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Smolin, Woit throwing Lisi under the bus

On November 7th, 2007, Garrett Lisi celebrated the 90th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution (yes, he is a commie!) by posting his notorious "theory of everything" to the website.

This blog has explained why the paper was invalid – and why the author was ignorant about very basic facts in particle physics – long before the media storm about the "new Einstein" began. The paper claimed to have a grand unified theory based on the \(E_8\) exceptional Lie group; however, there can't be a GUT theory based on an \(E_8\) because this group only has real representations and therefore doesn't admit chiral (left-right-asymmetric) fermions which are known to exist in Nature, especially when the weak nuclear interactions are looked at.

The paper has claimed to unify bosons and fermions; but it didn't have any fermionic symmetry (such as supersymmetry), which is a necessary condition for linking bosons to fermions.

Lisi has been ignorant about some basic properties of the \(E_8\) group, including its \(SU(5)\times SU(5)\) subgroup, many of which have been known since the 19th century. Moreover, Lisi was confused by the difference between the local Lorentz symmetry and the diffeomorphism symmetry when he thought that he could also "add" gravity to the grand unified force (one could perhaps add the former, not the latter, but the latter is needed for gravity); he is not the only person in the world who is confused in the same way. Gravity can't be added to Yang-Mills forces just because \(SO(3,1)\) looks "similar" to \(SU(5)\) etc. All the papers talking about graviweak unification are as wrong as Lisi's paper.

Nevertheless, the media storm about the "new Einstein" who is a "surfer dude" knew no limits.

Nude Socialist published a "list" of seven theories of everything. One of them was string theory; another one was Lisi's "\(E_8\) theory". Imagine, his crackpot paper was put on equal footing with all of string theory. The actual scientific values of Lisi's paper and string theory differ at least by nine orders of magnitude.

In another list prepared by the Discover magazine in 2008, Lisi would be put above Edward Witten and Stephen Hawking in their list of "new Einsteins", a list that featured three more cranks of all ages (to guarantee a majority) and that was recommended by Lee Smolin. Concerning the latest statement of mine, Discover wrote:

[...] With Smolin’s aid, DISCOVER has scoured the landscape and found six top candidates who show intriguing signs of that Einsteinian spark. Smolin is too modest to say so, but he might qualify as a seventh; with physicist Fotini Markopoulou-Kalamara (our number-five pick) he works on loop quantum gravity, a promising, left-field approach to making peace between the quantum and relativity worlds.

Like Einstein, these six researchers “are over and over again stimulating us with new ideas, with new approaches to things that could be right,” Smolin says. [...]
If that wasn't enough for you to lose your breath, an insane article by Roger Highfield in the Telegraph was probably a good example of the quotes that were running in many media outlets and of the role of Lee Smolin in the promotion of this particular crackpottery. Let me just list the quotes that Lee Smolin offered to the British daily:
[...] Lee Smolin at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, describes Lisi's work as "fabulous". "It is one of the most compelling unification models I've seen in many, many years," he says.

"Although he cultivates a bit of a surfer-guy image its clear he has put enormous effort and time into working the complexities of this structure out over several years," Prof Smolin tells The Telegraph. [...]
Crackpot Lee Smolin has also written a whole new preprint designed as an appendix for Lisi's crackpot paper. And in 2010, they co-wrote a related nonsensical paper featuring these "theories of everything" as well as Higgs bosons with Simone Speziale.

However, it's been more than four years since the "publication" of Lisi's preprint and the number of people who have understood that Lisi's "theory of everything" is a dysfunctional theory based on rudimentary misunderstandings of mathematics and physics – who have realized that it simply doesn't work and its concepts were not new in any sense, either – has become too high. Despite the kilotons of hype in the popular pseudoscientific media, Lisi's preprint is sitting at around 16 citations, most of which are either self-citations or critiques that show the inconsistency of Lisi's construction with basic properties of particle physics (e.g. the unnecessarily contrived but valid paper by Distler and Garibaldi).

In 2007 and a few following years, crackpots-in-chief such as Peter Woit and Lee Smolin found Garrett Lisi to be a convenient tool to promote their conspiracy theories. However, as Ashton M. wrote, "after using him for personal ambitions, [they are] throwing him under the bus, like a sponge after you squeeze it dry." They have apparently understood that Lisi won't be able to help their "cause" anymore; the relationships with Lisi only reinforce their own image of full-fledged crackpots.

For example, Lee Smolin published the following summary of his attitudes during the Lisi campaign on Peter Woit's anti-science website (as a reaction to Duff's recent article):
[...] Furthermore, the media attention on Lisi had begun and peaked already in November of 2007, sparked by a New Scientist article, following immediately the posting of his article on And while there was a very exaggerated media response-which I and others did our best to advise against-there was no “publicity juggernaut” ie no attempts by Lisi or anyone to seek publicity for him, no press releases, no publicist, no calls to journalists except to strongly advise the story was premature. I told everyone who asked not to write a story on Lisi because the preprint had just been uploaded and there had not been time for experts to evaluate it. Indeed, New Scientist had quoted me very much out of context, ignoring emails I sent them advising them not to write a story on Lisi’s paper before the experts could evaluate it. So the reality was the opposite of the impression created by Duff’s sentence. [...]

Huh. So Lee Smolin, the main driver of the Lisi-is-the-new-Einstein campaign (at least among the people who are at least close to the fringes of the scientific community), was a guy who was "strongly advising the media against an exaggerated response". Who could have thought!?

Also, there have even been dedicated Wikipedia "editors", Scientryst and SherryNugil, whose life was fully dedicated to promoting Lisi as a new Einstein on Wikipedia. While some people claim that both of these virtual identities have been Lisi's own sockpuppets, others argue that at least Scientryst is actually another face of Lee Smolin.

One could compare the attitudes of Peter Woit in the past and Peter Woit today: the main conclusion would be the same.

The immorality of these people knows no limits. These people never want to admit that their whole lives are giant blunders. Instead, they keep on lying and exploiting random people for their personal ambitions. Once it becomes obvious that the scientific value of Garrett Lisi is zero, they are happy to betray him and pretend that they have never had anything to do with him. That's of course the ultimate lie: their whole lives are all about a jihad against high-quality science and about the promotion of pure garbage as a potential replacement of high-quality science (which is the only way how they could ever matter in science).

These people are worthless stinky piles of garbage, scientifically as well as morally, and it will probably be the case forever.

I am really disgusted by those folks – and repelled by the broader academic environment that allows this immoral scum to thrive. Meanwhile, you should also notice that not a single article on TRF that was described to be hopelessly invalid on TRF turned out to be valid or valuable in the future (at least so far). When I say that something is crap, maybe you should take it very, very seriously.

And that's the memo.

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reader Brian G Valentine said...

by the broader academic environment that allows this immoral scum to thrive.

This stuff is crank but mostly harmless as it goes, and looks great to the type of "journalists" for whom windmills in the stratosphere are promising solutions to Global Warming and "complexity" is a valid scientific discipline.

The type of "academic" stuff I worry about includes:

- "Marxist Physics" (no joke - look it up)

- "Climate Ethics"

and a host of other "disciplines" too depressing to mention right now. You're taking aim at the crackpot but harmless, there are worse difficulties to deal with

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