When I started reading the thing I wasn’t expecting much, but figured it would be some sort of public service to take the time to identify what Unzicker had to say that made sense and what didn’t, and then write something distinguishing the two here. After a while though, it became clear that Unzicker is just a garden-variety crank, of a really tedious sort. Best advice about the book would be the usual in this situation, just ignore it, since no good can possibly come from wasting time engaging with this nonsense. I have no idea why any publisher, in Germany or here, thought publishing this was a good idea.
If you must know though, here’s a short summary of what’s in the book. The first half is about gravitation, cosmology and astrophysical observations. Unzicker’s obsessive idea, shared with innumerable other cranks, is that any scientific theory beyond one intuitively clear to them must be nonsense. Similarly, any experimental result beyond one where they can easily understand and analyze the data themselves is also nonsense. He’s a fan of Einstein, although thinks general relativity somehow needs to be fixed, something to do with it getting phenomena involving small accelerations wrong. There’s endless complaints about how cosmology involves too many parameters, and dark matter/energy shows that physicists really understand nothing.
When he gets to particle physics, we learn that things went wrong back when physicists started invoking a symmetry that wasn’t intuitively obvious, isospin symmetry. According to Unzicker, symmetries in particle theory are all a big mistake, “the standard model barely predicts anything”, “the standard model can actually accommodate every result”, and endless other similar nonsense. As for the experimental side of things, he takes a comment from Feynman about renormalization in QED, claims it means that there is no understanding of production of photons at high energy, then uses this to describe as “It’s just ridiculous” data analysis at HEP experiments. High energy physics experiments are all just a big scam, with the physicists involved unwilling to admit this, since they’ve wasted so much money on them.
The last part of the book contains lots of criticism of string theory, etc., much of it parroting my book and blog. According to Unzicker:
Woit does a great job in debunking the string and SUSY crap. Unfortunately, he has pretty mainstream opinions with respect to the Standard Model.
Well, maybe he does get something right… I have to admit that one of the things that every so often makes me wonder if I’m completely misguided, and maybe there is a lot more value to strings/SUSY/branes/extra dimensions etc. than I think, is reading rants like Unzicker’s.
So, my strong advice would be to do your best to ignore this. Luckily, there’s an infinitely better book coming out here in the US at the same time: Jim Baggott’s Farewell to Reality, which I highly recommend. It seems likely that the two books will get reviewed together, giving Unzicker far more attention than he deserves. If so, at least this will provide a real-life experiment indicating whether book reviewers can tell sense from nonsense.
Last Updated on