The March issue of the Notices of the AMS is out. Excellent summaries of the mathematical work of the 2006 Fields medalists and interviews with three of them (everybody except Perelman). By the way, does anyone know if the 2006 or 2002 ICM proceedings are available on-line (the AMS is advertising the published books for the 2006 ICM, 3 volumes for $428)? There’s also an interesting article about Jim Simons and “Math for America”, the New York City based program designed to encourage people with a mathematics background to go into teaching. The program is partially funded by a yearly charity poker tournament attended by various people in the financial industry. I’d heard from one of them about this, but didn’t realize the scale on which they were operating. Last year’s tournament brought in$2 million.

This year’s Fields Medalist Terence Tao has an article submitted to the Bulletin of the AMS entitled What is Good Mathematics? See here for commentary from David Corfield.

Last month McGill University sponsored a large public symposium on the Anthropic principle that attracted overflow crowds, and featured Paul Davies, George Efstathiou, David Gross and Lenny Susskind. Gross and Susskind made more or less precisely the same points they have been making publicly about the string theory anthropic landscape for the last 4 years. You can watch the video for yourself here. Susskind seemed a bit less of an aggressive salesman of the anthropic point of view than in the past, acknowledging that the question of how you put a measure on the multiverse (this is needed if you want to make even statistical predictions) still has no solution. Gross made his usual points that accepting the landscape is premature, since we don’t know what string theory is, don’t understand the “emergent” notions of space and time it seems to lead to, and lack consistent time-dependent states describing something consistent with what we know about cosmology.

Besides the Becker-Becker-Schwarz and Dine fat textbooks on string theory that have just come out, another one is due out soon. It is by Elias Kiritsis and is called String Theory in a Nutshell (at nearly 600 pages, kind of a big nut). Princeton University Press is bringing it out in May. One of the leading physicists chosen to give a blurb is Harvard’s Lubos Motl, who also features on the Dine book. Evidently people who write string theory textbooks and their publishers feel his endorsement will do a lot to sell the books. Some of his recent postings refer to me as a “Communist” of a more “primitive and fanatical” sort than the ones he had to contend with during the Soviet era. I’d like to make clear that my political tendencies lean more toward some combination of anarcho-syndicalism and Clintonism than Soviet Communism. He also refers to the loyal readers of my blog as “human waste” (that’s you, folks…)

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1. John Stanton says:

Dear Peter,

The agressions of a certain Harvard professor are typical of
frustrated people that did not defend themselves in situations
when it was necessary, and then, out of shame, pass
on the received agression to others in situations where they
are not appropriate.

I guess it would do him a lot of good to have a wife and kids.

John

2. Chris Oakley says:

He also refers to the loyal readers of my blog as “human waste” (that’s you, folks…)

Funny that he should say, specifically, human waste.

It does rather support the notion that he might be an extra-terrestrial.

3. Peter Woit says:

I forgot to add that, besides Princeton and Cambridge University Presses, the other media organization getting its material from Lubos is the Drudge Report. See
http://www.drudgereport.com/flash.htm

4. Clark Goble says:

Thanks for the text book list. There are lots of people who were physics majors who’d love to be able to try and get up to speed on some of the latest in theoretical physics but are unsure how to proceed. I knew Weinberg had a series of QFT texts, the fourth of which dealt with string theory. However I’d gotten some negative comments on them.

I wonder if there are any good ones on Loop Quantum Gravity?

5. Oleg Tchernyshyov says:

Greetings to all,

I happen to be the one to whom Dr. Motl recommended this blog in those rather strong terms after I spent a week at his blog. The recommendation was apparently triggered by my comment in which I pointed out that calling your opponent a communist is unwise for a couple of reasons (e.g. communists can be good scientists, too, as exemplified by Lev Landau, who was a communist at heart). That comment was promptly made to disappear by the freedom-loving host.

Anyway, here I am looking forward to learning some things from your blog.

Oleg Tchernyshyov

6. c.w. says:

on the subject of jim simons and math for america, see also the item on CBS evening news and a video interview:

http://tinyurl.com/23mxzr

7. wolf says:

Clark, Weinberg’s book consists of three volumes with the third discussing supersymmetric field theory. I haven’t read the third volume in any detail. The first two, however, are the best QFT texts I know of in terms of technical accuracy, depth, and conceptual insight. Personally, I don’t like his choice of notation and conventions, but that’s a minor issue to me.

8. Clark says:

I have his first volume although I confess I wasn’t a huge fan of it. I think it’s one of those texts that might have been better for folks already familiar with the topic rather than learning from it. (Just IMO – others disagree but I know a few people I’ve talked to came away with the same opinion) Sorry about getting that volume number wrong. I could have sworn there were four, not three.

Anyway, I just figured I’d drop a note of appreciation from the masses no longer in schooling but who maintain their physics interest. Textbook recommendations are always welcome.

9. Lee Smolin says:

The now standard textbook on loop quantum gravity is “Quantum Gravity” by Carlo Rovelli, Cambridge University Press. There are older books by Ashtekar and Gambini and Pullin and a book in press with a rigorous approach to LQG by Thomas Thiemann, also CUP.

10. gunpowder&noodles says:

I don’t agree that the Susskind et al symposium was the same old same old. In particular, Susskind was *very* much more tentative, with no declarations that his stuff is just straightforward, *standard* QFT and cosmology, and no claims that there is absolutely no alternative. For him, this was a very subdued performance. And on the other hand, Gross was much more specific than usual, pointing out for example that LS’s proposal for creating new universes probably doesn’t work. I wouldn’t be surprised to see LS start putting out papers to the effect that the landscape doesn’t work and that this is the greatest crisis in history.

11. Amos Dettonville says:

In the McGill discussion, I found it interesting that Davies and Efstathiou both posed essentially the same question to their fellow panelists, and yet the answers they elicited were quite different. Prefacing his question, Davies pointed out that if we imagine the “pre-existence” (in some Platonic sense) of a large set of physical laws, one of which is operative in our particular universe, then this set of laws is being imposed by some system of meta-laws, by a process that is, by definition, outside of the physical laws of our particular universe. His alternative is some kind of co-emergence of the universe with its laws, rather than imagining them to be imposed from some unknown (and presumably unknowable) “outside”. He then asked the other panelists to comment on this. Susskind at first demurred, and Gross basically just said the question was not (presently) within the realm of science. He likened it to the philosophical question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Susskind concurred, saying that Davies’s question was profound, but couldn’t really be addressed scientifically…

But here’s what I found interesting: The next question was from Efstathiou, who asked the other panelists what they thought the prospects were for being able to compute the prior probability of various sets of physical laws within the landscape. Now this was a question that Susskind grasped immediately, noting that he himself had included this very question on his list of important areas of study during his earlier remarks. He didn’t seem overly confident of being able to solve it any time soon, but he definitely recognized it as a legitimate and important scientific question. But…

Am I wrong, or was Efstathiou’s question really just a re-phrased version of Davies’ question – the question that had just been declared unscientific? Surely to determine prior probabilities for all the alternative universes, what’s needed is an understanding of the very meta-laws and outer machinery that Davies had asked about. The difference between the two questions was just that Davies expressed the idea verbally in terms of laws being imposed from outside, whereas Efstathiou expressed the idea in the form of an equation involving what he called the prior probabilities (corresponding to Davies’ imposition of laws from the outside). I guess Susskind was just more used to thinking about it in the terms that Efstathiou used, and didn’t recognize it in the terms that Davies used.

Gross gave a fairly consistent answer to both questions, i.e., he responded to both by saying they were not scientific – at least not at the present time. He didn’t fall for the ”delta function” trap, i.e., he wasn’t phased when Efstathiou suggested that if we discount the possibility of a (non-trivial) prior distribution of possible laws, then we are basically arguing for a delta-function distribution, aligned perfectly with the needs of a universe that has the seemingly special properties of our universe. Gross seemed to recognize this as essentially a repeat of Davies’ question, so his answer (again) was that we don’t know enough about the whole realm of possible modes of existence (why something rather than nothing?) to even think about this in a scientific way.

I didn’t sit through the all audience questions, but I was bugged by the first guy who attributed the “why something rather than nothing” question to Leibniz. It’s been a long time, but I distinctly recall this question being famously bandied about by the Scholastics in the Middle Ages (“Why be there soe much something and not much more nothing?”), and it was an ancient question even then.

12. human waste says:

About Lubos, his behavior (blogging instead of working on strings) suggests that he agrees with Peter, but cannot accept that a macho like him is scientifically impotent. Maybe he could find the solution to his problem in some spam e-mail.

More seriously, my opinion about Weinberg books:

Volume 1 (QFT introduced in a non standard way) looks worse than the standard way.
Volume 2 of Weinberg (advanced QFT) is very good.
Volume 3 (supersymmetry): people who worked on supersymmetry wrote better books.

13. island says:

I wouldn’t be surprised to see LS start putting out papers to the effect that the landscape doesn’t work and that this is the greatest crisis in history.

This being the case, and if he was true to his word, then he’d be obligated to join the Davies/Wheeler side of the “debate”… or maybe he’ll take-up preaching… 😉

As things stand now, we will be hard pressed to answer the IDists if the landscape fails.
-Lenny

Surely it would make more sense for him to ask Lee Smolin what we have in common with black holes.

14. As another sample of stinkin’ human waste, of the worst kind – I have been a communist in my early days, although I have successfully recycled myself into a social-democrat- I should say that we all need to be wary of the anti-communism of such patriots as Lubos Motl, who comes -let’s not forget it- from a ex-communist country, and was certainly the subject of brainwashing. Beware!

Cheers,
QDS

15. Greg Biffle says:

Hello Peter,

I was wondering if you and Smolin were planning on appearing on a panel with Gross, Davies, et al.

I think that it’s time that the physics establishment starts inviting you guys to String Theory conferences.

Smolin has written several papers on string theory, and a bestselling book.

Do you have any reflections on how long it will take before you are invited to participate in conferences, and add you valuable insigts to the debate?

Indeed, I imagine that this blog is read far more often than the books of Davies, Gross, et al combined.

Either your book or Smolin’s pointed out that the average age of the tenured professors is approaching sixty.

As creativity is the domain of the young, and arrogance the domain of the old who have failed to create when they were young, should not Lenny Sussking ste down?

16. Peter Woit says:

Greg,

I think it would be a good idea for talks at string theory conferences to include a more self-critical take on the subject and more serious discussion of the difficulties it faces, but I think this should be done by string theorists themselves, not by me. Lee Smolin often has pointed out that string theory conferences rarely include discussion of alternative approaches to quantum gravity, and that it would be a good thing for them to do so. I think he’s right about that, and that this is starting to change.

As for things like the Toronto symposium, which feature more philosophical talks by elder statesmen of the field like Gross and Susskind, obviously I’m not remotely in their class. They have had long careers of tremendous accomplishments, and have earned the right to have a prominent role in such things and have people pay attention to what they have to say (and possibly disagree with it…).

Some people have invited me to speak in various contexts. I’ve already done some of this and there are several events planned for the future that I’ll be involved in. I think I’m personally getting more than enough attention, and I’d prefer to see more public debate within the particle theory community about the problems of string theory, with other people doing this, not me.

I also don’t think the problems with string theory are generational or have anything to do with age. The anthropic landscape is not something being promoted just by an older group of physicists; many if not most of its proponents are younger. If anything, the problem of string fanaticism is most pronounced in the generations of physicists who have gotten their Ph.Ds. since 1984 and sometimes don’t know much about the parts of particle theory that have nothing to do with string theory. Older physicists often have seen ideas come and go, and have a more skeptical attitude about the claims made for string theory than do less-experienced youngsters.

17. The Anti-Lubos says:

This may not be appropriate here, and I hope that Peter will delete this comment if he feels that way, but I would like to advertise for a new blog that I’ve just created, Deleted by Lubos. I invite anyone who has posted a comment to Lubos’s blog only to have him subsequently delete it to come to this new blog and post what they had to say.

18. Chris Oakley says:

As creativity is the domain of the young, and arrogance the domain of the old who have failed to create when they were young, should not Lenny Susskind step down?

Whether Susskind is uncreative, superannuated and arrogant or not, I think that I speak for the majority of the human waste who post here in saying that if the Anthropic Landscape is the best you can come up with, then you should at least have the decency not to brag about it.

19. human waste:

More seriously, my opinion about Weinberg books:

Volume 1 (QFT introduced in a non standard way) looks worse than the standard way.

I would like to defend Weinberg’s Volume 1.

First, I should note that QFT is a tough subject. Much more difficult than QM. You can easily teach yourself to write Lagrangians, calculate Feynman diagrams, renormalize things, and still don’t understand exactly what you are doing. I tried to learn QFT by myself. After 10 years, half-a-dozen textbooks, and countless journal articles I still couldn’t grasp the big picture. This all changed after I read Weinberg’s Volume 1: “the lightbulb” turned on in my head. The difference was made exactly by Weinberg’s non-standard approach. He places particles first and fields second. He doesn’t worship the gauge invariance principle, but uses it as a pragmatic tool. This makes everything logical and crystal clear.

Some Weinberg’s papers written in the 1960’s are very good as well, e.g.,

S. Weinberg, “The quantum theory of massless particles”, in Lectures on particles and field theory, vol. 2 (Brandeis Summer Institute in Theoretical Physics, 1964).

Though, I would agree that Weinberg’s Volume 1 should not be your first QFT textbooks. Sometimes, especially in the 2nd part of the book his writing becomes too abbreviated for a beginner to follow. For starters, I would recommend earlier books by Schweber and Bjorken & Drell.

20. Greg Biffle says:

Hello Peter,

I understand taht you have to be nice on your blog, but what have Gross and Susskind really achieved?

What is the Gross eqution and Sussking equation?

And too, even if they did achieve great things (in higher dimensions, as we can’t see them here), does not their arrogance trump their acheivement?

For as Einstein and Socrates reminded us, are not a man’s greater achievements contained in the way they humble themselves before the unknown?

A certain arrogance has reigned the culture, and they’re all in it togther. Kaku praises Greene who praises Gross who praises Susskind, but eventually a Lubos shows up, and the bluff gets called.

You would think that Susskind would have the courage to denounce Lubos, but he doesn’t–now whay is that?

21. defense says:

Greg: What on earth are you talking about? Gross has a nobel prize and I don’t think anyone of sound mind could question that both Gross and Susskind have made major contributions. I have met both and find them each to be quite modest and friendly, not at all arrogant as you claim. Also, I can assure you that at the McGill symposium Gross most certainly did not excessively praise Susskind.

About Lubos: did it ever occur to you that maybe Gross just doesn’t care about Lubos? Maybe he just prefers to spend his time doing something other than badmouthing his collegues.

22. Peter Woit says:

Greg,

Well, Gross has a well-deserved Nobel prize for co-discovering asymptotic freedom and thus QCD, for a start. His achievements are undeniable.

Susskind has nothing on that level, but still quite a lot to his credit. One example would be Kogut-Susskind fermions.

I don’t think Susskind does not denounce Lubos out of a lack of courage. Is he in any position to denounce someone for being arrogant, not very concerned about the usual standards of what is science and what isn’t, fanatically devoted to string theory, and prone to over-the-top statements in public? This is kind of many string theorist’s problem with Lubos: as far as physics goes, he just takes many of their attitudes and beliefs to an extreme.

23. Peter Woit says:

defense,

I agree with you that it’s likely that Gross’s attitude towards Lubos is just that it’s best to try and ignore him. Do you have any insight though into why at least some string theorists think so highly of Lubos that they put endorsements from him on the cover of their books?

24. Peter Shor says:

Do string theorists actually get to decide whose endorsements get put on the cover of their books? Or is this the publisher’s prerogative?

25. Peter Woit says:

Peter Shor,

In my limited experience, publishers do allow authors to vet jacket copy, meaning that they send it to you and ask you if there is anything you strongly object to. In this case, there are two different publishers involved. I find it very difficult to believe that both publishers, besides having editors so clueless as to think that a Motl endorsement would be a good selling point, also did not let the authors know what endorsements were going on their books.

26. anon. says:

Blogdom has reached a new low when an an uninformed commenter can call Gross and Susskind arrogant and claim they haven’t accomplished anything. Greg Biffle, you might want to reconsider your own arrogance: you clearly know nothing about the last four decades of particle physics and have no right to judge those who do. You might want to read up on the development of the Standard Model in the 70s and reconsider whether to take Gross and Susskind seriously.

27. defense says:

Peter,

I really can’t speculate as to why some string theorists might want Lubos’ endosement on their books. It may be, as you would argue, that they endorse some toned-down version of his position. It may also be that they simply don’t follow his blog and aren’t familiar with the kind of stuff he says there. Or maybe they respect him as a theorist and are simply willing to disentagle his published work from his blogging activities.

28. LDM says:

Evidently people who write string theory textbooks and their publishers feel his endorsement will do a lot to sell the books.

Well perhaps, but personally, I tend to ignore anything written by Lubos. Any endorsement by him I could never trust to be well reasoned or balanced, so I simply ignore it. I would also question the business acumen of any publisher that used him as an endorser, given the negative comments on his blog and elsewhere.

29. woit says:

One of the wonderful aspects of running a blog like this is that every so often someone decides to engage in a campaign of harassment by repeatedly posting racist or otherwise obnoxious comments. By using different names and anonymized internet addresses, they can keep this up for quite a while.

Someone from the University of Toronto at Scarborough has been doing this quite a bit today, and you may see their comments here every so often when I’m not logged in and able to delete them. The computer people at the University of Toronto tell me that they think they have identified the person doing this, so perhaps some action can be taken that will convince them to stop this harassment, if necessary through lodging a complaint with the police.

Ah, the joys of the internet….

30. Chris W. says:

Amos,

What you pointed out—the differing responses by Susskind, but not Gross, to Davies’ and Efstathiou’s distinct formulations of essentially the same question—is revealing of what seems to be a widespread syndrome. It can be described as a propensity to mask philosophical confusion behind what appears at first to be a well posed physical or mathematical question.

Consider the phrase “prospects .. for being able to compute the prior probability of various sets of physical laws within the landscape”. The obvious question to ask here is, compute with what, if not a prior set of physical laws (or, if you like, meta-laws)?. If one admits this, then one would have to explain what point there is in talking about “sets of physical laws” within in the landscape, instead of talking about a single physical law (or single set of laws?) that gives rise to the landscape, with its implications—or lack thereof—for the observable universe.

This episode strikes me as indicative of the sheer dismissiveness and indifference that Susskind and many of colleagues seem to show towards any kind of serious critical philosophical reflection on what they’re doing. This seems pretty darn close to what Einstein had in mind when he referred to a certain physicist as someone who could calculate, but couldn’t think.

31. Jeff Moreland says:

Maybe the publishers of these stringy textbooks feel that Lubos is well known for controversy, and that his name will help sell the books, regardless of what people think of him.

32. mclaren says:

Doesn’t anyone find it disturbing that idle speculations about the landscape can be described as a “theory”? Maybe there is a multiverse, maybe there isn’t. Maybe we’re only one of many universes floating in higher-dimension space, maybe we aren’t. And maybe there are pink unicorns on some planet circling a star in the Andromeda galaxy and maybe there aren’t. None of that baseless daydreaming qualifies as a “theory.”

Show us how oi disconfirm the hypthesis. Then you’ve got a theory. If there’s no way to experimentally disconfirm it, it’s not a “theory,” it’s idle speculation, smoke and mirrors, all hot air with no substance.

The other thing I find objectionable is calling all those empty slots for physical constants “parameters.” If we called ’em what they really are, “fudge factors,” I bet people’s opinions would change in a hurry.

VERSION 1: “By proper selection of parameters, one of the 10^500 possible universes can be made to match experimental observations.”

VERSION 2: “By proper selection of fudge factos, one of the 10^500 fudge factor outputs can be made to match experiment observations.”

Version 2 doesn’t sound so good, does it?

33. Pindare says:

Most of the Proceedings of the 2002 ICM have been posted to the arxiv. Some for the 2006 one too, try
http://front.math.ucdavis.edu/search?a=&t=&q=icm&c=&n=40&s=Listings

Also note that Tao’s “What is Good Mathematics?” will appear soon on the arxiv with feedback incorporated (at least he says so on his website, the version you’re pointing to being dubbed ‘old version’).

34. anon on the hudson says:

Clintonism!!! God help us. Did you enjoy Clinton’s bombing of the Serbian civilian population(and the chinese embassy which could have trigered WW3)

Back to Math/Physics. Okounkov claims he never participated in the high powered russian math olympiads I thought this was an interesting comment. I wonder what percentage of current elite mathematicians and physcisists participated in Math olympiads. Did Thurtston and Witten participate in math olympiads. If so how well did the do.

Supposedly, Stallings entered Princeton graduate school with an English degree. I was told he majored in English at arkansas. Maabe I got this story wrong. It t’s been a while since I was told this by one of his Princeton classmates(a classmate who has since passed on)

35. jeff says:

In defense of lubos motl, his criticisms of lqg etc are interesting because they’re always rather specific about the physics.

36. poochie says:

You realize, folks, that Lubos-related discussion accounts for at least a third of the traffic on this site. Peter, if you banned Lubos related discussions, your hit counts would probably drop like a rock.

Peter-vs-Lubos is the “Itchy & Scratchy Show” of the Quantum Gravity world.

37. M says:

jeff, not always. For example the answers by Smolin in the (undeleted!) comments to

http://motls.blogspot.com/2006/02/doubly-special-relativity-is-just.html

show that he missed the point. And maybe lqg experts stopped answering to Lubos when he later started putting too many insults.

38. woit says:

Jeff,

M is right, I think if you try and seriously read what Lubos has to say about LQG (as about most topics), it’s a mishmash of some valid comments and some complete misunderstandings (with a heavy helping of insults thrown in). He does do a good job of acting like he knows what he’s talking about, even when he doesn’t, and has impressed many people this way.

poochie is right that the Lubos discussion is pretty absurd. The guy is incredibly entertaining though, and the phenomenon of string theorists putting endorsements from him on their books still strikes me as weird beyond belief.

39. Greg Biffle says:

Hello All,

I understand that the seventies were a great time for physics.

But it saddens me that that gives Gross & Susskind license to monoplize the future of physics too, when the truth is, they have stood idly by while the vast string theory juggernaut rolled itself up into a ball that has so much gravitation mass that it sucks the lion’s share of NSF funding.

Do we really need more string theory books with blurbs from lubos?

Why is it that theoretical physicists–the supreme gate keepers of the Laws of Nature and Mind of God–have not the power to remove Lubos’s comments?

Lubos is far more famous for his politcial, and sometimes racist, rantings, than he is for physics. He is far more famous for leaving Harvard than perfoming any physics while there.

And yet, in Lenny & David’s ST world, his endorsement is worth being printed on the back of a book. . .

Jut what is going on here?

40. Chris Oakley says:

He is far more famous for leaving Harvard than perfoming any physics while there.

I’d hate it if Harvard were to kick him out. It would make the job of anti-stringers so much harder.

41. Peter,

I bought Michael Dine’s book, and, so far at least, like it quite a bit.

I have a theory as to why Lubos’s blurbs wind up on such books. Suppose we stipulate that it’s impossible to have a rational discussion with Lubos (except maybe for the elect) and that his views on a whole range of issues are bizaare, fanatical, wrong, and expressed in terms that would lead to a short life in less civilized neighborhoods. The fact remains that he is a very bright guy who is willing to read books very carefully and give the authors detailed and helpful advice.

If he likes your book, you get a nice blurb. His blurb on Dine’s book told me exactly what I wanted to know about it. Sieberg and Arkani-Hamed wrote nice blurbs too, but their info was far less relevant to my decision to buy it.

42. Q says:

Lubos does have a sense of humor. He has the funny Antiworld physics song playing in the background on his blog:

He was sitting there,
floating in the air….
With a smile on his face …
we jumped into hyperspace. …
He was an anti-man.
He lived in an anti-world.

43. Corfield, in the remarks Peter cites, says, “I’ve been pushing for philosophers of mathematics to address the problems of values other than truth.” Such values lead naturally to… Hollywood!

44. woman says:

“but cannot accept that a macho like him is scientifically impotent.”

scientifically? Why does he hates women?

45. human waste says:

“scientifically impotent”: I mean that he likes hard-core science (where everything is either right or wrong), string theory started as a hard-core science, but it now looks not-even-wrong. Since getting hard-core results seems now unlikely, barking against the landscape and biting Woit and Smolin is a good alternative.

46. Greg Biffle says:

Questions to ponder are:

Would the advancement physics be helped or hurt if:

1) logic and reason were held superior to hype and speculation
2) lubos motl had to back up his words with facts
3) kaku/davies/susskind, now in their sixties, stepped down with their religious prophecies to make way for simple logic and reason
4) NSF funded proposals based on logic, reason, and elegance, instead of how many time the words “m-theory” or “String theory” appeared
5) Ed Witten/Kaku/Susskind/Gross/Davies/et al. took some responsibility for the crisis and provided some moral leadership, humbling themselves before physics and reality, and admitting, as Smolin and Woit point out, ST abject and complete failure to advance physics so far
6) Prestigious university presses stopped using Lubos Motl as a referee and blurb-generator until he published a single legible paper in physics, or even a blog post that advances physics
7) Physicists such as Woit and Smolin were given more weight in the realm of physics than journalists such as KC Cole et al, who freely attack the truth of their books, and still find employment at prestigious institutions of learning and publications.
8) Polanski, Greene, Witten, Kaku, Davies, Susskind, or any one of thousandn of string theorists or NSF agents who read this blog stepped forth to stand up for science, reason, and truth, and pass judgment on KC Cole, Lubos, and the decaying bureacracy that was just yesterday the tragic String Theory juggernaut.

We all know what will be best for science, and it brings to mind the words of Max Planck,

An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually
winning over and converting its opponents: What does happen is that the opponents gradually die out. -Max Planck

The true genius of the string theorists is that instead of making ST the domain of an indvidual, as the advancement of science has ever been, they wed it to groupthink and immortal government bureaucracies. Thus even when they are gone, thousands of snarky postcos, who don’t even believe in ST, will yet defend it as a means to get a job.

The only prerequisite to become a string theorist is the iwllingness to sacrifice a life of truth and beauty and physics for power and prestige, and that is the trap lubos has fallen into.

For what happens when the false reality comes crumbling down?

They lash out at not those who are bringing it down, but those who are noticing that it is tumbling on down, such as Smolin and Woit.

There’s a lot of nervousness out there, as King Sussking and Witten and Gross still wield so much bureaucratic power. Every young physicists is asking themselves,

“I know it’s all BS, but if I want a job and a family–I’ve got to go with the flow, and echo the ST mantra–give us a year, or two, or thirty, or a thousand, and we will figure it out, because we are smarter than you.”

Imagine the poor, tormented souls, but such is the price one pays for going into physics and then playing politics to get ahead. For “those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.” Let’s wish them all the best–let’s hope that NSF stops breeding this malicious dependency on groupthink and snarky, mean-spirited mythology at conferences in Aspen and Prague.

And let’s all look forward to tomorrow’s renaissance in physics that shall go not to politicians, but to Smolin’s “seers”–those who grappble with the big questions–those who walk right on by the meaningless, masturabatory math as Odysseus sailed on by the sirens, and start approaching physics as that which it is–physics–simple, elegant physical models underlying reality.

47. Peter Woit says:

Greg,

Please don’t post rants like this here, it’s really not helpful at all, since so much of what you write is highly exaggerated and caricatured. Besides getting some people’s names wrong, you are completely misjudging many people’s influence. For example, I don’t think there are any physicists at all who care in the slightest what KC Cole thinks. This kind of thing just convinces people that critics of string theory are as far gone and fanatical as Lubos, just in the opposite direction, please don’t do it here any more.

48. Greg Biffle says:

Thanks Peter.

You’re doing a lot more for the advancemnt of physics than perhaps you even know.

Your spirit brings to mind a poem by Rudyard Kipling–“If.”

If
A poem by Rudyard Kipling

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

Best,

Greg

49. Ari Heikkinen says:

“He also refers to the loyal readers of my blog as “human waste” (that’s you, folks…)”

I don’t think anyone should take his rants too seriously, as he seems to consider anyone who disagrees with his conclusions on any matter (and I don’t even mean string theory here) a crackpot or an idiot.

It’s freedom of speech folks, ofcourse, but you don’t have to take everything you read seriously.