Wednesday, August 29, 2007

To say that it is good to be good is not enough

Tommaso Dorigo wrote a nice posting about the talk of Lisa Randall the topic of which was black holes in LHC. Tommaso however made a mistake: he went on describing in a positive tone Lisa Randall as an attractive human being and even said something about her clothing. I enjoyed Tommasos critical posting and congratulate Tommaso for courage and ability to say something about the more human side in the life of scientists. We are after all women and men and see each other as women and men and I see nothing bad in saying this aloud.

Clifford Johnson, one of the many hypocrits in blog community, did not like this and represented Tommaso as a brutal macho. I disagree. Tommaso Dorigo is one of physicists who has had a courage to say something even in blogs of people with no academic status (like mine). He has presented comments in Kea's blog, and as Kea expressed it, is one of the very few physicist males who really listens to a woman physicist. After a couple of posts Clifford Johnson censored the comments of Kea, which does not quite conform with the imago he wants to create about himself.

Some ethics is good for your career but do it only publicly

When I was young I believed that world would become better if sufficiently many people would say aloud that it is good to be good. It took some time to realize that in this world we have to live in, an intelligent opportunist finds the talk about noble ethical principles a perfect tool to gain success and power. I also learned that these people un-ashamedly break these rules when no-one is seeing.

These fellows can say nice words about the position of women in science, about freedom of thought, about need for forums for new ideas and original point of views. If there is something good in these blogs it is that they reveal the darker side of reality quite soon. If you are a woman and want to even post real comments to these blogs (not just applaudes), it is better to have a lot of academic position and name. And irrespective of your gender, if you have something genuinely new to say and try to do it without these social qualifications, your comment is doomed to be out of topic irrespective of how good your argument is. You also soon realize that this is about who is the king of the hill.

Crackpot hunting makes good for your scientific status

There is also a sub-species of physics bloggers, who have discovered crackpot hunting as an easy manner to get scientific respect and a lot of blood-thirsty audience. Select some really bad buzz word: UFOs, cold fusion, water memory (homeopathy is even better), consciousness (you can add the attribute quantum to achieve a more powerful effect on mediocrit), paranormal phenomena,.... Excellent victims are also those thinking that we might not understand everything about second law, that physics might not be completely well-understood above intermediate boson length scale, or that biology might not be mere complexity and nonlinearity. There are many other options in the menu. If you are satisfied with a more restricted audience consisting of string model fans you can select as a victim anyone who dares to think that M-theory is not the only possible theory of everything and dares to propose an alternative.

The basic point is that there is no need to know anything about what is really done in these pariah fields of science, and - as I have seen - the ignorance of these crackpot hunters is indeed colossal. Why should the young and busy opportunist bother to see the trouble of learning what is really involved when a nasty comment about the mental health of scientists on the wrong side of fence gains stormy applaudes from the crowd of idiots in the audience and colleagues begin to see the aura of profound scientific realism around your head. You can also safely forget all the basic rules of science: just spout out the bad word. If someone disagrees with good justifications, you can censor the carefully constructed argument out of discussion and the joy of misused power comes as additional bonus.

What is behind those bad words?

During these years I have learned that these bad words hide an entire community of serious researchers who pay a high price for their intellectual honesty and know that they will not receive during their lifetime the respect they would deserve. I respect these people much more than these self-satisfied conformistic career builders from Harward who have never been forced to make personal sacrifices for possibility to continue their work.

The following gives some concrete content to my claim. I spend a few days in Röros, Nowray: The 7th European SSE Meeting (Society for Scientific Exploration) was the title of the little conference devoted to various anomalies.

  • I heard excellent lectures about anomalous luminous phenomena ("UFOs" and little green men for the political purposes of crackpotters).

  • There were several talks related to biology. A very nice lecture about research relating to electromagnetic communications between biomolecules by Yolene Thomas, the collaborator of Jacques Benveniste (crackpotter can use "homeopathy" here). There was a wonderful old-fashioned lecture of Antonio Giudetta (think of it: no powerpoints, no slides, no written text, just you) about the history of theories of biological evolution and about empirical facts demonstrating the failure of the recently popular view. I heard also the nice talks by young scientists Antonella Vannini and Ulisse di Corpo related to the possibility that we might not understand all about time's arrow in living matter (notions of syntropy and entropy, signals propagating backwards in time).

  • There were several interesting talks about remote mental interactions by people who are qualified researchers. For instance, the talk by Bob Jahn, the leader of PEAR project, about machine-human interactions (here crackpotters - Peter Woit amongst them - earned easy scientific respect by allowing to understand that the project had been stopped as a scientific scandal and of course received applaudes from the empty heads in the audience).

  • There was a talk about experimental findings related to Allais effect by Dimitri Olenice. This effect is an anomaly appearing during solar eclipses and possibly having gravitational origin, discovered originally by Allais, a nobelist in economy. There is no good bad word availabe here but well-informed stringy reader is of course expected to be able to conclude that Allais and all his followers are crackpots.

    One might think that an anomaly like Allais effect might be especially interesting for those who seriously try to understand quantum gravitation. Unfortunately not. It is better to develop career by building crazy 11-dimensional ad hoc constructions as proposals for fundamental physics: take a high enough number of branes and put thim in various relative positions and in some intersection something resembling our low energy phenomenology might pop up. The complete ad hoc character of these constructions brings in my mind ancient myths about how universe was created. These myths were of course not meant to be scientific theories but poetic visions: no one argued seriously that the world was created from the egg of some bird. These weird constructs of the lost generation of theoretical physicists are however meant to be taken completely seriously, they lack completely the poetic aspect, and they are are mathematically and physically ugly to the point of inducing a vomiting reflex.

To sum up, I am convinced that without taking seriously these anomalies, which all demonstrate in their own way the failure of the reductionistic dogma, a real progress in physics and biology is not possible, and I am working myself in attempt to understand these anomalies in the wider view about physics and quantum theory. It is really sad that there are so many easy-riders in the theoretical community and that it is so easy to gain scientific respectability by using these cheap tricks. Perhaps it is time to re-establish the rules old good science also in blogs: scientific arguments must be based on real content and justifications and playing with negatively emotional buzz words is taken as non-professional behavior.


At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 12:16 AM, Blogger Javier said...

I agree partially with our comments about "crackpot haunting". One one side because that string theorist better would be doing string theory and on the other because if they treat to claim authority in complex fields of knowledge out of their inmediate competence they have good chances to make the ridicle. I wouldn´t even try to figure out how reliable are that theories about electromagnetic communication between cells. A diferent question is the Allais effect, at least until NASA experiment would say something definitive about it.

But be sure that there are crackpots out there, if you would speak spanish I would give you some links that would convice you of it out of any question. And many of them are so arrogants like that string theorists so I don´t see why they would deserve any sypmhaty.

Also I disagree with your viewpoint about string theory. The extra dimensions is one of the things that string theory manage in a very elegant way (other aspects are more obsucre). I think that it is neccesary to be open minded about question not experimentaly tested, like quantum gravity, and that implies to listen to the mainstream of the field and not only to the outsiders, I guess ;-).

Also I would say that listening to some outsider theories does´nt mean that all of them would be considered in an equal footing and pay the same atention to them. I am not sure if you are triying to defend things such as water memory. If so I must say that your enemies are the authors of the film "what the bleep you know" and not string theorist because afther watching that film you are going to have a very, very, hard time if you try xD.

At 6:54 AM, Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

There are of course crackpots in the field of Allais effect but also serious researchers and it is easy to distinguish between them.

What makes Allais effect so problematic is that the experimental findings vary by five orders of magnitude and even the sign of effect varies. Excellent possibility to crackpot labelling and neglect of the experimental findings. However, if essentially gravitational interferometry is is in question as in my model, the situation changes and outcome becomes apparently random but at the same time provides extremely powerful testing ground for the model and the hypothesis about gravitational Planck constant.

I have nothing against extra dimensions. TGD was born as a generalization of string model. In TGD space-time is 4-D surface in 8-D space but space is fixed uniquely by requirement that standard model results. Also the existence of the counterpart of Wheeler's superspace leads to similar conclusion. No landscape.

The crucial conformal symmetries of super string model generalize and extend dramatically for lightlike 3-surfaces which replace strings as basic dynamical objects.

What troubles me is the refusal to admit the failure of the ad hoc constructs like spontaneous compactification to produce physical theory. When spontaneous compactification failed, they brought in branes and even that failed and now they have both compactification and branes but still no physics.


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