Saturday, February 26, 2005

Parody as means to see what went wrong

The world of science is a strange world. You readily see that its inhabitants are strangely twisted creatures having somehow surreal shapes. You also recognize that all of them have in some difficult-to-define sense lost their way. You gradually begin to realize what the problem might be. It seems that these creatures have lost themselves into a forest. This forest is not an ordinary forest. No. The trees of this forests are concepts and expressions of language. It is obvious that these meanderes in the forest have forgot where they came from and what they were. They do not have the familiar five senses anymore, they have replaced reality with symbols. These creatures without senses look depressed and unhappy. What is left from real life are occasional bursts of aggression. Clearly, they can still hate and be bitter and do so intensively but what has happened to love and trust and joy? Something has gone badly wrong and you would be happy if you could help them somehow but you do not know what to do. Certainly it seems that it is not a good idea to go and tap on the shoulder and suggest a beer or two and a friendly chat. You ask how it is possible that a happy gifted child came an angry and bitter academic identifying himself with his curriculum vitae. You gradually learn that this tragic somehow relates to meanings. Clearly, these people have started to assign meanings to symbols of reality instead of reality. Life goes by as they have their endless bloody debates about priorities. You find it really heart breaking to see how these tiny beings fight passionately about something which has absolutely no meaning for you or any healthy human being who has learned what are those few really signficant things in life. How could even a best Zen guru teach these people the joy of carrying water and chopping firewood. Superstring community certainly represents an extreme example about this anomalous association of meanings. It is its own micro-culture talking strange stringy language expressing strange stringy concepts. This closed society of stringists is like a religious sect with its own difficult-to-understand rules and habits. In order to understand what I mean, try to imagine a community which has replaced spoken language with written scientific jargon with every sentence ornamented with minimum of one reference or foonnote and discussing via published articles rather than face-to-face. W. Siegel, a string theorist himself but in a strangely ambivalent manner also an outsider, has produced hilarious parodies about typical super string articles. Here is one example. Do not miss the other ones. The following piece of text made me laughing to science and myself and I realized how insane this world (I do not try to pretend that it includes also me) is. My hope is that this text fragment might give even a reader without any background in science a healthy burst of laugh. "The moonlight danced on her face as it reflected off the warm August waves. He watched her graceful body gradually emerge as she stepped closer to the shore. As she lay down in the sand beside him he leaned close to whisper in her ear: "String theory is presently the most successful model to describe quantum gravity [1]. Unfortunately, like QCD before it, the proof of its relevance to the real world was shortly followed by the realization that it was impossible to calculate anything with it..." Matti Pitkanen

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