Saturday, March 29, 2008

LHC alarmists ask judge to save the world

Dennis Overbye has an entertaining - or stunning, depending on your perspective - article in
The New York Times,
the most e-mailed article of the Times today. See also MSNBC's Alan Boyle. Nima, Lisa, and a few others are among the serious sources. Overbye follows physics and certainly its sociological structure.

Walter WagnerA poor judge in Honolulu was ordered by two alternative physicists who have visited this blog several times and who have written some inappropriate and impolite comments, namely Walter Wagner (left, click) and Luis Sancho, to prevent the CERN - an institution at a completely different continent :-) - from launching the LHC collider which is expected to begin operations at 10 TeV in July.

A short time ago, I discussed the topic about the LHC alarmists and won't repeat myself. But let me say that I have recently seen so much monstrous stupidity among ordinary people and even not-so-ordinary people that I wouldn't really be shocked if the two loons mentioned above were able and allowed to kill the USD 6 billion experiment or at least delay it by 4 months, as they plan now. More precisely, I would be shocked but rationally speaking, I wouldn't be completely surprised. ;-)

What can the poor judge do if he can't go through the scientific arguments and the hypothetical catastrophic Lorentz violation effects himself? He must trust other people. One half of them, including the blog "Freedom of Science" (where it is claimed that physicists have taken the absurd so far into the twilight zone so that their claims can't be trusted by the courts), tell him that our planet may be destroyed. He simply has to act! :-)

Luis Sancho's unification theory based on superorganisms looks much like Lee Smolin's octopi theory. Click the image for more details of read a "preprint". While LS (U.S. edition) has only thought about the cosmic natural selection and reproduction through black holes, his LS (Spain) counterpart has also discovered star nurseries and reproductive curves of galactic herds. ;-)

We live in a world that respects an obsessed megalomaniac and a frequent prophet of doom, Al Gore, as a prominent climate scientist and that copies the opinions of Lee Smolin and similar cranks about high-energy physics. If you combine the two examples from the previous sentence, it shouldn't be excessively surprising if a federal judge decided that the Mr Wagner and Mr Sancho have a point and that we face a catastrophic threat that should be avoided. ;-)

According to a Discover Magazine blogger, Wagner's greatest achievement is that he has appeared on the paranormal-matters talk show "Coast to Coast" in which he claimed a discovery of magnetic monopoles in his balloon. Wagner has apparently worked in nuclear medicine and is currently accused (together with his wife) of an identity theft designed to steal pieces of the World Botanical Gardens.

Sancho, who has no degrees either, is a "time theory expert" who used to live in Barcelona, Spain (see rafa's comments). It seems that he has moved to Hawaii as well, to learn some surfing in order to be accepted as a new Albert Einstein or even a new Garrett Lisi by the world. ;-) FoxNews says that Sancho's presence makes the entire case a bit quixotic. :-)

The judges could also approve the opinion of another commenter on this blog, Lawrence Krauss, that the astronomers are ruining the Universe by looking at it and ban cosmology. Incidentally, Krauss recently wrote an article in Nude Socialist about the destruction of the Universe and Boltzmann's brains in particular and called it "String theory's latest folly" (update: in the slow comments, he argues that the title was chosen by the editors) even though string theorists are pretty much the only group of theoretical physicists who - unlike Sean Carroll or Don Page - doesn't collectively study this 19th century extremely speculative topic.

The only major exception (of a string theorist who likes to write about Boltzmann's brains) I know of is Lenny Susskind (and a small number of his very young collaborators) and Susskind surely enjoys freedom for his occasionally idiosyncratic opinions, without losing his exceptional name. However, the key point that should be obvious is that Boltzmann's brains have nothing to do with two-dimensional conformal field theory coupled to gravity or any other technical aspect connected with string theory.

Because of these simple reasons, "String Theory's Latest Folly" is what I call a dishonest title for an article criticizing speculative papers about cosmology - something that Krauss likes to write himself (besides neverending preprint conversations about fractal analyses of paintings of Jackson Pollock whose details resemble Luis Sancho's fractal argument from the image above where the longest distance scale i=9 agrees with i=1).

Hat tip (LHC): Steve Heston

P.S.: Let me say something about the titles. Of course, I do know that the title is routinely chosen by the editor or the publisher. That was the case of "The Bogdanov Equation", too. On the other hand, I am convinced that the author always has to approve it. Although it was a bit of a shock to see the cover of the book for the first time, I of course fully confess that I approved it after a little thought accompanied by mixed feelings even though this title is arguably not the most accurate description of the content of the book. Whether someone including myself likes it or not, I am responsible for the title. In the very same way, I am convinced that the titles such as "The Trouble With Physics" and "String Theory's Latest Folly" were approved by the authors, too. Trying to get rid of the responsibility - whenever the title becomes inconvenient - is an unfair game.


  1. Lubos: I expect that the comment will be edited out, but two things just fyi:

    1. you should know (for future remarks by you) that columnists and editorial writers don't get to choose the titles of their pieces.. it is a rule. Editors choose the title just before press time and one never gets to review it. In this case I agree with you that the title of that column was misleading. It was not about string theory but about Boltzmann Brains.

    2. I would have thought you, in particular, would have remarked upon the typo in the spelling of Large Hadron Collider in the article, but perhaps the typo was only in the print version.

  2. Dear Prof Krauss,

    1) I know that but still, the authors have to approve the title, I am sure. More comments about these title policies were added in the article.

    2) in The New York Times (website), I only noticed "L.H.C." instead of the normal "LHC" that most people, including myself, use. But I am not 100% confident that it is a spelling error and even if I thought it is a mistake, it wouldn't be the key point on my agenda. ;-)

    Maybe a more serious error has been fixed or I simply don't see it.

  3. Lubos: thanks for the courtesy of publishing my comment (and altering your blog), so perhaps I am no longer banned from the site.. In any case, just for information, in the case of books, one certainly does get to discuss the title, and generally the author has final say. However, unfortunately in magazines and newspapers, the authors generally do not get to see the title.. this is true for even the regular columnists of major papers. It has certainly been true of every column I have written for papers and my columns for new scientist.

    2. as an irrelevant aside, the embarrassing mis-spelling that I was referring to in the NYT print version of the article had to do with the word Hadron.