Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Marcelo Gleiser: A tear at the edge of creation

Just one day ago, I heard the name of "Marcelo Gleiser" for the first time. A TRF reader asked me about a new book that slings mud at high-energy physics.

I haven't read it and I won't read it. I have exceeded my life-long quota for reading similar garbage by many orders of magnitude.

And today, I already see this guy promoting the result of his "work". It shouldn't be shocking that a focal point of the crackpot echo chamber, Nude Socialist, gave space to this Gentleman:
The imperfect universe: Goodbye, theory of everything
At the beginning, we learn the same "catchy" story that we have heard from Lee Smolin. Gleiser tells us that fifteen years ago, he also would be working on a unified theory, just like Smolin. Sadly, the publication record shows that his work on unified theories hasn't led to substantial results. And 19 cits per paper is really bad: that's a method to collect citations as "noise".

Following paragraphs of Gleiser's diatribe in Nude Socialist are dedicated to an incoherent mixture of facts and speculations about the changing opinions on the unified theory (and God) throughout the history of science.

But pretty quickly, Gleiser gets to his main "point". He says that the left-right symmetry and the charge conjugation symmetry (and CP) are broken, so it means that all symmetries must be broken, their breaking is vital for all the life, and this vital breaking implies that there can't be any final theory. Goodbye, unified theory.

Unfortunately, every single one of these three would-be implications is completely illogical. First, some symmetries are broken - C, P, CP, baryon number - but others are exact - CPT, rotational symmetry, electromagnetic U(1), (local) Lorentz symmetry. It is manifestly wrong to argue that "all symmetries are broken" or "imperfect".

Second, some symmetries are helpful for some forms of life, while others are harmful to these forms of life but helpful to others. The charge conservation protects all the animals against spontaneous ionization - so a symmetry may be good for life. The CP violation leads to some specific decays that can increase the rate of cancer - so symmetry breaking may be bad for life. Of course, we would also find exact symmetries that are bad for life and broken symmetries (such as electroweak symmetry) that are good or essential for life. All the combinations exist. The statement that "symmetry breaking is always good for life" is just wrong.

Third, even if it were right that all symmetries are broken, and all such breaking were vital for life, it wouldn't follow that one can't find the final unifying theory of all matter and interactions. These things have clearly nothing to do with each other. We can guess, look, and test theories with unbroken symmetries as well as those with broken symmetries.

In fact, it is very important to realize that a symmetry with a spontaneously broken symmetry is equally beautiful as a theory where the same symmetry is unbroken: it is just a different solution of the same theory so the theory can't be less pretty! The laymen often misunderstand these points but it's bad for the self-described physicists to be equally ignorant.

This guy is clearly an idiot. Most Nude Socialist commenters agree that he is just another example of the fable about the fox and the grapes: the fox tried to get three grapes, he failed, and thus he decided that they had to be sour. Much like Smolin, Gleiser claims that because he has been a failure as an individual, all of physics has to be a failure, too.

Via Olda K.

2 comments:

  1. Lunatics promoting junk like this tend to be the same ones promoting "man-made climate change" "science."

    That's fine with me.

    I wish more authors of this type of material would promote "climate change science"!

    These authors add a lot of credibility to reasons why NOT to believe in "man-made climate change"

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  2. D?mn, 23 cits/paper and he's a jerk? Is that how you lavishly treat yourselves in T Phys? (Ok, right, you can be a jerk for a load of different reasons :-) ) I'd be in blissful heaven if I had 2 cits/paper! (And I'd be a boss.)

    Anyway, I demand a TOE. Everything demands it. No TOE, no raison d'être for Physics (and so, maybe for mankind). Maybe we're all asking too much from you guys, but that's why you get the LHCs and everyting.

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