26 March 2011

The tough times of high energy particle physicists

The LHC and the Tevatron, the two large accelerators, have not produced one shred of evidence for any proposed "theory of everything". This is a tough situation. After all, the theoreticians and experimentalists that lobbied for the billions that were spent on the LHC said:
  • We will find the Higgs and understand mass.
  • We will find supersymmetry and understand forces.
  • We will understand dark matter and dark energy, and thus understand the universe.
  • We will find hidden dimensions and discover new worlds.
You can read the CERN original here. As readers of this blog know, it seems more likely than not that the Higgs, supersymmetry, dark matter and higher dimensions are just figments of imagination. This means that the 30 years in which theoreticians have first convinced all the experimentalists, then all science lobbyists, then all politicians and then all tax payers can be summed up thus:
  • We were wrong.
Of course, the last word in not spoken, but let us imagine that it is. How can it be that the smartest people on earth, the followers of Einstein, made such a mistake? How can it be that all these people, tens of thousands of them, were wrong? Wrong for 30 years? There is only one answer:
  • High energy particle physicists are sycophants.
But a scientist must pursue facts, not try to please the mighty. But tens of thousands of the smartest people - mostly men - in the world did so for 30 years. Why did this happen?

It happened as a consequence of the curse of the 20th century: ideology. If you look at the history of Europe and North America, you find only one thing that they have in common: ideology. Communists, Nazis, Socialists, Conservatives, Atheists and Christians, Right and Left: all were completely blinded by ideology. When any of these people presents an opinion, it is never based on facts, it is based on the ideology of their group. Last century was the century of ideology and self-deception.

What is the specific ideology that drove the people lobbying for the LHC? It was "we know a lot, but there is even more that we do not know". This is the self-deception of scientists since 30 years, the self-deception that led them to build more and more theoretical castles in the air, and the self-deception that convinced the rest of society to put billions of dollars into the LHC.

And what is the most bizarre side of it? All this was done mostly by men. None of them asked the advice of their wife, it seems. Maybe men should listen to their wives more often, or to women in general: women do not like sycophants, even if they build castles in the air, or if they build castles below ground.

25 March 2011

Hep-th at arxiv: a sad story

On the arxiv, the hep-th group was once the star. Posting a preprint there was a great honour. But now, the situation is different. Hypnotized by the LHC results, which are eliminating one theory after the other, theoreticians are in disarray. They do not post much any more, fearing that others make fun of their work. Theoreticians have basically stopped working.

For the first time in decades, high energy theoreticians see that experiment is checking what they wrote during their lifetime. For many theoreticians, this is the first time in their life that they have to care about experiment. And they are in panic.

Grand unification? No trace of it.
Supersymmetry? No trace of it.
Dark matter? No trace of it.
Higher dimensions? No trace of them.
Deviations from the standard model? No trace of them.
Whatever the outcome at the LHC, it is obvious that the majority of all theoretical high energy particle physicists have told nonsense in the past twenty years. (99% might be a better estimate.) So they are nervous now. Mind you, they always believed in what they were saying and writing. But it was nonsense nevertheless. Soon, they will find that they have lived in "fantasy land". For years. They have built their careers on fantastic nonsense. They have been proud of it. They have made fun of people who criticized them. And now these nasty experiments are not finding any trace of deviation from the standard model. How can nature be so cruel? How can nature destroy so many illustrious careers? How does nature dare to contradict Seiberg, the greatest theoretical physicist that the universe has ever seen?

Have a look at Seiberg's talks on his home page. There is not one talk that makes any sensible statement. In fact, he makes not one statement that has relation to experiment. That is the sign of a great scientist - isn't it?

No. The happiest moment of Einstein's life was when he discovered that general relativity agreed with experiment. Dirac was happy when antimatter was discovered, as he had predicted. But, you might argue, those were only the lesser scientists. Not the calibre of Seiberg. True. A truly great scientist, like Seiberg, does not care about the facts. He yells them away.

So researchers now have a dilemma. Should they follow experiment, or should they follow the yelling authorities? If they do not follow authorities, they will make no career. If they do not follow experiment, they don't either. The result is simple: researchers are keeping quiet. And arxiv/hep-th suffers.

21 March 2011

The end of gr-qc? The end of gravitation research?

As a follower of arxiv, I am more and more astonished by the small number of preprints in the gr-qc category. Not only is the number small; on top of this, the topics are uninteresting and the ideas hollow or unrealistic.

Everybody into gravitation research says that the main problem of the field is to find a quantum theory of gravitation. But no attempts to solve the problem are appearing in gr-qc since years.

The researchers in the field collectively refuse to go for the biggest prize in the field! Gravity researchers seem to think that they have nothing to contribute.

Why have all these people given up? How can it be that there are no attempts to solve a problem that is clearly stated since almost a century? Here are some possibilities.

  1. The problem is not important. After all, there is a million dollars for solving the mass gap problem, but not for this problem. So there is a - possibly hidden - consensus that the problem is not important. (But what do you care what others think?)
  2. People are not eager to solve the problem. There is no way to advance your career if you solve it. After all, what is this little Nobel Prize nowadays? You will never be as rich and famous as Lady Gaga. (So what?)
  3. Researchers fear working on the problem. After all, you might fail and everybody may laugh at you for years. (So what?)
  4. The solution cannot be checked. Indeed, no prediction on quantum gravity has ever been confirmed or has a chance to be confirmed. (Of course not - those were the wrong attempts!)
  5. People in the field have no clue. Really. (What? You're smart enough to understand general relativity and believe you are too stupid to solve the problem? Who told you this nonsense?)
But all this boil down to only one statement: "many past attempts failed - so will I".


For every past attempt that fails, the next attempt gets easier. Researchers, get your act together!