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Nautilus on life in non-stringy quantum gravity

Non-stringy quantum gravity is all about "who sleeps with whom" offers us some very light reading about "science and the society":

This Physics Pioneer Walked Away from It All
Fotini Markopoulou is most famous for her being a former wife of Lee Smolin. Completely accidentally, Lee Smolin has also been presenting her as one of the new Einsteins. For example, in a Smolin-inspired 2010 Nude Socialist article, her "quantum graphity" was listed as one of the seven "theories of everything", on par with string theory. Markopoulou had to be at least a peer of Edward Witten; Garrett Lisi was one of the five remaining cranks.

I would swear that I had spent hours by looking into her papers but the only thing I remember is that all of them were some totally infantile pictures of little animals claiming that this is what the Universe looks at the fundamental scale – pure crackpottery. This general description also applies to her and Smolin's theory of everything using trinions, octopuses, and kalamari (the last small animals hold the name of a co-author but I haven't forgotten any because Kalamara is another surname of Markopoulou herself). Back in 2006, I was laughing out loud while reading this octopus paper because it has pretty much beaten the best crackpots outside the Academia.

The author of the article, Sally Davies (a senior editor in Aeon who has worked for the Financial Times), strengthens the beliefs of those readers who have always thought that the presence of folks like Markopoulou in physics institutions is largely about the question who has had the intimate relationship with whom. A big part of Davies' article is about these matters.

Fotini's mother Maria has worked with a sculptor who made her pregnant when she was 33. Maria thought that this event was analogous to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ – the age agreed, too – and took care of Fotini as a single mother. Fotini has never met her father.

At schools in Greece, a seemingly ordinary kid Fotini had no relationship to physics (though she was inclined to the job of astronauts and archaeologists) and learned nothing because the teachers would only read newspapers in front of the class. Her tutor – a former NASA scientist – forced her to write "theoretical physics" on an application. She largely sucked as a student and "failed her A-levels". Her tutor rewarded her by a place at Queen Mary's in London. This sort of doesn't make any sense and we're not told why the tutor did such a thing. What did the tutor and Fotini do that led to that outcome?

And then we're told that she was working on "causal sets" as a theory of everything and visited Penn State in the late 1990s – when it was selling itself as headquarters of some would-be competition to string theory (Ashtekar is still there but he no longer makes similarly ludicrous claims). They wrote a paper with Smolin in 1997, got intimately familiar with each other, and married in 1999 (the chronology of the latter two events isn't described too clearly in Using the words of the first (jealous) commenter Tim,
She banged Lee Smolin? Wow......
They became a dream couple and in early 2000s, a Canadian physics PhD Howard Burton told them that a crazy billionaire wants to throw away $100 million which they liked. So The Perimeter Institute was founded.

Later in the decade, she separated from Smolin and got familiar with Olaf Dreyer (whose paper I was building upon in late 2002 when I wrote some rather well-known articles on quasinormal modes). Dreyer and Markopoulou married after four years. "They lived and breathed their discipline," we're told. If you're familiar with the bad breath in that "discipline", you won't be surprised that they separated in 2009. She met Doyne Farmer – a senior British econo-physicist of a sort – who got divorced as well and quickly made Markopoulou pregnant in his 1967 Datsun convertible. (Well, at least is trying to assure us that Farmer first separated from his wife, and then he took Markopoulou to the Datsun trip to Santa Fé and San Francisco.)

Was it really necessary for to tell us where they did it? Can't Ms Davies resist? Or does believe that by this kind of information, their would-be high-brow journal will beat the tabloids and double the sales?

You may see that Maria's cross was low-tech. Now, they live in Oxford and Fotini could afford to promote herself to a CEO of a company named Doppel. It is offering wristwatches except that there are no watches inside. The gadget only pushes your wrist at some moments which is said to influence your mood. It must work if the author of one of 7 most important theories in physics is offering that, right? She says:
I do enjoy solving practical problems, like how to convince people Doppel’s a good idea, or how to get the right deal from an accountant.
Well, she has been fooling the people around her in the previous 30 years, too. I doubt she will convince me or any rational person to buy such a superstitious GBP 99 non-watch – but I am sure that the complementary set includes some accountants. Good for her. If Doppel leads to a pure loss, I am sure that Doyne Farmer will be able to pay for this loss, so there's no problem. Finally, a dream job which will work up to the moment when Ms Markopoulou separates again and finds Her Fourth Act.

As far as I understand, there is absolutely no science behind the claim that the wrist pulses are good for anything. It seems like pure and classic pseudoscience to me (it could win the Erratic Boulder from Sisyfos right away) – but these Doppel crooks get a free advertisement in the Guardian and many other places which otherwise like to claim that they "believe in science".

The article in is remarkably honest about her non-existent emotional attachment to physics. First, she has never belonged among those physicists who cared about the beauty of physical theories. So far so good, we may imagine that the beauty is overrated etc. But she also says that nothing is left out of her devotion to science. We also learn that Neil Turok – a new director of the Perimeter Institute – basically fired her. Their lawyers are fighting e.g. about her claim that her tenure process has gotten started, a claim that Turok rejects. At any rate, it's clear that she left for the mirror image of the reasons why she was attracted to the Perimeter-like physics. Those $100 million were no longer offered to her so there was no reason for her to pretend that she has something to do with physics anymore.

As a female in physics who is happy to be used for "causes", she was also giving popular talks in order to spread the feminist bullšit. In the article, she basically admits that this part of her life was garbage and she was just monotonously saying lies that someone else had invented.
After a while, even her public-facing activities began to grate. “There is a part of me that felt like a kind of clown, telling people magical things about the universe,” she says.
She surely was a kind of a clown. And she didn't believe what she was saying. Moreover, the pieces weren't authored by herself but rather by the men she had a romantic relationship with.

Concerning her "speculative" research, we're told that pretty much every expert has always considered that work to be garbage – except for the men described at the end of the previous paragraph. But lots of people are hypocritical. So instead of the word "crackpottery", people loved to use the words "creative" and "speculative". From the context, the whole community (and every new graduate student) is gradually supposed to learn – and it did learn – that in similar contexts, the word "creative" is a codeword for a "crackpot".

I've always observed this Orwellian speak and I have always disliked it. The word "creative" is way too important to be hijacked by similar games with codewords. If someone seems to be a crackpot according to other physicists, these other physicists should use the word "crackpot" and not codewords. At the end, I do think that the culture of using euphemisms is partly about the political correctness and the treacherous politeness; but it is also a testimony of the fact that many people using these euphemisms really fail to sufficiently appreciate creativity.

Lots of people have discovered or invented lots of important enough creative ideas – even if these people were not crackpots.

I think it's obvious that throughout her physics career, Ms Markopoulou was heavily manipulated by various men such as Lee Smolin and the ludicrously dishonest discourse that these individuals are helping to spread – and that millions of gullible laymen uncritically buy. She had to pretend that she liked the search for fundamental theories even though it has been rubbish at every moment of her life. She has never believed that her kalamari or graphity could be a theory of everything. She has never believed that women like her enjoy physics as much as men do, either. But she was forced to say all these things.

Let me quote the sentences about/against string theory:
String theory has a very strong pecking order. It comes with a strong machismo: What complicated stuff can you do? They’re very good at maintaining that.
Well, string theory's defining principles are remarkably simple and concise – a truly efficient starting point. She can't see it because she doesn't understand how string theory works. But when it comes to the derivation of the consequences of the principles, it is indeed true that the stuff and the required skills and methods are complicated. And there's some machismo in it – much like it's in formula one racing, probes sent to Mars, or any other activity that is done mostly by men. There can't be any good science without the stereotypically male concentration or obsession or machismo. Even good female physicists unavoidably realize that their thinking is partly macho or men-like. They must realize that by their mental processes, they hugely differ from most other women – otherwise they simply cannot be good physicists.

The situation is similarly absurd and painted to be something completely different in the case of almost all people who make ludicrous claims about physics, e.g. the claim that they have a competing theory to string theory; and in the case of a significant part and maybe majority of women in physics, too, at least a big part of those women who are just part-time physicists and part-time icons of feminism. Most of these females actually suffer, are being exploited by the feminist men and crackpots (and it's surely not just Lee Smolin) as if they were prostitutes, and if 90% of them were fired tomorrow, the world would be a better place, science would become more potent and effective, and many people would be much happier than they are today.

So I urge you: Tear down this wall of hypocrisy. Use the word "crackpot" and not "creative" for crackpots. And simply say "You're fired" to all the people whom you know to be bad in science and whom you know to dislike science at the same moment.

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