Friday, January 17, 2020

Critic of science: universities should protect physics students from Arkani-Hamed's ideas on QFTs

...the ultimate safe spaces...

Mark Goodsell is a young (but habilitated) HEP professor at LPTHE, Paris. He has a not very well-known blog, Real Self Energy, and wrote something about the critics of HEP yesterday:
How to make progress in High Energy Physics
His article starts with an LHCb CERN press release about some... 1-sigma... flavor violation seen by the experiment that is sort of compatible with some other flavor violation excesses at LHCb. That's great and it might indeed be a small step towards making a clear picture of a new, flavor-violating (electron-muon-asymmetric) phenomenon or a new decaying particle.

But even if that will be the case, I am afraid that I will always consider a 1-sigma step as something that is right to ignore – and I would see it in this way even if the flavor-violating new physics is discovered and I reinterpret the history with hindsight.

The bulk of Goodsell's essay is about the vitriolic complaints about the foundations of high energy physics, however. He mentions some omnipresent names that I cannot safely reproduce and interprets some attack against "beyond the Standard Model" physics courses at elite universities to be a partially personal attack against himself because he's also teaching such a course.

Well, instructors leading courses on the Beyond the Standard Model physics are just like the white heterosexual cis-sexual men on steroids: they must be ready for quite some attacks by the most radical social justice warriors these days.

Goodsell summarizes 7 open questions that may define the broad research interests for a young person; and 8 reasons to teach supersymmetry. This list of "justifications of learning of SUSY" is nice, a concise but in some way extended version of similar lists I posted some years ago.

He says that he wouldn't recommend a young person to become a full-blown, focused SUSY researcher. I actually would. I think it is a wonderful idea – even from a career viewpoint – for a young person to dedicate her or more likely his time to supersymmetry. Why? Because SUSY is interesting and it makes even more sense to intensely focus on it today because a new, mostly brain-dead generation is coming. When you learn SUSY really well, you may really be one among a very small number of genuine SUSY experts in your generation and you will basically inherit the credit from the famous monster minds in generations that are leaving. You will become something like a Roman emperor's son among barbarians who will hopefully not kill you – a rare beacon of deep expertise in the ocean of mediocrity, a genius among petrosexual chronic complainers who just invent excuses and theories about grievances why they're worthless crap. And as long as there will be at least one place where meritocracy matters, your doors will be wide open.

This video of Ó Suzy, Karel Gott's remake of Oh Julie, was posted by grmelino (0:02) which is cool because his name is a superpartner even though he has no idea about the physics terminology! ;-)

There is one extra point where I disagree with Goodsell. He says that it's healthy that these days, the HEP people are diverse, their interests are fragmented, no minirevolution seems capable of attracting a hundred of followups in a month now, and everyone is cautious about everything. Sorry, none of these things is really healthy.

All these things are symptoms of a lower activity. The activity was mostly intentionally and artificially lowered by the left-wing and "diversity" activists. Goodsell mentions that two or more decades ago, string theorists were jumping like a clique of monkeys from one tree to another, systematically and collectively picking the low-hanging fruits.

That was much healthier than what we see today! Why? One needs some critical mass (number) of researchers of a given class of ideas

* for them to be sufficiently motivated by seeing that "there are many others who care and listen"
* for them not to be stuck on trivialities for a long time
* for their work's depth, importance, and quality to be sufficiently precisely evaluated
* for the researchers to be motivated to compete and learn new things
* for them not to get fragmented into hundreds of stagnating islands that don't really compete with each other and that use demagogy about "diversity" as a justification of the personal jobs of many people who don't really do anything

Diversity of races or sexes or nations is mostly harmful for countries. The diversity of ideas is often praised even by many of us, I mean the rightwingers. But an important fact is that a forced (or artificially enhanced) diversity is very harmful even if and when it is the diversity of ideas; and it is particularly harmful if it is used to ban criticisms or competition. When someone claims that he cannot be removed because of diversity, he is in the conflict with the scientific method's main defining procedure, the elimination of ideas that have been proven wrong. There is really just one science and no one should be allow to "perfectly shield" himself from criticisms and competition.

You know, when a classical stringy minirevolution exploded – e.g. when BMN described the Penrose pp-wave limit of the AdS/CFT – lots of the string people (surely not all! I don't even think it was ever a "majority") jumped on that new exciting finding and they contributed their ideas. (I picked this 2002 example, there are many others I could have picked instead.) They didn't do the same thing because they still had very different backgrounds, abilities, and aesthetic preferences. But they picked the low-hanging fruits of (almost?) all types. All these people were also motivated by the desire to show that they were the smartest (or among the smartest) of the monkeys who just jumped on the BMN tree.

Within a decade, a similar – not quite constant – group of monkeys has jumped and devoured the fruits from some 20 trees like that. During that time, these monkeys – they're still the string theorists, I hope that you follow – have learned many things that they wouldn't otherwise learn, they competed, they corrected each other, they described the tree from many perspectives because they were sitting and jumping on many branches. It was vibrant.

Now you have the "diversity". What does it really mean? It means that people work much less, they feel less of an exciting competitive spirit, they don't learn 20 new semi-major topics a decade, they work on largely decoupled topics, they're less and less certain whether they have something to do with another isolated monkey's topic. We can't really measure which of these topics is most promising because the number of followups is O(1) in all those cases and these numbers can't be reliably sorted. Their followups aren't commensurable but there's no derivable hierarchy, either. And many people preserve their jobs and they must increasingly argue that their existence is essential just for its own sake because "diversity" is good and some "sub-sub-subfields" must permanently exist, and similar problematic claims.

Diversity works just like communism and it brings the same kind of stagnation, lack of excitement, and lack of progress. And the physics research increasingly resembles the stagnant waters of the communist-era theoretical physics research in my country which hasn't ever produced much. I would personally be frustrated if I were a professional but I couldn't write another paper with 250+ citations for a few years and I am pretty sure that many other people who deserve this kind of fame are frustrated for the same reason. Brilliant young big shots must be extremely frustrated that even to collect 10% of the citations of the folks who are 1 generation older seems like an impossible task now. Something that looks, smells, and quacks like a frustrated atmosphere and stagnation is probably a frustrated atmosphere and stagnation.

And most of it has been artificially imposed on the field. People are afraid of defending the deepest ideas because those have been attacked in tons of media by the most dishonest among the would-be important physicists who aren't good physicists at all. People may even be afraid of working on anything that would earn hundreds of citations quickly (both as leaders and as followers) because they feel that they could be attacked for their very success, like many others in the past. We live in the anti-meritocratic age where people who have made no genuine contributions to science are basically dictating the "right thinking" and prevent others from effectively doing useful business in science. And success is the first thing that can never be forgiven these days. The similarity to communism is self-evident.

So please, stop this insanity. Stop being afraid of pointing out that crackpots are crackpots, the deepest ideas are still the deepest ideas, stellar physicists are stellar physicists, and subpar ones (such as the newspapers' favorite talking heads) are subpar ones. Do your work, try to restore your ambitions, find or complete the theory of everything, or at least write another paper that will have 500+ citations in a year! If you allow the activity of the field to be crippled by some moral cripples, you are the cripples' accomplice.

Ultimate safe space

But I just exploded in laughter when I saw a bold proposal by a critic of science whose name is extremely known to many of us. He and Goodsell were discussing the importance of \(\NNN=4\) gauge theory in \(d=4\). In a fundamental, modern sense, this is the simplest interacting quantum field theory in \(d=4\). Much of this simplicity is dictated by the symmetries, the maximal supersymmetry, \(SL(2,\ZZ)\) S-duality, the Yangian, and more. It's a theory that emerges as a low-energy, non-gravitational limit of many situations in string theory. It's a theory that is equivalent to whole gravitating superselection sectors of string theory according to the BFSS Matrix Theory as well as the most famous example of the AdS/CFT. And it's the theory where the power of twistors (and amplituhedrons and perhaps associahedrons) works better than in all other QFTs in \(d=4\).

The amount of deep stuff that we have learned just about this single theory is just amazing. And while the theory was first written down in the late 1970s, virtually all this stuff was found after 1980 i.e. in recent 40 years. A great majority was found in recent 25 years. You know, the people who claim that there was no progress in theoretical particle physics in recent 40 years just show their shocking, medically serious, incompetence. It's flabbergasting that this super-offensively idiotic nonsense is sometimes being given room outside the forums of anti-science conspiracy theory nut jobs on the Internet.

But here is the gem:
The Arkani-Hamed "simplest QFT" or "harmonic oscillator of the 21st century" claims are the kind of hype students should be protected from, not fed.
LOL. So this is really cool! The universities' physics departments should become the ultimate safe spaces where students aren't taught ("fed") the newest and deepest ideas e.g. from the guy who is widely considered the most brilliant physicist of his generation (and a winner of the $3 million Breakthrough Prize and a collector of 40,000 citations, over 300 per paper) – and this brilliance is almost all about his multi-faceted, deep, and penetrating understanding of quantum field theories. The universities should protect the physics students from the most over-arching visionary ideas of Nima Arkani-Hamed about quantum field theory! These students who pay $50,000 a year need less far-reaching ideas by less outrageous and more well-behaved, average minds only, the SJWs, janitors, and Epstein's clients.

Is your life threatened by occasionally hearing that the \(\NNN=4\) gauge theory plays the same role in the 21st century as the harmonic oscillator played a century earlier? Pay $50,000 a year and become a physics student at a university. The university will protect you against these ultimate heresies (formerly known as cutting-edge physics research)! At those universities, you will only be exposed to ideas from social justice warriors, janitors, computer administrators, and Jeffrey Epstein's clients (all of those are apparently expected to be way above Nima Arkani-Hamed in the hierarchy of power of the physics departments at universities!). And all those will agree that the \(\NNN=4\) theory is at most another white supremacist theory that you may ignore. If you successfully protect yourself from any physics of the last 40 years for four years, you will get a PhD and you may become a new chronic complainer who is otherwise completely useless.

The healthcare system in the U.S. is clearly messed up if the author of this unbelievable sentence remains at large and keeps on walking on the unpadded streets.

P.S.: The comparison of the harmonic oscillator to the \(\NNN=4\) gauge theory is very apt. They're simple enough – the newer one is more complex for obvious reasons, it's newer – but they're investigated in totally new ways that really reflect the new tools and general findings of both theories. And as mmanuF has reminded me, there's one deep reason why the analogy makes sense: the harmonic oscillator has the hidden \(U(N)\) symmetry and similarly the hydrogen atom has the \(SO(4)\) symmetry due to the surprising Runge-Lenz vector. Those extended symmetries are analogous to the Yangian of the maximally supersymmetric gauge theory.

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