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Would it make sense for the current Academia to fire Peter Higgs?

He's a nice chap but my answer is Yes

Watch the live broadcast of the physics Nobel ceremony now.

I turned it off once a woman talked about "darkness" and mentioned energy-saving light bulbs, sorry, this was just over the edge. What does this junk have to do with the Higgs boson?

Wikipedia top: today, the main page of Wikipedia features the article on the AdS/CFT correspondence. I founded this article in May 2004 from my workstation at Harvard. See the original stub; "Lumidek" is also myself. Lots of work on that article has been done afterwords, indeed... ;-)
Two days ago, The Guardian published an interesting interview with Peter Higgs:
Peter Higgs: I wouldn't be productive enough for today's academic system
Let me make it clear that I find him nice, relaxed, pleasant to be with (I shortly shared an office in Santa Barbara with him) and I have never had the slightest doubt that the Higgs/BEH mechanism is right and the Higgs boson exists. I sympathize with his slight disrespect to the honors (like the knighthood in 1999) and disagree with him on tons of other things (later).

But he says he would have been sacked – and he has been almost sacked several times at a few points in the past – because he wouldn't be productive enough for the current system. I tend to think he is right and – although it will be inconvenient for the numerous fans he has earned – I think that the system might be right to fire him.

Don't get me wrong: I am surely among the last ones who would endorse the policy of the obligatory churning out of many papers, XY papers a year, and so on. I don't think that science works in this uniform way. I don't think that a researcher is a construction worker who can be expected to lay the same number of bricks per unit time all the time. I don't think that all thinkers or scientists have the same strategy, rhythm, or tendencies to accumulate results. In fact, I am convinced that they shouldn't be the same.

But I also think it is an invalid conspiracy theory to suggest that the contemporary research institutions actually "require" something like that. I think that they don't and I have arguably quite some experience with that. Top physicists know very well that extremely important insights and discoveries may be born (and are often born) in the heads of thinkers who operate very differently than the average.

But there is a strong competition in the market today – stronger than 50 years ago – and I believe it is not a wrong thing at all. So those who are supposed to get a job – or a good job – must look superior in some respect. That's just an obvious implication of the comments above.

Many successful researchers are churning out papers – some of them "usually great papers", some of them "mostly average papers", some of them "subpar papers" – but it's understood very well that there are others who don't churn out many papers. But the very fact that someone doesn't churn out many papers is not a sign that he is a superior scientist.

So some other features – assorted types of an X-factor – may be considered and are often considered in the hiring decisions on top of the publication lists and citation counts. A person may just look extremely ingenious and bright or a single paper he or she has published may look like a revelation; or the candidate may look unusually broad and knowledgeable about everything, contributing (formally or informally) to many research programs; he or she may be known for having made no mistakes; he or she may have very ambitious plans that just seem to have a rather realistic chance to come true; he or she may be known for having overcome some high enough obstacles in the past, and so on, and so on.

But if someone doesn't have any of these virtues, well, it may be a problem for him or her to face the competition. The right way to deal with the competitiveness of the field is not to abandon any quality standards.

Peter Higgs' papers discovering the Higgs boson are clever, right, and were novel – although he wasn't really competition-free in the early 1960s. At some moment, these papers could have looked like a contribution of the magnitude that Peter Higgs would make every decade. But it just wasn't the case. Peter Higgs turned into a one-hit wonder; Francois Englert, to mention another example, has done much more later work on various other other portions of modern physics (and some physicists have done much more than himself, of course).

I do think that universities and research institutions should hire researchers because of their potential to make important enough (or many) findings in the future. And even when Higgs was already famous because of this Higgs boson papers, e.g. in the 1970s and later, it could actually make sense not to hire him if he hadn't had a research job by then.

Of course, this is a bit speculative scenario because after the publication of the Higgs boson papers, Peter Higgs was undoubtedly on the roll and there were many criteria among those above that justified his job at a good enough institution. But if he were jobless and without an apparent future potential, it's just normal for an institution not to hire such folks. Well, sometimes a famous personality may be useful even without results – especially if he or she is a great unifier, inspiration, or manager – but research institutions are generally neither museums nor mausoleums.

Peter Higgs mentions that his risks of being fired would be amplified by some political or social reasons. 50 years ago, he would sympathize with the student movement, anti-apartheid activism. He is dreading the British plans to leave the EU and would prefer an independent Scotland within the EU. He dislikes the term "God particle", hasn't owned a TV throughout most of his life, and wasn't impressed by The Big Bang Theory, the CBS sitcom, after he saw it on the first television in his life.

I think that it has always been completely wrong to harass or punish researchers for something that should be unrelated to their work – like their political attitudes. I have never had the slightest problems with my Marxist and other colleagues; and I would even say that these colleagues among physicists have never had the slightest problems with me. If I overlook minor episodes like Eva Silverstein's shock after she learned that there were differences between the male and female brains from me, it was always only some feminist and reverse racist bitches in other departments who were exporting problems of this type. Ideal physicists just don't create these problems and the real-world physicists are not that infinitely far from the ideal ones, at least not the real-world physicists in good enough departments.

I am saying these things despite the fact that (as you know) I disagree with all the political attitudes associated with Peter Higgs two paragraphs ago (and it's clearly people of my type who are being harassed today – much more harassed than Peter Higgs has ever been). I wouldn't sympathize with the left-wing student movement of the 1960s; I wouldn't think it was right to become obsessive about the "fight against apartheid", especially not in countries like the U.K. that have never experienced it (and my understanding is that "apartheid" means nothing else than "segregation" which I view as one of the legitimate options how to organize the co-existence of several cultures), and like my current prime minister, I would be dreading the possibly looming duty to attend Mandela's funeral; I think that the U.K. is somewhere in between the Continental Europe and the U.S. and it's naturally bad for the U.K. to abandon much of its sovereignty and to be controlled by many pathological tendencies that exist in the Continental Europe today (yes, I would probably vote for UKIP in the U.K.); I moderately like the term "God particle"; I moderately like television as a concept and watch it every other day or so; and I am a superhuge fan of The Big Bang Theory, having seen all the episodes and having watched the average episode 3.14159 times.

But such things unrelated to the profession simply shouldn't influence the hiring and firing decisions. A country becomes a totalitarian country once it becomes normal for almost all employers to adopt similar filters. In Czechoslovakia of the 20th century, we've had way too much experience with similar politically flavored hiring and firing decisions. I am sure that the atmosphere was much more tolerant in the early 1960s than it is now and it is the political soulmates of Peter Higgs who are the Gestapo cops today (mostly operating from outside the physics departments, however).

Politics aside, I do think it's right the the hiring committees are looking at "something like the quality" of the candidates. I think that they're looking at a much broader set of the candidates' possible virtues (beyond the number of publications and even beyond the citation counts) than what is often being caricatured. I think that they're mostly doing it well, at least in the good departments. And I think that despite Peter Higgs' likability and newly earned fame, a department could justifiably fire (or refuse to hire) someone who would be exactly like himself.

And that's the memo.

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reader anony said...

I think there are multiple ways that a researcher can be viewed as productive. However, it appears that there is additional pressure to find ways to attract funding that didn't exist previously.

reader LB said...

The debt I refer to is the state pension and civil service pension.

The state owes 7,000 bn (present value)

Annual increase - 734 bn

Total taxes in comparions, 600 bn per annum,.

So in part you are correct. You are wrong on the nominee accounts - that's held in trust.

You are correct on the theft aspect. A desperate government in hock for billions will steal purely to keep the ponzi going. See Hungary, Polland, Ireland,France, Bulgaria, UK (dividend tax), Argentina....

On the next bit about recapitalisation. It's about to get more difficult. It's called a bail in. See Cyprus for the example. CDS (credit default swaps) are changing to include bail-in's as a credit event. During the banking crisis, the plan was to advert the credit event by any means, in order to keep French banks afloat. So there was no credit event because the ECB told the credit authorities under no uncertain terms there would be no event, and if you know what's good for you etc, you won't declare one.

So bail in's going forward will cause the CDS's to be triggered.

reader lucretius said...

I understand that the fact that someone was a communist, a terrorist or a friend and associate of murderous dictators

does not in anyway diminish a person's "greatness" for you, but I am curious why you omitted the great revolutionary icon Mrs. Winnie Mandela from your list. Perhaps, after all, you consider kidnapping and murdering 14 year olds

a little "beyond the pale" - when they are black, although of course it's an unfortunate necessity when they are of a paler colour?

reader Uncle Al said...

A doormat subtends (even gnoring its the fractal surface) a vastly larger surface area - characteristic not mantissa! - than the tip of an ice pick. Have you ever seen somebody successfully chop a block of ice with a doormat? Quantitatve management is like buying IBM. The terrible result (for others) is not your fault, for you followed the rules to the letter. Fire the failures and reward the managers for performance, twice.

A society inundated with rules from religious and secular political classes ignoring productive ends will collapse.

reader Physics Junkie said...

By grass root pressures until the politician listen of get tossed out. The way change has always occurred in democracies.

reader Rehbock said...

Freedom is not free says it all. We are free to speak as against government prohibition. But it is also the right of private employers to fire one who exercises that right. Also the freedom to be heard requires often money so to give one gravitas and exposure.
Mostly free speech protects those with the most money, which is the corporations, and it protects the politicians too in the right to lie to the public.

reader cynholt said...

The problem right now is really pretty simple, LB. People like easy credit because it lets them buy stuff they can’t really afford. Politicians get elected by promising stuff people like, like easy credit, i.e. subsidized loans for housing, education, etc. Artificially easy credit bids up the prices of things because people have more purchasing power. The more prices go up, the more impossible it is to afford the thing without the subsidized loans, and the more people start investing too much into the assumption that prices will never fall. Finally, it becomes apparent that no one can really pay off all the debts they’ve incurred and prices start to plummet -- unless of course those who stand to lose a lot, i.e. bankers and investors, can manage to convince the powers that be to prop up whatever part of the economy is threatening to deflate. This keeps the debt bubble inflating for a while, but it can’t go on forever.

More government interventions, protections, etc. are not the solution to a problem caused by government in the first place. Stop giving out the housing loans and the price of housing will fall, then people will once again be able to afford housing without taking on such a burdensome level of debt.

It all goes back to the Keynesian interpretation of the Great Depression, which says that deflation is the greatest of all economic evils. Under no circumstances must prices be allowed to fall. This is the fallacy that is causing our current over-indebtedness. Corporate profits can only be sustained at inflated price points, and people can only afford the high prices by going into debt. The bubble needs to burst and the bad investments to be liquidated and the inflated prices to come down, then there can be stable growth.

reader NikFromNYC said...

Only re-reading old Reinassance autobiographies afford me that boost of biding

reader LB said...

Except, that I don't think that people have a debt problem.

Sure there are some. However, the vast majority are net asset positive. Even those with mortgages will be asset positive. I've no issue with that.

The problem lies with people who have run up debts without corresponding assets.

Now who are they? It's the state. 7,000 bn in the UK for pensions alone. Then add on borrowing, PFI, ...

They don't have assets they can sell to raise the money.

That's why the pensions are the problem. There aren't assets to plummet in value either. However, the poor won't get a pension. Neither will the rich or the middle class. No welfare either.

Ponzi's always work that way.

reader Rehbock said...

You are too modest. Also I like the distance like a pig ... Good idiom
I hope it shall become popular.

reader Dimension10 (Abhimanyu PS) said...

So, what's the relationship between the Higgs Mechanism, religious rules, and a doormat?

reader tomandersen said...



What Peter is implying is that the next breakthrough in physics is unlikely to come from a paid researcher at an institution.

reader lucretius said...

So is it better without free speech?

In every human society that has ever existed and will ever existed some men have been powerful and others less so or not at all. The former ones had more freedom than the latter, almost by definition. The only reason why in some societies those with little power have some freedom is because in these societies those with power find it in the interest not to allow others in power to gain a monopoly of it. All systems of "division of power" and "checks and balances" etc. are based on this simple idea. I am as sure that nothing better will ever exist as I am of our mortality or the fact that the laws of gravitation will always continue to apply.

reader cynholt said...

Gaddafi and other African leaders had plans to create an African Central Bank, and start demanding gold, NOT US Dollars, in payment for oil, which was a major threat to the power and wealth of the central bankers.

End of story.

reader LB said...

Here's another thought on the matter. Food.

What's happened to food and wages?

Food costs have dropped as a percentage of wages. Food has got cheaper. Hmm, perhaps evidence that my hypothesis that prices go in line with wage costs. However, the number of people employed producing raw food has dropped considerably. Hence the reduction in price.

The connection is an interesting one. You think its odd because you can't see a connection. I come in and say OK., that means there's an explanation, what's going on.

I see two other areas where the same happens. Climate change is a good one. The logic there is we can't explain the increase by looking at a set of factors, so it must be anthropogenic. That a factor has been missed out is denied.

Or homosexuality. It can't be natural because it must die out because gays don't reproduce. Misses the core issue, which is that they gene may well be very successful, for example because the phenotype in women is more children, but homosexuality in men. So long as the effect in women is greater than the effect in gay men, its still a successful gene.

ie. If you see what's happening, its happening for a reason. Look to that.

reader lucretius said...

I know that for you Gaddafi was a "good guy" as was Stalin and Hitler. But I asked about Winnie, to whom you sound remarkably similar.

reader Fred said...

No. Greece had a credit event on the 9 March 2012. It was a restructuring as they used the collective action clauses to reduce the payments to the bond holders.

reader Rehbock said...

No, it would be better to have free speech. One should not be fired for saying something true, for example. It would be better if free speech were for humans, not extended to entities.
But That is with certainty - for the reasons you correctly express - not happening in America. Indeed the constitutional amendments ending slavery and extending the constituional protections to the States have been used in over a hundred US Supreme Court decisions to protect the rights of Corporations and around half that many to protect individuals.

reader Luboš Motl said...

I agree. And it's annoying. It also leads to some superficial P.R. behavior etc.

reader Luboš Motl said...

OK, it's hard to evaluate what "the next breakthrough" means but I think that there have been numerous breakthroughs in the last 50 years that were more important than the Higgs mechanism but as far as I know, the authors of all of them were paid researchers at well-known enough institutions.

If I wanted to be a bit cheeky, I would say that matrix string theory was the (almost?) only counterexample known to me.

reader cynholt said...

You've got it all wrong, Gene. Americans needn't worry as much about Iran or any other country launching cyber warfare against them as much as they should be worried about the police state, dictatorial, and totalitarian tactics of their own government. America's greatest enemy is the enemy within. Better for Iran to manage to shut down sewage treatment plants across the USA than for Americans to lose their freedoms and privacy to a very sadistic and intrusive government. It's been said the government is keeping tabs on every single phone call, text, email, etc etc etc. Worry about your government before you worry about Iran. The signs are crystal clear. If the government continues on its current path then Americans can look forward to nothing but oppression and persecution, which basically amounts to slavery of the mind and the mouth. You will not be allowed to your right to free thought and speech and expression thereof in the not-too-distant future. Big Brother is here.

reader Eugene S said...

Then why do I keep seeing you in a uniform identifying you as "People's Commissar" grinding your little high heels in the face of some benighted counter-revolutionary "enemy of the people"?

reader Werdna said...

One weeps for the food industry!

reader carefix said...


My understanding on nominee accounts is incorrect then? You say "that's held in trust" so my question is "what is held in trust"? The equities?

I note also I wrote "bailout when I should have written "bail-in".

A link to the bail-ins triggering CDS would be appreciated...

reader john said...

Many thanks for well written and long answer and also for your time. I would ask about the situation of theoretical high energy physics, but probably you are not the right person to answer that question. But i can ask you about strengths of related mathematical fields in japan such as algebraic geometry, differential geometry or differential topology. Thanks again.

reader Dilaton said...

.... ;-) ?

I +1ed this comment, even though I dont know if it is serious or sarcastic...

reader Dilaton said...

You should lay down your doormat always pointing into the direction singled out by EWSB aka the Higgs mechanism, and that direction has the specific name Mekka ... ;-P

reader Uncle Al said...

Higgs theory was peer-rejected until he invented an empirical application. That was ignored until everything standard model was stubbornly massless, propagating at lightspeed. The Higgs mechanism confers mass - one more epicycle. Higgs confers perhaps 1% of of baryonic mass overall (the rest being restless gluons' kinetic energy). There at least five Higgs bosons. The "discovered" one (still short a sigma) is kinda light to be any of them. Weak.

Physical theory applied to mass is defective, particle theory and gravitation (besides GR, that cannot be complete, maybe). Theory is a doormat whose religious significance demands unlimited parameterizations, as cartography cannot project a round Earth onto flat paper without distortion, cutting, or folding. Craft an ice pick.

Loboš pushing axion dark matter was off by a factor of 8.8×10^18. Did he fix the problem or recant? No. Thus the problem, grasshopper.

reader Dilaton said...

@Dimension10 (Abhimanyu PS) UPDATE

that is the end of it: Manishearth has finally joined David Z's trollong point of view, that no technical questions of people who want to understand stuff mathematically too, are allowed:

With two mods (if not more) and the growing gang of neither interested nor knowledgeable about advanced topics politicians exterminating technical questions, serious students and researchers have simply no chance on Physics SE and are therefore encouraged to leave that site.

People who want to learn physics seriously at a technical level which includes maths are simply no longer included in the targetted audience of Physics SE ... :-/.

I always thought if the physicists and students who disagree with this horrible political moderation would better organized themself and be less impressed by the mods who are NOT Gods and therefore not always right by definition (and for example vote to reopen each time they disagree with a bad closure), it could work. But now, with two mods + and the whole political gang being on a crusade against any technical questions that contain LaTex, only popular equation free stuff is welcome anymore.

Too bad that the community of real physicists and good students did not efficiently defent itself against this political overmoderation, as it was still possible.

The only thing that prevents me now from deleting my account ( I feel so pissed of I really feel like doing this), is that I could then no longer easily retrieve my questions and the nice answers I got, if I want to look at them again ...

reader John Archer said...

Hey Lucretious,

Got any good jokes about the Holocaust? Or are they considered in bad taste?

The UK is riddled with wogs and other demographic detritus against the wishes of Britons but it's an occasion for a joke with you.

OK, I can see the funny side too. But I'm not laughing.

Are you?

Actually, I don't think you are. Still, I think you get my drift.

Jesus Christ...!

reader John Archer said...

Yeah, Luboš, you just clearly don't have a clue how bad your inglish is. I know about these things — I often visit sites that talk complete bollocks.

But in your case it seems to translate as the dog's bollocks.

So I might have to review my habits?

Yep. I'll narrow them down. The dog's bollocks is just fine by me.

Carry on. :)

reader Luboš Motl said...

Dear John, I was hoping to teach the readers some Czech idioms because I find them vastly superior to the English slang etc., to enrich folks like you because you don't even have a clue how much you're losing relatively to a cultural language.

reader lucretius said...

"Cultured language" ;-)

You should not mind John, he still can't digest the fact that about the only people who still speak and especially write a "cultured English" are Indians (e.g. my favourite writer in this language )

reader John Archer said...

Haha! I like it. There's no pissing around around with you, is there, Sonny Boy?
["Go for your gun, Kincaid!" :) ]

Yeah, yeah.

OK. Prove me a mug: put up or shut up, Luboš.

I double dare you. :)

P.S. Do you ever go to sleep? — I suspect you're an extra-terrestrial.

P.P.S. I think Newton was too — gravity was an alienoid conspiracy to keep our feet on the ground.

P.P.P.S. I've been out on the beer and I can't come down. But I know I'm gonna feel like shit when I do. So, I want EVERYONE to feel sorry for me. I hope you're on board with that.

P.P.P.P.S. Management speak is my kind of poetry. Are you OK with that, Lucretius?

reader John Archer said...

Thank you, Lucky. :) I REALLY appreciate that one.

However, you are mistaken. The best English speakers, in my experience, are the Krauts. I think it's their engineering — low tolerance for error.

Indians on the other hand are full of shot and jumped-up wannababe lords of the manor, but ... well ... simply put: a monkey in a suit is still a monkey.

No offence intended.

They also want to be white. That's why they stay out of the sun so much.

Fcuking laughable!

Again, no offence intended.

Anyway, you were saying...?

reader John Archer said...

P.S. I meant shit, not shot. No shot! :)

reader lucretius said...

Oh, so you think Indians can't be white? Some of them even are the only true Aryans. Look at this here:

How do your politically correct British generals compare?

reader John Archer said...

Aryans, Lucky?

Jeez! Please don't confirm you're full of shot too.

Tut tut. They'e just wogs too, aren't they? I understand Uncle Adi banged on about them. But he was off his rocker.

No, I don't think we'd have any truck with that sort. Not willingly anyway.

Why do you mention them? Are they special in some way? More special than Britons? Surely not?

Look here. Don't you know: WE are God's chosen? I mean why else would he have placed us in ... ... Bring me my bow of burning gold, bring my arrows of..." — that place, y'know, help me out here...

Oh, yeah. Got it. Ingland.


reader Eugene S said...

I know why you've been hitting the sauce, it's because of the World Cup draw. Buck up, Johnny, have some gumption! Just because the Urus and Eye-talians are fielding better teams does not mean you should give up even before the kick-off. Look to the Irish supporters for how to put up a good show, in the stands if not on the field. IN-GER-LAND!

reader lucretius said...

Ehm... have you heard od Brahmagupta ( ) or Baskhara II (āskara_II ). The latter essentially invented calculus a few hundred years before Newton and Leibniz. Do you know what your "ancient Britons" in their Germanic disguise were doing at about that time?

By the way, Manekshaw (the field marshal in the video) was a Parsi. You know, a Zoroastrian Persian, whose ancestors left Iran a thousand years ago to escape Muslim persecution - the sort of thing some modern Brits are contemplating now and perhaps even doing.
The Zoroastrians, of course, don't engage in intermarriage so they are as pure blood ancient Aryans as one can get. You can see in the film, his quite white, perhaps whiter than yourself.
By comparison the average Briton is a mongrel.

reader AngularMan said...

Many people call Einstein the greatest physicist on grounds of his "unique genius" or his "out of the box-thinking", but what I always found more interesting than those vague characterizations was his productiveness.

He made contributions to so many different fields of physics: thermodynamics, electrodynamics, cosmology and even quantum mechanics, although he did not like the latter in the end.

Of course the same would not possible for today's more specialized physicists, but the sheer number of productive contributions is still outstanding in my opinion.

reader Dimension10 (Abhimanyu PS) said...

Two? You mean 4?

reader Dilaton said...

Yep, two+ can go up to 4 and even higher, if needed to account for bad political wannabe mods among other things ... :-/

reader Justin Glick said...

I think what he is saying, although he is trying to be somewhat evasive about it, is that someone has got to try and work on a new idea. Half a century of work on supersymmetry and string theory has not led to a single useful insight about the physical world. I think Peter Higgs would like to see some institutional support for people who want to work on something new.

reader kashyap vasavada said...

Thank you Lucretius for putting in a good word for Indians, although this was kind of off topic!! It is slowly being recognized in west that ancient Indians were good mathematicians and astronomers. They discovered zero and decimal system also. Arabs learnt about it and brought that to Europe. So most westerners call it Arabic system. Also one cannot forget all time great (recent) mathematical genius Ramanujam . I understand some of his results are used in ST. As far as race is concerned there is a huge mixture in India , But it is true original Aryans were in India.
Unfortunately Hitler picked up Swastika symbol for his evil designs. But It is actually an auspicious religious Aryan symbol we still use. For some reason Hitler rotated that symbol by 45 degrees!

reader Vangel said...

"I think if anyone actually wants to suggest people are not much better off than they were even a few decades ago, they are either badly misinformed, or a complete nutcase."

I don't think that is the point. First of all, we expect people to be better off because of productivity increases. It is clear that because of the progress made by engineering types who develop new products we will have more goods at lower prices.

But that does not mean that the data series is showing the type of improvement that we would expect given the technological and productivity improvements. Let us note that from 1800 to 1900 the improvement in the standard of living was very great but that there was no inflation to speak of. Under a hard money system productivity increases meant a DECLINE in prices, not only in new goods but also in ordinary commodities. The hard money system not only protected workers by encouraging capital formation it also protected savers from money printing by government and central banks.

What I find interesting is the choice of the bottom of the Great Depression as the starting point for our comparison. Let us note that it was not until 1954 that stocks finally reached the level that they were at in 1929. But if we choose to use 1933 as the starting point we see nothing but progress in stock valuation.

Let us also note that in 1932 one ounce of gold could be traded for 20.69 Federal Reserve Notes. The current exchange rate is 1230 Federal Reserve Notes to one ounce of gold. Since gold is not an investment vehicle and is simply money we see the massive depreciation in the USD due to the Fed's activity and the government's accumulation of liabilities cannot ever be made good with a currency of the same purchasing power.

One thing on the salary chart (and I agree that the source may not be all that reliable) that I found interesting is the fact that the average lawyer made about 16 times more than a live-in maid. When factoring in after tax income and SS taxes that employers have to pay for their maids today that ratio has shrunk significantly. My kids also point to the Johnny Cash tune, The Night Hank Williams Came to Town. In it we hear the singer take his girlfriend to a restaurant where, "A coke an burger cost you thirty cents." When was this? Well, he tells us it was the night I Love Lucy debuted on TV. That was October 15, 1951. Last year we stopped off at one of those family type restaurants in Tennessee and the kids pointed out that a burger and a pop set us back about $9, thirty times more than it cost in 1951.

Now I know that you can use statistics to hide anything you want, particularly when they come from government agency or Wall Street economists who are selling a narrative. But there is data out there that does tell a story. Today we have about as many people on food assistance programs in the US as there are in the workforce and a record as a total percentage of the population. If things were as great as the optimists say wouldn't you expect far fewer people to need assistance?

reader Vangel said...

You are absolutely correct. But let us add a few other points to the story to see if we can clarify the picture. If things were so good today why do we have such a huge percentage of the population dependent on food stamps and other food assistance?

If things were so great why does the Fed own close to half of all long duration US treasury bonds? And why does the Fed have to purchase $40 billion in mortgage backed securities?

And let me note that you have to look at the total balance sheet and in the US that is looking horrible. If we look at all public debt and unfunded liabilities under a GAAP lens we see more than ten times GDP. That is not payable under any situation that does not lead to a huge devaluation and an increase in interest rates.

reader Dimension10 (Abhimanyu PS) said...

There was a point when the Wikipedia article on AdS/CFT was very good, with lots of mathematics. Gradually, the mathematics has been removed, and that's how the article became "featured"... : (

reader Vangel said...

"Unfortunately, his time in power,and the subsequent ANC years of rule, have been a betrayal to all that these people fought for."

That is nonsense. The ANC leaders believed that Marxist ideology was workable and that the rule of the proletariat would lead to a better life for their followers. When they looked around they found that the countries that had tried communalism were poor while those that permitted relatively free markets did much better. And when the USSR collapsed and their foreign advisers admitted that communism was a dead end the ANC leadership had to abandon its Marxist principles or risk destroying the country.

Surely you cannot see the irony. One of the goals of apartheid was to prevent labour competition from black South Africans. That is why the white South African unions were so supportive of it. Having the ANC try to support a similar system as the white labour unions (with a minor shuffling of the chairs) did not make any sense.

reader Werdna said...

Yes Comrade, inflation is terrible. It clearly wipes out all the gains we have seen.

And just think how many more people will "need" assistance, when we make it even easier to get assistance! Because that's of course what that reflects! Need!

reader Dilaton said...

Huh, I have just looked at the other 8 TRF comments of David Brown, they all contain several instances of terms like " the failure of string theory / theorists", "Milgrom", etc etc ...

So I am sorry, but I have to revert the sign of my vote on his comment ... ;-)

reader LB said...

The equities will be held in trust. Now the big point that people don't realise but the main point about off shore tax havens is that its a separate jurisdiction. Hence a trust, and it makes it difficult if not impossible for a parent bank to get its hands on the money in a liquidation.

Here's an example of why its not a good idea to not have your stuff in trust.

As for bail ins and CDS.

It's all about the regulators screwing people. It's what governments do.

reader lucretius said...

I am glad you like my post ;-)

I am a great fan of India and have great hopes for its future and even a personal investment in it ;-)

It was always a great regret to me that India wasted so many years and so much of it's people's talents due to foolish socialist policies (largely copied from the British left) that kept it backward, while it could have been the economic equal of Japan.

Even during those dark days India kept producing many great mathematicians, e.g. Harish Chandra, C.R. Rao,
M. S. Narasimhan, C.S. Seshadri, Raghavan Narasihman and many others. Indians seem to have a particular taste and talent for mathematics, which is also one of several reasons for my liking of them. ;-)

reader lukelea said...

"Just to be sure, I think that complete outsiders were not contributing real advances to physics even 100+ years ago."

Besides Einstein you mean. Or does 1905 not count, being 108 years ago?

reader Dilaton said...

@Dimension10 That should not have been closed either

and i am sorry to say but Jinawee does really no good in the review queues, he is equaly bad and harmful there as Brandon Enright, tpg, Crazy, John Rennie, etc, who do nothing but shooting down technical questions and prevent that any good wrongly closed question can get reopend, even though he should know better ...

reader Dilaton said...

Hey Lumo,

did you already consider (and maybe dismiss?) joining MathOverflow?

From lurking I got the impression that some of them are quite interested in theoretical physics too, and they have an astonishingly nice number of cool theoretical physics tags there, where you maybe could find some not too boring STuff too ;-) ...?. The corresponding questions are sometimes reasonable upvoted but miss answers at times ...

As for example here

Some other physicists such as Urs Schreiber and Jeff Harvey are there too ...

This was just a potentially too spontaneous idea, thought maybe you are bored at Physics SE, if not never mind :-)


reader Luboš Motl said...

No, sorry, Luke, I explicitly meant Einstein as well. Einstein was no adviser, surely not a "complete adviser".

He's completed the Swiss Polytechnic which was a very good school, spent 1 year searching for a research job, and went to the patent office.

An analogous career today would be a successful grad student at Stanford who just happens not to get a postdoc job so he goes to work for Stephen Wolfram. I don't call it an outsider.

reader carefix said...

LB, Thanks, I will follow up the links

reader Dilaton said...

CentralCharge10 Hahahah funny new alias :-)!

Have you seen this ?

Quantization is a technical procedure and "discrete", is a very silly dilettant tag, most probably created by a user neither knowledgeable too much about physics nor what he was doing, and should therefore be removed. It is not needed at all.

Qmechanic gave the right answer, but he should have stated it much more forcefully ...!

As you have been very actively doing a lot of good things (edits, pointing out blatant errors, and other stuff) on Physics SE which were really helpful and improved the site from a professional physics point of view, the ruling dilettants got annoyed and even started to threat you for it etc ...

Now people who are not knowledgeable about Physics but have obtained a huge amount of rep by answering low-level / popular stuff are very hyperactivelly dominating the site, messing around with stuff they have now clue about, shooting down legitimate high-level technical questions and prevent them from getting reopend, etc etc ...

But nobody says a singly word about them doing more harm then good by making the site look very dilettante and even persecuting high-level questions etc

I have now grudge against Brandon Enright as a person, he is not doing harmful things on intention and I even once had a pleasant chat with him about some non-physics chatty things. But somebody should really tell him to better focus more on learning physics than that hyperactively promoting dilettante tags, reviewing questions about topics he has no clue about (he and other bad reviewers should leave them for other more knowledgeale people to judge), etc ...

Good that he first asked Qmechanic, if the two tags are the same. But the tagwiki description he suggested for "quantization" should be improved, it is no good enough at present. Brandon Enright messed it up by trying to write what Qmechanic said without really understanding it...

reader Luboš Motl said...

It's a funny alias but superstring theory without the b,c,beta,gamma ghosts has c=15, not c=10. ;-)

reader CentralCharge15 said...

Oops, yes, fixed.

reader CentralCharge15 said...

It's weird that even knowledgable people, like Qmechanic, dmckee, and even DavidZ, want the site to become low-level.

Maybe they have a grudge against people discussing high-level Physics, or maybe they're selfish.

Actually, I wouldn't jump to conclusions qabout jinawee yet. After all, he has quite often also helped reopening good questions, too.

reader Dilaton said...

Darn, seems my above comment has been truncated, I guess not by Lumo ... :-)

I wanted to say that whereas CentralCharge15 ;-) doing a lot of good edits, pointing out blatant errors in messed up posts, etc upset the ruling caste, and some dimwits even wanted to threat him for doing too many edits and good (!) retags which brought more high-level interesting old questions to the front page, everybody tolerates bad reviewers who know not much about physics but have gained huge rep from answering basic/popular/low-level stuff (and nothing about advanced topics) promoting silly tags, doing silly unneeded edits, and even persecuting good advanced technical posts they have no clue about is legitimate and even encouraged by some mods.

I have no personal grudge against Brandon Enright for example, he seems to mean not harm in intention by what he is doing and I even had nice chats with him. But somebody should really kindly suggest him to more concentrate on learning physics than hyperactively reviewing and editing questions that he does not understand.

He tried to suggest an edit for the "quantization" tag wiki, but this edit should be improved as he messed up what Qmechanic said because he did not really understand it ...

reader Dilaton said...

Hi Lumo, do you know why all my comments get (auto)truncated ...?

It just happend the second time and is very annoying ... :-/

reader Dilaton said...

Hm I sometimes look at what jinawee is doing in the higher order review queues and noted that his votes are always exaclty aligned with Brandon Enright, John Rennie, Crazy Buddy, etc ...

And I have never oberved him using the reopen button at all (Brandon Enright, Chris White, Crazy Buddy seem to successfully have convinced him that reopen is bad :-/), so do you have a link to a review were he said reopen ..?

reader CentralCharge15 said...

It's not truncated, the "see more" buttons just are transparent for some reason.

reader CentralCharge15 said...

Hm, yes, a ctrl+F["reopen"] yielded nothing, so maybe I was confusing him with someone else, maybe akhtimeliyie?.

reader Dilaton said...

Yes, akhmetely has been very helpful and nicely judging things indepenently in the past. Unfortunately he seems to have stopped helping to try reopen questions after his discussion with David Z concerning this question

Why only do so many very knowledgeable people think that closevoters (and in particular mods) are Gods who are always right by definition and disagreeing with them or even voting to revert their decisions is a bad thing and therefore not allowed?

Even on MSO they say that community moderation (close and reopen) is there for the community to revert things done wrong (including moderator actions!) if the community disagrees ...

And this works best when people review things unbiased and independently using their best personal judgmeant and vote (to close or reopen) accordingly. The notion that one has to discuss on meta first to ask if one is allowed to vote to reopen for example, is only Manishearth's personal point of view and opinion (but NOT a law, guideline, or policy!), and IMHO wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong ...!

So I kindly ask the good knowledgeable nice people on Physics SE to display some more courage to think about and judge things (and vote in the review queues) indepentently!

Moderators and closevoters are really NOT Gods who are always right by definition believe me, so come on guys ... ;-)!

reader Dilaton said...

@CentralCharge15 How in the world can this happen?

3 good user took the question out of the close queue and for days later it gets closed anyway?
Seems some dilettants are very agressive and obsessive and never give up if they have decided to shoot something down ... :-/

And Qmechanic should have considered the votes to leave open of the other much more knowledgeable people too and not blindly follow what the dilettants want ... :-/ !

reader Dilaton said...

CentralCharge15 This is unbelievable, now David Z has explicitely shown his dark colors in a replying comment to akhmeteli, I have to write it down instead of linking to it because his attitude is so horrible:

@akhmeteli it's possible (even common) that a
lot of people like a question and yet it's inappropriate for a Stack
Exchange site. Because of cases like that, I do think the policy should
be spelled out so that reviewers and moderators aren't tempted to use
their discretion. Remember the goal is to eliminate questions which are
bad for the future development of the site, not to eliminate questions
which people don't like.

So David Z explicitely states that it is ok for moderators and reviewers to in the majority of cases blatantly act against the will of the communiity.
And his opinion how moderators and reviewers should act is so horrible and wrong, I have almost no words for it ...!
Moderators and Reviewers SHOULD apply their discretion wisely, to make the site as good as possible for the community there AT PRESENT, instead of abusing mechanically some rigid rules in favor of some obscure notions like the future development of the site (or what else) as an excuse to blatantly and brutally act against the community.

I just dont get it WTF has gone wrong with David Z, must probably the power has fully gone to his head. He urgently should get his diamond removed and I hope that there are still some good reviewers and people left who ignore his horrible personal opinions about how reviewers and moderators should act and what they should do, and who use their discretion, fairness, and good judgement from a physics / physicist point of view instead.

The comparition of David Z with Anakin Skywalker, made by Chris White in chat would be quite appropriate, if it were not meant ironically ...

Or maybe David Z is Saruman who only pretended to work for the good (the community of physicists on Physics SE), but in reality he has made a pact with the evil and sold his soul (stopped being a nice and wise moderator who takes the community serious and gently mediates in case of disagreements) for personal power to Sauron long time ago ...

Conversely to how things went in the Lord of the Rings epos, things will rather not go well for the good, nice and knowledgeable people on Physics SE. Things are darkening more and more and the climate and atmosphere on Physics SE starts to resemble Mordor itself ...

The influence of Saruman has attracted too many dumb but evil orcs who willingly and blindly execute his (and Souron's) will and do away with all that has once been nice and good at that place ... :-/

So there is nothing left to do for the embattled good folks than sailing to the west towards a better place ...

... PhysicsOverflow

(which has unfortunately still some more insistent than first thought technical problems concerning LaTex to solve though ...)

reader Dilaton said...

The link to David Z's revealing meta comment where he calls people to give up any discretion and good reason when judging and reviewing things is here

reader David Brown said...

I might be a worthless crackpot, but it is not possible that
Milgrom’s acceleration law is empirically invalid. My main idea is that the
monster group and the 6 pariah groups enable M-theory to have a computational
method. My main idea leads to 2 predictions (both of which are testable with contemporary
technology). If either prediction is false, then I am a crackpot. However, a
careful study of the websites of McGaugh and Kroupa indicate that Milgrom is
correct. Milgrom’s acceleration law is probably compatible with M-theory and supersymmetry
(as M-theory and SUSY are currently understood). If dark matter fermions exist,
then there might be a bizarre Fermi pairing of these dark matter fermions that
bind a matter universe to an antimatter universe, and this weird binding might
explain Milgrom’s acceleration law.

reader lucretius said...

If I can still squeeze-in a short comment on the most famous episode of this comedy-serial, the New South Africa is sure the Land of Opportunity today:

reader CentralCharge15 said...

Ok, but who are "Saruman" and "Anapkin Skywalker"? I have never seen these users on PhysSEs.

reader Dilton said...

Hm, do you know Star Wars and Lord of the Ring?

In Lord of the Ring, Saruman is a quite powerful wizzard.

In the first part of the story, the good guys first thought that they can ask him for advice concerning their fight against the ultimate evil, namely Sauron. But later they have to realize that Saruman is no longer a good wizzard and has fallen to the dark side long time ago.

With Anakin Skywalker

in Star Wars, a similar thing happend. First he is a very cute cool bright kid with the potential to become a great Yedi (the knights fighting for the good) and he comes quite far indeed. But then some tragic happenings make him try using too dark powers to improve things, with the final effect that the he can not resist the dark side and becomes Darth Vader (the ultimate evil in that story).

So there are no users registered under those names on Physics SE as far as I know ... ;-)

But my long-term observations of David Z reveal a striking similarity to the life path integral of these two fictous figures. David Z was (or at least looked like ...) a very nice wise and gentle moderator, who takes the community serious and uses his discration wisely when making moderator decisions, when I joined Physics SE almost 3 years ago. However, conversely to the stories of the movie characters, it is unknown which crazy paths contributed with what weight to the amplitude of David Z going from nice to evil

< David Z evil I David Z nice >

we observe ... ;-)

Maybe the bad happenings a year ago were a cosmic catastrophee which triggered that transition among other things ...?

reader Dilaton said...

Seems another bad assault of Stack Exchange on the Math SE community has been going on ... :-/

I would bet quite an amount of money that the reason for that user leaving the site is "external" (most probably including another unjust suspension), as the Math SE community as such is rather nice and generally gives a damn about stupid SE rules etc ...
Without permanent negative SE intereference they are well capable of handle disagreements and people concerned about some issues well.

And WTF are Mad Scientist and Shog9 doing there, once again negatively interferring with things which are not their business :-(0) ...

So I'd kindly ask the SE overlords to make more efficient use of their possibility to leave the Math SE community (and other non-trilogy sites) alone ... !

reader Dilaton said...

And indeed looking around I just found the proof that this well capable Mathematician is driven away by external SE forces, in particular Shog9

And Math SE is obviously once again full of kibitzers who have absolutely no business there watching the spectacle and upvoting everything Shog9 and other SE Overlord disciples say, exactly as it has been on Physics SE a year ago ... :-/

reader CentralCharge15 said...

Oh, ok, I thought they were PhysSEs users : )

Well, looking at old Meta discussions, he did use to delete a lot of comments, but then again, that just started 3/2 to two years ago, anyway.

Nice amplotude. It's all because of the Shog9 field! : )

reader Sabrina Chocron said...

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reader CentralCharge15 said...

This is not the frst time. It had happened to "Gone", too, and he was both suspended and he left.

Strange thing, he was suspended till next year, but he's now curiously back.

reader CentralCharge15 said...

Some mod fo some other SE site totally unrelated to Mathemaitcs comes there and says:

He expects himself to be a mod of Maths : )

Well, maybe not too far - fetched, any way .

reader Dilaton said...

Yes, I know that the Stack Exchange Overlords and SE network powers tend to assault and raid specific non-Trilogy sites in the network, and with Math SE they seem to to this on a regular periodic base, treating well established researchers and professors without any respect and in a very condescending way felons and criminals just as they please ... :-/.

Who the f*ck do these IT guys think they are to be entitled to treat well established researchers and scientific communities consisting of academics that are way smarter than they, like this :-(O)? I really had a hard time to hold back instead of telling Shog9 etc to go out a hell of there and leave (rather academic) communities, such as Math SE, alone and mind their own business on the Trilogy sites for example ...

Those illegal agressions should really be stopped, but unfortunately there is no organization that protects internet communities against such violent assaults :-(.

I really really hope that MathOverflow was wise enough to protect itself against such barbarian attacks in the context of the special agreement they have with Stack Exchange ... :-/?

But there is still no answer to my relevant comment:

It really drives me up the wall to observe how these pompous trolls attacke nice communities again and again; they should all leave the SE network such that only the Trilogy sites are left and reformate somewhere else ... :-(0)!

reader Madeleine Wragge said...

I would bet quite an sum of cash that the purpose for that customer making the website is "external" (most probably such as another unfair suspension), as the Mathematical SE group as such is rather awesome and usually gives a rattling about ridiculous SE guidelines etc ...

How to know unknown Caller

reader CentralCharge15 said...

Replying to your comment here, I had mentioned a crackpot user on ResearchGate "Bill La Porte Bryan" who had once messaged me there, simply because I had accidentlaly upvoted one of his questions (you can hardly find out that you upvotted something on ResearchGate), asking me to "review" his crackpot theory : )

Just like the programmers like Shog9 from SO trying to interfere with PhysSEs, he;'s a retired manager at IBM (they should have probably not fired him, look at the problems he's causing to Physics : ) . . . ).

That crack even made a website for distrfibuting his crackpot theory: : )

Just look at the abstract of that crap : )

And he has had a very high reputation on Resfearhc Gate, until recently, when he stopped posting there. He was a very big fan of theat website, so I suppose he just does not exist anymore or something.