Warning: There’s not much science in this posting, just mostly people behaving badly. You would be well advised to skip this one, unless you find this kind of thing entertaining…
Long ago, as a public service, I set up a posting to hold comments censored by Lubos Motl, since his preferred way of dealing with people who make comments he finds hard to answer is to delete them. It appears that now a place for inconvenient comments censored by Clifford Johnson at his blog Asymptotia is also needed. If you have a copy of a substantive comment deleted from there or want to discuss one of these, you can use the comment section here.
Since the first thing censored was one of my comments, I’ll provide a little background, then reproduce the censored material I have access to.
This exchange began with this comment from Clifford, which seemed to me to be little more than an out-of-control personal attack and rant, so my only response to it was:
As time goes on and the failure of string theory becomes more apparent, you are starting to rant in a manner which is converging with that of your junior colleague at Harvard. You should get a grip.
Not very long after I wrote this comment, the following comment appeared from Lubos Motl:
Dear Mr Woit,
your answer to Prof Mark Srednicki is absurd. The quark theory that Mark was writing about talks about physics at essentially the same energy scale as the effective theories with hundreds of hadrons from the first part of his story, namely hundreds of MeV. Also, the quark theory would be hard to test using the normal experiments at the QCD scale – which is essentially a low-energy scale – because one would have to calculate very complicated properties about bound states of quarks, and there are many of them etc. QCD is only easily testable at higher energies where it becomes weakly coupled.
Mark’s gedanken experiment was designed to be isomorphic to the situation of string theory and if there is a difference, then the difference is that the natural scale of string theory is way above the observable scale so that the gap in string theory is greater than in the nuclear story, not in the other way around as you incorrectly wrote. Every physicist who has read Mark’s comment knows it and understands it. The only reason why you argue that there is a significant difference between the two examples is that you don’t understand how these theories actually work.
The fact that you find quantum gravity uninteresting is not surprising for me at all. At any rate, the key arguments – the mathematical robust ones – about questions such as the information loss came from string theory and everyone who was interested in these things – such as Stephen Hawking – knows this, too. Hawking admitted that the information is preserved primarily because of the AdS/CFT correspondence.
Concerning the anthropic principle, every scientist who has a sufficient talent and who has looked into it understands that there have emerged all kinds of reasons – not just pure string theory research – to think that the anthropic picture could be correct which is why this possibility must be seriously investigated, together with other possibilities. The people who are completely ignorant about everything could of course share your simple-minded and radical opinions but I think it would be a very bad idea if the people who are ignorant were deciding about the direction of the research done by the people who are not ignorant. You are effectively confessing that your goal is to manipulate people who can be easily manipulated – because they know nothing about the current state of knowledge in high-energy physics – and use them as a political force. I think it is deeply immoral and unscientific.
Dear Clifford, your value has increased in my eyes after the individual above compared you to me!
All the best
This was followed by a similar comment attacking Smolin for what he had written about the black hole information paradox, and Smolin responded with a short and polite answer (I don’t have copies of these).
Clifford has edited my original comment, removing “in a manner which is converging with that of your junior colleague at Harvard”, and replacing it with “…snip … – personal reference deleted -cvj”. He has also removed the comments from Lubos and the response by Smolin, replacing them with this comment. Here he claims to have deleted these comments without reading them, since, for undisclosed reasons, he has a policy of deleting all comments from Lubos. Whatever the reason for this policy, he does want to make clear to everyone that he has a high opinion of Lubos as a scientist, and for his work at the Reference Frame “widening the discussion” about physics:
Since I have a great deal of respect for his ability as a physicist, however, if he was making a physics point in his comments, perhaps he might make it on his blog and link to this discussion via trackback. I thank him for his physics contributions and widening the discussion.