Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung article

Yesterday, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - a German counterpart of The New York Times - published an

on the first page of their culture section about the controversy between Peter Woit and your humble correspondent involving fundamental questions in theoretical physics. It is not exactly a thoughtful story but I think it is a much better story than the weird recent texts in The Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal because a sufficiently bright reader may figure out that most of the celebrated critics of string theory are crackpots or simpletons who produce either nothing or garbage science. He or she will figure it out not from the physics content because there is no physics content in the text but from the sociological links that are sketched.

The author of the German article does not exactly know America well: his "University of Cambridge is Massachusetts" is actually called "Harvard University".

I am afraid that the last sentence of the text is true. Compromises with very stupid people and crackpots - compromises that will destroy the very essence of science - will only be impossible as long as there are people like me. As you know, virtually all well-known theoretical physicists think the very same things about these "alternatives" and "critics" as I do. But they won't tell you because they are convinced that the "alternatives" and "critics" are not even worth their words.

Susskind's interview

The only exception is Lenny Susskind who has described (nice audio about the vacuum energy and other things, go to 2:56) the basic facts about a new book by another physicist with initials L.S. - The Trouble with Physics by Lee Smolin - quite accurately:

  • There’s another fellow who has his own theory, I won’t tell you who his name is or what his theory is, but he writes lots and lots of theories and his theories go glub, glub, glub to the bottom of the sea before he even gets a chance to put them out there. Physicists don’t take him seriously, he’s angry and so he’s also writing a book complaining...

Susskind also mentioned Not Even Wrong the book:

  • You’re talking probably about some of the books and blogs that have come out in very very big criticism of [string theory]. Well, I think one would have to say that some of it is due to a certain kind of grumpiness of people who... um...

    Well, for example, there’s one fellow who failed as a physicist, never made it as a physicist, became a computer programmer, has been angry all of his life that he never became a physicist and that physicists ignore him, so he’s now taking out his revenge by writing diatribes and polemics against string theory.

Such a policy of saying no comments is a typical consequence of the famous physicists' life in intellectual isolation. When crackpots combine their forces with journalists relatively to whom even P.W. is "intelligent", you may guess what will happen.




Another way to express the same message to the polite big shots: the more silent you will be, the more loud the blunt opinionmakers such as Susskind or your humble correspondent will have to be. Be sure that for many people, including professors of mathematics, Lenny's interview is the first place in the official media from which they can learn that P.W. and L.S. are jokes. Such information will be a complete news for most of them. People, including those with degrees, tend to trust the media, and because the media have been producing crap about physics most of the last few years, it more or less means that most people who rely on media inevitably believe this crap.

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