Friday, June 23, 2006

Wall Street Journal on the critics: less unfair

As you can imagine, I would be disappointed if the Wall Street Journal that I kind of like because of its rational approach to economy and politics wrote a similar virulent stupidity like the recent Goebbelsian articles in the Sunday Times and the Financial Times.

Another reason to like the Wall Street Journal is that they offer, unlike most of other media, a fair, honest, and balanced report of the NAS climate panel from the previous article:
So is WSJ going to destroy string theory much like the British papers? Fortunately, this worry has not yet quite materialized although we are not terribly far from it. While Sharon Begley chose an irritating title,
the content is bad but still much more reasonable, balanced, and material than the recent idiocies in the U.K. and it actually contains some physics although less than what we expect from leading science journalists such as Dennis Overbye. Because of the horrifying lousy quality of the U.K. articles, the comparison with them is very far from being a compliment for the Wall Street Journal.

Besides two irrelevant outsiders who have no idea what the existing high-energy physics means and who offer their irrational bitterness, the article also asks a real distinguished physicist, namely Michael Peskin whom many of us appreciate not only because of the QFT textbook that he has co-authored: for example, his objectively measured contributions to particle physics exceed all of the opponents and all of the supporters of the opponents' blogs combined.

Surely, Ms. Begley won't tell you that 90% of her article is based on irrelevant and uninformed people.

Michael Peskin is no official string theorist but he knows what's going on. He points out that string theory has the power to explain features of reality such as the number of generations in particle physics. In field theory, this number is a (discrete) non-dynamical parameter. In string theory, it is a dynamical quantity describing a more fundamental system. String theory is the first theory that can answer similar questions that are obviously nothing else than axioms in various field theories.

The number of generations is just one example. In the conventional heterotic compactifications, the number of generations is proportional to the Dirac index that can be shown to be the absolute value of the Euler character divided by two. In the compactifications of the types studied since the 1990s, the number of generation arises from other geometrical and related quantities such as the intersection numbers. But in all cases, it is a result of dynamics that follows physical laws as opposed to dogmas.

It's up to the reader and his or her intelligence whether he or she chooses comments about physics from a particle physicist or unphysical conspiratory and "philosophical" theories from non-particle physicists, particle non-physicists and anti-physicists quoted at the beginning. String theorists are not asked what they think about string theory - it would be a clash of interests if scientists could actually speak about science :-) - but it does not really matter because the recent "controversy" is not a confrontation between string theorists and the rest, but between sane scientists and the rest. Sure, most people are stupid and they will choose to believe two semi-crackpots rather than one Michael Peskin, but it's their fault, not mine.

At the beginning of her article, Begley says - using my words - that a year ago or two, everyone would know that Woit was a crackpot. Today, people are not certain because there are at least two such crackpots. Well, I, for one, am still equally certain. Many sentences about the insane "untestability" statements follow.

Some paragraphs are dedicated to the landscape of compactifications and I think that these things have been overdiscussed, so let me ignore them because there is nothing interesting in the article about this issue. The article ends with a malicious formulation about the "betrayal of science" by string theory. Ms. Sharon Begley gets an F, but as mentioned, it is a better F than the F for Robert Matthews or John Cornwell. She is apparently a weak journalist, but one who can at least sometimes put a question mark behind a patently wrong sentence and who can find not only crackpots but also Michael Peskin. ;-)

Also, I am going to restore the blog article about the semi-official unholy alliance between Cosmic Variance and the anti-science activists - an alliance whose existence is obvious to everyone who sometimes looks at the anti-science blogs. As it was announced, the article was only temporarily suspended to moderate an inflow of nasty anonymous as well as onymous attacks, and I find a long-term censorship unacceptable.

Again, I am outraged how easy it has become for various crackpots and idiots to spread their dumb and unjustifiable opinions about science, and how many people are more or less actively collaborating to make the situation even worse. No doubt, the people who are trying to paint the silliness of various "critics of science" as a part of the scientific voice are the main villains. The Reference Frame will continue to criticize crackpots, lousy and dishonest journalists and pseudojournalists, and others who want to present manifest crackpotism as a part of science.

No comments:

Post a Comment