I started this blog on October 10th, 2004.
It wasn't any big transition: my previous experience with scientific interactions on the Internet had been intense and included Bulletin Board Services (BBS), USENET groups, and an unknown Czech-language blog in the same blogspot.com domain (started in 2003 or so), among other things.
If there were no Internet servers dedicated to science, I wouldn't have sent my early papers to arXiv.org and I would probably never have the crazy idea to work in America or something like that. It was surely not a plan I would ever be independently thinking about.
From the beginning, TRF was meant to be a multi-topic website so I had no doubts that texts on the sociology of science or the climate hysteria and the climate in general would appear rather often, along with texts about Czechoslovakia etc. (and I do understand that almost no one is really interested in those topics). I had to fight lots of pressures to suppress some topics completely.
But it's no secret that the immediate driver to start TRF was an aggressive one-dimensional crackpot harbored by Columbia University who started his own blog about half a year earlier in order to provide himself with a different explanation than his own inadequacy to the fact that he could have never contributed anything meaningful to science. It must surely be string theory's fault and not his own fault that he is just a worthless pile of junk, mustn't it?
I must have been a bit naive. My implicit impression had to be that the people taking this jerk and similar jerks seriously had to be honest, brainwashed, uninformed people and a Blitzkrieg of information coming right from one of the top Earth's hearts of theoretical high-energy physics would just eliminate the Columbia crackpot's stream of vitriolic conspiracy theories and lies and quickly forward this whole idiotic movement to the dumping ground where it belongs.
That was naive, indeed. Of course that many good people got used to learning new things as well as old things, what was shaking, how things really worked. But there still existed a core of fans of the jerk above and similar jerks who wouldn't learn anything. I learned that their attitudes didn't boil down to ignorance; their attitudes boiled down to their being unbelievably dishonest assholes. They're just scum.
While my passion for the truth and excitement about the enormous internal cohesion of the key component of culture of our epoch, namely the image of the world as painted by state-of-the-art theoretical physics, is probably a self-evident primary driver of my blogging, it seems that there are not too many physics bloggers of this sort – if any. So why other physics bloggers started to blog? I won't have to tell you any names but I am totally confident that readers familiar with the physics blogosphere will be able to guess the names.
Some bloggers started to blog because they are self-centered slick narcissists and exhibitionists who wanted to develop a new tool to transform themselves into public figures. So they were building a politically convenient (left-wing) environment and they were writing whatever seemed fit to attract ideologically guaranteed readers and journalists to their blogs – low-brow attacks on conservatives (or religion), the maximally widespread popular simplifications of physics questions, color-free politically correct summaries of the situation in physics and science in general that always sucks up to the most numerous or powerful groups in the relevant environments, and so on.
Other bloggers, while being employed as researchers in string theory, mostly wanted to share their excitement about their gardens with a few beans and flowers or about not-too-attractive 30-second videos trying to explain one simple point in undergraduate physics. Or about the U.S. vice-president's emotional speeches on the victims of war or fuzzy photographs. And related things you wouldn't care about – and indeed, things that most people don't care about, as evident from the low traffic numbers of these blogs. I know all of them in person. And frankly speaking, I still can't understand how they can possibly be willing to avoid important topics such as the general public's and the scientific public's understanding of the big picture of physics research and the future of physics research. Given their almost complete silence and irrelevance in these matters, they can't possibly care about physics and its future. I have often been led to conclude that they are "in it [the research] for the gold". Or they must be unbelievably scared of any possible conflict. Or whatever.
Some other people started blogging mostly because of their unlimited desire to spread rumors and leak information. It's another form of exhibitionism.
I was also trying to understand why another addition to the physics blogosphere started to blog, one who likes to call himself or herself by a silly sequence of words that includes a degree – a part of one's image that I have always considered embarrassing. While the degree and other hints indicate that he or she shares some desires with a slick person discussed above, desires to rebuild himself or herself into a representative of a new, communicative occupation and maybe even create a new source of income (which hasn't work well for himself or herself), this doesn't explain everything. So I am convinced that this guy or babe has another reason, the passion for an idea – a rather simple, universal, one-dimensional overall message that he or she wants to convey. And I tried to understand what that idea was. I think that the main message is that everything in science is almost eternally uncertain.
That's the only universal explanation I am able to extract from his or her (almost) neverending sequence of articles claiming that the status of one experiment or another is unclear even several months after it has become completely clear. It's often hard to say whether people really believe such things or whether they just want to compete in a silly contest, trying to be "as cautious i.e. slow in making conclusions as you can get", to be world champions in saying that "we don't really know anything".
It seems likely that the genuine belief must be a part of the story. A top particle physicist has revealed that he or she thought that the odds were 30% that the 125 GeV Higgs signal would go away. I am just not understanding such reasoning. The LHC experiments almost directly measured the probability that the signal was a false positive – the \(p\)-value – and this probability was just 0.01% or so because there was an overall signal exceeding 4 sigma (and the Higgs boson was needed for major theoretical reasons and excluded elsewhere). The viXra blog argues that the overall significance was actually surpassing 5 sigma already after the 2011 data. So how can you turn this 0.01% if not 0.0001% into 30% without being considered a denier of the experimental data? I think that people, including some of the top physicists, are often heavily irrational.
People have had different motives to start blogging but let me admit that I think that your humble correspondent is close to uniqueness in having the genuine positive excitement about some physics research and insights – excitement and insights I simply want to share – and (this is related) the contempt for people who want to spit on some of the most profound parts of modern science as the most important driver of the blog activity. Thank God for folks like Phil Gibbs who are probably close in this respect.
And that's the memo.