Amazon Reviews

I’d really much rather ignore the activities of Lubos Motl, but his unethical behavior recently has sunk to new lows, and it seems necessary to point this out and encourage others to take appropriate action.

When Lee Smolin’s new book The Trouble With Physics first became available recently on Amazon, Lubos immediately posted a “two-star” review of the book, one that immediately had a large number of votes that it was “helpful”, likely generated by Lubos himself. The review is thoroughly dishonest and designed to mislead anyone who might consider buying the book (“Lee reveals his intense hostility against all of modern physics”, “Lee proposes a truly radical thesis that it is wrong for mathematics to play a crucial role in theoretical physics”, “He also denies the difference between renormalizable field theories and the rest”, “one of his rules says that the conclusions must be accepted by everyone if their author is a person of good faith”, etc., etc., etc…). The dishonesty includes the use of two stars rather than one, since Lubos is well-aware that Amazon is more likely to immediately delete one-star reviews.

After a while, another review appeared, a positive 5-star review. At some point, it seems that Amazon deleted Lubos’s review, perhaps because some people had, quite justifiably, clicked on the link that allows one to report a review as inappropriate. Lubos then posted on his blog a rant about this. Later on, he somehow managed to get the 5-star review deleted, and his own one reinstated (and removed his blog posting). At the present time, the only review of Smolin’s book on Amazon is the dishonest one by Lubos. This situation provides yet another example of the kind of disturbing behavior of parts of the string theory community that Smolin has detailed in part of his book. Unfortunately, if people just ignore what Lubos is up to, we end up with situations like the current one at Amazon, so I encourage people to consider what action they can take to do something about this. As for Amazon, the answer to dishonest speech is honest speech, so I encourage people to post honest reviews there of the book, I’ve just done so (and if you want to review my book while you’re at it, that’s fine too…).

Lubos still has up on his blog an offer to pay people $20 for writing bad reviews of my book. I’ve complained to people in the Harvard physics department that this kind of professional behavior by one of its faculty members is unethical and not the sort of thing protected by academic freedom. I’ve also pointed out to them that Lubos regularly publicly claims that his colleagues share his views (most recently in the Amazon review where he goes on about Smolin visiting “us”, and what “we” “mainstream physicists” think). While it appears that at some point an attempt was made by someone at Harvard to get him to suppress his extreme political views, I’ve seen no evidence whatsoever that anyone in the string theory group at Harvard has a problem with his behavior in defending string theory. This is also true of the larger string theory community, which remains almost unanimously (Aaron Bergman is the one exception I can think of) unwilling to publicly criticize Lubos’s tactics. A common recent defense of string theory against its critics is that its proponents hold power because they have triumphed in the “marketplace of ideas.” It’s not a pretty sight to see how this triumph is being defended now that there are other voices in the marketplace.

Update: About an hour and a half after I posted this, my positive review of Smolin’s book had accumulated a bunch of “helpful” votes, Lubos’s a bunch of “unhelpful” ones, and, I’m guessing, a bunch of reports as “inappropriate”. His review then disappeared. My sympathy goes out to whoever it is at Amazon who has to moderate this kind of controversy. Since Lubos is such a poster boy for the problems of string theory, I should say that I’d be happier if his review had not been deleted, but remained there, countered by other, more honest reviews.

Update: I see that Lubos’s “one-star” review of my book is now back up (carrying the original date, why’s that?) with the comment:

My review has been erased four times because the author keeps on encouraging other enemies of science on his discussion forum to report my review as inappropriate. This is not fair and is a reason why I returned to 1 star.

Well, his review is inappropriate, so I can see why people click on the link that reports this. Again, I’d prefer that it stay up there to show how string theorists behave, but that others with more honest reviews submit them also. Besides, like most authors these days, I do periodically check my Amazon sales ranking, and, as far as I can tell, when his review is there, sales improve. Go, Lubos!

Update: OK, now his review of my book has disappeared, and the one of Smolin’s has reappeared. Depressing, my sales should soon head downward, but I’m glad Lee’s will do better.

Update: Lubos is indefatigable, both his reviews are back, mine now says:

My review has been erased five times because the author keeps on encouraging other enemies of science on his discussion forum to report my review as inappropriate. This is not fair and is a reason why I returned to 1 star. Please don’t trust the counter of helpful votes either. It is being distorted by the visitors of Peter Woit’s blog who are directly controlled by the author of this book.

It seems that I “directly control” visitors here. Wow.

I’m guessing Amazon must have some sort of automated system, which apparently deletes reviews that receive a certain number of “inappropriate” votes, but allows the review to be edited slightly and resubmitted.

Update: Lubos seems to have managed to get my review of Smolin’s book deleted, as well as one of the 5-star reviews of my book. I can’t compete with him in terms of fanaticism, so will just have to take people’s advice and ignore what he is up to in terms of manipulation of Amazon reviews. Smolin is a new father and also doubtless too busy for this. People who don’t like this situation are free to try and do something about it, by writing reviews, or contacting Amazon, Lubos’s employer, or the people he refers to as “us” in his review to make them aware of what is going on.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

86 Responses to Amazon Reviews

  1. Arun says:

    I really think you pay too much attention to Lubos Motl. I think once his current position with Harvard ends, his string theory “friends” will distinguish themselves by their enthusiastic lack of support for his future career. Here today, gone tomorrow – why would anyone risk any political capital in this fight anyway?

    Please don’t make this to be about physicists, keep it about physics. Don’t let it be said that the opposition to certain ideas arises from an underlying dislike of the people involved.

  2. Peter Woit says:


    This isn’t about dislike of Lubos, who I hear is a charming fellow, and I’m sure that’s right. It’s about the tactics being used by string theorists to suppress criticism. Quite a few physicists have told me that they don’t dare say anything publicly critical of string theory, because of fear of what will happen to their careers if they do. One reason for this fear is the apparent support of the string theory community for Lubos and his tactics. Your own question “why would anyone risk any political capital in this fight anyway?” demonstrates the problem: if Lubos has so little support, why would anyone think they would be risking political capital in this field if they complain about his unethical behavior?

    The problem isn’t so much Lubos as the community he is a part of and its willingness to tolerate his behavior.

  3. Kris Krogh says:

    Now I see what Lubos means by his “free marketplace of ideas.” One buys and sells the scientific truth with money.

  4. Anonymous Coward Michael says:

    Do you really think people at Harvard take you seriously enough to consider your complaints as anything more than spam? I wish you could hear the many little side remarks made by serious scientists mocking and disrespecting you in various everyday situations. You got the attention you were craving, all right, but you also paid the price for it. Congratulations, you *are* the class clown!

  5. Yatima says:

    M. Motl really needs to get professional help. The amazing shrillness of his commentary reminds me of posts on alt.alien.visitors or the grating sounds that one unfortunately (and increasingly) hears coming from unhealthy parts of the religious spectrum. Of course, all this is not entirely unexpected, after all, this involves Faith, in a big way. Faith cannot permit doubts. And as always, you have onlookers nodding approvingly from the sidelines while the unbeliever is being given a good and somewhat amusing trashing. Same old, really.

    “Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night; God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.” … but this is said only because Newton was a really really nasty customer. He was also wrong in the end.

  6. Peter Woit says:


    Thanks for the insider info on what the “serious scientists” up there in Cambridge such as yourself have to say. Always a pleasure to hear from you.

  7. anon says:

    “Concerning Feynman’s misunderstanding of string theory, he was just too old … he was saying such a nonsense … he was already too old and a bit senile and slow…” which is Dr Motl’s attack on Feynman’s alleged incompetence in 1988, when Feynman worked out the cause of the space shuttle explosion in 1986, as the physicist on the Special Pesidential Commision. Motl the added that discovering the O-ring failure problem was nothing compared to string theory.

    So even if Feynman was around today, he would be dismissed as senile, and nobody would ask Motl for evidence or tell him to be more objective and less political. Everyone who contradicts Motl, regardless of the lack of evidence Motl has, will be dismissed as a moron, so you cannot discuss anything (unless you agree with him). This is why people don’t really want to argue with Dr Motl. So authority in particle physics continues sliding into his hands.

  8. richard says:

    While I am not anti-string, Lubos does seem to be doing for the image of string theory what the movie “Deliverance” did for canoeing holidays.

  9. ks says:

    Michael, I guess Harvard takes public mind serious when it starts to considers ST to be a self delusion with high aggression potential and psychopaths as its promoters. Lubos actions are somewhat of a tragicomical attempt to correct the impression that ST is a failure by scientific standards that prevailed at least for a couple of centuries. On the other hand I believe public mind is tolerant about some artistical branch of theoretical physics that got stuck in “mathematical science fiction” ( J.Horgan ). No one really knows what to expect.

  10. Who says:

    as of today 12:15 pacific, or 3:15 PM your time, the Amazon general physics bestseller list was

    #1 TwP
    #2 Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
    #3 NEW
    #4 Douglas Giancoli college physics text
    #5 a Stephen Hawking book

    at the moment TwP has 5 stars, perhaps because of Peter’s review and the many positive votes it has received (I havent followed that, so can’t say.)

  11. Anon says:

    Everyone else (both inside the string theory community and outside) ignores Lubos’s rantings. The only person paying attention to them is Peter Woit.

    Without Lubos to hold up as an exemplar of what’s “wrong” with the string theorists, where would Peter ever find material for his blog?

  12. Peter Woit says:


    Lenny Susskind.

  13. Anon says:

    What about Lenny Susskind?

    Are you saying he’s a lunatic like Lubos?

  14. Peter Woit says:


    No, while from what I hear his reaction to my book and Lee’s is not that different than Lubos’s, he’s not as nuts as Lubos. But he is, with a striking degree of success, devoting his energies into turning particle theory into a pseudo-science.

  15. Anon says:

    So, aside from the fact that he disagrees with you about the scientific status of the Landscape, is Susskind really the worst example you can come up with (besides Lubos)?

    No wonder you spend all your time talking about Lubos, then.

  16. Peter Woit says:

    I don’t think there’s much worse you can do to go on a campaign to trash the whole idea of what it means to do science, so, Susskind is an impressive case.

    Lots of other examples to talk about, but Motl and Susskind really are about the best, since each in his own way embodies well different things that have gone wrong with the field, and they have the backing of very influential institutions. Without them, there still would be plenty to write about: particle physics at its highest levels these days is pretty full of followers of Susskind and other varieties of Landscapologists. For arrogance, dishonesty and unethical behavior, besides Lubos there’s always Jacques Distler.

    It would be harder to come up with good material for this blog without Lubos and Lenny, but I think I’d manage fine.

  17. mathdude says:

    I have one question: How mathematical are both Lee Smolin
    and Peter Woit’s books?

    I’m hoping they are not too layman oriented but instead make some attempt to
    explain the basics in fairly clear fashion with some actual mathematical

  18. woit says:


    Mine is significantly more mathematical than Lee Smolin’s. But it is written without equations, more in the style of a book for laymen, so mathematically sophisticated people may find this annoying to deal with. It has some fairly challenging material in it, but in a form different than the way I would have written it for an audience of mathematicians.

  19. Lubos makes me puke! says:

    I just ordered both books. I have read most of what peter has written here and was not that interested to read the book. I did it just to say to that nut lubos Motl, that his slimy campaign against real science and scientist will never hide or destroy the truth. For those that can see and understand will stop at nothing to see it through to the light of day! I will do all I can to see to it that his attempts to slander those who try and have a open and honest discussion and find the truth in science, will in the end destroy his academic career.

  20. nigel says:


    As an example, Chapter 3 (Quantum Theory) in N.E.W. is where you begin to find a completely different – and more realistic – explanation of the fundamentals than you get in most popular books. There is an historical-context discussion of how the Hamiltonian operator works on vectors in Hilbert space or wavefunctions, Weyl’s work in Lie groups such as U(1), the “unitary group of transformations of one complex variable” which is illustrated simply by an Argand diagram (Fig 3.1 in N.E.W.), SU(N), etc. It isn’t a textbook, but is a vital supplement.

  21. Benni says:

    Peter, Lubos offer of 20$ for negative reviews of your book seems to be erased from his blog
    or at least this link does not work anymore!

    congratulations Benjamin

  22. Benni says:

    Lubos review on Smolins book got deleted

  23. John A says:

    I objected to Lubos’ review. It is not for him to say what is science and what is not because someone objects to the fact that ST has not produced a single empirically testable claim.

  24. anon says:

    Dear Peter

    I find your use of Lubos rather disingenuous. Lubos is not a poster boy for string theory. Rather, he is clearly a rather sad case of a brilliant and kind but disturbed and paranoid individual. You are making yourself ridiculous by taking him seriously. The community doesn’t ‘tolerate’ his behavior, but mostly tries to ignore it like any reasonable person would, although a few people try to figure out how to help him.

    Lenny is not crazy at all, but he loves to be provocative. But he is not a posterboy either.

    Most string theorists are no more interesting/arrogant/crazy than the rest of us, (which may not be saying a lot) just more formal and mathematically inclined.

  25. Motl’s deranged reviews are annoying, but I agree that it is more useful to have them up than not. Lubos may not be the posterboy for String Theory, but he is the most visible combatant in the blogosphere. There are many prominent string theorists who read Motl’s blog at least occasionally, and the failure of any of them to denounce his tactics is very telling. Either the Stalinist streak in String Theory is scary enough that even the most prominent dare not denounce it or they agree enough with him that they find him a useful tool.

    I find it reminiscent of the power of the Ku Klux Klan in the old South. Most prominent citizens would mouth words like “the Klan goes to far” while being secretly pleased that these hoodlums were doing their dirty work.

    On a completly different note, the review LM has up of Alain Connes newest paper is pretty interesting. Lubos may be nuts, but there is still a powerful mind in there somewhere.

  26. Aaron Bergman says:

    I find it reminiscent of the power of the Ku Klux Klan in the old South. Most prominent citizens would mouth words like “the Klan goes to far” while being secretly pleased that these hoodlums were doing their dirty work.

    Oy vey.

    Is this what it’s going to come to? The ‘failure to denounce’ game? I get enough of that on political blogs.

  27. LDM says:

    The problem, it seems to me, is that the layperson reading Amazon reviews is not really in a position to analyze the scientific quality of any of Lubos opinions. If NEW was aimed a target audience of professional Physicists only — people who are quite capable of analyzing Lobos’ statements –then Lobos’ review would largely serve to discredit himself.
    But, because NEW has a target audience that is non-technical, Lubos’ reviews are unfortunate. Similary with the Trouble with Physics. However, no quantity of Lubos reviews can prevent serious researchers from reading these books and drawing their own conclusions. So in that sense, Lubos reviews are irrelevant and NEW and The Trouble with Physics are important contributions.

    Based on what Lubos has posted here, I have a different opinion of Lubos’ understanding of Physics, and “brilliant” is a ridiculous use of the word in his case.

  28. RA says:


    Your comparison of Lubos to the KKK is stunningly inaccurate and would be laughable if it weren’t so malicious and offensive. How could you? With that smear of a totally wrong stereotype about Southerners being racists, you’ve not only offended me but most other Southerners. If this is your and Peter Woit’s idea of a way to promote an alternative to ‘popular’ physics then you’re not going to be very profitable.

  29. Gina says:

    Lubos Motl had posted a few highly inappropriate comments on this blog, but I do not see why his review on Smolin’s book and, in particular, the quotes you gave from his review are inappropriate. Perhaps Lubol’s interprrtations on Smolin’s views are incorrect but I do not understand, Peter, why you call them inappropriate.

  30. RA and Aaron,

    OK, Lubos is not the KKK. His lynchings are strictly verbal, and thus not reasonably comparable to real ones. That doesn’t mean that they are harmless. His vicious attacks on Lee, Peter, and Christine, for example, are clearly intended to cause pain and destroy careers.

    Those in power who witness such attacks and don’t intervene (Polchinski, Maldacena, and the whole Harvard String mafia for for example), or actually join in, like Susskind, cannot pretend to be blameless.

  31. RA – Also, I don’t plan to lose much sleep over whether people might be offended by my calling the KKK (and those who supported it) racist.

  32. gunpowder&noodles says:

    On the whole, I have to say that I find it very educational to follow LM’s activities. People often remark on the astonishing disjunction between the personae of people in real life and on the web, eg A. Bergman’s claim that J Distler “isn’t the man [PW] thinks he is”. Sadly, all the evidence suggests just the reverse: that the blog persona is the real one, and the nice-guy-when-you-meet-him-in-person is just a facade which the individual finds it expedient to assume. I’m afraid that I think that when we deal with our fellow physicists remotely, we must brace ourselves to deal with the Mr Hyde rather than the Dr Jeckyll. Case in point: how many times have you heard, especially recently, jaw-dropping stories about the kinds of remarks people put into referee reports? Last year I had a paper accepted by a famed journal on the basis of a referee report which praised my work in fulsome tones, especially for one particular result. The catch was that I had not proved this result, nor claimed to. Clearly the referee had just skimmed the paper, got the impression that I was agreeing with his prejudices, and approved it on that basis alone. Now turn to LM’s favourite activity these days: he tries to “review” all the papers on hepth on a given day; recently, even more astonishingly, he has tried it for gr-qc. The modus operandi was the one I have described: he reads enough to try to judge whether the author is a Good Guy or a Bad Guy in the interminable Western he directs in his head, and judges the paper accordingly. I think all young students should attend to his methods, because less transparent versions of the same thing are going to determine their professional fate. You can learn a lot from LM. Not about physics, admittedly…..

  33. Aaron Bergman says:


    This is silly. Lubos isn’t a child. There’s no big string theory boss who tells us all what to do. Frankly, I don’t see why anyone should stop him. I don’t like what he has to say most of the time, but he’s got every right to say it.

    Grow up and ignore him. And stop blaming an entire community for your inability to do so.

  34. Stefan says:

    I recently had an e-friend tell me the following:

    He came upon Lubos’ review of Connes’ recent paper. He read what Lubos had to say. He then offered the following comments [paraphrased]:

    Lubos, you seem to hold many (firmly-held) views on many topics (most of them off-topic in nature), but – despite your vitriolic remarks – very few will take you or your endless commentaries seriously until you prove your merit as a professional scientist. This can be done via: a) writing some paper that gets the attentions of people like, say, Witten, Gross, or ‘t Hooft, etc. or b) accumulating 500+ citations on a paper within a year of publication, or both. Until you achieve this you will only be viewed as a rabbler and nothing more.

    And by the way, critiquing someone like Connes might be a wee-bit out of your league.

    [Stefan]: Guess what happened next? He was banned from ever posting at Lubos’ site again. Well, I guess the defender of free thought and critical dialogue wasn’t feeling like his usual (over-)confident self…

  35. Ebgert says:

    🙂 He he. I think it’s great fun to see physicists fight in front of the public. Peter and Lee on the one hand say that Lubos’s behavior is inappropriate and that Susskind is abandoning science, and Lubos and Susskind on the other hand engage in name calling, “glub glub glub” and crazy rants.

    So the public is supposed to watch this and think that physicists are clever, respectable people who work hard and adhere to strict standards of professionalism and scientific integrity. And Peter and Lee can say “What are we supposed to do when Lubos and Susskind behave like that?”, and Lubos and Susskind can say “Those people aren’t even scientists; they’re just crackpots who are jealous because we’re right and they’re wrong.”

    Beautiful. This is dragging the reputation of physicists everywhere into the gutter. Once physicists gained the world’s respect when Einstein changed our views of space and time and then atomic physics showed the world what power truly is. Now you are all a bunch of squabbling children and the lesson the public will take from it is that nobody’s right and nobody understands and astrology is just as good as the latest physics theories because the physicists themselves say so (although one bunch of physicists says it about one theory and a different group says it about a different theory).

    So the physicists have brought disgrace upon themselves, like the philosophers did before them. Now follows a century when physicists can no longer behave so arrogantly and dismiss the other sciences like chemistry and biology as being beneath them. Serves you right, you arrogant assh*les.

  36. Anon says:

    Hi Peter,

    You mentioned Lubos Motl, Lenny Susskind and Jacques Distler by name to illustrate what you dislike in the string community as well as Aaron Bergman as a positive figure. By chance (or not) these four are a subset of the people who write blogs and/or are very visible to the general public and the laymen.

    In my opinion this fact alone confirms that your main points against string theory are sociological in nature and not necessarily accurate as such since the sampling is not representative (if you think otherwise, what are you arguments?)

    If you would have technical points to raise you would name people writing influencial technical papers with whom you disagree. Now Lenny Susskind is certainly influencial but his landscape related ideas are in my opinion not in the string theory mainstream. I’m sure you could also name a handful of equally influencial string theorists who either ignore the landscape philosophy or expressly disagree with it. That is exactly what I mean when I say that your sample is not representative.

    In addition the fact that you are fighting with “blog-people” explains why the mainstream ignores you. That is simply because blogging is not a scientific activity according to the majority of physicists and so whatever happens on blogs is not a concern to them. You are of course entitled to think that your blogging activity is a scientific activity but you should also acknowledge the fact that according to the majority it is not. Thus there is no reason to be surprised that your complains to the Harvard faculty are ignored. It is simply because people do whatever they please in their spare time, it’s not the business of their collegaues.

    To illustrate my point (it’s just an illustration, don’t take it literally please): if you find your wife (suppose you have one, I don’t know) and Lubos having sex in one of the seminar rooms of Harvard you are 100% entitled to be mad at him. You may also think at first sight that the academic community of Harvard should somehow condemn this activity and you might also think that because the whole thing took place at Harvard the whole Harvard community has something to do with it. After one or two clear days you will however find (I guess) that this issue has to be dealt with exclusively by you, your wife and Lubos. That is because nobody broke any laws and the academic community has nothing to do what some of the faculty members are doing in their spare time and certainly I haven’t seen signs in any classrooms that having sex is not allowed. Thus it would be foolish to demand a condemnation, public outcry, official statements against Lubos etc.

    With your blog, Lubos’s blog, your book, Amazon reviews, etc, etc, 99% of the things you are busy with the issue is exactly the same. This kind of stuff is not science thus people who care about their scientific integrity do not get involved in such issues on a professional basis, only as a out-of-office activity. Again, you may think that it is part of your professional activity but most don’t and it would be much better for you if you grasped that point and would not fight with windmills.


  37. Ebgert says:


    You’re absolutely right, people do tend to become more aggressive and nasty when they’re writing on the internet, and Lubos is an extreme case (I’ve met him many times and he was pleasant every time, always very very very smiley). The one thing which doesn’t change is that he sounds in person just as much like a party-political spokesman as he does on the internet.

    But I would disagree that the aggressive internet persona is more “real” than the one we meet face to face. The facade we show to people when we meet them in person is just part of the collection of strategies we have for dealing with people and getting along with them, while satisfying our emotional needs. The aggregate of our strategies is our personality, so I think the techniques we use to avoid offending people who are standing in front of us have to count as a part of our personality, even though we might prefer not to have to use them, and when we are on the internet, the person isn’t standing in front of us so we don’t have the same pressing fear of causing offence.

    Lubos is a wonderful case. Thanks to his internet behavior, Lubos will be remembered much more than Witten, when future historians of physics tell the story of string theory and its decade or so in the limelight. The internet is the human collective consciousness, and Lubos is there, visible and loud, while Witten is nowhere to be seen.

    Also, congratulations to Peter (and Lee). Thanks to you, the string bubble has burst, like the housing bubble and the dot-com bubble before it. Your voices have been heard – the emperor has no clothes. Every scientist outside of string theory has been waiting for somebody to do this, and it is truly a joy to see Michael say that “serious scientists” don’t agree with you, because he just means “string theorists”. In fact, the string theorists are the only ones who don’t agree with you. And they may be the only one who truly count in their own minds, and this is wonderful as well, because they will soon realise how little their opinions count in the real world.

    From now on, every mention of string theory in the public media will include a comment or two from “the critics”, “for balance”. No more uncritical praise for string theory from the media. The tide is turning against them. The word is out – string theory has nothing to say about the real world. The only thing that can save them now, in the eyes of the media, is a prediction about the result of an experiment. But the string theorists know, even more than everybody else, that this will never happen. All of the pep-talks at conferences, “One day, we’ll all be heroes!”, it was all propaganda, and it may have stirred your heart, Aaron, but you can’t avoid that sinking feeling in the same heart – you’ve wasted your life, and it’s too late to stop, too painful to admit defeat.

    Hahahaha! 🙂

    By the way, the string bubble was on top of a physics bubble. It was the culture of arrogance and aggressiveness in particle theory that allowed a bunch of cocky cultists to take over: “We don’t need no rigor; we don’t need no experimental results to back up our indubitably correct guesses and hopes. We are the string theorists and the proof of our correctness is our manifest superiority over every other human mind.” Well, unfortunately the culture of physics is such that people who say things like that become the “glorious leaders” of all of physics, and when they go down, the respectability of all of physics goes down with them, glub glub glub.

  38. Gina says:

    Something does not add up in what you wrote: Lubos’ comments on Connes’ paper were overall very positive (a bit funny to read though).

  39. Ebgert says:


    You are right; it is not science, but that is beside the point. The battle is being fought in full view of the public, and it is a battle for the public opinion. It used to be the case that the public opinion was that string theory is right because the people on television and in the newspaper say so. Now the people on television and in the newspaper don’t say so any more. The string theorists have lost the battle.

    The fight over scientific issues, like whether the landscape exists, will take place within string theory, and the conclusion, in case you haven’t been paying attention, is that the landscape does indeed exist, at least in so far as anything within string theory “exists”. Lubos and the people who “disagree” with Lenny are not saying that the KKLT vacua aren’t solutions of string theory. They’re saying that maybe maybe maybe some as yet unknown and unpredictable something might possibly happen that will make everything OK again, so that string theory can go back to the way it was *before* Lenny pointed out the landscape.

    Hahahahaha! That’s like saying maybe maybe maybe somebody sometime will find some way to evade Goedel’s theorem, so that all of mathematics will become provable again. That’s why they’re in the minority. They’re the die-hard, have-faith, never-give-up-and-never-look-facts-in-the-face hardcore believers. Faith over reason. That’s who the people who “disagree” with the landscape are.

    The “moderate” people like Aaron try to strike a middle ground, saying that the majority of string theorists “don’t work on the landscape”. Hahahahaha! That’s like saying “Well, I know that it’s been proven that what I’m trying to do is impossible, but I don’t concern myself with what has and hasn’t been proven to be impossible.” Hahahahaha! 🙂 Keep up the good work, guys.

  40. Farrold says:

    As best I can tell from Amazon’s data system, the tag “crackpot” has been used 13 times on Amazon, 11 of them by Motl. Fascinating.

    Meanwhile, in the Physics bestseller category this hour, the rankings run Smolin, Woit, Greene, Penrose.

  41. David says:

    I learned from CIP that Lubos can only ban about 20 people at any one time. I was banned for a while but it was lifted when, I guess, he was madder at 20 other people than he was at me. This comment may free up someone else again. I don’t comment on Lubos’ own postings any more; he just deletes or refuses to discuss things in a rational manner. His treatment of Bee recently was, in my view, over the top. I do like to, sometimes, comment on what others are saying.

    As I’ve said before I got the UK edition of NEW early and I thought it was great in the sense of making me think about and appreciate some things I hadn’t thought about before. Thank you. I should be getting my copy of Lee Smolin’s book in the next few days. I look forward to a similar experience with that. WRT Motl he talks about what it means to do science and be a scientist but then ignores that in many of his posts. He knows what others should do but he doesn’t do it himself. If I was in string theory or at Harvard, I would regard him as super embarrassing. With his public postings and his record on SPIRES, I don’t see how he’ll get tenure but I’ve been wrong about that before. In any case, “This too shall pass”. In the long run, people will appreciate your behavior esp. in comparison to LM. You’re wise to leave his comments here for others to see.
    Best wishes,

  42. Ebgert says:


    Indeed, Lubos is a hypocrite. But if you are an American living in the McCarthy era, you can get tenure even if you spread lies saying that communists eat babies. Similarly, if you are in the Soviet Union, you can get tenure while saying that Americans eat babies. Today you can get tenure in Iran for saying that Israelis eat babies or you can get tenure in Israel for saying that Iranians eat babies. So Lubos’s statements that string theory critics eat babies will not do any harm to his career. Anybody who thinks that string theorists are more capable of a balanced judgement than Americans were during the McCarthy era is naive. Human nature has not changed for hundreds of thousands of years, let alone a single generation.

    PS. Nobody eats babies.

  43. Gina says:


    Your Godel’s theorem example goes the opposite way. There was a “foundational crisis” in mathematics based on the fear that
    its foundations are not provably sound. Godel’s theorem confirmed this fear but strangely this was the end of the “crisis”
    and mathematics continued as before. There were people like
    Brower that thought and taught that mathematics should be done completely differently in view of these problems but his views
    did not prevail. So if “landscape” to “string theory” is like
    “Godel’s theorem” to “mathematics” you can expect a bright future for string theory.

  44. Alejandro Rivero says:

    I think you people are getting a tendence to exagerate 🙂

    “Human nature has not changed for hundreds of thousands of years” —> there is not evidence of language skills from human species 200 000 years ago. And remember that mithocondial Eve and Y-chromosome Adam are estimated between 80000 and 35000 years ago.

    “There was a “foundational crisis” in mathematics based on the fear that
    its foundations are not provably sound”.@ –> actually there was some different approachs to foundations, Godel incorporated early into formalism and proved was doomed.

    ” Lubos’ comments on Connes’ paper were overall very positive ” —> Early comments were possitive. A longer (but not deeper) reading of the paper, done without the background of axiomatics of ncg spaces, led him to a fast dismiss.

  45. MathPhys says:


    I think I’ve noticed something quite interesting taking place over the past two weeks, which I think coincides with the appearance of discussions of Smolin’s book in addition to yours.

    Namely a number of people who normally won’t think at all about particle physics, approached me, and undoubtedly others, asking me if I’ve heard of or read two recent books that claim that string theory is totally wrong, particle physics is a mess, etc.

    What I want to say is that I’m struck by what seems to be a sudden awareness amongst the public of what’s going on.

    It seems to me that in spite of what people like Lubos and Susskind are saying on public forums, or doing on amazon, you and Smolin, rightly or wrongly, are winning the public vote.

  46. Ebgert says:


    I agree with most of your points. In fact, Brouwer was correct, and mathematicians didn’t pay as much attention to him as they should. Instead, they said “What’s that weidro talking about? Never mind, who cares? Let’s ignore him and call him a crackpot.”

    But mathematics lost a lot of its pomposity thank’s to Goedel’s theorem. They became humbled and realized that they were not talking about the Platonic ultimate truth, but rather about what results could be obtained from specific starting points using specific procedures. Al least, the logicians realized this. Perhaps it hasn’t penetrated the thick skulls of many mathematicians yet (it has been less than a hundred years). Certainly we can’t expect the physicists, with their little brains and their big egos, to understand the consequences for many generations. The physicists, string theorists in particular, will continue to insist that they are talking about the ultimate truth for the foreseeable future, but thanks to Lenny Susskind, we have a proof that they (the string theorists) are not.

    “Human nature has not changed for hundreds of thousands of years” —> there is not evidence of language skills from human species 200 000 years ago. And remember that mithocondial Eve and Y-chromosome Adam are estimated between 80000 and 35000 years ago.

    Please see the wikipedia entry on human evolution. My statement stands. Humans have *not* evolved significantly since the McCarthy era; if you think otherwise you are wrong.

  47. Ebgert says:


    Let me offer a different interpretation. The public can’t remember or distinguish between Lee, Peter, Lubos or Susskind. To them, they’re all “some guy”. But what they can do is smell blood. And they like it. 🙂

  48. Gina says:


    hmmm, I am glad that you agree with most of my points. You come across as being rather hostile towards physicists and mathematicians. This looks unfortunate to me. Overall, it is not dificult to create public hostility against intelectuals, scientists and various other minority and/or “elite” groups. But I do not think this
    is a very good path to follow and I doubt if this is what Peter or Lee intend to do in their critiques. Brower, right or wrong, was also a mathematician and he probably also had an “ego” ( a term coined by yet another intelectual ).

    ” The physicists, string theorists in particular, will continue to insist that they are talking about the ultimate truth…”

    So is this what all this debate about? that physicists/string theorists/mathematicians/ will concede that they are not talking about the ultimate truth, and when they do they can continue developing their scientific disciplines as before?

  49. Ebgert says:


    Do you know why Brouwer started constructivism? Or why intuistionistic logic was considered a desirable thing at all? The mathematicians who I declared to have “thick skulls” are the ones who say “No, we do not know and we do not care, and because we don’t know about it, it isn’t worth knowing.” It is this attitude that I am hostile to, and I will continue to be hostile to it, because there is a difference between the arrogance of the ignorant and the intolerance of the educated. If those who are well-informed bow down before the ignorant and say “Ignorance is just as good as knowledge, and the ignorant are as just as qualified as the knowledgable” then the present situation will continue, with the ignorant becoming glorious leaders who can lead whole disciplines astray. I dare say that if Brouwer had been a little less tolerant towards his contemporaries then mathematics might be in a much better state than it is today.

    I am not, of course, arguing that everybody should be intolerant towards everybody else. What I am saying is that there is a *clear* difference between well-formed arguments and proven theorems on the one hand and vague assertions of intellectual superiority and dismissiveness on the other hand. The two are not equally acceptable. Intolerance and hostility *should* be shown towards those who say “We have not proven what we say, but we are right because we are great and intelligent”, which is the message of the string theorists. They deserve to be greeted with intolerance and hostility. Bowing down and submitting and saying “Oh, why yes, whatever you say must be right, and you must be more intelligent than me because you say so” is *not accepable* and it must *never* happen again, because it has brought (fully deserved) humiliation to physicists.

    So is this what all this debate about? that physicists/string theorists/mathematicians/ will concede that they are not talking about the ultimate truth, and when they do they can continue developing their scientific disciplines as before?

    You do not understand. The mathematicians/physicists are following a certain procedure. If they think that they are discovering the ultimate truth, then they will do one thing. If they understand that they are not, then they will do another (different!) thing. Consequently they will not simply “continue developing their scientific disciplines as before”. Do you not understand that there is a difference between mathematics as practiced today and constructivist mathematics, for example? Do you not think that it is even worthwhile to be aware of this difference?

    You think that when somebody says: “You are doing the wrong thing because you are making a mistake. Please understand this particular point …”, that is the same as saying “I want you to unthinkingly repeat this sentence, and then carrying on doing what you were doing before.” There is a difference between these two things.

  50. Ebgert says:


    I realize I’m blabbering on a bit much here (actually, I’m kind of enjoying swapping between blog blabbering and blabbering at an actual party, which may explain why I’m so incoherent). But the stuff about Brouwer isn’t really that relevant. The point I was originally making about Goedel isn’t that his theorem killed off any possibility of future progress in math, but rather that it would be foolish to spend the careers of thousands of people on the hope that somehow sometime somebody will find some way to return to the way things were before we knew about Goedel’s theorem.

    Lubos’s argument about the landscape, and, implicitly, the thinking of the string theorists who “don’t work on the landscape”, is that maybe somehow things might someday return to the way they were before we knew about the landscape and the discretuum of vacua. That’s why I was making the analogy. Your criticism of my analogy seems to be based on the interpretation that I was saying that Goedel’s theorem killed math, so the landscape should kill string theory. I wasn’t saying that.

Comments are closed.