is among the less severe bugs of Turok's assertions). OK, I don't have time to analyze every minute of every idiotic talk by every hack, so let me stop with Turok's opinions about science. He has no idea about the current state of the theoretical high-energy physics.

I am also troubled by the opinions – or at least their interpretation in the Canadian newspaper – of people like Natalia Toro and Philip Schuster whom I know as Nima's collaborators from Harvard. This bright young couple is also used as a justification of the gloomy atmosphere by the writers. We don't understand XY (the hierarchy problem), and that's so bad. The LHC should have answered XY by now (how could one have thought that everything would be guaranteed to become clear by now if the pure Standard Model observations at the LHC have always defined the single most widely discussed outcome?). I just don't get it. On one hand, people are frustrated that we understand things too well (the Standard Model works so nicely); on the other hand, they're frustrated that we don't understand certain things (like the hierarchy). Well, at each moment, science understands some questions and misunderstands others. How it could be otherwise?

120 years ago, some top physicists would think that physics had been more or less completed and they were proud about it, not frustrated. When radioactivity, quantum phenomena, and relativity began to demolish classical physics a decade later and when promising ideas organizing the new observations began to emerge, physicists were excited again, not frustrated. These days, people prefer to associate frustration with everything they should be proud or excited about. Of course, the ultimate drivers of this bad publicity are people who hate physics. It's annoying that Natalia and Philip are among those collaborate on this mudslinging. I don't know why Turok and other people stay in physics if they're so annoyed by it but I guess that it's because physics institutions have become hiding places of welfare/charity organizations that keep people from getting homeless rather than institutions for people who are genuinely excited by the science.

Also, a century ago, people preferred to spark the revolutions if these revolutions were needed but they were shutting their mouths up about revolutions if there weren't any. Perhaps, top physicists "performed" many more revolutions than talks about revolutions. In a Trotskyist way, contemporary people love to talk nonsense about permanent hypothetical revolutions (revolutions changing absolutely everyting, we mostly hear) and they don't seem to enjoy what has already been achieved – and I surely count much of the BSM physics to the list of achievements whether or not these things were experimentally established. There will be some revolutions in the (unknown) future but there are also some insights and concepts that will never qualitatively change. The importance of relativity, quantum postulates, and string theory are arguably among these constants. In fact, the constancy or at least long life expectancy of some insights and principles is needed for the excitement of a rational person – if any insight is expected to break down soon, in a subsequent revolution, it should surely be assumed about the younger generation's hypothetical looming discoveries. But if their importance will be so short-lived, maybe they shouldn't be excied about their discoveries, either. This is where this pathological Trotskyist ideology leads if one is rational. One should respect and celebrate the resiliency of some theories and principles, otherwise he can't possibly be rationally excited about their search, either. The excitement about hypothetical future insights only is like love for music, except for all the genres, songs, and compositions that have already been composed and played.

Management

Instead, let me mention another topic he mentioned somewhere, one that is purely sociological but equally absurd and perhaps even more dangerous:
“The thing is, when I came here, I told everybody to write fewer papers,” Turok said. “I said, ‘I don’t want you publishing just to publish. I want breakthroughs. When you’re writing the next incremental paper, you’re not making breakthroughs. Write when you have something to say.” That attitude has led to Perimeter playing a key role in making theoretical physics one of the scientific fields where Canada leads the world.
Holy cow. Publish fewer papers because otherwise they're just incremental. I can't believe my eyes. It reflects such a stupid opinion of Turok about how the brain and creativity works.

Let me tell you something. When I was employed as a person expected to publish papers, I would surely belong among those whose overall number of papers was lower than the number written by the most prolific colleagues. It has never been my favorite work to write and submit many papers, fix their formatting errors, or even deal with the reviewers and the journal bureaucracy (my paper has never been rejected by a journal). But I could sort of afford it because the citations-per-average-paper were significantly above my contemporaries' average, in the middle of the 50-100 range.

The people who look at folks evaluate them according to some "overall" contributions which is roughly close to the overall number of citations – which is not quite perfect so they fix this criterion by some "adjustments".

But my point is that some people may afford to write fewer papers while others can't. What's most obvious is that if you think about a fixed given person, these expectations are almost constant. What I primarily want to say is that you can't increase a person's chances of making a breakthrough by forcing or allowing him to publish fewer papers.

It just doesn't work like that. Einstein was also close to this "not too many papers" category but even during the decade after special relativity when he was trying to find general relativity, he would constantly publish papers. Almost none of them were "really wrong". Most of them were incremental steps that would ultimately crystallize in general relativity.

Making a breakthrough is something else than writing incremental papers. But these two things are surely not negatively correlated, at least not with the correlation factor close to minus one. An active researcher may perhaps afford not to publish papers or too many papers for a year or a few years (in some cases, it's a method to concentrate on a deeper, long-term project; in most cases, it is a sign of a personal creativity downturn which may be temporary or less temporary) but if he is publishing a few papers per year, it makes it more likely that things are healthy and exciting. And several papers per year surely don't lower his or her chance to make a breakthrough.

The arrangement at the Perimeter is already such that the members don't have to worry about the publication rate as much as their fellow researchers elsewhere. What else can Turok possibly mean? Some publications are still needed to see that a person has contributed something. It must be clear to every rational person that the probability is high that if he only publishes breakthroughs, he or she will publish nothing before the current job expires which will eliminate him or her from the system. And it should. A sensible employer trying to produce physics just can't keep on employing people because of an arbitrarily hypothetical chance that they could make a breakthrough. Moreover, Turok seems to assume that the breakthrough should be independent of string theory, GUT, and string theory. Given the established importance of string theory, SUSY, and GUT in the scheme of possible ideas in fundamental physics, the probability of such a hugely constrained theoretical physics breakthrough in the next 100 years is much smaller than 1% and even if this science-fiction scenario materialized, it is extremely unlikely that such a breakthrough would take place in Waterloo. Do you really want 50-100 geniuses or near-geniuses work on something that requires an assumption (they will make such a breakthrough) whose probability is below 0.0001%? Half of them currently work on string theory that has more than 99% chance to be right and it's much richer and more constructive, coherent, robust, and beautiful than anything that Turok has ever done or said in his life. So why should they make this revolution in the downward direction?

The same comments apply to the promising undergrads or young graduate students whom Turok's speech was originally addressed (which includes a younger chap, Jacob Barnett, a 15-year-old smart severe autist, who was explicitly named by Turok). They surely came there because they know something about the actual state-of-the-art theoretical physics and like it. They're surely not garden variety young crackpots who think they have revolutionized the science whenever they disagree with something – they have actually falsified many ideas found by themselves and they already know why the established physics (both up-to-SM and BSM physics) contains many things they have to learn before their contributions start to have a real chance to be constructive, to say the least. Now they're told by this "big boss" that they must forget everything, not to pay much attention to the lecturers, and work on their alternative "breakthroughs" that almost certainly can't exist. At the same moment, the kids are told that they must be grateful for the food at the institute and what is appreciated about them is how they enjoy their life and bring energy to the corridors. Don't work hard, he tells them explicitly, and think about easier careers you may want to pursue instead of theoretical physics (wow). As a motivational speaker to make someone realistically start to do science research, Turok must get an F-; at least, he didn't hesitate to abuse the talk for the promotion of his 2012 popular book. (It's nonsense that the main relationship between hard work and enthusiasm for physics is that "hard work kills enthusiasm". This influence may exist but a far more important relationship is that "enthusiasm about physics makes one work hard".)

Morever, most of the most prominent work done at the Perimeter so far – 10 out of 14 papers above 249 citations – are incremental papers about AdS/CFT. The idea that the institute may suddenly replace all this work by some revolutionary papers (I suppose he meant more revolutionary papers than Maldacena's AdS/CFT paper itself) that will materialize as soon as the expectation that people publish papers will be abolished is just totally insane. This idea shows that Turok is not only a crackpot physicist of a sort but a crackpot manager, too.

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reader Vladimir Kalitvianski said...

I generally agree with Neil. And you can present your (polite) objections to the same paper.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Which paper, obnoxious crackpot? This blog entry isn't about any paper. Can't you at least try to read the first paragraph before you spam a website with your disgusting off-topic deluded shit, idiot?


reader Vladimir Kalitvianski said...

I meant "Maclean's", of course ;-)


reader Luboš Motl said...

Maclean's is a name of a newspaper and it only wrote a summary of Turok's speech. My objections are against Turok's speech, not about a straightforward summary of it. I don't care about some unimportant local newspapers that did an OK job in summarizing a talk. I care about the director of a major Canadian theoretical physics research center.


reader Domenico said...

Thank you Lubosc for a very good slap in the back of the head editorial. I do not frequently agree with you on attitudes you take, but this one stuck me a bang on: what more perfect environment for a young theorist to make his/her mark in!


reader Dilaton said...

Oh my God, this is very bad news and sounds really threathening to the nice cool physicists at the PI and their work :-((( !


How in the world could they hire Neil Turok (I almost always have to be careful to not think Tuvok :-D, but as it is clear now he is clearly not a citizen from the planet Vulcan or he would be able to think more logical and rational ...), who decided to hire him, and how did the hiring procedure work? I mean, if he has not just been appointed without questioning, his true colors and and hostil attitudes concerning theoretical physics surely revealed themself at some place in the course of the procedure (interview, application talk where he has to lay out his strategies for the future of the institute, etc) ...? And I so, why did the Perimeter Institute hire him nevertheless?


As a non-native speaker, I am always confused about the use of "we" in certain contexts in English. It seems that when writing papers for example (and SE answers too) it is usual to use phrases like "we know that ..." etc, but I am not always sure how it has to be interpreted. For example when writing about a topic which is not my subject but I have learned and understood something about it, I would never use "we" because to me this would seem to wrongly imply that I am among the physicists working on the topic.


In the case of Neil Turok, just from reading the TRF article since I do not have the stomach to watch the talk :-/, it is clear that he abuses the word "we" when claiming that "we are confused about everything", "we have no clue about this or that", to pompously and wrongly speak for and represent the whole theoretical or fundamental physics community. He clearly has not the right to do this, and the good physicists who rightly so disagree with him should vigorously defend themself and contradict him ! At most has he the right to say I am confused about X, I dont understant Y, ect ...



This horribly wrong, misleading, and discouraging welcome speech bodes really ill for the future of the good physicists at that Instituet and it may really scare and confuse the young ones, I share Lumo's worries since I care a lot for nice physics too.


And I am shoked to learn how bad informed Neil Turok is about too many things, I always thought he is at least a good serious cosmologist and scientists and therefore respects and appreciates the work of colleagues in neighboring fields of fundamental physics too. But he does obviously not ... :-/


How much money is needed for a theoretical physics institut at the size of PI ...? Maybe people with some financial power who love fundamental physics (such as Yuri Milner for example) should now start thinking about founding a new on such that the nice physicists at the PI have an alternative place to go and work, just in cast that things will go very bad with such a terrible Director ...


reader Dilaton said...

I just note an awful lot of typos in my above text, but I will not correct them since they are a testament of my being upset ... :-P


reader Gordon said...

Originally I think that PI offered the job to Stephen Hawking, but he turned it down and Turok, who had worked in his group at Cambridge was considered as a default choice. Obviously Turok has been reading Smolin's "The Trouble With Physics" and having discussions with him, absorbing his mind viruses :)
--- only revolutionary papers, new Einsteins, alternative breakthroughs...gee, maybe like in medicine ("alternative" "holistic") we can start a whole new field of "alternative physics" to counteract the pernicious effect on young minds of "allopathic physics."


reader Gordon said...

Putting a slightly positive spin on this---at least Smolin wasn't appointed director, though Turok does appear to have absorbed some of his delusions.


reader Andrei Patrascu said...

No, I think the only reason people hate the fact that we know things so well is that they cannot make major discoveries (or even minor in some cases) as easily as the people in the 1960's... This is mainly also the reason people keep re-descovering quantum mechanics every 5 years or so...


reader lucretius said...

This is intriguing:


“The data just fits so perfectly with Perimeter’s mission,” Turok said. “If it had turned out to be complicated and messy — 10 new particles at CERN and all kinds of funny evidence for models of inflation and stuff in the sky — one would have to say the future of theoretical physics does look pretty messy and complicated."



Taking this to its logical conclusion, the ideal situation for "Perimeter's mission" would be if no new "complicated and messy" phenomena of any kind were to be ever discovered in physics again. One could make a comfortable living as a Perimeter researcher publishing from time to time a paper or a book on the "continuing crisis in physics" criticising all those who had the temerity of proposing models that make any predictions. What could be simpler.


I am afraid that reading that a every "politically incorrect" Russian saying came to my mind, which I will only quote in the original to avoid offending anyone's sensitivities:


Если Турок не придурок – значит он не Турок.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Dilaton, maybe we shouldn't alarm this much.


He may say that all the good things done at the PI were what led physics to a "crisis", but he may still act as if he realized that it is just his uninformed, idiotic personal opinion and the folks aren't necessarily fired by him or suppressed in their work so they may probably ignore him.


Except that I know that it's not quite the case. Similar by-the-leadership organizational comments usually do have impact.


He has done some OK "incremental" work on things like cosmic strings, incremental work on dark matter, incremental work on inflation, and everything else among his well-known things are cyclic/ekpyrotic universes that have really never explained anything, except when they tried to emulate inflation (in which they were neither original nor as smooth as ordinary inflation) and they never came with any solid insights or mathematical formalisms that could be used outside the scenarios. So it always remained at the level of complete speculation - in this case, I would agree that the speculation should be interpreted in the negative sense.


So much of the activity by these folks was about inventions of demagogic arguments why inflation wasn't their cup of tea and so on. It's fair to say that these cyclic/ekpyrotic folks were never quite in the same league as the fathers of inflation but they always played as if they were even more important than the fathers of inflation (Steinhardt is a partial father of inflation but he really became a Turok prime in this respect in recent decades).


But you could even say that those papers etc. were OK enough although none of them are really usable as state-of-the-art models etc. They created some temporary activity which some people thought wasn't quite crazy. But it still doesn't justify the extreme narrow-mindedness trying to kill pretty much all of contemporary physics, much of it is vastly more important than any work by Turok and friends.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Right, it surely does sound that his thoughts can't be quite independent! ;-) There are so many crazy opinions he offered that are so extremely close to Smolin's that the independence is a very hard conjecture to sell. Before Smolin's book was out, I knew something about Turok and I would never bet that something like that could come out of him. Well, times are different so nothing really surprises me today.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Except that some people have made discoveries, in some cases more important than the 3rd most important discovery in the 1960s, also in 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.


I am sure that some of the best experts would argue that Maldacena's insights on AdS/CFT were more profound and transformational than anything found in the 1960s, for example. Gauge theories were great but they just generalized electromagnetism in some not too demanding ways, much of which were already known e.g. to Oskar Klein in the 1930s – even though Klein described almost everything about the particles and forces known in his era, his work (inspired by his and Kaluza extra-dimensional framework, but practically very close to gauge theories) wasn't even famous.

Yang-Mills theory was also invented in the modern form before the 1960s. It was just successfully applied to the weak nuclear interactions in the 1960s and the strong force in the 1970s and it worked but the excitement about the true beginning of a new class of theories that must surely be important in the scheme of things happened much earlier.


After all, we count the Higgs mechanism to the 1960s although it was strictly speaking confirmed "just last year" - I mean the verification of the existence of the Higgs boson. The true "location in time" for that discovery belongs to the 1960s.


reader Gene Day said...

It is profoundly disheartening to work for a guy like Turok. I know this because I have had precisely that experience. The incompetent fool that I worked for was selected by the owner of the business and eventually fired by him but not before doing so much damage that the company went under. That one hiring mistake cost the owner more than $45M.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Exactly. His sentiments are so different from active physicists. Both theorists and experimenters are mostly - publicly or privately - dreaming about the day when the LHC and the cosmic observations start to produce new effects, perhaps dozens of them, which will become an irresistable food for theorists who explain them by existing concepts waiting for application or by completely new concepts they will have to find; achievements of experimenters; and reasons to keep on discovering the new oasis of gold by all approaches in the scientific method.


Turok – and a few others – would view anything like that like a messy junk, bad news. So the only ordered outcome is to see nothing new experimentally discovered and make living out of rants about the crisis in physics. Needless to say, it's however wrong that things aren't being discovered. The Higgs was discovered last year, almost 50 years after the Higgs mechanism idea was pioneered. It's a normal timescale from the birth of a comparably important idea to its final demonstration. So people after 1960s were working on ideas some of which may be confirmed in coming years and decades. The process has been very similar for quite some time. It's exciting but for some people, it's just messy.


LOL, I like (and understand) the Russian poem. ;-)


reader maels said...

Thanks, Lubos, for linking PSI lectures, I didn't know that resource. Prof Duff and prof Zweibach lectures from 12/13 are great treat. Prof Cachazo lectures are too intimidating, though, but maybe one day...


reader Kimmo Rouvari said...

But as in many cases nominations are not necessarily based on merits. Social skills play a big role. Also there might be some other factors which are not known by public at the moment. Who knows...


reader Mephisto said...

I agree that Yang-Mills theory or even the Higgs mechanism isn't really groundbreaking. Incidentally I have been trying to learn the theory lately and was suprised how easy to understand the concepts of the theory are. (excellent source for learning basis of the standard model - Chapter 11 and 12 deal with Yang-Mills if some reader is at my level and wants to learn the theory). After that I plan to have a look at N=4 supersymmetric Yang-Mills theory and afterwards hopefully the AdS/CFT.

The psychological problem for many people is that these theories are all just toy models that do not describe real world.

Earning a PhD by studying a theory that we know is wrong


We can have coutless varieties of such toy models and never know if they describe reality or not. At worst these theories help the advancement of mathematics :-)


reader Mephisto said...

Maybe he was a




snake is suit aka psychopath


reader Andrei Patrascu said...

I think this "idea" of publishing "more" or "less" just doesn't make any sense if it becomes a "Staatspolitik"... It is something like positive discrimination for women in science (where although I have nothing against women in science I disagree with positive discrimination). The idea is just: if you have something to say, just say it! If you don't then just shut up!


reader Giotis said...

Sorry Mephisto but I downvoted you. If Yang Mills was not ground-breaking then truly words have lost their meaning.

You should put the discoveries in the correct historical context
to appreciate a theory or idea.


reader Luboš Motl said...

LOL, Freddy's technical work has been intimidating for me often, too. But he knows damn too well what he's doing, a real professional.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Giotis, I would dare to be closer to Mephisto. Gauge theories turned out to be extremely universally important and far-reaching decades after they were found, so the discovery unlocked a really extensive treasure.


But I would agree with the proposition close to Mephisto's that from the viewpoint of the quickly visible changes, both gauge theories and the Higgs mechanism are typical examples of minor, incremental progress. Adding another index. Making a group non-Abelian. Considering a spin-0 particle again after people got used to spin-1 and spin-1/2. Studying potentials with several minima.


Important technicalities but technicalities relatively to the discovery of quantum mechanics, relativity, quantum fields, or string theory - amplitudes calculated from a world sheet theory. Those are more than just straightforward, almost immediately expectable siblings of existing theories.


reader Andrei Patrascu said...

so, yes, I may agree but then what is "non-incremental"? Is it truly nature that shows us what is "valuable" as an idea or is it just our mind getting used to some ways of thinking so that we consider another way of thinking "non-incremental"? And then, after some years, when everyone will calculate amplitudes from world sheets what will be "non-incremental"? Quantum mechanics started from our inability to understand some experiments. Relativity also from some problems related to propagation of light... but then, as someone asked: "if everyone believed the sun turns around the earth because it looked like that then how should it have been looked if it were to look the other way around"?


reader hopffiber said...

Okay, I'm sorry, but I think this text is blowing this way out of proportion and reading too much into it. He is essentially saying that many people expected to see something new and exciting at the LHC, and we only found the Higgs; and that some new ideas are probably needed for BSM physics. Some people do seem confused by this and talk about the multiverse as an explanation seems a bit on the rise, if one listens to talks by particle theorists. And I agree with Turok that the multiverse picture is very unsatisfying, at least if one doesn't have much stronger arguments than "We don't know what else to do.". I should say that I am a former Perimeter Scholars student, and enjoyed the lectures on GR that Neil Turok gave, so I might be biased, but I thought he seemed quite reasonable, in general. While I was at PI, there was very little "propaganda" about any crisis, or anything like that. And there were more courses and time devoted to string theory, AdS/CFT and pure CFT etc., than there were on LQG. From listening to lectures by Cachazo, Pedro Viera and Rob Myers, one was not exactly left believing that theoretical physics is in a crisis, rather far from it.


(On a side note, I really recommend Cachazos lectures on string theory, they are quite brilliant, much better than what I've watched of Zweibach)


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Hopffiber, I am sort of baffled by comments like yours. In any situation, many people expect many things. What's more important is that no one knew in advance what the LHC would be going to see by the end of the 8 TeV run.

The observation of the Higgs boson and nothing else was the single most widely discussed "individual" possibility that was mentioned in dozens of papers, see e.g. the first sentence about the "nightmare scenario" at

http://arxiv.org/abs/1005.5651

and even in a greater number of informal discussions. It's a complete denial of reality to suggest that the observation of the Higgs and nothing else at the LHC - or during the early LHC years - wasn't even a possibility people were able to think about. It was the most likely single possibility.

On the other hand, we don't know what the LHC will see in the 13-14 TeV run.


reader hopffiber said...

Yeah, sure, everybody knew and dreaded the "Higgs and nothing"-scenario. I think Turoks point is that this nightmare scenario seems to be coming true, and that makes life difficult for BSM theorists. I do not believe this is a "crisis", and string theory is obviously still fine, alive and kicking. And if you read what I wrote, I think we more or less agree. There are good and valid points about the multiverse; I just think that some particle theorists seem to go to the multiverse explanation for reasons that are not valid or reasonable, since they don't know what else to do. I think Turoks wording is bad and exagerated; but my point is that I also think you are blowing it a bit out of proportion.


reader tomandersen said...

Its simple. Theoretical physics is sitting where climate science is - its a field of consensus - and your comments show it.

A truecite measure is surely only a measure of consensus, and only rarely is it an indication of an actual way forward. 1000's of PhDs and postdocs have been thrown at the Standard Model, with little to nothing to show, indicating that is something hugely wrong.



The vast majority of Physics department heads - the people who decide who gets that next position - want citations from the consensus.


The internet has caused physics 'idea lock' - no one can work on anything truly different without getting laughed out of a job. How long did Einstein or Newton work in an almost complete intellectual darkroom in order to come up with their ideas?


In Physics, brainstorming is no longer allowed.


reader Gene Day said...

Einstein worked in an intellectual darkroom?
That, my friend, is absurd. Nothing could be farther from the truth.


reader Gene Day said...

Selecting a mediocrity for a leadership position doesn’t have any positive aspects, Gordon. Now your’e the one being an optimist.


reader Cliff said...

I think its perfectly in proportion. Expressing a misguided opinion is one thing, but some of these statements of his descend to outright falsehoods. You can say "I don't like string theory, I don't like SUSY, GUTs" or whatever else, but claiming that these ideas are experimentally ruled out is simply false.

From his sweeping claims, you'd think he has seen all the way up to the Planck scale and knows something nobody else on earth knows about the mechanisms nature uses, but we know he hasn't. The LHC has upheld the status quo which means its also upheld all of its inconsistencies and fine-tunings. The only solid thing we've learned is that the hierarchy problem has become more firmly established with the discovery of the Higgs, and absence of anything else. He's simply in no position to dismiss any of these issues and tell us whether the solution is "simple" or "complex" or anything else.


Incidentally I would have been happy to hear a well-thought-out explanation of why he disagrees with me, but he hasn't taken the first step to justifying any of his statements. I was especially interested to hear why he thought its fine to study string theory "as long as you keep in mind its just a mathematical exploration" or whatever exactly he said, but nothing approaching a justification was anywhere to be found.


reader Luboš Motl said...

What is *primarily* unacceptable for me about his talk is his "black list of models", something that you completely seem to overlook.


The whole path of model refinements from Newton's mechanics to string theory is the uncensored body of achievements of physics.


reader Luboš Motl said...

High-energy physics is the most hard and therefore consensus-independent science that there exists in this world. Your comment is the opposite of the truth. Moreover, there's really no consensus about any "future research" major question today - the existence of multiverse, usefulness of anthropic explanations, some people even question the validity of string theory, whether one may survive the fall through the black holes' event horizons, and so on, and so on. No consensus about things that aren't really established.


Followups from solid enough folks in hard sciences appear and become numerous because the original paper unleashes insights and methods that can be used to investigate and solve (many) other questions.


I didn't understand your comment about the Standard Model. If you question the relevance of the Standard Model for the observations of anything so far, you are a hopeless hack.


By the way, I have personally worked in much darker intellectual darkrooms than Einstein and Newton - sue me for a blasphemy if you wish.


Your comment is just an uninformed anti-science rant by an educated person.


reader John Duffield said...

I think Neil Turok got it about right, Lubos. I know that might sting and you feel the need to hit back, but I'm sorry, he really isn't far off the mark. Your blog comes over as a tirade of outrage I'm afraid. IMHO you should try writing something on this in a week or so, in a calm dispassionate fashion.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear John, be sure that I have been encoutering similar offensive delusions for a decade or so and my outrage about these lies hasn't dropped by a micron.


I would like to promise you that in a week, you will understand why I am so offended by this, but I can't promise you that because if something paramount is missing inside your skull, a week of waiting won't fix the defect.


reader Luboš Motl said...

Wow, it's a lot of money, Gene.


Too bad that in pure science, the implications of such decisions can't imprint themselves into the financial results, at least not in any short enough timescale. For example, I like Mike Lazaridis but I would wish him to lose $50M for this particular hire rather than for his Blackberries that aren't that bad. ;-)


reader Dilaton said...

Hi John,


I remember you from other physics blogs too, and not in a particular positive way to say the least. For example Matt Strassler does not agree with your spreading uninformed negative opinions about theoretical physics either.


So that you agree with what Neil Toruk says in his off the mark welcome speech does by no means surprise me.


If you dont like theoretical physics (which is fine) why not just busy yourself with something else and leave the people who like doing or learning about it alone, instead of trying to inect others with your negative attitude and attack other who (like Lumo) do not share it?


reader Giotis said...

Turok says:

“The extensions of the standard model, like grand unified theories, they were supposed to simplify it. But in fact they made it more complicated. The number of parameters in the standard model is about 18. The number in grand unified theories is typically 100. In super-symmetric theories, the minimum is 120. And as you may have heard, string theory seems to predict 10 to the power of 1,000 different possible laws of physics. It’s called the multiverse. It’s the ultimate catastrophe: that theoretical physics has led to this crazy situation where the physicists are utterly confused and seem not to have any predictions at all.”


Notice the cunning way in which he diverts his argument from the number of dimensionless parameters to the number of vacua when it comes to String theory. He knows of course that String theory has no arbitrary dimensionless parameters (the string coupling is dynamically determined) and thus doesn't fit in his reasoning. The number of solutions is a separate issue like in any other theory.


reader Dilaton said...

Yep, he is trolling about theoretical / fundamental physics in other physics blogs too :-/


reader J0HN DUFF1ELD said...

I'll give your sentiment a mention in my blog piece, Lubus. I'm writing it now as it happens.


reader tomandersen said...

Einstein as all other researchers of the time, worked in what you would call 'emergency blackout conditions'. Communication time was measured in days or weeks, not seconds. High bandwidth communication could only take place with people in the same institution.


There are of course a lot of nice things about email and arviv, but the downside is this 'lock - in' that I complained about.


reader tomandersen said...

History shows that scientific theories do not fall because they don't work. (look up Popper Kuhn on the internet, I side with Kuhn)..

The Standard model, like the old geocentric epicycle theories can explain many things. (Epicycles it turned out were like Fourier series - they can recreate any path. )

Indeed, the initial heliocentric model of the solar system had circular orbits and was quite poor at predicting paths and events.

There are huge paradigms by consensus that make it hard to go forward right now. For instance, even suggesting that nature only has 4 dimensions would be enough to get one kicked out of the pack. Yet not one observation of another dimension. Ever.

You have to admit that citation levels - especially for papers less than 30 years old - are very tied to the current fashion in physics, and have little to do with actual usefulness. In other words, there are lots of papers with high citation levels that are only of technical importance to some trendy theoretical branch that will be forgotten in a decade.

Physics will eventually move forward, but right now its in a hard stall.


reader Alex said...

I enjoyed this article, but can you elaborate on the "99% chance to be correct" thing?


reader Mephisto said...

I agree with your point. Kuhn's book "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" is a very eloquent support for the claim that science progresses not linearly but by means of paradigm shifts (the word paradigm comes from Kuhn). One paraigm dominates the thinking of the majority of scientists in a given field and progress is incremental. With time, here and there appear small cracks in the current paradigm and then suddently a scientific revolution happens and a new paradigm is born. But time has to be ripe for the birth of a new paradigm. I also agree with you that if you do science outside the boundaries of the current paradigm, you become an outsider, nobody cites you. Science is a social phenomenon and even in science there are fashions and fashionable trends. If you want grants or even if you want to do a Ph.D., you have to do it in the cage of the current paradigm. It is naive to think that science is a rational discipline. It is shaped by psychological factors just like about anything humans do.



And I dont have a problem if physics is in stall. Even if string theory turns out to be a blind alley, it doesnt matter.


reader Kimmo Rouvari said...

If you don't have a problem then what's your plan or attitude? I'm interested in to hear your views on stall and how you'll cope with it.


reader Mephisto said...

I don't actually believe that physics is in stall. We just cannot expect groundbreaking discoveries every decade and have to be patient. Maybe we will not discover the TOE during our lifetimes, maybe it will take another 500 years. Maybe in 100 years there will be a revolution in physics similar to that of quantum mechanics. Even if current research will show up to be a blind alley and not describe physical reality, it is not a waste, we are learning something.



PS: I am not a physicist and do not earn living by doing physics, so it is easy for me not to care that much. Naturally if I invested 30 years of my life to string theory research, I would care much more :-)


reader Dilaton said...

-1, Science does not advance by a succession of revolutions that overthrow the current knowledge again and again, it advances by accumulation, improvement, and deepening of what is experimentally and theoretically known. Every new "paradigm" has first of all to reproduce and must by no means contradict what is established. This is why good physicists have to learn the current knowledge first before they can contribute something new, and pulling wild ideas out of one's sleeve as surfer, biker, snowboard, and other dudes like to do, preferably accompanied by huge media attention, does simply not work.


Lumo has explained this thousends of times here and everybody who has at least some clue about the sicentific method understands this !


reader Mephisto said...

You are making a straw man, I never said this "This is why good physicists have to learn the current knowledge first
before they can contribute something new, and pulling wild ideas out of
one's sleeve as surfer, biker, snowboard, and other dudes like to do,
preferably accompanied by huge media attention, does simply not work."



I agree that if anyone wants to make progress he has to master all the the necessary constraints and no crackpot will make a progress. Unlike Lubos, I do not mind crackpots trying to gain their 5-minutes of fame by canibalizing Einstein (trying to eat him to gain his fame). Reality is the ultimate test which will sort out all crackpots. I care only for the truth. If anyone is wrong, it is his problem, not mine. Crackpots are in fact quite harmless. Parasites in the form of politicians disturb me much more


reader lucretius said...

I think your view of philosophy of science as a kind of contest Popper and Kuhn is very oversimplified, especially that both of them have been dead for nearly two decades.

In addition, Kuhn with whom you say you agree borrowed a lot of his ideas from Michael Polanyi. (In fact, there are very good reasons to think that he simply plagiarised them
http://www.missouriwestern.edu/orgs/polanyi/tad%20web%20archive/tad33-2/tad33-2-fnl-pg25-36-pdf.pdf ) However, there was a one important difference between the two.


Polanyi was always a realist who believed that scientists pursue objective truth and that indeed the definition of being a scientist is a full personal commitment to the pursuit of truth (rather than career, fashion, popularity or some political ideal (http://www.compilerpress.ca/Competitiveness/Anno/Anno%20Jacobs%20Polanyi.htm#3.%20Intellectual%20passions ). For Kuhn objective reality does not exists or plays no role, science is just a social activity like any other, form cliques and establish paradigms which are “incommensurable” with other paradigms. When a “paradigm shift” takes place truth and “objective reality” play no role for Kuhn. Nor is there, in Kuhnian philosophy of science any way of deciding that the Newtonian paradigm or indeed that of present day particle physics is in any sense “superior” to the aristotelian one.

Polanyi also recognised the difficulty of a logical conversation between scientists with different “frameworks” (essentially Kuhnian “paradigms” ). But Polanyi also considered that theories can be superior to other theories and that good science can be distinguished from bad one. The key point is contact with objective reality, or in a simpler language, any theory has to be able to explain the commonly recognised facts.

Anyway, the essential point I wanted to make is that any contest has to be between two “frameworks” or theories that attempt to explain the known facts. It can’t be a contest between a theory and a mere denial of this theory. As an example, if you do not like having more than 4 dimensional space-time you have to come up with an alternative theory that explains all the same phenomena as string theory and with 4 dimensional space time. If all you can do is “suggest that nature has only 4 dimensions” you should not be surprised you are not going to get much of a hearing.


reader scooby said...

Perhaps Turok could have shortened his welcome speech to "I don't get physics anymore, so I'm going into politics and management", but that would have been a bit short.


He did some good things in the past, such as supporting the development of mathematics, physics and engineering in Africa..


reader Kimmo Rouvari said...

Well, to be honest, you won't get much of a hearing even in the case you present an alternative working, testable (and tested) model. Been there done that. I haven't found anybody claiming my model is bad but still it's ignored.


I have come to a conclusion that only way to get heard is to blast some antimatter. But that's my very last option.


reader lucretius said...

I think I could explain why this happens but I suspect you already know.


reader Eugene S said...

Dear lucretius, I would like to take this latest post of yours to express my deep appreciation for your contributions to TRF.


You did not in my humble opinion have an auspicious start when -- according to my recollection -- you requested that our host "sell" to you his views on quantum mechanics by proving scientists who hold differing opinions wrong. This despite your acknowledgement that you could find no fault in his arguments. At the time I felt very irritated that someone with so much intellectual wattage as you would not trust his own judgment if it seemed to conflict with what he had heard elsewhere. (If I have misrepresented your position, I apologize and beg you to correct me.)


However, ever since you have been hitting one home run after another. Your postings are informative, concise, and eminently readable. Please carry on :)


reader Kimmo Rouvari said...

Spare me from obvious :-)


reader lucretius said...

Thank you very much Eugene. I also very much appreciate your contributions. Also we seem to have, as far as I can tell, essentially identical views and interests, although presumably we have very different backgrounds. I find this very encouraging ;-)

As for this matter you mention, I think you somewhat misunderstood me. The issue you refer to was not about quantum mechanics (I got convinced many years ago by Bernard d’Espagnat that the Copenhagen or “non-realist” interpretation of Quantum mechanics was more or less inevitable so here I would have no reason to question Lubos about other people’s views) but about his proof of the second law of thermodynamics or (what I take to be the same thing) Boltzman’s H-Theorem. As I wrote then, I accepted the correctness of the probabilistic argument Lubos gave , but I knew that there had been an old disagreement about its applicability to the “arrow of time” question. I think this disagreement reduces to one about the role of probability (and statistics) in nature: do they belong to nature or are they just creations of the human mind that we use to deal with lack of knowledge. I think the role of probability and statistics in physics is still somewhat controversial. I also think Lubos’ views on quantum mechanics and thermodynamics are consistent, but there are other very good physicists (including some well known string theorists) who I knew had expressed a different view on this thermodynamics issue. I just wanted to know what Lubos thought of the reasons behind this.

Anyway, I have myself spent quite a lot of time being puzzled by probability. My main subject has always been algebraic topology but about 13 years ago, while living in Japan, I got involved in mathematical finance and had to learn quite a lot of probability. I became fascinated with it but I still find it very puzzling, not as mathematics but as a real world phenomenon. I actually don’t like to be a follower of any authority but I want to know as much as I can about all the views before I make up my mind, particularly in matters like physics, about which I don’t think of myself as an expert.


reader Luboš Motl said...

80% that objects with the magnetic monopole charge exist at all, at or beneath the Planck mass scale; 10% that they will be found experimentally by 2100 (i.e. they're light and accessible enough).


reader Luboš Motl said...

That's why most of the "new physics searches" at the LHC will be / are dedicated to SUSY.


reader Rehbock said...

The crackpots can gain from the parasites ignorance too. Funding and programs can be lost if crackpots get the wrong ear I would think.


reader Andrei Patrascu said...

lol: how is it possible to have 99.999% chances that general relativity is correct at so many scales and 2% chances to have Pioneer anomaly affect General relativity? Are the probabilities "quantum like"??? :))


reader Andrei Patrascu said...

there are correlations: the chances are not independent...


reader Luboš Motl said...

Hi! Concerning the Pioneer anomaly, I don't understand your confusion. 2% meant that the odds were 98% that GR would continue unmodified despite claims about the anomaly - in other words, Pioneer anomaly isn't new physics but bullshit of a sort.

This prediction of mine was of course established - see this 2012 story for example:

http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jul/18/science/la-sci-sn-pioneer-anomaly-solved-20120718


reader Andrei Patrascu said...

yep... 2% is definitely too much... :)


reader Dilaton said...

Yep, this is what the Trollking is trying to achieve all the time ... :-/


reader Dilaton said...

Hi Lumo,


even though Hamish Johnston's blog post is written in a "neutral" way, you might want thinking about removing that link:


The John Duffield troll is trying to instigate a witch hunt against you, the majority of the allowed comments (including the mandatoriy trolling of RLO ...) agrees with Neil Turok's welcom speech, and my comment politely giving Neil Turok the advice to not trying to miscredit you and laying out why I disgree with the welcome speech and wondering why Neil Turok as accepted the position as a Director of the PI, as he disaproves 90% of the research they are doing there, was deleted ...


The comment moderation there is equal to the one on the Trollking's site ...


Just wanted to let you know this ;-)


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Dilaton, thanks, yup, I noticed the troll. As soon as someone asks me for a signature to send this asshole to an electric chair, I won't hesitate for a second. ;-)


The rest of the commenters on that blog are subpar parodies of a human being, too, no news for me, either. Such people will always exist. One beats them by being better - and when I look at this comment section on TRF, i could optimistically add "by being more numerous, too".


reader Dilaton said...

Yep,


Maybe the trolls (who troll in every physics blog) are not that numerous, but persistent. I give you the names of 5-10 out of my head, to extend your black-list ;-)



I have just seen that I was partily wrong and too angry too fast, my comment seems to be there too (maybe it had to be approved). At least for the moment...


reader lucretius said...

I have not read the comments on Johnoson’s post but I do not expect much as it seems to have attracted much of the same crowd as Woit’s blog.

In my parting post on the latter I wrote that I had discovered that it was essentially a combat training camp for the “string wars” and that while Lubos on TRF was training skilled commandos (guess who I had in mind ;-)) Woit was training suicide bombers.

It seems that some of them have been visiting TRF but so far have only succeeded in blowing themselves up harmlessly.


reader Uncle Al said...

Massless boson photons detect zero vacuum refraction, dispersion, dichroism, or gyrotropy. Theory assumes vacuum mirror-symmetry toward matter, then suffers unending parity violations, chiral anomalies, and symmetry breakings. Dark matter, string/M-theory, quantum gravitation, solar axions, SUSY, and proton decay; string/brane exotica, sparticles, leptoquarks, lazy photons, WIMPs, supersymmetry exotica, extra-dimensions, magnetic monopoles, mini-black holes, Randall-Sundrum 5-D phenomena (gravitons, K-K gluons, etc.), evidence for ADS/CFT duality, colorons, and fractionally charged particles lack empirical validation for assuming vacuum isotropy.

Spacetime is trace chiral toward fermionic matter. Ashtekar anisotropic chiral spacetime torsion is simpler than isotropic achiral curvature [arxiv:1112.1262, Section 5.5]. GR superset Einstein-Cartan-Kibble-Sciama gravitation chiral spacetime torsion ends dark matter.

http://inspirehep.net/record/838894/files/fig1.png vs. arxiv:1306.5534. Noetherian vacuum isotropy coupled to angular momentum conservation leaks for matter as MOND's 1.2×10^(-10) m/s^2 Milgrom acceleration. Dark matter curve-fits the Tully-Fisher relation. This is trivially validated in existing apparatus. Drop opposite shoes.

Opposite shoes chiral vacuum embed (mount a left foot) with different energies. They vacuum free fall along divergent minimum action trajectories, exhibiting Equivalence Principle violation (re parity-violating Chern-Simons repair of Einstein-Hilbert action). Periodic lattices attack vacuum isotropy[arxiv:1109.1963]. Crystallography's opposite shoes are chemically and visibly identical, single crystal test masses in enantiomorphic space groups: P3(1)21 vs. P3(2)21 alpha-quartz (also berlinite, tellurium, cinnabar, benzil), or P3(1) vs. P3(2)21 gamma-glycine. Eötvös experiments are 5×10^(-14) difference/average sensitive. Controls are each alpha-quartz enantiomorph vs. amorphous fused silica, or each gamma-glycine enantiomorph versus achiral P2(1)/n alpha-glycine.

http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/erotor1.jpg
Two geometric Eötvös experiments. 0.113 nm^3 volume/alpha-quartz unit cell. 40 grams net as 8 single crystal test masses (15.1 m^3 total) oppose 6.68×10^22 enantiomorphic unit cell pairs (opposite shoes).

I’m calling you out (in the nicest possible way). Your belief is falsifiable within 90 days. An axiomatic system must be externally falsified, even if incomplete (Euclid vs. Bolyai) or unphysical (Newton vs. relativity and quantum mechanics). And who better than you to reformulate physics after it is corrected?


reader Gordon said...

From the PhysicsWorld.com article:

“There’ve been grand unified models, there’ve been super-symmetric models, super-string models, loop quantum-gravity models…Well, nature turns out to be simpler than all of these models.”
With regard to string theory, Turok said “It’s the ultimate catastrophe: that theoretical physics has led to this crazy situation where the physicists are utterly confused and seem not to have any predictions at all.”Not surprisingly, one of string theory’s most vocal critics, the mathematician and blogger Peter Woit, says that Turok’s comments are “great to hear”.


Mein Gott! First, just how does Turok come to the conclusion that Nature is simpler than the models?
Does he have THE ANSWER? Is he saying that the SM is IT? Obviously it is an effective theory for "low" energies and would break down at or before the Planck scale. He should heed Einstein's warning to "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." It seems that he is confused and attributes this to "the physicists". String theorists don't seem particularly confused to me, and to say that string theory makes no predictions is simply false. The last sentence of the writeup above is, however, true and that is a sad statement that should make Turok shiver.


reader Kimmo Rouvari said...

Actually he might have THE ANSWER. I have informed some of those PI guys earlier on my model. There was a hint when Turok spoke about scale invariance as the next research area.


reader Eugene S said...

Kimmo you're nuttier than a fruit cake :)


reader Kimmo Rouvari said...

Nah, that's just the first impression ;-)


reader Dilaton said...

You dont know what you are talking about. Scaling transformations are just part of the conformal symmetry transformations. How can scale invariance be a whole research field, LOL :-D?
The concept of scale invariance is not new either, and is important in many different subfields of physics.

Or wait, are you alluding to the personal crackpot theories of Robert L. Oldershaw who troll below every post in any not properly moderated physics blog?


reader lucretius said...

Now, Kimmo is referring to his own crackpot theory. And be careful, one does not argue with someone who has developed an anti-matter bomb in his basement.


reader Dimension10 (Abhimanyu PS) said...

Haha, yes.

http://motls.blogspot.com/2013/09/neil-turoks-crisis-in-physics-is.html#comment-1038862767


reader Dimension10 (Abhimanyu PS) said...

Well, he said "my model", so that's his own crack theory.


reader Kimmo Rouvari said...

You listen what Turok said. My model/equations work in every scale (from subatomic to universal scale).


Robert has his own theory and it has nothing to do with mine. You should not be too offensive before you know what I have accomplished.


reader Kimmo Rouvari said...

Well, I know how to construct one but I haven't build one yet. I need facilities for testing and development. Detonating such a thing at home won't be wise at all :-)


reader lucretius said...

You can try selling it to Kim Jong-un but remember what happened to various North Korean sportsmen etc. who failed to satisfy the Great Leader.


reader Kimmo Rouvari said...

North Korea would be the last country in my list. I made a proposition to U.S. concerning antimatter technology. Let's see what they think about it.


reader Dileep_Sathe said...

On
reading Neil Turok’s welcome speech, I think, there are crises in physics,
modern as well as fundamental, because some physicists think that we need new
ideas due to the failure of supersymmetry, www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=supersymmetry-fails-test-forcing-physics-seek-new-idea As an educator, I think,
that recently discovered “retrograde” exo-planets are reviving an old challenge
in learning of some fundamental physics, read Letter in Physics Education,
January 2012, p. 132, www.iopscience.iop.org/0031-9120/47/1


reader Luboš Motl said...

There is nothing such as "the failure of supersymmetry" and your references to a crackpot magazine won't bring this non-existent concept into existence.

If you wanna read what top physicists as opposed to imbeciles in would-be popular magazines think about these matters, read e.g. today's paper by the world's 2nd most cited high-energy physicist

http://arxiv.org/abs/1309.3549



where he explains why supersymmetry is still the #1 most reasonable to expect form of new physics.


reader JamesEadon said...

It seems to me that String Theory was fun until it turned out to be non-testable. Why can't people accept that this means that it is dead as a physics theory? Serious question. Popper - you have to be able to falsify a scientific conjecture or it is metaphysics or even religion.
String theory reminds me of socialism or the banking system, where it is not allowed to, or too big to, fail.
I can see why theorists are in denial about this, it's a complete disaster and embarrassment.
Lubos, what do you say to this?

Cheers


reader Luboš Motl said...

James Eadon, you asked me: what do I say to your comment? It's simple. I immediately placed you on the blacklist.


reader John Archer said...

"I care only for the truth." — Mephisto

Yet earlier we got:

"Science is a social phenomenon ... It is naive to think that science is a rational discipline. It is shaped by psychological factors just like about anything humans do." — Mephisto

WTF!

That would be the pomo merchants' truth then, would it?

Those paradigmatic leftard sicko-psycho-socio-shapeshifters of trooth and 'ways of knowing' have a lot to answer for. Oh, how they just l-u-r-v their Kuhn.

Incidentally, "...the word paradigm comes from Kuhn...."

No it doesn't. He may well have coined the the term 'paradigm shift' but the word 'paradigm' has been knocking around in English for at least 500 years.


reader John Archer said...

Dear Mephisto,

Oddly enough I go along with a lot of that.

And oddly enough too, I find truth problematic — but just not in the way the pomos and leftists in general would like to make it as they conjure up and peddle their own sick, arbitrary versions of it to the arty-farty fcukwit hippies who follow them like the children did the Pied Piper.

"You have a problem with the statement that science is a social phenomenon?"

Yes, I do. Just because a bunch of people pursue it, talk about it together, stroke each other and fight over it doesn't make the thing itself a social activity any more than it does wild flower pressing. In principle, one man (or maybe one day even a machine) could do it all and the results* would be the same, eventually. I see science as a process of interplay between theory (however it's arrived at, and I really don't care too much how or by whom) and observation, with the correct prediction of future novel observations as a mark of progress, i.e. more encompassing and closer to the truth (whatever that is). And a similar thing for mathematics. In both cases the social aspects are incidental, though they can clearly speed things up or, regrettably, slow them down in some cases.

But let's cut to the chase. Where I take issue with you is with your "It is naive to think that science is a rational discipline."

Baldly stated like that, there's a bottomless chasm between us. As far as I'm concerned if it's not rational then it's certainly not science. End of discussion.

If on the other hand you mean that individual scientists can be affected by their social environment to the extent that it affects their practice and ideas then I would agree. Or rather, I think it's a pretty good hypothesis since men in general are eminently corruptible and prone to err. But then that's not science we're talking about now.

I don't know whether you did it deliberately or not, but many try to fudge the distinction. The left is particularly keen to employ this tactic to further its own cancerous ends.

But going back to the truth thing: "Truth is defined as a correspondence between a statement and reality."

Yes. Sort of. The problem is that discerning that correspondence in practice is not unproblematic. For example, from where I was standing some months ago the Earth looked pretty flat. East Anglia can be like that. A lot depends on one's tools and all the little auxiliary hypotheses (no doubt some unwitting) that go into making the comparison.


* I don't KNOW this — I simply have my fingers crossed and am relying on induction, which, incidentally, and no matter how much one might wish otherwise, no philosopher to my knowledge has ever gotten past — doh! It's their pons asinorum, and everybody else's too. It seems to me that we're ultimately stuck with the kind of thinking that has it that "the sun will rise tomorrow morning because it has every morning so far" with no alternative but to accept it. So I do. For now.


reader Li-Jen Chu said...

Nobody is saying those researches are not intellectual gems, it's just saying they aren't doing physics. And nobody is suggesting those researchers to go sell perfume, it's just stating that the brilliant minds of our age are mislead into studing string theory. Now if you replace 'string theory' with 'cold fusion theory', the whole article would sound the same. I won't get into whether string theory can be tested, I'll just ask, after so many years of research, do those researchers have an answer whether it is really a better theory than what already have? What have they accomplished? What the string theorists are doing are the same as those doing pure mathematics, you just explore and explore more into an artificial model, with less and less justification from experiments, but you're not doing physics, you're doing math. You say it has 99% chance to be right, then give us a proof!


reader Bill Wesley said...

The late Physicist James Paul Wesley wrote many very well researched books that replace virtually all of modern physics with an adapted Newtonian universe with strict causality, in history it has happened over and over, all vested institutions and nearly all intellectuals are wrong, one lone independent mind eclipses all the rest, and why is this? Because political interest and scientific interest tend to be mutually exclusive, the urge to "fit in" and gain prestige and even income outweighs the need to freely explore or experiment. Dark energy and dark matter are DARK EVIDENCE, 80% dark evidence is a TOTAL FAILURE! Quantum mechanics and General Relativity are incompatible this is a COLOSSAL FAILURE. Even ASTROLOGY successfully predicted the motions of stars and planets, this did not make the general claims of astrology true. This writer sounds exactly like the kind of person who would have printed condemnations of Bruno of Galileo, a bully. Established physics is an institutional monolith, no one person can possibly constitute a threat yet this writer sounds hysterical, as if his lone adversaries heresy were about to over run all of physics. In debate class I was taught to argue for positions I did not hold because even if not holding them the exercise might give me insight, even if to gain the skill to later discount what I had argued for all the more effectively. Even as an exercise in imagination we should argue AGAINST our own thesis from time to time, for example we could entertain the crazy idea that the red shift is NOT a Doppler shift but gravitation's effect on light, we might call it "Dark Space" that there is therefore no big bang, that nearly everyone today may be wrong. We could entertain the nutty idea that the reason galaxies throughout the universe appear to be rotating about the same average speed no matter how fast they are receding is that they are NOT receding, the speed of rotation remaining constant is evidence against a Doppler shift which should also slow the observed (apparent) speed of rotation. science has come to be carried out like sports, the winning team take all when in reality and despite claims to the contrary creativity is not well conducted by teams, they tend to suppress it for political interests sake.


reader Dilaton said...

Can this spam be removed?

TRF needs the possibility to flag (to alert the owner of a blog, not random strangers and outsiders) such anti-science spam ...

Does Discus have a please where I can suggest this as a feature request?


reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear Dilaton, could we please agree that one or two such "nonviolent" crackpot comments similar to Wesley's are OK? It's both time-consuming and sort of anti-freedom-of-speech to peer review every single comment. I think that every cranks like that should have one or two opportunities to post what he has to say, and only be banned when he or she becomes obnoxious and repetitive or aggressive. Is that fair?


I don't know why the minus votes disappeared.


reader Dilaton said...

Ok, it is not my call anyway of course, apologize ...

I just hope that there will in the future not appear 5 or more such aggressive cranks in a single thread ...

I mean one of the many advantages of TRF compared to other places in the internet is, that one can peacefully learn about and enjoy cool physics :-)