Book market flooded with garden-variety cranks
In 2010, a German conspiracy theorist and high school teacher named Alexander Unzicker released his anti-physics tirade that was reformatted as a book. The title was "Vom Urknall zum Durchknall" which I would translate as "From the Big Bang to Their Big Butts' Being Banged" but that was translated as "Bankrupting Physics" by the unimaginative translator. The English translation will appear tomorrow. You may pre-order it.
Most of the 21 chapters have titles saying things like "something is rotten in the state of physics", "why cosmology is going the wrong way", "how physics became a junk drawer", "branes, multiverses, and other supersicknesses: physics goes nuts", "string theory: how the elite became a sect and mafia", "what's wrong with the physics business", "get ready for the crash". You get the point.
I haven't read and I won't read the book because I consider the table of contents to be fully sufficient to know what's inside the book. It's surely not the first time when most of the 20th century physics is being trashed by an aggressive stupid asshole who has no clue about science. But a review of the book written by a TRF reader may be published later.
Alexander Unzicker is undoubtedly the most accurate German counterpart of his U.S.-based "colleagues", especially Lee Smolin and Peter Woit. I am totally confident that well over 95% of the readers of these two hacks agree with this assessment. That's why the readers of the U.S. crackpot – the one who is the grandson of a top Nazi official in a European country – had to be stunned when they saw this review of Unzicker's book.
We learn that Unzicker is a garden-variety crank and his book is depressing, tedious, nonsense, worth ignoring, unpublishable, and (which is most damning) parroting Woit's crackpot blog and book. Well, yes, it is parroting it very well, indeed. The only problem with Woit's criticism is that he is attacking his intellectual twin brother. We learn that Woit is sometimes aware of this fact:
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.However, Woit always forgets that he's the same dull pile of feces as his fellow garden-variety crank from Germany and continues to do what he is best at – polluting the intellectual landscape by hateful lies and demagogy.
A difference between Unzicker and Woit is that Unzicker rejects about 20-30 more years of modern theoretical physics than Woit does. However, if I compared Unzicker and Smolin, even this possible difference would largely disappear because Smolin hates much of the 1900-1950 physics as well while Unzicker has a positive attitude to some of it, too. They're more or less exact equivalents in this respect.
Concerning the Woit-Unzicker difference, I have mixed feelings about the question which of these two crackpots is worse. On one hand, Unzicker must be even more stupid than Woit because he misunderstands – and slings mud at – old and therefore more elementary physics insights than Woit. On the other hand, Unzicker is more internally consistent than Woit. He distributes the "initial moment" when physics allegedly began to move in a wrong direction over much of the 20th century. On the contrary, Woit loves to create the picture that theoretical physics took the wrong direction exactly at one moment in the early 1980s, just when the physics job market determined that Peter Woit, incapable of even learning string theory, is – diplomatically speaking – a worthless pile of stinky shit who hasn't contribute anything and who probably won't contribute anything (this prediction remains as rock-solid today as it was 30 years ago).
Such an abrupt change of the direction of physics research, moreover one that is so exactly correlated with the events in Woit's life, is a remarkable claim. Everyone who actually understands physics knows that there has been no "existential" discontinuity or conceptual change in the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s. Modern physics has been steadily marching and doing remarkable technical progress but it has continued to build on the spirit and philosophical foundations that have been around for a century or so. Moreover, the AdS/CFT and other developments have taught us that string theory as the only consistent theory of quantum gravity is really physically equivalent to gauge theories, the key addition to theoretical particle physics from the 1960s (at least when both sides of the equivalence are applied to some specific classes of problems), so it is utterly ludicrous to say that one of them is right and one of them is wrong.
It means that Peter Woit is displaying some shocking inconsistency when he tries to talk positively about the physics of the 1960s but negatively about physics of the following decades. The actual facts don't allow any such inconsistency.
Moreover, Woit hasn't sold a single copy of his own rant by his occasionally positive words about gauge theories etc. The hardcore crackpots who read his book and blog – and yes, all these people are just stupid scum – tolerated and suffered through the positive words about gauge theories. These positive words – something that could have been copied from every relevant undergraduate course or a popular presentation of the physics developed 50 years ago – were the "necessary evil" for them. What they bought the book for were the hostile dishonest rants against physics from the 1970s through the present. And when it comes to any of these topics that really matter for the ability of the books to be sold – and influence imbeciles, including those employed in the media – Woit and Smolin are exactly equivalent to Unzicker. That's also why Unzicker's book was praised by German counterparts of those who have praised the two American Shmoits' books, e.g. by the incompetent journalists in the German edition of Scientific Americans and maverick astronomers such as the Czech-German anti-dark-matter warrior Pavel Kroupa (Kroupa is surely in a much higher league than Unzicker but he just agreed to endorse the Unzicker jerk).
So I urge Mr Woit to stop his breathtaking hypocrisy. If he admits that Mr Unzicker and his "work" are dirty garbage, then it is completely obvious that the very same statement applies to Mr Woit, Mr Smolin, and their "work". All the readers of "Not Even Wrong" know this much as well as I do. Germany is able to compete in most industries and as we can see, the industry of hardcore anti-physics demagogues and populist crackpots addressing their "work" to the ultimate bottom of the human society is undoubtedly among those in which Germany is competitive.
And that's the memo.