Wednesday, September 02, 2009

About life as a scientific dissident in Finland

Life as a scientific dissident in Finland keeps the stress hormones level high. I have been unemployed for most of my professional life. This has been the only possible manner for me to do science. In a norm ethics based on dead rules my strategy of survival could be regarded as a misuse of unemployment money. My ethics however relies on real values rather than blind rules, and my basic values imply that I would be criminal, if I would waste my life by doing something just for money and gaining easy social acceptance.

I must emphasize that I have had no other options than this. A person whose work can be regarded as Nobel risk becomes automatically Out-of-Law in Finnish academic circles. In my case this happened when John Wheeler- one of the greatest physicists of last century and teacher of Feynman- wrote a review about my first published paper and regarded the work as brilliant. They could not prevent the publication of the work as thesis but the Dear Brother Net has taken care that I have had not received not a single coin from a work that I have done these 28 years after the thesis. Of course, I did not receive any support even before this but for a short period after thesis I really thought of having the same rights as those who had needed an advisor for their thesis.

I received the latest dose of stress hormones yesterday. First some background. The right wing has been for some years in power in Finland and they have done a lot to make my life difficult. For instance, I must participate regularly into meetings in which plans are made in order to that I would get a job in future. This is of course just a theater: people in employment office know that I am fully occupied top scientist and would make a hunger strike if forced to stop my work. They are decent human beings and regret that they have no other option than to force me to participate this farce producing a lot of trash paper and wasting money of tax payers.

The newest bright idea of these right wing politicians is what they call "activation" of long term un-employed people. The victim receives a letter in which he is invited to a discussion in which "we together decide how to help you". Also I received this kind of letter yesterday. In practice "activation" means frightening of the victim to take a job of any kind irrespective of the background education. The letter makes clear that if I am not willing to participate this "activation" process, I will loose both the unemployment money and the support from the social office. This is against constitutional law guaranteeing a minimum income so that I will not die to hunger but these right wing politicians do not care too much about this kind of details.

I took a phone call to the employment office and told that I do not need any help. I am not an alcoholist, I do not use drugs, I am not socially handicapped, I have no problems of mental health. Simply: I do not want to be "activated" since I am extremely active already now. I am sitting at computer terminal 8-12 hours per day and thinking intensively also the rest of time. I have written during last month a new chapter to one of books, transformed all 15 books to net books with references realized as web links, just now I am busily preparing video lectures about TGD, I am doing my best to communicate my life work through my homepage and via discussions, etc., etc. This all is in vain. I am not paid for this activity so that I am not "active" in the sense they define activity. Therefore I need "help" and they are going to "help" me irrespective of whether I want or not.

What can I do? Should I try to tell these decision makers or perhaps even some colleagues in Finland that the best manner to help me would be an address to highest decisions makers containing sufficiently many names and telling about the horrible situation in the academic world of Finland: is it really impossible to anything for this mafia of old envious men? Of course not! This would be useless since all these people known that in Finland there are no mafias - and certainly not in the Finnish academic world. Besides this, Finland is the only country in the world where there is no corruption -as also media has told us all these years! Think about that! Instead, we have this wonderful Dear Brother Net. No written documents... if you understand what I mean;-)! It is not even necessarily to say anything aloud...;-)! Just a favor and the counter favor when it is needed;-)!


At 9:25 AM, Blogger Kea said...

You are lucky to live in Finland. I have often gone hungry, and worked many years in low paid jobs when I got tired of going hungry. I would have been allowed to starve to death.

So what can you do now? Would a little labour do you much harm? I often think I would rather die, but then I have already spent a lifetime fighting all sorts of negative influences. So why stop now ...

At 10:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why your friends dont write
somewhere for an individual
funding for you? On the site of
Bill Gates there were pointed
links for individual fundings.
I was looking for such funding
for the sons of my friend, but he
doesn’t answer me because of
his pride. In such cases someone
has to write and they have
an order to check the real

At 9:34 PM, Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

To Kea:

I made a trial after my thesis. I worked some periods in paid job and did TGD in between. It did not work in this manner. Building a unified theory is not a hobby: it is whole day work, actually whole life's work.

The problem is the exceptional stupidity of the decision makers of finnish science. I believe that idiocy can be found from elsewhere too but there is something completely unique in the academic silliness found in Finland.

At 9:41 PM, Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

To Anonymous:

There are people even now trying to find funding. This is not easy since those able to provide the funding ask first the opinion from professors in Helsinki University. It would be also very naive to expect that string model hegemony would allow a dangerous competitor to receive funding.

One should see this problem in a wider context. This is about research ethics and about what we mean with research. Nowadays too much of what is called research is simply building of a career and people whose gifts would suggests a career as diplomat take the research money.

At 12:26 PM, Blogger Ulla said...

So this was your reason. (I lagh at myself when I think of my long list of mails last night, how ridiculous in this light).

This was waited since last year, when they promised to see the rules over. But I would be very surprised if they really could force someone to work, and otherwise leeve them without money of any kind. It is the same thing as they did after the war, and that was no good solution. In the same time there are an unemploymentdegree still growing. My husband for instance, has been working all his life as a technician, and instead of promotion he was left without work. Not an easy way to end his job-life. He is too going to be "activated", although he has only one year left to his pension. How reasonable is that?

The Big University Reform is also directing this way. It is crazy to let producers and manufacturers decide over the science. It must be free.

Manufacturers are only interested in profit. But basic science can never give any profit in short time-scale. But they totally forgot that in the long time-scale there are no healthy industry without basic science. I am really afraid that in future we look at China when we look for new insights. West Europe is left far behind.

By the way, anonymous has a good point (can't we know who you are yet?) when she (suppose) says: "but he doesn’t answer me because of his pride. In such cases someone
has to write."
Somehow this feels very familiar:) I have also talked for a funding of some kind. I thought of a fund in type "Kulturfonden", that could recieve donations. I don't know if this is realistic?

Can't you ask for some employment as a writer? It need not to be scientific. You can write your texts there.

At 8:39 PM, Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

To Ulla and Kea:

The idea that society receives counterpart from a person living with unemployment money is as such good. The persons making decisions of course do not understand the slightest about frontiers of theoretical physics but name in Who's Who in World and Who's Who in Science and Engineering should be enough to make them convinced that the minimal possible unemployment money receives a full counterpart in my case.

That this kind of work is not even considered as a possible counterpart of unemployment money shows that what they call helping of unemployed is actually purposive humiliation. This humiliation began already during economical depression at nineties when the degradation of the welfare society began and has now led to the division of society to very rich and very poor.

Of course, if finnish colleagues had any moral spine, they could put end to this ridiculous farce any time. Unfortunately, they care only about their own little navel. As Claus Montonen (co-father of Montonen-Olive duality)- one of the few exceptions in this respect- stated in his characteristic ironic style: finnish physicists have nerve been been too keen in ethical issues.

As I said, I have still few years active time left. I do not want to waste it by writing this and that from random topics only because I would be payed for that.

At 1:55 AM, Blogger Kea said...

I'm afraid I find it hard to be sorry for you. I knew I wanted to be a theoretical physicist when I was 15 years old. I have always done everything I could to become one honestly.

You cannot possibly imagine what I have been through as a woman in science, wanting to work on quantum gravity, in a country with an even worse attitude towards the unemployed than Finland. You have been lucky.

And I know I am lucky, too, in the sense that I was born in (what was) a wealthy country, and that I had a decent education, didn't starve as a child, and so on.

But my first job was handed to me by my mother when I was 15. This was the first of many devastating betrayals by my family and others. You have no idea just how lucky you are.

At 5:12 AM, Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

Dear Kea,

you have misinterpreted me if you think that I have intention to get an aura of a martyr. My whole point is that power games are extremely damaging in both politics and in academic circles. These power games have also led to the recent stagnation in theoretical particle physics.

When you know perfectly well that you have an idea of century as also those who make all that they can to prevent you from working with it, you must see the things from bigger perspective than simple-minded norm ethics which would in my case made impossible to continue the work as was the intention of the power holders. Steinbeck's "Pearl" might help to understand what I am talking about here. I can safely say that my lifework is much more valuable than the minimum unemployment money that has been necessary for the basic metabolic needs.

After a hard work of 32 years I can without hesitation state that TGD will be the next step in progress. The faster the colleagues are ready to admit the better. The longer it takes, the larger the damage for the field is. I of course know that this gives excellent weapon for those who routinely use crackpot label as an argument in scientific discussion but so what!

Concerning your situation. I understand that it is not easy to be a theoretical physicist and woman in a country where you live. One should not however see Finland as a paradise. The social pressures in this country against anyone who does something like unified theory are also enormous. For an shy person like me- especially so in youth- these pressures made life rather painful and I had really fight to survive psychically. Our national history explains this suppression mentality to some degree. We have been suppressed both by Russians and Swedes. And the last century by Finns as a natural continuation! We have poor self confidence and a very low tolerance level towards those who have the courage to distinguish themselves from the mass.

At 5:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Ulla

I’m very glad before many years
one thick American popular book
on physics for children declined
me of such possibility for a
realization in the life. I didn’t
like then this limitation of the
speed of light and there everything
was given for granted. I very liked science fiction and something was telling me the things weren’t this way. Now
it is turning out to be true.
Otherwise I’m a male,doctor
of children’s diseases and despite of the quite insufficient wages in my country I’m maniging
with the life. My anonimity is
giving me a freedom, because of my participation on some forums.
The work of Matti is very important
and I don’t want to confuse the things with my own hypothesises.
About some of your ascertainments. The great was hopes of people after WWII for
21 century, but nothing of this geometric future happened.
If Matti begin researches in something else, in the supercondunctivity for example
rivers of money will start running at him.

At 5:35 AM, Blogger Kea said...

After a hard work of 32 years I can without hesitation state that TGD will be the next step in progress...

Matti, many people have valuable insights into quantum gravity. Even though many ideas from your work will be relevant, it is not at all necessary that posterity adopt your language. On the contrary ... you cite mainly your own work, and make no attempt to relate it to other contemporary papers.

Quantum gravity is not one person's theory. I'm sorry to say this, but you seem to lack perspective.

At 7:38 AM, Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

Dear Kea,

you seem to badly misunderstand my work.

I have no intention to represent that quantum gravity - only part of TGD of course - is somehow my personal fortune. The best proof for this is that I am distributing completely openly the ideas at my home page and blog where they can be stolen and indeed are stolen.

Ideas are important, not the person who happened to discover them. Why I happened to discover several big ideas is ironically just due to the fact that I was isolated from the community. If TGD had made it immediately after thesis I would be a happy professor telling to all that bother to listen about the heroic deed of his youth. Colleagues can only blame themselves;-).

If you have read my books and articles you should have found that I am citing continually contemporary work. The focus is on experimental side since most of the theoretical work (say in landscapeology and attempts to reproduce standard model in string models) is not terribly interesting from my perspective. Twistors for instance make an exception and I have also written about them.

The claim that TGD is isolated from the contemporary theoretical physics couldn't be farther from truth. TGD was born as a generalization of string models and resolution of energy problem of General Relativity. In finite measurement resolution TGD reduces to string model type theory. Conformal theories are building blocks of TGD but conformal invariance is generalized (light-like 3-surfaces). Hyper-finite factors, quantum groups... Also dualities are central part of TGD. Compactification -not as dynamical compactification - but as a duality of descriptions between hyperquaternionic M^8 and M^4xCP_2 having purely number theoretic interpretation in this framework are part of TGD. Even category theory has natural applications to TGD. TGD is firmly anchored to the mathematical physics which one can expect to stand the challenge of time.

Physics is not only about language or some particular axiomatic branch of mathematics chosen. Mostly it is about concepts and sound basic philosophy, which lead sooner or later to the correct mathematics: in TGD it took quite a time. I believe that without some of the new concepts deriving basically from contradictions and paradoxes of existing philosophy it is very difficult make progress. Here is the basic problem of recent day theoretical physics. All these mathematical ideas I listed above are nice but without sound basic philosophy they are not enough.

For these reason I see it as rather odd that you say that I lack a perspective. To me the lack of perspective means adopting the attitude that just a single branch of mathematics -be it category theory or something else - gives all physics. Another kind of lack of perspective is the naive reductionism justifying the belief that biology can give nothing to fundamental physics. I have adopted completely different attitude.

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Javier said...

Somewhat off-topic, but slighty related.

Is there any well known, or near to well known, string theorist in finland?

I have readed a lot of papers about string theory and I don't remember any string theorist for your cuontry.

On the other side I guess tht almost everybody in therethical physics knows about you and TGD (irrespectively of their actual opinion).

If the decision was on my hand I would employ not only you but also one or two conventinal theorethical physicst that would colaborate with you to try to put TGD in a way more "accesile" for the mainstrean comunity. Or, if that is it's fate, debunk it. As far as I see to debunk, or give credibility, to TGD woud require a lot of work and (independent of ours) and the people doing it should be payed for it. And, if I am not wrong abut the not too hight quality of finiish string theorists not too much would be lost if the woud work on that task and TGD would bbe debunked anyway.

At 11:12 AM, Blogger Kea said...

No, I do not misunderstand.

I have not read your books because they are so lengthy that it would require me giving up my own research direction (which is not just about category theory or 'maths' - as you seem to think) in recognition that your's was far superior - which I have no doubt is what you believe, since you just said so. I do not need to be lectured like an idiot on the nature of physical theory, since I have spent my life thinking about it (and observing the aforementioned evils of society) and I am not stupid.

In fact, from what little I have read, I can see that in your work you have understood a number of important physical ideas. So what. You should consider my criticisms a little more deeply.

At 11:56 AM, Blogger Ulla said...

To anonymous: I was completely mistaken on your identity:) "She is very clever", I thought, but the talk of UFO:s misled me.

In fact, I am interested in TGD just of the same reason as you. I aim to study the Chinese meridian theory in modern scientific terms, and there TGD suits very well, sometimes chillingly well. But I am a biologist and understands physics poorly, just now I struggle with the magnetic body, which in fact was the theme of my many mails to him:) And the findings of Gariaev. I would like to talk further with you, anomymously if you want to (

As a biologist I'm not capable to tell the credibility in physics, but for biological explanations I have found no better theory. I have checked and doublechecked the facts and they seem to stand. So I trust in TGD. All other physical theories seem to me to be only small parts of the whole. But TGD is really a very thick thing:)

I'm fully aware that things like dark matter, Higgs, magnetic body and so on are only hypotheses, but it is the same for everyone. I can see no reason why other's hypotheses should be regarded as better than Mattis'. I agree with the critic about references, but in general they are somewhere in his texts. I think LHC and other findings will sometimes give us the answer about credibility of TGD.

To Matti: I meant you can sit somewhere else and write TGD, on an office. Only a minimal of other work. You must try to find such a place yourself. Don't trust on others. (And I know you are no marture:-))

I have myself had unemployed people in "work" for me, but mostly by name. Many people know of the bad situation of unemployeed and are willing to help. They are badly explorated by politicians and industry. And totaly without defense against that exploration. The society should be ashame of such a system. What says the law about this? Nobody can be left totally without anything. I can't believe that. Are things really so bad, today?

The discussion now reminds me on arguing children. Kea has a point in what she says.

At 10:28 PM, Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

Dear Kea,

I am not treating anyone as idiot. I am just reacting to claims which are not true and to my best understanding in a polite manner.

Since I have read all my books I am perhaps the best person to debunk TGD. If I had to do this I would not blame myself for a lack of perspective or absence of interaction with contemporary physics.

I could blame myself for too informal representation and for quite too low density of formulas and illustrations: most readers want these as anchors of thought. I am accusing myself continually for a high density of mammoth bones resulting from the layered structure of the chapters which have developed during more than decade and are stories about evolution of ideas than summaries of the final outcome. I am doing continually massive bureaucratic efforts using find and replace to achieve consistency and I wish I were more merciless gardener.

I could accuse myself for using too much time for anomalies which after all turn out to have standard physics explanation. I could ridicule myself for messing my hands with topics like cold fusion, memory of water, free energy, consciousness, paranormal phenomena, etc...

After few decades (but not yet;-) I could deny the worth of my work by saying that my big ideas are just trivialities known to everyone.

At 10:47 PM, Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

Dear Javier,

there are people working with string theory related topics in Finland.

Claus Montonen (Montonen-Olive duality) works in Helsinki University. He has been working with string related topics. Esko Keski-Vakkuri is also string theorist working in Helsinki University. Also Masud Chaichian has worked with string related topics. I do not know about younger generation.

I am happy to hear that at least the information about existence of TGD has been succesfully transferred;-)! Single bit but important bit! The core of TGD is handful of visions and I think that these visions should be the next bits.

Collaboration would be the manner to achieve accessibility. Also the idea about debunking - but seriously on basis of content - is excellent.

At 10:58 PM, Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

To Ulla:

I made my thesis by sitting in office in Technological University of Helsinki. It was a kind of unemployment job. Salary was very small but guaranteed social respectability. My formal duty was to run some computer program now and then. These hippie times are unfortunately over in Finland after the ideas about academic assembly line and research group with critical size became in fashion.

I had also later few jobs of this kind lasting for half year in Helsinki University but in parallel with the development of TGD the academic climate got increasingly chilly and nowadays I cannot even dream of anything like this.

At 12:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Ulla

Hi Ulla, nice to meet you.
I will write you on your
e-mail in the next days.
Now I only will point you
something if you have a time to read it:

W. Tiller is prooving "that the magnetic vector potential, A, is
the bridging potential between the subtle energy domains and the physical domain"
If you shift "the subtle
energies domains" with the dark
matter with its unknown
properties everything is
going on its place.
Let Matti excuse me if
I’m too hasty.

At 9:07 AM, Blogger Ulla said...

I think you are a bit hasty. I've read the article and it was very interesting, but I think you made a small mistake to simply set dark matter instead. I think subtle energies is not one single group of energy.

Nice to discuss with someone more like me:) Discussions with Matti can sometimes be a little "Mammouth"-like, especially for a non-physist. Hope he don't dislike my expression:) I enjoy our discussions very much.

See forward to meet you.

At 2:37 AM, Blogger M. Rigmaiden said...

Matti, your paradigm about how you live not for money but for deeper process is admirable but inconsistent with how society works. On the one hand, I feel for you. But on the other, I am utterly jealous that you can get a guaranteed income (doesn't exist in USA because if you make minimum wage in California, you are homeless or live with many other people). I am jealous that you can spend your time doing what you wish, developing your thoughts, on the public dole.

I have never taken public money before and felt guilty when I saw a doctor while I was pregnant under the County plan. Americans have a thing about 'work ethic' and getting your hands dirty.

I know what you do is work and difficult at that, but how does value for that work translate in our society? I ask this because I can see resentment but admiration for your dedication at the same time;)

At 4:20 AM, Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

Dear Mahndiza,

first of all we must remember that I would not have these difficulties in any other country.

If a person like Wheeler states that a thesis of a fellow who has received no guidance in his work is brilliant, the person becomes immediately an assistant professor in any civilized country.

If a scientist has his name in Who's Who in Science and Engineering and Who's Who in World, and if American Mathematical Society lists his homepage at its subject classification table as an example about new mathematics related to quantum theory, any university having at least some leaders in their right mind invites the person immediately to a job of professor.

I had to choose between developing an idea of century enjoying the label of "free-traveller" or receiving easy social acceptance from idiots, and I had no difficulties in making the choice. Now I can only congratulate myself for having the needed power of will to oppose the mediocrisy.

The whole situation is an example about how bad leaders misuse power by appealing to norm moral rather than genuine ethical choices. This is an extremely powerful weapon: remember the nazies who killed millions of innocent people just because they obeyed the orders: easy social acceptance!

Ironically, as far as norm moral is considered, there is nothing wrong with the situation. A person has right to refuse from a job which has nothing to do with his education. This has been completely routine manner for people to do research in Finland and University has used it to get good research by paying minimal salary between periods of unemployment.

At 7:30 PM, Blogger M. Rigmaiden said...

Lucky you. Finland takes care of its citizens. I disagree that you would not experience difficulties in other civilized countries. People are fickle and political economy weighs heavily in arena of research funding. You might be seen as brilliant one day, but disagree publicly with those in power and you lose credibility and your funds. So frankly you are better off in Finland because you've learned not to care bout social acceptance. From my paradigm as an American, I am almost tempted to call you spoiled.

However, it's only because I wish I had the flexibility that you do;)

At 11:16 PM, Blogger Matti Pitkanen said...

Seems that we are like gardeners at opposite sides of fence arguing that the grass is much greener at your side.

Finland is still taking care of its citizens and I am proud of this. A lot has however happened since eighties. A splitting to poor and rich has occurred and Finland has become a tax paradise for rich people. What is shame that social democratic party was creating this slitting by agreeing about the lowering of property taxes. There is also unforeseen corruption in politics as the sequence of scandals especially during this summer has made clear.

Right wing has been running down social security systematically during these decades. Hunger queues held by church have become increasingly longer.

The trend is continuing: now they are putting blame on social support to local communities which are already in grave economical difficulties so that it is easy to guess what will happen. It is ironic that while Obama is trying to build social security probably using as an examplar Scandinavian countries, the overall trend in is just the opposite in Finland.

I want to make also clear that living at the minimal social support alone is not possible unless metabolism is not your main target of attention. The monthly support is less than one half about the monthly income regarded as poverty limit.

My luck is that I have friends: I have received most clothes as used ones. Everything in my household is something which would long time ago gone to the dump otherwise. People whom I have helped in things which relate to my profession have provided me with computers, printers, etc..

And when everything has looked completely hopeless something positive has happened. I have the feeling that these higher levels in the self hierarchy take care that I get just the bare minimum to mediate their message;-).

This kind of problems are of course not the worst: the main challenge is to avoid becoming bitter, depressed and alienated. There are many long term unemployed who lost during the economic depression at nineties everything they owned to the banks and just sit and stare.

And I repeat: my only sin is that I do not receive money from my lifework about which human kind will be grateful in future. I dare hope that even during my lifetime I would not be regarded as not so bad malefactor as Hitler or Stalin;-).


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